Ten pitchers the Indians may target at the trade deadline
With all of the trade speculation swirling in Tribe nation about the best right-handed hitting options on the trade market, few have given much thought to targeting a starter or reliever. However, there is a better chance of the Indians landing a middle-reliever or middle of the rotation starter in a savvy, understated trade, than fleecing an unsuspecting seller who has a power-hitting righty for sale. It’s no secret: everyone knows scoring is down across the league again this year, so any difference-making bats will likely come with a big price tag. Moreover, most options being discussed are rentals, which seem contrary to the Indians strategy for long-term success.
Indians General Manager, Chris Antonetti has quietly confirmed that Cleveland could be looking for a pitcher, but it’s a matter of honing in on the right ones. Big names like Cole Hamels, Zack Greinke, and Matt Garza are likely to land on one of the coasts, so it takes a little bit of digging to explore the more plausible options for the Tribe. Antonetti has also mentioned that the club will not show any trepidation in considering trades that could bolster the club, in spite of the mixed bag that the Ubaldo Jimenez trade has yielded.
Keep in mind, after this season the Indians will have a substantial amount of money to invest, as there is only $11 million committed to the 2013 payroll, the least in the American League. Therefore, one would think that working a trade for a player, who is in the final year of his contract, could offer the Indians a trial period to assess whether a long-term commitment is appropriate.
Both the Cleveland rotation and middle-relief could use a boost via trade. Josh Tomlin had a great start Thursday against Tampa Bay, but still has an ERA of 5.45 on the season. Derek Lowe had a brutal month of June, racking up an ERA north of seven, and even when he was succeeding earlier in the year; his peripherals strongly suggested an impending swoon. And while Zach McAllister has pitched well in a handful of starts, he is still a vastly unknown commodity. Furthermore, the Tribe bullpen is still last in the American League in ERA (4.28). The back end trio, plus the pickup of Esmil Rogers have been successful, but Nick Hagadone and Tony Sipp both have ERAs hovering near six, so a change could be on the way.
The bottom line: the pitching staff, both starters and relievers, could benefit from a trade. Therefore, I compiled a list of five starters and relievers that the Indians could plausibly acquire with the non-waiver trade deadline approaching.
(Player—Team, age, R/L, contract status)
Ryan Dempster—CHC, 35, RHP, 2012: $14 million (final year)
2012: 12 GS, 3-3, 81 IP, 22:66 BB to K ratio, 2.11 ERA, 1.02 WHIP
As a member of a team that is poised for a firesale, Ryan Demspter of the Chicago Cubs is heavily considered to be on the move before July 31st. Dempster has thrown over 200 innings in each of the last four seasons and would provide that immeasurable veteran-presence to a starting rotation that is still seeking to discover its identity. The cost for the righty from north of the border would likely be low, even if the Cubs pickup the majority of his remaining salary. His ERA likely won’t be under three by the end of the season, but if he can keep it at 3.80 or lower, Dempster could stabilize the Tribe rotation for a season or two, as he is very consistent, occasionally even dominant.
Francisco Liriano—MIN, 28, LHP, 2012: $5.5 million (final year)
2012: 13 GS, 2-7, 76.2 IP, 44:76 BB to K ratio, 5.40 ERA, 1.47 WHIP
Ever since having Tommy John surgery in 2006, he’s struggled to recapture the form that made him a highly-vaunted prospect. The last couple years’ stats shape this point: in 2010, Liriano registered 201 strikeouts and 191.2 innings pitched, with a 3.62 ERA. Last season, he regressed to the tune of a 5.40 ERA in 134.1 innings pitched. This season, he’s flashed both masks as well, but has pitched more like last season, than 2010. The strikeouts will always entice teams to take a chance on the now 28 year old lefty. Cleveland would have to overcome Minnesota’s qualms about trading within the division, but it could be a low-risk move that pays off in a big way. He has something to prove, likely trying to earn a multi-year contract. If he finds some consistency, Cleveland could take a chance in the offseason with a two-year, incentive-laden deal to add a lefty to the mix.
Clayton Richard— SD, 28, LHP, 2012: $2.7 million, 2013-14: Arbitration eligible
2012: 17 GS, 6-8, 113.2 IP, 28:66 BB to K ration, 3.64 ERA, 1.21 WHIP
The San Diego Padres have already considered moving Clayton Richard, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. They would have to be thoroughly impressed to move the southpaw, since he’s under team control through 2014, but in the light of last offseason’s trading of Mat Latos, it can definitely be accomplished, and likely for a cheaper price than what Cincy paid for Latos. Tony recently wrote an excellent column compiling the trade chips that Cleveland has, so I’ll let you mix-and-match the names that could make the Padres pull the trigger. A starter, who still has two full seasons before reaching free agency, with the steady results that Richard has over the last three seasons could be a great addition to the middle of the Tribe rotation. He has modestly improved on his 2010 and 2011 ERA marks of 3.75 and 3.88, respectively. Based on the strikeout numbers, he doesn’t overpower hitters, but he does a good job limiting the scoring. The one area he has improved is keeping runners off base, as his WHIP this season is 1.21, compared to 1.41 in 2010 and 1.42 in 2011. He’s also got an ERA of 1.70 over his last five starts. Again, a lefty would help break up the righties atop the rotation.
Brandon McCarthy— OAK, 28, RHP, 2012: $4.275 million (final year)
2012: 12 GS, 6-3, 78 IP, 19:52 BB to K ratio, 2.54 ERA, 1.21 WHIP
The Oakland Athletics have traded starting pitchers over the past decade like no other team. ‘Draft ‘em, raise ‘em, ship ‘em out for more prospects’ is the tune they’ve marched along to, and there’s no reason to think McCarthy will be any different. The downside is his trade value is at an all-time high, thanks to the sparkling 2.54 ERA. He has a history with recurring shoulder issues, currently on the disabled list for the second time this season with a strained right shoulder. It would likely make fans squeamish to commit to this arm with a multi-year deal, but if he can stay healthy and post anything close to the numbers he’s amassed over the first half of the year, then a one-year, incentive-heavy deal might pay dividends.
Joe Saunders—AZ, 31, LHP, 2012: $6 million (final year)
2012: 13 GS, 4-5, 81 IP, 21:53 BB to K ratio, 1 CG Shutout, 3.44 ERA, 1.38 WHIP
Saunders might be the safest investment of the five starters mentioned. He’s aiming for a third-straight 200+ inning season and is still young enough to commit multiple years to. The key to prying him away from the Diamondbacks will be convincing them, at seven games back, that they can’t catch the Dodgers or Giants in the National League West. Rumors have surfaced that the team would consider selling some of its trade commodities, although none specifically mentioning Saunders. Again, as a lefty innings-eater, there would be a welcoming home for him in the Cleveland rotation. Arizona, who has money invested in Trevor Cahill, plus a bevy of young arms (Hudson, Kennedy, Miley) could be compelled to move the 31 year old Saunders.
Not making the list: Matt Garza, Zack Greinke, Wandy Rodriguez, Cole Hamels (all are being sought after by big-market teams).
Bill Bray—CIN, 29, LHP, 2012: $1.4 million, 2013: Arbitration Eligible
2012: 8 G, 4 IP, 7:4 BB to K ration, 11.25 ERA
A few rumors have linked the Tribe to the Reds’ lefty specialist. While his numbers are underwhelming over a very small sample size, the point here is that this could be a steal of a deal, since Bray is superfluous in Cincinnati’s high-ranking bullpen that already features key lefties Aroldis Chapman and Sean Marshall. He came off the disabled list on June 22nd, after only making a few appearances in April. He has yet to find a groove, but his .154 mark against left-handed hitters over the last three seasons is evidence that he can get the job done as a situational lefty, the role Tony Sipp possesses. He should be relatively easy to acquire and, later, sign, if the Tribe chooses to do so. Cincinnati likely wouldn’t demand much in return, especially with a payroll that already has $74 million committed to the 2013 payroll. Also, the Reds are anticipating the return of injured reliever Nick Masset, another reason why the already strong Cincy ‘pen could live without Bray.
James Russell— CHC, 26, LHP, 2012: $512.5 K, 2013-15: Arbitration eligible
2012 : 41 G, 9 Holds, 39.2 IP, 15:32 BB to K ratio, 2.27 ERA, 1.24 WHIP
Again, the Cubs are in full-on rebuilding mode, so no one is untouchable in the right trade. Russell would be a very shrewd pickup for the Indians, since he is under team control through the 2015 season. The 26 year old lefty has seen steady improvement over his last three seasons, building upon a 4.96 ERA in 2010 and a 4.12 ERA in 2011. He also started five games last season, so the potential to stick him in the rotation could be explored as well. He’s another player who has his trade value at the highest it’s been; but as a non-closing reliever, he can be had with the right offer. If he maintains his current numbers he’ll be due for a substantial raise in arbitration, but even so he’d still be within the Tribe’s price range.
Jerry Blevins— OAK, 28, LHP, 2012: $490 K, 2013-15: Arbitration eligible
2012: 31 G, 6 Holds, 34.2 IP, 12:29 BB to K ratio, 2.34 ERA, 1.07 WHIP
Blevin’s numbers are vastly similar to Russell’s, both in terms of his contract and his season stats. He’s also seen improvement over the last three seasons that mirrors the Cubs reliever. After a 3.70 ERA and 1.48 WHIP in 2010, Blevins notched a 2.86 ERA and 1.34 WHIP in 2011, before taking yet another step this season. A solid number of strikeouts, plus a sparkling ERA and WHIP would make the A’s left-handed reliever a solid pickup. Plus, Aaron Cook has stolen the show from other Oakland relievers, so in addition to Grant Balfour, Blevins could be on the move.
Jose Veras— MIL, 31, RHP, 2012: $2 million, 2013: Arbitration eligible
2012 : 38 G, 8 Holds, 35 IP, 24:39 BB to K ratio, 4.89 ERA, 1.83 WHIP
Veras has been with three different teams over the past three seasons, but that’s not to say that the Milwaukee righty, the only right-handed reliever on this list, isn’t sufficient at getting hitters out. In spite of his ugly numbers this year, in 2011, with Pittsburgh, Veras had 27 holds, while registering a 3.80 ERA and 1.24 WHIP, as well as having similar numbers with the then-Florida Marlins in 2010. Veras could be on the move again, with his name popping up in trade rumors surrounding the floundering Milwaukee Brewers. Most teams, like the New York Mets, will be targeting the expensive Francisco Rodriguez, as the deadline approaches. This, in addition to his lackluster 2012 numbers, could drive down the asking price for the 31 year old Veras.
Joe Thatcher— SD, 30, LHP, 2012: $700K, 2013-14: Arbitration eligible
2012: 33 G, 0-2, 6 Holds, 21.2 IP, 9:23 BB to K ratio, 2.91 ERA, 1.25 WHIP
Finally, there is Padres lefty, Joe Thatcher. Thatcher has a good ERA and strikeout total, so his services could definitely be of use to the Bullpen Mafia. He would be another low-risk, low-cost investment that the Indians could lock up at a very reasonable rate. He only appeared in 18 games in 2011, while earning a 4.50 ERA and 1.50 WHIP, but his numbers from 2010 (1.29 ERA and 0.86 WHIP) and 2009 (2.80 ERA, 1.22 WHIP) suggest that he could be a great value for the Tribe.
Not making the list: Brandon League, Francisco Rodriguez, Jonathon Broxton, Grant Balfour, Brandon Lyon (all are more expensive and are setup or closer options).
There's a veteran right hander that shut the the actual best lineup in baseball (rangers) down (2 hits) on May 6th of this year... we should get him