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5 pitchers who deserve a change of scenery (and might get it)

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Sonny Gray? Definitely. Corey Kluber? Let’s see. deGrom? Oh dear god please.

New York Yankees v Baltimore Orioles - Game Two Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

The MLB offseason is here, and with the GM Meetings happening this week the rumors are already starting and (hopefully) the dam of action will break long before it did last season. While many will be focusing on top free agent targets like Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, there are many other moves poised to happen. They might not happen until those free agent dominoes fall — similar to last year with the Shohei Ohtani race — but rumors are already bubbling up.

Whether it’s a strong likelihood that they’ll actually get traded or whether there’s only a slim chance they could be moved, here’s a list of pitchers who could either use or outright deserve a change of scenery for 2019. Not all of them will happen, but there’s at least a chance so I’m hoping for one or a few of these guys to get a new start somewhere. It would at least be entertaining.

Sonny Gray

The Yankees traded for Sonny Gray at the 2017 trade deadline in the hopes he would be at the top of their rotation with Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka and it didn’t quite work out that way. In 65 innings over 11 games in New York after the mid-season trade he posted a 3.72 ERA but a 4.87 FIP. This year went far worse, with a 4.80 ERA and a 4.17 FIP with a 1.496 WHIP. His 2017 122 ERA+ drop to 89 in 2018.

By the end of the season he was not only out of the starting rotation, he didn’t even make the postseason roster. Gray just turns 29 this week though, and is arbitration eligible this year before entering free agency in 2020. His ERA away from Yankee Stadium was more than three points lower than his ERA at home this year. This seems like a classic case of someone just not meshing with a new team and stadium and needing to reset.

New York has gaps to fill and Gray’s numbers aren’t so woeful that another team wouldn’t take a chance. It would be nice to see him get a year to prove that his last season and change was a glitch and set himself up for a decent deal in free agency, his last shot at a huge deal.

Jacob deGrom

Someone get deGrom out of New York already. After much speculation at the this year’s trade deadline on whether or not he was about to be flipped, the Mets committed to keeping deGrom on the team as a building block for the future. His agent (who is now the Mets GM) Brodie van Wagenen appeared set on a contract extension — deGrom is under team control through 2021 — but now that he’s in charge we’ll see what form negotiations take.

This is the most unlikely trade possibility on this list. The most “let’s get this offseason on some drugs and see what happens” wish, but who doesn’t want deGrom out of Flushing? Even Mets fans want deGrom out of there at this point just for his own health and safety. The probable-2018 Cy Young Award winner is someone who deserves the chance to have an historically good season for someone besides a team that has no plan and no strategy and no way to accomplish it even if they had either thing.

It might be wishful thinking, but imagine his 1.70 ERA in 217 innings this year happening with a team like the Braves or the Phillies (even if an inter-division trade is even less likely than a trade happening at all) or someone else equally poised to win. Or even make the postseason.

Corey Kluber

A week ago, this would have seemed like an impossibility on some level. But now that we know the Indians are shopping their veterans — with the exception of AL MVP finalist Jose Ramirez — it’s at least on the table. Kluber should be the type of player Cleveland is looking to hang on to in theory as he’s under team control for the next three years at just $13 million next year with two options the two following years worth $13.5 and $14 million respectively (plus a few more million thanks to Cy Young bonuses, with the buyouts only set at $1 million no matter the year).

He’s won two Cy Young Awards and is nominated again this year, and at only 32 years old 2018 was his fifth-straight season with 200+ IP and he put up a 151 ERA+ with a 3.12 FIP, 9.3 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9, a career low. Sure, his postseasons keep falling apart after a certain point but that’s either normal fatigue or because postseasons are brutal no matter who you are. And again, if that is a trend downward rather than just bad luck there are buyouts!

But with the Indians once again punting on the season with the knowledge that they’ll win the division regardless of what they do in the offseason, it looks like we’re heading towards another postseason where Kluber attempts to push his team to an ALCS appearance without the strongest pieces surrounding him. He’s bound to see a drop off soon, and it would be a shame if he continued to be all-caps Corey Kluber on a team that is fine to coast along with him and Jose Ramirez and see what happens.

Edwin Diaz

Well this is interesting. The Mariners are not in a position to win right now, and they’ve exhausted their prospect pool trying to go for it in 2018 and Shohei Ohtani, both of which failed. So they’re reportedly tearing it down to the studs and rebuilding. After already trying to flip the same house with minor changes twice already.

There are pieces that could fetch the Mariners quite the return, like Jean Segura or Diaz. Segura has a no-trade clause and is signed through 2023 so he might be one of the pieces they end up holding on to due to his veto power or them simply asking too much and not finding a trade partner because of it. Diaz finished 65 games in 2018 with 57 saves, setting the franchise record. He made $570,800 in 2018 and isn’t even arbitration eligible until 2020, and is under team control until 2022. So as a trade piece, he’s a valuable option to flip for strong prospects.

The more likely outcome is that they keep Diaz and a few others as a strong core for the rebuild, and the pitchers they trade are James Paxton, who is under team control through 2021 and had a 108 ERA+ in 2018, or Wade LeBlanc, who has been a constant trade piece lately. But Edwin Diaz not being shackled to a listing ship the next few seasons would be the optimal outcome.

Dan Straily

Another NL East rescue operation that has to be undertaken as soon as physically possible. The Marlins’ “rebuild” started dismally, with their big trades failing to net a single Top 100 prospect, and only looks worse now that they’ve removed the dinger machine from the park. What is there to even root for down there anymore? The Braves and Phillies look to have a stranglehold on the top of the division for now, with the Mets and Nationals better positioned to have some sort of success after those two leaders.

But the Marlins are the Marlins and with J.T. Realmuto confirming he won’t sign an extension and therefore about to be traded away as well, rock bottom looks incredibly close. There was interest in Straily at the trade deadline, with teams from both leagues reportedly in on him and making offers. As they should have been, because even though he’s not a top star or pitching lights out he could be a strong third or fourth option in a rotation that needs support. 2018 saw him put up a 4.12 ERA in 23 games with a 1.300 WHIP.

His season ended prematurely thanks to an oblique injury in September but that shouldn’t be a long-term concern. What is a long-term concern is whether he has to stay in Miami until he hits free agency in 2021 or not.

There are a number of other pitchers who could easily be on this list. Paxton has been mentioned already but there’s also Robbie Ray or Chris Archer, both stuck on teams that have shaky futures with questionable or non-existent shots at the postseason. It’s a buyers market for pitchers this year, so if the trade market kicks up at all here are just a few of the arms we could, and very well should, see change cities.