Last year’s trade market for pitchers was a high premium. The Athletics had Sonny Gray on the market and he pitched well enough to command elite prospect status. Most teams balked at the idea of trading away one of their top prospects, except for the Yankees. They felt strong enough with their great farm system to pull the trigger while desperately needing that arm to get them compete with the likes of the Astros, Indians, and Red Sox. Texas found themselves really out of it and dangled their ace Yu Darvish and got a nice return from the Dodgers (who needed that pitcher to compliment Kershaw). He pitched well but of course will be haunted by his struggles of the World Series Game 7. And Detroit was trying to find a taker for Justin Verlander. He pitched well, but the problem with him was his contract was a heavy loaded contract. Houston, who was scuffling at the time and failed to get Gray or Darvish, decided to make that move after the deadline. It obviously paid off as Verlander’s October successes hit Houston in a big way and has really garnered a re-birth for him and has to be considered the favorite for Cy Young in the AL right now (down to him or Kluber).
This year’s pitcher’s trade market doesn’t seem to have that big impact, but there are three starters that could really help the depth of some contenders starting rotations. We will look at the three pitchers who could likely be wearing different uniforms as their current teams are pretty much out of it.
(1) COLE HAMELS, RANGERS (4-7, 4.05 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 9.1 K/9 RATE): The numbers have been on par with Hamels in Texas since joining them after the Phillies traded him in 2015. He is not the same pitcher he was in Philadelphia by a long shot, but he is a veteran arm that could really help out a team that has a relatively young pitching rotation. Some have pointed to the Braves as their rotation is very young and overall have issues going deep into innings and turning it over to a “meh” bullpen. However, Hamels salary is over $20 million for the rest of this year and there’s a team option for 2019. The Braves have been hush-hush about how much they will spend and more rumors are that they won’t spend a lot thanks to Liberty Media. Which means two teams could be favorites to land Hamels are the Yankees (they have the pockets and the prospects) and the Angels (pockets and location as Hamels is a California kid) with a sleeper being the Mariners. But the Angels have fallen back so it may be very logical he will be a Yankee before the deadline. Will it make the Yankees better than the pitching staffs of the Red Sox and Astros? No, but at least it makes them deeper. MY TAKE: Hamels will get traded to the Yankees.
(2) JA HAPP, BLUE JAYS (10-4, 4.03 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 9.6 K/9 RATE): Happ struggled early but has picked it up, though his last start was horrible against the Tigers. Happ fits in that veteran mold that would help a young rotation. One issue this year is that Happ is inclined to give up the home run ball. Some of it is due to the fact that he plays in the AL East and seeing the Yankees and Red Sox will do that to you while you also play in a home run park like Toronto. He is a free agent at season’s end so the Jays would like to get something for him. I don’t see a huge prospect being netted for him or any of the other pitchers I have mentioned/will mention. The Braves would be a favorite here as Happ is an innings eater, which is somebody they need. The Brewers have been in DESPERATE NEED of a starter so they have to be a front-runner for Happ as well. They cannot afford to go to October relying on Junior Guerra or Chase Anderson to face off against Clayton Kershaw, Jon Lester, or Max Scherzer. MY TAKE: The Brewers will pull the trigger to get Happ. He’s probably the best front-end starter on the market and if Milwaukee wants to see late October baseball, this is their best bet unless somehow Washington implodes and offers one of their starters. I think the Braves brass would rather trust the process of their farm with the likes of Anderson, Wentz, etc. instead of shipping one off for a rental player.
(3) CHRIS ARCHER, RAYS (3-4, 4.29 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 9.0 K/9): Archer is always one of those “take him or leave him” kind of pitchers. People seem to love how he pitches but people also view him as overrated. I think he would be a good middle-rotation guy. Archer isn’t a rental player, but injuries have set him back a little bit this year. He’d more be suited for depth, similar to Hamels, but the key question would be would teams want to offer top prospects for Archer? Milwaukee would be an intriguing situation as he would also be pitching there for a while which helps the Brewers keep their run for more than 2018 and 2019. The Braves would be another good place for Archer. While Archer isn’t necessarily a veteran similar to Hamels or Happ, he’s pitched in some big games early on as a youngster. While he hasn’t eaten innings like he’s done in the past years, he could be a good innings eater. And the Rays need starting pitching arms. The Braves have them. The Cubs are also said to be involved given their inconsistencies with the rotation on guys not having the last name of Lester. But the Cubs have pretty much emptied the cupboard with the trades they made the last few years, notably for Quintana, Aroldis Chapman, and Justin Wilson. They would probably move one of their starters (Quintana?) to get Archer. MY TAKE: The Braves get Archer and help with the depth of their rotation. And they probably would also check and see if they could get Chaz Roe in that deal as well.
(4) KYLE GIBSON, TWINS (2-6, 3.58 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 8.6 K/9 RATE): You have to go “who? and why him?” But Minnesota has probably been the biggest disappointment, at least in the American League, currently 12 under .500 and in 3rd place to the Indians and a Tigers team who just lost 11 in a row and Minnesota still couldn’t jump ahead of them. The Twins are going “what the heck went wrong with the fruits of our one-time star-studded prospects in Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano?” As now both of them are in the Minors again. And really besides Jose Berrios, Eddie Rosario, and Eduardo Escobar, the team has a bunch of veterans that have underachieved to this point including Brian Dozier, Joe Mauer, and Logan Morrison and their veteran staff consisting of additions of Lance Lynn and Jake Odorizzi have flopped. But none of them have any major value at this point. Trading Gibson would net something back for Minnesota, though he is experiencing a career year so the offers won’t be as high as the other three pitchers involved. I think he’d be more of a back-end guy to help a team well established in the rotation to make a run. I doubt Gibson would be as helpful for the Braves or Brewers. But for a team like the Diamondbacks, he may be ideal as the rotation with Corbin & Greinke is top-heavy, but after that is somewhat up in the air. MY TAKE: I can easily envision Gibson going to Arizona. Just because the demand won’t be as high from Twins and Arizona wouldn’t have to really destroy what’s left of their farm. And given how they made out like a bandit in the JD Martinez deal last year, I can see them doing it again.
That’s it for this week.
-Fan in the Obstructed Seat