Impact Pitchers MLB Teams Should Consider Selling in Suddenly Weak Market

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistDecember 23, 2015

Impact Pitchers MLB Teams Should Consider Selling in Suddenly Weak Market

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    Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

    While the position-player crop is still ripe with quality talent, the starting pitching market has moved quickly this offseason.

    David Price, Zack Greinke, Jordan Zimmermann, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, John Lackey and J.A. Happ have all found new homes, while Hisashi Iwakuma and Marco Estrada both opted to re-sign.

    The top remaining arm on the market had been Mike Leake, but he agreed to terms on a five-year, $80 million deal with the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.

    That leaves Scott Kazmir, Wei-Yin Chen, Yovani Gallardo and Ian Kennedy as the top remaining arms on the free-agent market, quality arms but not quite front-line-caliber talents.

    With that in mind, the time may be now for teams to shop their controllable and cost-effective pitching talent for a huge return.

    The Atlanta Braves cashed in when they dealt Shelby Miller to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for Ender Inciarte, Dansby Swanson and Aaron Blair.

    So, who could be the next talented young arm to bring a significant trade package?

    Ahead is a look at 10 pitchers MLB teams should consider selling in the suddenly weak pitching market.

RHP Carlos Carrasco, Cleveland Indians

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    David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

    2015 Stats

    GSW-LERAFIPWHIPBBKIPWAR
    3014-123.632.841.07343216183.23.8

    Contract Status

    • 2016: $4.5 million
    • 2017: $6.5 million
    • 2018: $8 million
    • 2019: $9 million option ($662,500 buyout)
    • 2020: $9.5 million option ($662,500 buyout)
    • 2021: Free Agent

    Overview

    It took him some time to put it all together, but Carlos Carrasco has emerged as one of the most dominant arms in the American League.

    Originally acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies in the Cliff Lee deal back in 2009, Carrasco had a career 5.28 ERA in 238.1 innings of work heading into the 2014 season.

    After struggling through four starts to open the year in 2014, he was demoted to the bullpen, but he returned to the rotation on Aug. 10 a different pitcher.

    He went 5-3 with a 1.30 ERA, 0.812 WHIP and 10.2 K/9 in 10 starts to close out the year, and that was enough for the Indians to give him a four-year, $22 million extension that included a pair of option years.

    The 28-year-old built off of that performance with a breakout season in 2015, and that performance coupled with his incredibly team-friendly contract makes him one of the more attractive trade chips on the market.

RHP Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins

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    Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

    2015 Stats

    GSW-LERAFIPWHIPBBKIPWAR
    116-12.922.241.160147964.21.5

    Contract Status

    • 2016: $2.2 million projected salary
    • 2017: Arbitration Year 2
    • 2018: Arbitration Year 3
    • 2019: Free Agent

    Overview

    The Miami Marlins' asking price for Jose Fernandez has been high this offseason, but the team has at least been willing to entertain offers for the 23-year-old stud.

    Jon Morosi of Fox Sports reported earlier this month that they were discussing the right-hander with "five or six teams," though the asking price was said to be "astronomical" as one would expect.

    Just how astronomical?

    The team asked for Corey Seager, Julio Urias and Joc Pederson in discussions with the Los Angeles Dodgers, per Joe Frisaro of MLB.com

    Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reported that there was a deal in place with the Arizona Diamondbacks for Patrick Corbin, Dansby Swanson, Ender Inciarte, Aaron Blair and Brandon Drury before they instead acquired Shelby Miller from the Atlanta Braves.

    The Marlins have no reason to trade Fernandez unless they're absolutely blown away, but shopping him a bit more aggressively could land them a franchise-changing package to help build around slugger Giancarlo Stanton.

    Fernandez has gone 22-9 with a 2.40 ERA, 1.014 WHIP and 10.5 K/9 in three big league seasons, as he returned strong from Tommy John surgery this past season. He's still never lost a game at home, going 17-0 with a 1.40 ERA in 26 career starts at Marlins Park.

RHP Kevin Gausman, Baltimore Orioles

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    Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

    2015 Stats

    G/GSW-LERAFIPWHIPBBKIPWAR
    25/174-74.254.101.22829103112.11.3

    Contract Status

    • 2016: Pre-Arbitration
    • 2017: Arbitration Year 1
    • 2018: Arbitration Year 2
    • 2019: Arbitration Year 3
    • 2020: Free Agent

    Overview

    The No. 4 pick in the 2012 draft, Kevin Gausman has yet to establish himself as a front-line starter at the big league level, but he has the stuff to be one in the very near future.

    Gausman averaged 95.3 mph with his fastball last season, per FanGraphs, and he pairs it with a terrific splitter/slider combination.

    The 24-year-old closed out the 2015 season with the best start of his career, as he went eight innings and allowed five hits and one earned run while walking none and striking out 10.

    According to Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com, "Teams always inquire about Kevin Gausman, but he's off limits."

    That's not overly surprising given his upside, but for a team in need of an offensive boost after losing Nelson Cruz last offseason and Chris Davis this winter, they could change their tune for the right return package.

    The Orioles appear to have fallen behind in the AL East after winning the division in 2014, and while a rebuild is unlikely at this point, flipping Gausman for a big return package could help restock what is one of the thinnest farm systems in baseball.

RHP Jimmy Nelson, Milwaukee Brewers

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    Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

    2015 Stats

    GSW-LERAFIPWHIPBBKIPWAR
    3011-134.114.101.28665148177.11.3

    Contract Status

    • 2016: Pre-Arbitration
    • 2017: Pre-Arbitration
    • 2018: Arbitration Year 1
    • 2019: Arbitration Year 2
    • 2020: Arbitration Year 3
    • 2021: Free Agent

    Overview

    After sitting in first place in the NL Central standings for much of the 2014 season, the Milwaukee Brewers collapsed down the stretch, and the slide continued this past season when they finished 68-94.

    The team did well to bolster what was one of the weakest farm systems in baseball at the deadline last year when it traded Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers to the Houston Astros, and the dealing has continued this offseason with Francisco Rodriguez and Adam Lind both shipped out for prospects.

    Players like Jonathan Lucroy, Jean Segura, Will Smith and perhaps even Ryan Braun could all become trade chips in the near future, but another name to keep an eye on in this tapped-out starting pitching market is Jimmy Nelson.

    With five remaining years of team control, he's the kind of player the Brewers could build around, but shopping him now and at least getting an idea of his current market value wouldn't be a bad idea for a team that could use all the young talent it can get its hands on.

    In his first full season in the majors last year, the 26-year-old Nelson put together solid numbers and showed legitimate No. 2 starter upside.

    He wouldn't fetch nearly the return that someone like Shelby Miller did, but if a team is willing to give up two or three solid prospects for the controllable right-hander it could be a deal worth considering for Milwaukee.

RHP Jake Odorizzi, Tampa Bay Rays

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    Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

    2015 Stats

    GSW-LERAFIPWHIPBBKIPWAR
    289-93.353.611.15246150169.13.6

    Contract Status

    • 2016: Pre-Arbitration
    • 2017: Arbitration Year 1
    • 2018: Arbitration Year 2
    • 2019: Arbitration year 3
    • 2020: Free Agent

    Overview

    Jake Odorizzi has already been traded twice in his career as a prospect piece in blockbuster deals.

    First he was sent from the Brewers to the Royals for Zack Greinke, then two years later he went from the Royals to the Rays for James Shields.

    Now it might be his turn to be the centerpiece of a major deal.

    The 25-year-old became a full-time member of the Rays rotation for the first time in 2014, going 11-13 with a 4.13 ERA, 1.280 WHIP and 174 strikeouts in 168 innings of work.

    An oblique injury cost him some time this past season, but in the 28 starts he did make he improved his numbers across the board and wound up finishing eighth in the AL in ERA (3.35).

    The Rays already traded Nate Karns this offseason, but they could still move another starting pitcher in an effort to improve the offense and add more young talent.

    Odorizzi has the most value of any pitcher not named Chris Archer, and according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Dodgers are one team that has shown interest in Odorizzi specifically.

    Fellow B/R writer Rick Weiner broke down some potential trade packages for Odorizzi in a recent article, for an idea of what he might be worth. 

RHP Tyson Ross, San Diego Padres

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    Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

    2015 Stats

    GSW-LERAFIPWHIPBBKIPWAR
    3310-123.262.981.30685212196.03.1

    Contract Status

    Overview

    After posting a 5.33 ERA in 148.2 combined innings over his first three big league seasons with the Oakland Athletics, Tyson Ross was traded to the San Diego Padres for infielder Andy Parrino and left-hander Andrew Werner.

    Whoops.

    Ross began the 2013 season in the San Diego bullpen but joined the starting rotation to begin the second half where he went 3-4 with a 2.93 ERA and 0.988 WHIP in 13 starts to close out the season.

    That late-season success was followed by a breakout performance in 2014 as he went 13-14 with a 2.81 ERA, 1.211 WHIP and 195 strikeouts in 195.2 innings to earn his first trip to the All-Star Game.

    He was terrific once again this past season and at this point ranks as one of the most underrated pitchers in the game. If he can improve on his 3.9 BB/9 walk rate, he has a chance to be elite.

    According to Corey Brock of MLB.com, the sense around the league is that the Padres "would be very, very reluctant" to move the 28-year-old.

    That being said, unless they intend to extend him at some point, his value may never be higher than it is right now. He has two remaining years of team control and represents arguably the top arm on the market that is legitimately available.

RHP Danny Salazar, Cleveland Indians

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    Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

    2015 Stats

    GSW-LERAFIPWHIPBBKIPWAR
    3014-103.453.621.13053195185.03.3

    Contract Status

    • 2016: Pre-Arbitration
    • 2017: Arbitration Year 1
    • 2018: Arbitration Year 2
    • 2019: Arbitration Year 3
    • 2020: Arbitration Year 4
    • 2021: Free agent

    Overview

    Carlos Carrasco may have had the better season in 2015, but it's right-hander Danny Salazar who ranks as the Cleveland Indians' most attractive trade target.

    After flashing big-time potential during his first two seasons in the majors, he officially broke out in 2015 with a terrific all-around performance.

    When all was said and done, he finished in the top 10 in the American League in wins (14, eighth), ERA+ (123, eighth), WHIP (1.130, eighth) and strikeouts (195, seventh).

    The 25-year-old will still be playing for the league minimum in 2016, after which time he'll likely qualify for Super Two status in 2017. Either way, he's under team control through the 2020 season.

    Salazar pairs a fastball that averaged 94.8 mph on the gun with a changeup that graded out as the second best in the majors behind only Zack Greinke, according to FanGraphs.

    The Indians have been entertaining offers for him this offseason, but the asking price has been understandably high.

    They wanted A.J. Pollock in talks with the Diamondbacks (per Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic), Jorge Soler and others from the Cubs (per Jon Morosi of Fox Sports) and balked at a package built around Todd Frazier from the Reds (per Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer).

    The Indians will continue to entertain offers, but unless they find that perfect return package, there's really no reason for them to move Salazar.

LHP Hector Santiago, Los Angeles Angels

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    Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

    2015 Stats

    G/GSW-LERAFIPWHIPBBKIPWAR
    33/329-93.594.771.25671162180.21.8

    Contract Status

    Overview

    The Los Angeles Angels have an abundance of starting pitching and still need to improve their offense, so trading a starting pitcher this offseason remains a very real possibility.

    According to Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com, left-hander Hector Santiago is the pitcher "teams have inquired the most about" and selling high on the 28-year-old would make sense.

    After going 14-19 with a 3.58 ERA and 1.373 WHIP in 51 starts and 55 relief appearances during his first three seasons in the league, he was finally a full-time starter for the first time in his career this past season.

    Santiago was terrific in the first half of the season, going 6-4 with a 2.33 ERA and 1.098 WHIP to earn a spot on the AL All-Star team. However, his numbers fell off from there, as he went 3-5 with a 5.47 ERA after the break.

    He still has plenty of value, though.

    Alfredo Simon put together a similar season in 2014 at five years older, with a less impressive track record and one year away from free agency, and he landed the Cincinnati Reds infielder Eugenio Suarez and pitching prospect Jonathon Crawford when he was traded.

    For teams looking to add a left-handed arm to the rotation and not willing to commit the money to sign Scott Kazmir or Wei-Yin Chen, trading for Santiago could be an attractive alternative.

LHP Drew Smyly, Tampa Bay Rays

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    Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

    2015 Stats

    GSW-LERAFIPWHIPBBKIPWAR
    125-23.113.911.170207766.21.6

    Contract Status

    • 2016: $3.9 million projected salary
    • 2017: Arbitration Year 3
    • 2018: Arbitration Year 4
    • 2019: Free Agent

    Overview

    One of the key pieces acquired in the trade that sent David Price to the Detroit Tigers, left-hander Drew Smyly does not have the same value as teammate Jake Odorizzi but he's an attractive trade chip nonetheless.

    The 26-year-old went 3-1 with a 1.70 ERA and 0.755 WHIP in seven starts with the Tampa Bay Rays following the trade, and he was a popular pick for a breakout performance this past season.

    While his numbers were terrific when he was on the field, shoulder issues limited him to just 12 starts and 66.2 innings of work in 2015.

    For his career, Smyly has gone 24-15 with a 3.24 ERA, 1.167 WHIP and 385 strikeouts in 395 innings in parts of four big league seasons.

    If no one is willing to meet the steep asking price for Odorizzi, the Rays could instead deal Smyly in their efforts to improve offensively.

    The Texas Rangers are one team that has shown interest, according to TR Sullivan of MLB.com.

    He may not have ace upside, but Smyly can settle in as a solid No. 2 starter type if he can stay healthy moving forward, and being one of the few available quality left-handers also adds to his value.

RHP Taijuan Walker, Seattle Mariners

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    Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

    2015 Stats

    GSW-LERAFIPWHIPBBKIPWAR
    2911-84.564.071.19640157169.21.1

    Contract Status

    • 2016: Pre-Arbitration
    • 2017: Pre-Arbitration
    • 2018: Arbitration Year 1
    • 2019: Arbitration Year 2
    • 2020: Arbitration Year 3
    • 2021: Free Agent

    Overview

    Arm issues limited Taijuan Walker to just 38 innings of work during a 2014 season that was expected to be his coming-out party.

    Healthy in 2015, he stumbled out of the gates with a 7.33 ERA over his first nine starts, but he settled in from there to go 10-3 with a 3.62 ERA and 0.979 WHIP over his final 20 appearances to close out the year.

    More of a basketball player than baseball player in high school, Walker was a first-round pick in 2010 on the strength of his raw talent. He's still a work in progress, but there is legitimate ace potential in the 6'4" and 235-pound right-hander.

    The Seattle Mariners have balked every time Walker's name has come up in trade talks over the past few seasons, and new GM Jerry Dipoto appears as though he'll continue that trend.

    Dipoto described Walker as "a guy I think has a chance to shoot the moon" in his introductory press conference, according to 710 ESPN.

    All of that said, if there is one player with a chance to land a trade package that exceeds what the Atlanta Braves picked up in exchange for Shelby Miller, it's Walker thanks to his incredibly high ceiling.

    The Mariners have completely reworked the roster this offseason and will be looking to contend in 2016 after a disappointing season this past year, and Walker could be a big part of that.

    However, the team also has plenty of starting pitching depth with Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, Wade Miley, Nate Karns, James Paxton and Mike Montgomery also in the mix for rotation spots.

    It will take the perfect package, and likely a team willing to overpay like the Diamondbacks were for Miller, but shopping Walker now could bring a franchise-changing return to Seattle.

    All stats and contract information courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com, unless otherwise noted.