The Texas Rangers have the 4th best starting rotation ERA in the AL, and a 6 game lead in the AL West as play begins on May 15th, 2013. It’s hard to imagine a better start for Texas seeing as Matt Harrison’s back has sidelined him until August (maybe) forcing two rookies into the rotation while the Rangers wait for Colby Lewis to join the rotation. However, that still leaves on rookie (Tepesch, Grimm, or Perez) in the 5th spot deep into the home stretch for the AL West title.
Now, Tepesch and Grimm both performed above their pay grade in April, and May has revealed either a league adjustment against both (5.94/1.500 & 7.02/1.800 ERA/WHIP respectively), or simply a regression that is to be expected with rookie pitchers not named Strasburg. So, it’s likely that the Rangers will opt for a more reliable rotation arm before the trade deadline to anchor the bottom of the rotation. They could also shoot a little higher, seeking to add the 1b to Darvish’s 1a at the top.
Allow me to present to you at least one starting pitcher from all 29 other teams in the MLB that may end up pitching in Arlington come September, and hopefully October. To help the reader at home gauge how sane or insane I may be with these suggestions I included a nifty graphic ranking from 0 to 4 JD’s (0 = I had to put someone from that team on the list; 4 = start saving up for that jersey T) the chances that the Rangers land said pitcher in the trade market:
Arizona – Brandon McCarthy (RHP): McCarthy has yet to regain the form he showed in 2011-12 in Oakland that earned him his two year $15.5 million deal with the Diamondbacks. There don’t appear to be any reports of his poor performance being linked to the line drive off the head that ended his 2012 season. The encouraging sign is that he has only allowed 6 BB in 48 innings. The discouraging thing is he is still sporting a monster 1.542 WHIP. Any deal would probably require Arizona to eat some of his $10.25 million salary in 2014, and if he continues to struggle he would be a cheap acquisition at that. He’s pitched decent in RBiA as well with a 4.07 ERA and 1.27 WHIP in 139.1 IP.
Atlanta – Tim Hudson (RHP): Hudson is a free agent after this season, and the Braves are more likely to focus on retaining the 31 year old Paul Maholm (also a free agent after 2013) than the 37 year old Hudson. Hudson’s WHIP has risen to 1.239 this year after rising from 1.14in 2011 to 1.207 in 2012. That being said, he’s still an arm that should provide quality innings down the stretch, much like what you’d be looking for as a replacement for Colby Lewis if his arm still isn’t healthy. It’s been awhile since he pitched in RBiA (June 17th, 2008), so maybe his 6.80 ERA and 1.783 WHIP in 9 GS in Arlington won’t weigh too heavy on his mind.
Baltimore – Jair Jurrjens (RHP): Jurrjens signed a minor league with the O’s after concerns about his right knee torpedoed a one year $1.5 million deal. Jurrjens has been very effective in AAA Norfolk thus far, posting a 3.14 ERA and 1.142 WHIP. The issue that could motivate Baltimore to try and deal Jurrjens would be his opt out clause that kicks in on June 15th if he hasn’t been promoted to the big leagues. If the O’s have a log jam in the rotation and Jurrjens is still toiling away at AAA as 6/15 approaches, then JD already has the relationship with Dan Duquette and a farm system that Baltimore clearly admires to facilitate a deal. More than likely the Orioles will find a spot for Jurrjens, but it’s worth keeping an eye on.
Boston – Jon Lester (LHP): The rebirth of baseball in Boston has hit a bit of a snag as the Red Sox are 2-9 in their last 11 games, with the slide starting by being swept by the Rangers two weekends ago. I remain skeptical of the Red Sox ability to fend off the Rays and Orioles over the course of 162 game season, and Lester could come into play if they do continue this downward trend. Lester has a team option remaining for $13 million in 2014, which should provide more value on the trade market. He won’t come cheap, and a more realistic trade target is probably John Lackey, but I don’t see JD focusing on a guy with a 6.61 ERA and 1.701 WHIP at RBiA. Especially if he has a shot at the guy with the 3.91 ERA and 1.145 WHIP in Arlington.
Chicago Cubs – Matt Garza (RHP): It’s not much of a stretch to put Garza on this list. The Rangers tried to get him in a deal with the Rays before the Cubs nudged them out of the way at the last minute, and it’s well known that Chicago views him as their most valuable trade chip for 2013. He has struggled in RBiA (6.04 ERA and 1.306 WHIP in 28.1 IP), but that hasn’t scared the Rangers FO. The bigger stab in the dark would be if the Rangers could somehow pry Jeff Samardzija (RHP) away from the Cubbies. He’s under team control until 2016, and at 28 you might get Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein to consider dealing him for a handful of younger prospects.
Chicago White Sox – Jake Peavy (RHP): The biggest question surrounding Peavy is his health, as it has been since he was acquired from San Diego in 2009. He had back spasm issues that almost sent him to the DL earlier this year, but he pitched a strong 6.2 innings on Wednesday against the Mets, followed by allowing just 2 ER in 7 IP against the Twins last night, and tossed 219 innings in 32 GS last year. The Sox are dead last in the Central, so they will most certainly be sellers at the deadline. Like most, Peavy has struggled in his 3 starts at RBiA (6.46 ERA and 1.696 WHIP), but his home/road splits don’t seem to show anything that suggests he wouldn’t adjust to life at the Ballpark. The bigger concern is the $29.5 million (including $15 million player option in 2015) left on his deal after 2013. The Rangers can probably get Chicago to take on some of the salary, but that will up the package of prospects the Sox expect back in return.
Cincinnati – Bronson Arroyo (RHP):Arroyo has displayed remarkable durability since joining the Reds in 2006 (1488.1 IP over 7 seasons coming into 2013), and 2013 is the final year of his current contract. That contract features $15 million in deferred payments that are due immediately from the Rangers if he is traded. That will complicate any deal for Arroyo (along with his 10/5 rights), so the question becomes do the Reds give the Rangers a break on the prospects requested in any deal and/or help out financially. Arroyo’s only started two games at RBiA, but in those two starts he allowed just 4 ER, 8 H, and 3 BB while striking out 10. The Reds have plenty of young arms to shoulder the load if Arroyo gets moved.
Cleveland – Scott Kazmir (LHP): This would be the classic buy low-sell high move by the Indians, which would be the opposite of what they would do if they decided to try and move Ubaldo Jiminez (would have next to zero value on the market). Kazmir missed all of 2012 trying to pitch his way back into the majors, and it appears he’s regained some of what he lost after the 2008 season. The Indians are currently within striking distance of the Tigers, but Francona’s bunch is likely a year away from contending with the powerhouse that is Detroit. A few near MLB ready but not top caliber prospects might be enough to get a deal done, but that also requires that Kamir continues to regain his Tampa Bay form.
Colorado – Jon Garland (RHP): After spending all of 2012 rehabbing a reconstructed shoulder, Garland was released by the Mariners before being picked up by the Rockies to start the 2013 season. Like Kazmir, Garland is going to need to show more as the season goes along to climb onto the radar screen of JD. He also has been awful in his career at RBiA (8.10 ERA and 1.907 WHIP). That makes this acquisition a pretty unlikely one.
Detroit – Rick Porcello (RHP): Yes the Tigers are in a race for the AL Pennant along with the Rangers, but Porcello appears to be a change of scenery guy. He’s also still very young (24), which makes him a very interesting subject as a trade target. There was some silly talk in the Detroit media about the Tigers needing to ask for Andrus or Profar in a Porcello deal, and since no deal was made they may very well have asked that high of a price. Now, Porcello has struggled with a 6.68 ERA and 1.361 WHIP through 6 starts and 7 appearances this year, so it’s possible that the asking price has dropped. You also have to wonder if the Rangers still feel Porcello (who won’t be a free agent until 2016) is an answer to any rotation issues they may have. He’s been fairly mediocre in Arlington for his career (4.91 ERA and 1.682 WHIP in 22 IP), but that’s a trend that’s more the norm as you will continue to see. This trade is slightly more likely since the conversations have already taken place between the two clubs, however I don’t think a deal will happen in season.
Houston – Bud Norris (RHP): The Astros are firmly entrenched in their rebuilding strategy, so even though Norris is affordable and under team control until 2016, they are 99.9% likely to move him by the deadline. There’s allegedly bad blood between these two organization since Astros owner Jim Crane upped the bid on the Rangers ownership group during the bankruptcy auction in 2010. That being said, baseball is a business, and if the Rangers want to put together an attractive enough package for Norris then the Astros will think long and hard about accepting it. Norris has not pitched at RBiA.
Kansas City – Ervin Santana (RHP): The Rangers want James Shields, and the Royals know the Rangers want James Shields. The Royals also may or may not be in the middle of the race for the AL Central in July. Considering what they gave up for Shields versus what they gave up for Santana, it’s far more likely that Ervin is the guy they’re willing to part with. Santana has actually been pitching quite effectively. His road ERA (4.26) is a bit perplexing, as his road WHIP (1.053) is actually lower than his home WHIP (1.125). He’s atrocious while pitching in Arlington (7.47 ERA & 1.572 WHIP); however, his pending free agency should help lower the asking price and he sports a 2.08 ERA and 1.183 WHIP when pitching in Oakland.
LA Angels of Anaheim – C.J. Wilson (LHP): Listen. If it’s a list of every team in the MLB, then you’re going to have a few reaches in it. This is the biggest of them all. The Angels aren’t dealing anyone in their rotation unless they decide to sell, sell, sell. If that’s the case you can safely bet that Weaver and Hanson (under team control until 2016) are staying put. Vargas is proving to the league that he’s average at best away from Safeco, and Blanton has zero value. That leaves C.J. He has a full no-trade to waive, so there’s that, and the Angels would have to take on a significant chunk of his remaining contract to strike any deal. On the positive side he’s pitched well with Texas before, and he’s pitched well with Texas before. That’s all I’ve got.
LA Dodgers of Los Angeles – Ted Lilly (LHP): It’s been a tough start for Lilly to 2013. He’s lasted just 8 innings in two starts and is currently on the 15 day DL with a strained rib cage muscle, but he showed no signs of slowing down coming into the year, posting a WHIP under 1.2 since 2008. He’s a free agent in 2014, so he falls into the rent-a-pitcher category that the Rangers dipped into with the Ryan Dempster deal last year. Lilly has pitched his best baseball in the NL, but at RBiA he has been okay (4.38 ERA and 1.282 WHIP in 6 GS and 39 IP). The Dodgers won’t go into a full rebuild under new ownership just yet, so moving Lilly for a few mid level prospects fits the mold of a team not yet willing to admit they’ve screwed up, but that knows they’re a few steps shy of disaster.
Miami – Ricky Nolasco (RHP): If the Giancarlo Stanton deal ever does come to fruition, you can bet that Nolasco will almost certainly be considered as a toss in to try and get an extra prospect out of JD and company. Nolasco isn’t especially flashy, but he has good command (3.49 K/BB ratio for his career). Alone, I don’t see the Rangers trying to acquire anyone out of this Marlins rotation, but Stanton is very much in play, which inclines me to tie Nolasco’s fate to his. Nolasco has not appeared at RBiA yet in his career.
Milwaukee – Yovani Gallardo (RHP): The Brewers were able to land young sensation Jean Segura (along with pitching prospects John Hellweg and Ariel Pena) for Zack Greinke last year, and since they’re already sitting 8.5 games behind the Cardinals to this point, I’m betting they’ll be sellers again as the trade deadline approaches. Gallardo will be a free agent in 2015, so while he doesn’t have the same pedigree as Greinke, the extra year of team control is valuable and raises his value. He has not pitched at RBiA.
Minnesota – Kevin Correia (RHP): Correia is the only arm I’d expect the Twins would consider dealing, as everyone else is either a young arm under team control for many years or Mike Pelfrey. Correia had not pitched for an AL team before signing with the Twins, and his results in the AL have been wonderful at Target Field (2.50 ERA and 1.111 WHIP) and subpar anywhere else (5.09 ERA and 1.472 WHIP). His road woes can be linked to a brutal .323 BABIP, but his home/road splits are equally brutal across the board through 3 starts. This is one more arm that I’m not sure hits the market, and even then is a long shot target for the Rangers.
New York Mets – Shaun Marcum (RHP): Injury concerns limited his value on the free agent market which lead to a fairly pedestrian $4 million 1 year deal with the Mets. Not surprisingly, Marcum began 2013 with a neck inflammation issue that delayed his season debut until 4/27. To make matters worse, he has yet to make it beyond 4.2 innings through 3 starts (8.59 ERA and 2.045 WHIP). There is still plenty of time for Shaun to get his season back on track and raise his trade value, but there is a limited ceiling on his market for sure. If he’s healthy and in a grove it’s hard to get to Marcum on the mound, but the healthy question mark is a big one. He’d be a cheap trade target that I imagine the Rangers have little interest in.
New York Yankees – Hiroki Kuroda (RHP): Mark this under the column of ain’t happening, but of all the Yankees rotation members he’s the most likely to be traded. And by that I mean he won’t. Let’s not waste anymore time.
Oakland – Brett Anderson (LHP): Yet another deal that is about as likely to happen as the frozen head of Ted Williams reanimating itself and winning a batting title. The only reason that I won’t give this zero JD’s is that Billy Beane might feel now is time to get something for the talented lefty who can’t seem to stay healthy, as Anderson’s contract has two fairly friendly club options remaining after 2013. As you might expect, Anderson is somewhat challenged when pitching in Arlington (8.62 ERA and 2.17 WHIP in 4 GS totaling 15.2 IP). And no I don’t surmise his sprained ankle would chase off any suitors.
Philadelphia – Cliff Lee (LHP): This is an additional no brainer, and the next safest bet to a Matt Garza trade for the most likely trade for the Rangers to pull off. Despite the fact that Lee chose Philly over Texas for less money, he enjoyed his time with the Rangers. He has a limited no-trade clause that would need to be worked around, but see the previous sentence and move on from there. The Phillies were not inclined to take on any of Lee’s remaining salary in 2012 negotiations. That stance may soften as the deadline for this year approaches if the Phillies fall farther back in the NL East (3.5 games back as of 5/15). The Rangers were willing to shell out big bucks for Lee two winters ago, and having just swung and miss on Greinke, they may not require Philadelphia to pony up much if cash in a deal if the asking price isn’t too high on prospects in return.
Pittsburgh – Wandy Rodriguez (LHP): A long shot because of a few things. 1: Rodriguez is a glorified bullpen pitcher against the AL (5.09 ERA and 1.446 WHIP). 2: Rodriguez has a player option for 2014 that he may or may not accept and Houston is on the hook for some of that money as well. A second trade could complicate things, and organizations don’t complicate things for a guy with a decent arm when they have more attractive options. 3: The Pirates are likely to hang around in the NL Central/Wild Card race, which means they are likely buyers and not sellers in July. 4: Rodriguez is the option over Burnett because it seems clear that A.J.’s days with any team other than the Pirates are over according to the righty.
San Diego – Jason Marquis (RHP): Marquis represents a different rent-a-player option that would come on the cheap if the Rangers rotation suffers a series of injuries and setbacks to the youngsters that forces them to try and find someone who can eat innings in the 5th starter spot. Factor in the handful of fluke injuries (broken fibula and wrist on liners up the middle) and that he has only topped the 200 IP mark 3 times in his 13 year career coming into 2013 (the last time being in 2009 for Colorado), and it’s tough to envision the Rangers focusing on Marquis as a solution to any pitching needs. He has limited action at RBiA for his career, allowing 8 R (6 ER) and a 1.583 WHIP in 12 innings.
San Francisco – Tim Lincecum (RHP): The Freak has to have some in the San Francisco organization freaking out right now. Something has derailed a once stellar career from developing into a special one for well over a year now, and the Giants are going to have to decide if they believe it’s something they can fix moving forward or if they want it to become someone else’s problem. Lincecum is a free agent after this season, and he would have to intrigue enough teams to warrant a decent haul of talent come July 31st. What makes this even trickier of a decision is that the NL West is wide open for the taking. For all that, if Timmy pitches the way he did in his start on Mother’s Day (7 IP, 0 R, 7 K, 3 BB) over the next 11 weeks, then he will be staying by the Bay for years to come.
Seattle – Felix Hernandez (RHP): I put him on here just to make some of you crazy. Let’s move on.
St. Louis – Jake Westbrook (RHP): The Cardinals are a shrewd organization, and they are an organization that knows when they can move on without a player. In this case, Jake Westbrook may end up with more value as a trade deadline rental (he does have a mutual option with a $1 million buyout for 2014) than a 5th starter in a ridiculously gifted rotation. Guess what? He’s been bashed at RBiA (6.14 ERA and 1.727 WHIP), but his home/road splits are nearly identical. For some reason my gut is whispering to my baseball soul to keep a close eye on Jake, particularly if Lewis experiences additional setbacks in his rehab.
Tampa Bay – Jeremy Hellickson (RHP): The knuckler of the list. David Price isn’t going to be dealt this year. He’s off to an awful start, and the Rays are starting to climb back into the AL East/Wild Card race after a sluggish start which makes them less inclined to deal anyone. Hellickson’s ERA is likewise up in 2013 (5.25), but his WHIP is not terribly off from his career average (1.271/1.201). The high ERA probably has more to do with his current .277 BABIP versus his .248 career line. Why Hellickson and not Price? It’s another gut reaction. The Rays entered to year asking a king’s ransom for Price, and it’s not expected that they’ll take less if his tribulations continue. If he does sort out whatever is ailing him on the mound, I don’t see the Rangers biting on the asking price for Price. Can they work a marginally watered down package for Hellickson? Probably not, but some knucklers end up 30 rows deep in right center.
Toronto – Mark Buehrle (LHP): I have a good feeling about this one. His contract doesn’t seem too crazy considering his track record as a workhorse with amazing reliability. He’s thrown 200+ innings every year since he became a full time starting pitcher in 2001. That’s TWELVE seasons folks. That history of steadiness on the mound should alleviate any uncertainty felt by his poor start to the season (6.19 ERA and 1.479 WHIP compared to career totals of 3.86 and 1.277). He’s also one of the few guys on this list with a successful past pitching at RBiA (3.86 ERA and 1.013 WHIP in 51.1 IP). His contract is weighty, and taking into account he’s not as dominant as Cliff Lee or as young as Matt Garza, he’s not as likely to wind up in a Rangers uni. I still think they’ll be significant discussions between JD and Alex Anthopoulos regarding his future location of employment. Plus, he can live with Slater again during the season if he so chooses.
Washington – Dan Haren (RHP): I’m tired, I’m at the end of the list, and this one is one final give up (YEAH!!!!). It’s legitimate to question if at 32, Haren has enough left in his tank for a single season, let alone several more. I don’t even see a need for JD to kick the tires on Haren or any of the younger arms with the Nats that they won’t be considering trading.