Pitchers MLB Teams Should Consider Selling in Suddenly Weak Market

Seth Gruen@SethGruenFeatured ColumnistDecember 21, 2016

Pitchers MLB Teams Should Consider Selling in Suddenly Weak Market

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    This MLB offseason offered little in terms of impact pitchers. And as we look to round third base on it, any that were available are now off the market.

    The big three closers—Mark Melancon (San Francisco Giants), Kenley Jansen (Los Angeles Dodgers) and Aroldis Chapman (New York Yankees)—all signed with teams. The Chicago White Sox sent starting pitcher Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox, and the Kansas City Royals shipped closer Wade Davis to the Chicago Cubs.

    It has left the market for pitchers looking like August in Death Valley.

    No need to look toward a higher power for rain here. All it takes is a few willing executives to reinvigorate the pitching market. Given the climate, that may be advantageous for those holding pitching talent.

    Let's take a look at some pitchers MLB teams should consider selling. 

Jose Quintana, Chicago White Sox

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    With his 2015 Chicago White Sox rotation mate Chris Sale having already been dealt to the Boston Red Sox, Jose Quintana is another player who could command an elite package for Chicago.

    Like Sale, Quintana is an upper-echelon left-handed arm under team control through the 2020 season. His contract has club options for 2019 and 2020. Don't be fooled by his .500 career record. Quintana received only 3.81 runs of support per game yet still managed to win 13 games in 2016.

    Throughout his career, Quintana has been given little room for error playing opposite White Sox offenses that have generally struggled. Regardless, he had a career-low 3.20 ERA in 2016.

    With the White Sox rebuilding, Quintana won't be able to contribute to the club in any significant way for the next several seasons. But for a contending team in 2017, he would immediately solidify the top of any rotation.

    Jon Morosi of MLB Network reported the New York Yankees are interested in Quintana. They would be the perfect partner for the White Sox, who should be looking for position-player prospects with four pitchers among MLB.com's top 100 prospects (Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Michael Kopech and Carson Fulmer). The Yankees, meanwhile, have five position players on the list (outfielder Clint Frazier, shortstop Gleyber Torres, middle infielder Jorge Mateo, outfielder Aaron Judge and outfielder Blake Rutherford). 

David Robertson, Chicago White Sox

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    Typically, the time to deal relief pitching is near the trade deadline, when contending clubs are in a frenzy to strengthen their bullpens. But after a postseason that saw relievers impact the game in an unprecedented way, there's a newfound appreciation for the position.

    That led to closers Mark Melancon, Kenley Jansen and Aroldis Chapman signing record deals this offseason. And it has led to an emphasis on trying to establish a quality bullpen before the season starts.

    It gives rebuilding teams an opportune time to deal quality relievers. In the case of right-hander David Robertson, his value may never be higher.

    Robertson has struggled in his two seasons with the White Sox, posting ERAs of 3.41 and 3.47 in 2015 and 2016, respectively. It's worth noting, though, that his 0.932 WHIP in 2015 was his lowest ever.

    Nonetheless, at times during his career, Robertson has been a reliable shutdown reliever. With the Yankees in 2011, he posted an ERA of 1.08 and earned his lone All-Star appearance. There's still belief the 31-year-old has that ability.

    Bruce Levine of 670 The Score in Chicago reported the Washington Nationals have shown interest in Robertson, and the Miami Marlins may pursue him as well. 

    The White Sox could hold onto him in hopes he has a bounce-back year, increases his value and nets the team a better return closer to the 2017 trade deadline. That's a big risk, though. A third straight season in which he struggles could cause interest in him to wane.

    Given that there is a market for him now, the prudent move would be to deal him.

Chris Archer, Tampa Bay Rays

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    Chris Archer's contract might be the best among baseball's starting pitchers. He's currently playing on a six-year, $25.5 million deal that runs through 2019 with team options for the 2020 and 2021 seasons.

    The right-hander has ace-like potential, having posted ERAs of 3.22, 3.33 and 3.23 in three years heading into the 2016 season. Last season, though, his value took a hit, as he posted a 4.02 ERA and 1.242 WHIP.

    Granted, that could have been an aberration. At least, that's what the Rays are hoping teams call it as they shop Archer and look for a package similar to the one the White Sox got for Sale, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.

    Given his struggles in 2016, those demands may be unrealistic. Or it could just be an indication the Rays aren't that motivated to move Archer, who could help a contending Tampa Bay team down the line. It's possible the Rays would need to be overwhelmed by an offer to trade him.

    There's interest, though. Mark Bowman of MLB.com indicated the Atlanta Braves might make a play to acquire the right-handed starter who is overflowing with potential.

Yordano Ventura, Kansas City Royals

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    There may not be a player in MLB whose potential is discussed more than Royals starting pitcher Yordano Ventura. When potential is talked about, though, it almost universally means that player has underwhelmed.

    In 2016, Ventura had the worst season of his four-year MLB career, finishing with an ERA of 4.45 and a WHIP of 1.441.

    At 25, there's still plenty of time for Ventura to develop into a top-of-the-rotation player. His fastball averaged 96.2 mph in 2016, according to FanGraphs. But Ventura only has a three-pitch repertoire, including a changeup and curveball.

    It would behoove him to develop a fourth pitch, and there are teams out there who believe they might be able to help him do that. Brian McTaggart of MLB.com reported the Houston Astros have interest in Ventura.

    Given his struggles, it might be time for the Royals to deal Ventura before he loses even more value. They need to concede it may not click for Ventura in Kansas City. Working against the club is Ventura's history of being a lightning rod for controversy.

    He has gotten into a number of scuffles with White Sox players, exchanged words with Mike Trout and hit Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado in the back last season, prompting a benches-clearing brawl. Those are just the highlights of a litany of on-field exchanges between Ventura and opposing players.

    Still, teams will often overlook such issues if a player's talent is overwhelming. If a team out there feels it can steer Ventura's career in a different direction, the Royals should discuss a deal.

Ervin Santana, Minnesota Twins

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    This weak pitching market may be most advantageous to the Minnesota Twins as they consider whether to move starting pitcher Ervin Santana.

    The Twins are entrenched in a long-term rebuild, which means that Santana, 34, has no place on this team. He could, however, bring his 3.38 ERA in 2016 to a contending team and seriously boost the front end of their rotation.

    By no means does Santana come at a bargain. But a four-year, $55 million contract that runs through 2018 with a team option for 2019 won't scare teams off either.

    He's reliable, too, having started at least 30 games in all but three seasons since his rookie year in 2005. But at his age, he could decline at any moment—a reason Minnesota should listen to any offer it gets for the righty. A precipitous drop in his play, common among pitchers in their mid-30s, would directly impact his trade value.

    No specific teams have been linked to Santana, but talks could heat up nonetheless, given the current climate of the market.

Brad Hand, San Diego Padres

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    Reliever Brad Hand might be a player the Padres should consider hanging onto. He led all MLB relievers in games (82), struck out 111 in 89.1 innings of work and had a 2.92 ERA in 2016. Hand, 26, is under team control until 2020, when he becomes a free agent.

    Best of all, he's a lefty.

    But those are all reasons why teams might present a rebuilding San Diego team with some enticing packages for Hand.

    The Padres have no chance of winning the NL West, the same division in which the talented San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers play. So holding onto Hand would be a long-term decision.

    And sure, he could be a piece in a contending bullpen in future years. But he could also net a prospect return that could do even more to secure the organization's future.

    This postseason certainly provided a lesson on the importance of relief pitching. But bullpen arms will never be the building blocks of a franchise. They're more like frosting on a cake, which always goes on last.

    All of that means the Padres could seek position players or starting pitchers in return for Hand, who would upgrade any bullpen but notably be an important piece to a contending team.

    That's why John Harper of the New York Daily News named Hand as a player the New York Mets could pursue, noting that the team previously showed interest in him.

    It might require an overwhelming offer to convince San Diego to trade Hand. But perhaps if the Padres dangled him to contending teams, some might bite.