Atlanta Braves Cincinnati Reds Cleveland Indians MLB Philadelphia Phillies Tampa Bay Rays Texas Rangers

Projecting the Starting Pitching Market Ahead of the Trade Deadline

Written by Jameus Mooney

Monday at 4 PM EST marks the 2020 MLB trade deadline, yet in a shortened season there is likely to be the least amount of actions, which makes this day all the more fascinating. With 16 teams making the postseason in expanded play, the MLB sees all but two teams (Red Sox and Pirates) within striking distance of a playoff spot. Teams like the Marlins, who had signed Corey Dickerson, Jesus Aguilar, Brad Boxberger and a number of other former All-Stars in hopes to flip them, will likely be retaining all of their players as they have suddenly found themselves in contention. Teams such as the Dodgers and Padres will be staying put, but other contenders each have a big hole. With a minimum amount of teams selling, the market is a lot thinner. The most fascinating area of note is starting pitching, where some teams have a wealth and others not so much. Which few starting pitchers are available and which teams will need them? Here are three major hypothetical trades.

Lance Lynn to Atlanta

The Trade: Lance Lynn and Joely Rodriguez to Atlanta for Ender Inciarte, Kyle Wright, Bryse Wilson, Greyson Jenista and Logan Brown.

Why it would work: Lance Lynn has played for three teams likely to check in with Texas in need for a starter (Cardinals, Twins, Yankees), but he likely won’t return, I don’t think. The Braves came into the year with high expectations from their rotation, signing Cole Hamels in the offseason to go with a fantastic 1-2 punch of Mike Soroka and Max Fried, as well as rotation stalwart Mike Foltynewicz and number five Sean Newcomb. Max Fried has been scintillating this year, taking the next step, and posting a 1.35 ERA in 40 innings pitched. He has the lowest ERA among qualifying pitchers in the National League. To Atlanta’s detriment, the other four have not panned out in 2020. Cole Hamels has yet to throw a pitch due to injury concerns, while Mike Soroka is out for the season after a freak ankle injury. Mike Foltynewicz and Sean Newcomb both performed so poorly that they were designated for assignment, despite the lack of strong pitching options. On Wednesday, Atlanta got a tremendous start out of debuting rookie Ian Anderson (6 IP, 1 hit against the New York Yankees), but other than that they’ve relied on players such as Robbie Erlin, Josh Tomlin and Toukki Toussaint. Atlanta is two games ahead of the second place Miami Marlins as of this writing, and are the only team in the NL East with a postive run differential, yet they won’t go far in October without starting pitching. Rodriguez is more of a throw in to help out a tired bullpen.

For the Rangers, they sit 10 games behind the first place Oakland Athletics and this is their chance to retool for 2021. Lynn’s value is the highest it’s been, just a year removed from a top five finish in AL Cy Young voting (16-11, 3.67 ERA and 246 K). This year, he’s been impeccable, posting a 2.1 WAR, 1.59 ERA and 4-0 record so far. He’s an ace, and with one year left on his contract for 2021, he’s the biggest prize on the market. Atlanta will be the most desperate, and thus fill the Rangers CF hole with Ender Inciarte. Inciarte’s under contract for two more years and makes similar money to Lynn. Getting that contract off of Atlanta’s hands with their crowded outfield will get Texas a more emphatic return. Kyle Wright has already seen the Big Leagues and could play a pivotal part of their rotation longterm. Bryse Wilson has also seen the majors, and is Atlanta’s number five prospect. Atlanta’s number five prospect would be one or two in a number of organizations, as they have four top 100 MLB prospects at their disposal. The 23-year-old Jenista has an ETA of 2021 and could be an impact outfield bat for Texas in the future. The #30 prospect for Atlanta, Logan Brown, also has an ETA of 2021, yet is the fourth highest catching prospect in the organization. Atlanta gets their starter and a reliever with high potential, while Texas gets pieces for their future.

Bauer To St Pete

Trade: Trevor Bauer to Tampa Bay for Kevin Padlo.

Why it would work: This is an interesting case for me. The Reds were one of three teams I stated could surprise if they sneak in, yet they’re the team I had the least confidence of having the chance to surprise. They currently seem like they’re on the outside looking in but have a lot to build on for the future. Their one big piece that’s a pending free agent is the starter who’s boasting a 0.68 ERA in the year 2020, Trevor Bauer. If they were to sneak, they’d still have a strong top of the rotation with Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray, but can add a top prospect for only a month of Trevor Bauer. Tampa Bay has a loaded system (ranked number one in baseball). Their #18 prospect Kevin Padlo has reached AAA with an .801 lifetime OPS in the minors. This gives The Reds another slugging option should they part ways with Eugenio Suarez or need somebody at 1st base when Votto moves to DH full-time in the near future. The odds they retain Bauer isn’t likely, and TB isn’t likely to target a long term starting pitcher. They have a pitching rich farmsystem, but injuries have mounted. They’ve used 32 pitchers in 2020, by far the most in baseball, with starters Charlie Morton, Yonny Chirinos (Tommy John Surgery) and others all on the disabled list. Bauer is a great fill in down the stretch.

A Philly Blockbuster

Indians’ Mike Clevinger.

Trade: Mike Clevinger and Carlos Carrasco to Philadelphia for Jean Segura, Mickey Moniak, Luis Garcia and Erik Miller.

Why it would work: The Indians ace Mike Clevinger is electrifying. In five seasons, he has a 3.20 lifetime ERA. With the team in contention, why would they trade him, especially since he’s under team control until 2023? Clevinger broke all COVID 19 protocols and the team has said he’s available for the right price. The Philadelphia Phillies may still sneak in, but any addition will see them making moves for players signed beyond 2020. Their rotation is among the worst in baseball after Aaron Nola, and Mike Clevinger is an instant upgrade. The team would also acquire Carlos Carrasco, who would be an upgrade to their rotation but is massively overpaid. The Indians, without them, would still have a strong 1-5, and could get out of Carrasco contract. To even out the money, they’d take on the contract of All-Star Jean Segura, who’d be an instant upgrade at second base for their Major League club. With Bohm at third, DiDi Gregorious at short and Kingery at second, they’ve been playing with a loaded infield. Cleveland would get three really strong prospects, including top prospect Mickey Moniak, who is soon to reach the Majors. Luis Garcia is a strong shortstop prospect who’s blocked on the Phil’s organizational depth chart but his ETA is around the time Indians’ superstar Francisco Lindor would hit free agency. Erik Miller could be an ace of the future with the right development.

The Rest of the Market

The Yankees, Rockies, Cardinals, Twins and others are all in the market for starting pitching. While the Giants are in contention and may not want to part with Johnny Cueto, his albatross contract is something they want to get rid of immediately, even if they don’t get the value back for a player of Cueto’s caliber in return. Cueto would be a nice addition to any playoff hopeful as he’s experienced at winning, leading the Royals to the Promiseland in 2015. Another team looking to get out of a contract is the Orioles, as they look to solve their Alex Cobb conundrum. The former Rays ace is having a nice bounceback campaign, yet he’s still underwhelming when examining his contract, which has one year remaining (a $15M pricetag). Teams in the market for pitching that desperately will have to really risk the monetary risk in accordance to the production reward.

Kevin Gausman of the Giants may be available, and any player from the Pirates and Red Sox are available. None of the latter two teams have any arms desirable at this point, much to their dismay. Nathan Eovaldi of Boston still can help a team down the stretch, but that contract is a bit bloated to warrant a decent return. Mariners’ Taijuan Walker is pending free agency, but has had a 25-to-8 K-to-BB rate this season, making him a viable asset at a low cost to any contender. Dylan Bundy of the Angels is pitching extremely well, but it’s not expected to keep up. Is his atrocious up to this point gone or is this just a good stretch?

Monday’s trade deadline should be fascinating, and I will likely be here covering it in a tracker minute-by-minute much like I did last season. Make sure to keep up with us.

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About the author

Jameus Mooney