Trade Targets: Starting Pitchers

Every season, there’s always one thing in demand at the trade deadline — starting pitching. Nearly every contender outside of Philadelphia is in the hunt for another rotation arm, and the demand always outstrips the supply. While there’s no Cliff Lee on the block this year, there are still some interesting arms who could make a difference down the stretch. Here are the best candidates:

PLAYER: Edwin Jackson
TEAM: White Sox
POSSIBLE DESTINATION(S): Yankees, Red Sox, Reds
CONTRACT STATUS: $8.35 million, free agent at end of year
PROJECTED WAR: 1.8

The White Sox might end up trading Jackson even if they get back in the race for the AL Central title, as they currently have six starting pitchers for just five slots. Jackson is no stranger to changing teams, as he’s been dealt by Los Angeles, Tampa Bay, Detroit, and Arizona since arriving in the Major Leagues. Given the White Sox surplus of arms and his impending free agency, he’s a good bet to be packing his bags once again.

Assessing his trade value is something of a challenge, however. His stuff has never been in question, but his performances have been erratic at best. Over the last few years, he’s never been able to get his peripherals and his results to match up. When his ERA has been low, his peripherals haven’t supported it. When his strikeout rate rose upon arrival in Chicago, so did his ERA — thanks to an inflated BABIP that is still giving him problems this year.

He’s long been viewed as something of an underachiever, and his current middling ERA despite good secondary numbers won’t help debunk the label. With Scott Boras as his representative and free agency looming at year’s end, he’s clearly going to be a rental, and it’s tough to imagine a team being willing to give up the farm for a guy who is a bit of a wild card.

The teams most likely to take a shot on Jackson are the ones who can afford to absorb some risk – the Yankees and Red Sox both have the depth to not need Jackson should he flop, but could use another high octane arm for the postseason. The Reds might not seem like they’re in need of a starter, but could cash in some of their excess talent in order to try and upgrade the front of their rotation. Teams that need stability will shop elsewhere, but someone will take a flyer on Jackson’s arm and hope that he finally puts it all together.

PLAYER: Jeremy Guthrie
TEAM: Orioles
POSSIBLE DESTINATION(S): Yankees, Indians, Diamondbacks, Tigers
CONTRACT STATUS: $5.75 million, arbitration eligible
PROJECTED WAR: 1.3

The Orioles might say publicly that Guthrie’s not available, but there’s never been a better time to move him. At 32, Guthrie isn’t exactly part of the young core that Andy MacPhail has built up in Baltimore, and this is the last year where his salary won’t significantly weigh down his value. The Orioles could market him as more-than-a-rental, since he’s under team control through the end of the 2012 season, but the Orioles shouldn’t be overly interested in giving Guthrie the kind of raise in arbitration he’ll command after a strong showing this season.

While every team in the market for a starter will likely check in on Guthrie’s availability, perhaps no team makes more sense as a landing spot than Cleveland. Guthrie came up through the Indians system, and his status as a strike-throwing innings-eater is exactly what they need to stabilize their rotation for the stretch run. His salary isn’t prohibitive this year, and the Indians could always move him again this winter if they didn’t want to give him his arbitration raise either.

He’s not a front-line starter, but he’s durable and has proven he can get outs in the toughest division in baseball. Toss in an easy-to-swallow 2011 salary and Guthrie is a good fit for a lot of teams. The Orioles would be wise to deal him now because his value will never be higher and the prospects they will be able to acquire will be worth more than another year and a half of his services to their organization.

PLAYER: Jason Marquis
TEAM: Nationals
POSSIBLE DESTINATION(S): Indians, Tigers
CONTRACT STATUS: $7.5 million, free agent at end of year.
PROJECTED WAR: 1.1

The low-rent version of Jeremy Guthrie, Marquis seems likely to be the fallback plan for those who might not want to pay Baltimore’s asking price for this kind of pitcher. You know exactly what you’re getting with Marquis, who is a classic ground-balling innings-eater. He’ll give you a solid performance and pitch deep enough into games to take the pressure off of a bullpen, but he’s the kind of guy you only want to throw once in a playoff series.

With an expiring contract and a $7.5 million salary for 2011, Marquis is a rental player with a not-horrible price tag, but there’s not a ton of upside here, so teams likely won’t be willing to give up much in the way of high-end talent to get a few months worth of starts from him. If Cleveland or Detroit decide that they’d rather hang onto the prospects they have and make marginal upgrades rather than a big splash, Marquis could be a good target to focus on.

PLAYER: Erik Bedard
TEAM: Mariners
POSSIBLE DESTINATION(S): Yankees, Red Sox, Diamondbacks, Indians
CONTRACT STATUS: $1 million base + incentives, free agent at end of year
PROJECTED WAR: 0.7

While the Mariners aren’t looking to move Bedard right now, they could shift gears if the team falls out of the race between now and the end of July. On a per-innings pitched basis, Bedard might just be the best starter on the market as a lefty who can miss bats and has a legitimate knockout curveball. However, Bedard’s health problems will seriously dampen enthusiasm for potential suitors, as he hasn’t thrown an inning in September since 2007. While he’s seemingly healthy now, his performance this year is similar to his 2009 season — one that ended with him walking off the field in July and not pitching for another 18 months.

He’s an interesting upside play for teams who might want a southpaw who could slide into the front of their rotation, but his lack of durability is a huge red flag. Can any team really project Bedard to be pitching well deep into October when his career high in innings pitched is 196, and that was several surgeries ago? And would the Mariners be willing to move a pitcher who is contributing when they’re on track to return some degree of respectability to the franchise? There are a lot of reasons to think that Bedard might not be traded this summer, but if he does hit the market, teams will have to have some very interesting conversations about his value down the stretch.

PLAYER: Kevin Slowey
TEAM: Twins
POSSIBLE DESTINATION(S): ?
CONTRACT STATUS: $2.7 million, arbitration eligible
PROJECTED WAR: 0.5

Like Bedard, Slowey’s health is going to be the main topic of discussion surrounding his availability. The Twins have made it known that Slowey could be had by anyone interested, and the asking price is likely to be quite low given his recurring health problems. When he’s on the mound, Slowey has been an effective pitcher, and, at 27, he seemingly has some future value beyond just 2011.

However, as an extreme fly-ball pitcher who survives by just pounding the strike zone with mediocre stuff, teams are going to see a low-upside #5 starter who can’t stay healthy. There are certainly cities in which Slowey could thrive if he could avoid the disabled list, but despite the Twins making him available, it’s tough to identify any contenders who would want to give him a shot in the midst of a pennant chase.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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Rbibaseball57
Guest
Rbibaseball57

I wouldn’t go after Bedard if I was the Yankees, Jack Z might want Jesus Montero for him. This is the same guy who wanted Austin Jackson for Jarrod Washburn.

CMC_Stags
Guest
CMC_Stags

That Jack Z guy is crazy. He turned down Montero (hitting .302/.337/.429 in AAA this year) and took Justin Smoak (hitting .246/.341/.464 in MLB this year) instead.

Ewan
Guest
Ewan

Not only is Smoak doing that in the Majors, but he’s doing it in one of the worst hitters parks in the world.

V
Guest
V

Meh. I’m a Yankees’ fan, and I’m ok with the Smoak over Montero decision. As prospects, they were essentially a wash. And it’s better to take the prospect from the division rival than the non-division rival.

Joey B
Guest

I thought it was a strange decision, but you make it sound like there is something wrong with Smoak having a higher OPS in the pros than Montero has in AAA.

Eminor3rd
Member
Eminor3rd

I think CMC was being sarcastic… right? I mean, by citing slash lines that where SMoak has a better OBP and SLG in the majors.

VivaAyala
Member
VivaAyala

Crazy like a fox!

DBML
Guest
DBML

Obviously Stags is being sarcastic…

joser
Guest
joser

How we managed to arrive at a world that contains the internet but no widely-used sarcasm punctuation just amazes me. Al Gore really overlooked that one.

rbibaseball57
Guest
rbibaseball57

I’m just saying that everytime Jack Z deals with the Yankees he asks for their best prospects and then settles for less from another team. For example when he traded Washburn a few years ago, back then Austin Jackson was considered the top prospect in the Yankees farm system and wanted him for Jarrod Washburn who is now no longer in baseball. The Yankees said no, and then settles for a slice of cheesecake and a bucket of balls from the Tigers.

Brian
Guest
Brian

RBI Baseball, have you considered that the reason that Jack Z asks for the Yankees’ best prospects and then takes other teams’ lesser prospects is because the Yankees just don’t have very good prospects?

Erich
Guest
Erich

@RBI: When bargaining, you set your asking price high. You may not even get a Justin Smoak if you don’t ask for a Montero. You have to convince the market that your Cliff Lee is valuable and you won’t settle for crap.

cwendt
Member
cwendt

One of those prospects projected as a 1B, one (albeit dubiously) as a C.

Unless you think positional adjustments are meaningless in MLB. In which case, carry on with your questionable comparison.

rbibaseball57
Guest
rbibaseball57

I’m not raging on the Cliff Lee deal at all, I’m just saying that he wanted Austin Jackson for Jarrod Washburn which was unreasonable to ask for at the time. What would you rather have a half year rental for Jarrod Washburn or Curtis Granderson.

rbibaseball57
Guest
rbibaseball57

http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2009/07/jarrod-washburn-rumors-friday.html

http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2009/08/rosenthals-full-count-video-yankees-dodgers-pirates.html

This is why I dislike Jack Z, I’m not making this up. Instead he settles on Luke French and another prospect.

Frank
Guest
Frank

Actually, the Yankees have great prospects. No sarcasm needed there. And Justin Smoak is three years older than Montero. Just about every single talent evaluation I’ve seen pegs Montero as a better hitter, regardless of how you choose to cherrypick how’s he’s hitting during certain parts of certain seasons.

harmony
Guest
harmony

The sources reported whom the Mariners wanted in exchange for Jarrod Washburn in 2009, but whom did the Yankees offer?

Was the Yankee offer better than lefty Luke French, who went 11-3 with a 2.94 ERA last season as a 23-year-old in Triple A, and lefty Mauricio Robles, who averaged more than a strikeout per inning last season as a 21-year-old between Double A and Triple A? Baseball America has Robles ranked as Seattle’s sixth-best prospect while Jon Sickels has Robles at No.5 in the organization. French has lost his prospect status.

harmony
Guest
harmony

Frank says: “And Justin Smoak is three years older than Montero.”

I can’t argue that different hitters develop at different paces. Heck, just look at Eric Hosmer, who is only one month older than Jesus Montero.

Joltin' Joe
Guest

Well I don’t think Dayton Moore and the Royals will be able to pry him away in exchange for Joakim Soria as the Yankees tried to do last year, seeing how that situation has developed in Kansas City…

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