The best starting pitcher on the trade market right now is a 36-year-old who has thrown more than 100 innings just once in his 12-year career, and who has already been on the disabled list this year. Last year he pitched for the Long Island Ducks and walked 21 batters in 21 Triple-A innings. That’s not to slam Rich Hill, who’s become one of the better stories in baseball, but it gives you the idea of the trade market.
It’s a bad market. Very bad. So very bad. And with a lousy market should come a lousy deadline.
Teams talking to Phillies about Jeremy Hellickson say they want "one of your top 5 prospects" - or they'll keep him & take the draft pick— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) July 27, 2016
That bad. There will be no David Price deal. Jon Lester isn’t getting traded for Yoenis Cespedes. Probably. There will be minor deals, with a 14.093 percent chance that the Atlanta Braves get a Shelby Miller-type offer for Julio Teheran. Some teams will be happy; some teams will be unhappy. And maybe a team will give a top-five prospect for Jeremy Hellickson.
Let’s look, then, at the pitchers who could have fed our happy transaction addiction, but had life and baseball intervene instead. In a kinder world, these pitchers would have been the hottest available on the trade market.
Cashner was a below-average starting pitcher last season. Before that, he was a pitcher who matched scout-approved stuff with on-field results, and his only problem was the part about staying on-field. Then he finally made 31 starts in a season, and an inconsistent mess of a second half soured his overall numbers.
Still, to that point, there were two-and-a-half seasons suggesting Cashner was an effective starter when healthy, with a half-season suggesting otherwise. Before this season started, it was fair to wonder if he would reclaim his value and give the San Diego Padres the best deadline-rental pitcher on the market.
Instead: more inconsistency and injuries. Cashner has pitched into the seventh inning just once this year, and he’s already missed chunks of time with various injuries. He’ll get traded for something that’s worth more than the compensatory draft pick the Padres would get if they offered him arbitration after the season — which they probably would in this market — but he had a chance to be the star of the program.
If you feel bad for the Padres, that’s fair, but don’t forget that they turned Yonder Alonso into one of the best prospects in baseball using One Weird Trick.
Okay, you can feel bad for the Padres. There isn’t a lot of mystery with this one, as Ross has been hurt. That’s the whole story. Left Opening Day; hasn’t come back. I’d love to know the offers the Padres turned down in the offseason, but the wacky part is those offers still might be there this offseason, even with his shoulder problems.
That’s the possible happy ending, though. We don’t get the steady drip of rumors and transactions now, but a dynamite second half for any of these pitchers will make them fantastically valuable on the offseason trade market. Ross is at the top of that list, along with ...
I have an A’s-loving friend who was vocal about ditching the team for good if the A’s traded Gray this season. So even though I’m sure they could have dealt Gray for Dansby Swanson and more, there was a legitimate PR reason for hanging on. The A’s are usually okay at trading a year too early rather than a year too late, but trading Gray would have been a tougher sell, especially since we’re not that far removed from the Josh Donaldson trade.
Oh, what those potential deals must look like to the front office now.
Gray is having an absolutely miserable season, leading the league in wild pitches and matching his career high in home runs allowed, despite throwing 100 fewer innings than he did last year. After finishing third in the AL Cy Young race last year, the 26-year-old has been one of the worst starting pitchers in baseball.
And if you’re the A’s front office, what do you do? Pretend this year never happened when teams ask about him. That’s how long he’s under contract; that’s how valuable the idea of of a successful Gray is. The A’s have no reason to sell low. Teams have no reason to buy high.
Here’s hoping for a successful second half for Gray because it’s never fun to watch a young pitcher’s talent evaporate. After that, hope for it because it will make the hot stove league more fun.
The entire Tampa Bay Rays rotation, give or take
Here’s a headline from Wednesday:
It's a nonstarter: Rays have arms, but likely will wait to deal them
Put Chris Archer in that Sonny Gray camp, where the idea of him at his best is still ridiculously valuable, so it makes absolutely zero sense to trade him.
But there should have been someone behind him, though. The Rays looked like they had an advantage in the low-fastball, low-offense era, zagging the other way and specializing in high fastballs. It seems possible that the baseball being more lively has decimated this strategy, with Archer, Matt Moore, Jake Odorizzi and Drew Smyly all giving up home runs at an unexpected rate, sending their ERAs through the roof even as the pitchers maintain stellar strikeout-to-walk ratios.
Again, the second half is where the Rays can rebuild this value, hitting the desolation of the winter free agent market as the most popular team in the league. It’s what I’m expecting, really. For now, though, they’re going to have to sit the current desolation out, and it’s murder on the teams looking for long-term help instead of rentals.
The entire New York Yankees rotation, give or take
Everything up there about the Rays applies to Nathan Eovaldi and Michael Pineda, too. Both pitchers are young, cheap and stuff-laden. With a better first half from either of them, the Yankees wouldn’t just be the heroes of the deadline on the bullpen front. There would be all sorts of swirling rumors about their young pitchers, too.
The difference is that if Eovaldi and Pineda were better, the Yankees would (rightfully) consider them parts of the next good Yankees team. They aren’t as worried about a looming arbitration payday as the Rays are, which means the only reason either player’s name would come up is because they’re not doing well ... which makes them less valuable ... which means it makes more sense to hold onto them.
That’s the theme of the deadline, alright. But the Yankees also have an expensive veteran who probably won’t move because of his contract (CC Sabathia), and they also have Ivan Nova, who is somehow already a pending free agent, but isn’t pitching well enough to inspire other teams to blow the Yankees away. He’s their version of Andrew Cashner, in that he’ll probably get moved, but the team that gets him won’t be happy about it.
Injuries, dingers and generally poor performances. Those are all ruining the deadline for these teams, sometimes at the same time. With just one calm, expected season from any of the talented pitchers up there, the deadline might be a much different feeding frenzy.
As is, enjoy your Rich Hill. No, seriously, enjoy him. He’s really good! So you’d better enjoy him for the prospects your team is about to give up. Focus on the curveball. It's a lot of fun.
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