Now's about the time in Hot Stove season when you're in an alley, slumped against a brick wall, and licking your computer screen to extract any lingering Rosenthal residue that might be there. You've O.D.'d, man. Look at yourself. Too many unsubstantiated rumors will kill you. Or even worse, make you watch the NBA. Take it easy.
So let's step back for a minute. Let's not focus on specific names. The Gio Gonzalezes, Wandy Rodriguezes, or Roy Oswai. Let's just look at what teams would be helped most by the addition of a single quality pitcher. A better description for this class of team might be "Teams you wouldn't be surprised to expect to finish with 81 to 89 wins as is." Those are the teams that could benefit most from replacing a latter-day Jaime Navarro with a good arm, whether by trade, free agency, or the reanimation of zombie Mark Prior.
The stealth team of the year. They finished just under .500 while everyone was still making fun of the Jayson Werth, and Stephen Strasburg should be around all year. Things are looking up. And they have a pair of elbow-scar survivors at the top of rotation, ready to pitch together for the first time. Bryce Harper should be up soon. They have young talent around the diamond, but the back end of their rotation is a little dicey. One more guy -- from Colon to Oswalt -- would make a big difference.
Most of this talk was already hashed out in this week's lamentation of Darvishes lost, but the Blue Jays are a team on the cusp. Of something. Probably another .500 season or so like the last ten or twenty. But the Jays have obvious talent on the roster, and fewer black holes than most teams. If Colby Rasmus and/or Kelly Johnson can rebound to past glories, and if the Jays can sign another hitter, they'll have quite the lineup. If, if, if.
But the back of their rotation is a mystery. MLB Depth Charts, for example, has Dustin McGowan, who has thrown 21 innings since 2008, as the #5 starter. Brett Cecil is an enigma. Kyle Drabek just walked your girlfriend. You should probably go check on that. With one more starter, whether it's prodigal son Edwin Jackson or a splashier trade like Gio Gonzalez, everything looks a lot better.
I can almost accept that Ivan Nova came through for them. He has a great sinker, and minor-league numbers aren't everything. But to have Nova come through and Bartolo Colon come through and Freddy Garcia come through? The rotation was absolutely counting on Phil Hughes to be a monster, and when he imploded, there was no earthly reason that the Yankees should have allowed fewer than six runs a game.
Garcia's back. Hughes should be better. But counting on the same turn of good fortune seems crazy for a team that has billions and billions invested everywhere else in the lineup.
A list of people I don't trust:
- That duplicitous mail carrier who is always spindling my stuff
- That new neighbor with the beady eyes
- Jeff Sullivan
- Kyle Lohse
- Jake Westbrook
The Cards would be right not to trust those last two. The downside is that they have a fair amount of money tied up in Lohse and Westbrook, so it might not make a lot of fiscal sense to demote one, or trade one while eating a chunk of the contract. But a better starting pitcher would make the Cardinals, well, better. They're hoping for some help with Adam Wainwright's return, but they could take it a step further with a proactive Oswalt deal.
Just forget the part up there where I wrote that these were "Teams you wouldn't be surprised to expect to finish with 81 to 89 wins as is." You're right not to expect the Royals to finish with 89 wins in a 324-game season, even if that's just because it's a position you're used to. But the young hitting talent they have might coalesce at any moment, and when they do, it'd be swell if they had one more veteran on the staff.
As is, a rotation of Luke Hochevar, Jonathan Sanchez, Aaron Crow, Bruce Chen, and Felipe Paulino has more upside than average. With one veteran arm, either Crow or Paulino can go to the bullpen, and the team is that much closer to respectability.
Teams like the Phillies or Rangers would just pick their teeth with an extra starting pitcher, and they'd stare you down as they did it. Teams like the Astros or Pirates wouldn't really know what to do with another mid-level arm. But there are certain teams that are right in that happy middle zone, and they can use one more arm. The teams that actually get one might surprise the baseball world and hang around into October.