Jeremy Hellickson

Trade Candidates: The Starting Pitchers

For years, when discussing the Royals at the trade deadline, the question asked was who it was the Royals could trade to help improve their future. After winning back-to-back AL pennants and a World Series title, the question is now who the Royals can acquire to help their current team. I have to say that it can be a lot of fun trading veterans for prospects and getting to dream on them, but the winning in the now thing is its own brand of fun that simply can’t be beat.

With that in mind, the Royals sit a couple weeks from the deadline in a position to make a move for a playoff spot. While they might not ultimately be “buyers” this trade season, they are most definitely in the market. Today, I’m going to look at the starting pitching they could acquire to fortify a rotation that ranks in the bottom half of the league in many categories. Tomorrow, I’ll take a look at position players, mainly outfielders, they can acquire to help round out an offense that hasn’t performed up to the level of expectations.

The Royals have the ammunition to acquire basically any player on the market with a guy like Raul Mondesi. That doesn’t mean they’re going to use him as a trade chip, but the possibility still exists until it doesn’t exist.

Let’s get started. As always, these names are in alphabetical order, so that has nothing to do with my preference of player.

Andrew Cashner – In 2013 and 2014, Cashner looked like a rising star. He had been moved to the rotation by the Padres and was solid in that role. In 50 games (45 starts), he went 15-16 but had a 2.87 ERA in 298.1 innings. He had good stuff, but that didn’t seem to translate to strikeouts. Then last year, the strikeouts arrived, but he was much more hittable and his ERA jumped to 4.34. He’s been even worse this year and has spent time on the disabled list. He’s owed a little more than $3 million the rest of the year and is a free agent following the season. Some teams will find him attractive because he’s cheap and talented, so he’ll fetch something on the market, but he probably won’t be crazy in terms of prospects. This could be a fit if the Royals think they can figure him out quickly.

Jorge De La Rosa – This is an old friend who I never thought would be much of anything in the big leagues, but he’s made a nice career for himself in Colorado. He was actually the player to be named later in the Royals deal for Ramon Ramirez back in 2008 and he’s been there ever since. He still walks too many batters and he doesn’t strike out as many as you’d like, but he’s a solid arm. He had a brutally bad start to the year, but after a short stint in the bullpen, he has a 2.68 ERA in his last six starts over 37 innings. He’s due about $6 million the rest of the year and then is a free agent. I’m thinking he can be had for a prospect in the 11-15 range or so, which the Royals could part with pretty easily.

Matt Garza – Garza was good at one time, but he isn’t any more. The Brewers seemed like they got a pretty good bargain on him when they gave him four years prior to 2014, but he’s really fallen off a cliff. He spent the first part of this season on the disabled list. I really don’t like this option, but he’s out there and the Royals like reclamation projects. He’s owed about $6 million the rest of this year, $12.5 million next year and has an option for 2018 that will likely be for $5 million. If the Royals think they can figure out his issues, that’s a bargain. If not, that’s an albatross. My money is on albatross.

Junior Guerra – This is a pretty good story. He was originally a catcher, but eventually moved to the mound and hung around the minors for a long time. He finally made his debut last year for the White Sox, but was released and then claimed by the Brewers. He’s been fantastic this season, going 6-2 with a 3.06 ERA in 13 starts. He’s averaging more than six innings per start. He’s striking out just under eight per nine innings and walking less than three. He’s limiting hits. Basically, he’s been a revelation. The Brewers have no real reason to trade him because he’s cheap and under control for a long time, but I’d be worried that he’s a flash in the pan. Still, what he’s done would be huge for the Royals in that fifth spot. I can’t imagine he’d be too pricey to acquire, but would still cost more than Garza, in all likelihood.

Jeremy Hellickson – I think Hellickson would be the most Royals and Dayton Moore acquisition you can imagine. When he’s been good, it always seems he’s been good in spite of everything. He’s not quite the extreme fly ball pitcher he’s made out to be, but he’s definitely not a ground ball pitcher. He’s started to strike out more batters and he does have good control, so he’s a guy you can catch lightning in a bottle with. He’s owed a bit more than $3 million and then is a free agent following the season, but I think he’ll be in demand, so he might cost more than he’s worth. Scratch that, he will cost more than he’s worth. I could absolutely see this happening, but I’m not going to love it if and when it does.

Rich Hill – Hill is the best name on the market. He was out of the majors and then made his return last year for the Red Sox. Of course, he turned that into a $6 million deal with the A’s and he’s been great this year for them. He’s missed time with a groin injury and left his start on Sunday after five pitches with a popped blister. He’s not the picture of health, but he’s been excellent and it looks like the changes he’s made have been for real. With pretty much every team needing starting pitching in on Hill, I think the price might be too high and one the Royals can’t match, but they’re watching him and will be in on him. There’s already a report the A’s asked the Red Sox for Anderson Espinoza, a top-20 prospect in the game. They backed off that, but the Royals can’t match that.

Matt Moore – Moore was one of the best young pitchers in baseball when he had to go under the knife for Tommy John. He came back last year and wasn’t what you’d call great. He started this season slow but has a 2.51 ERA and a roughly 3:1 strikeout to walk ratio over his last seven starts where he’s averaged about six and a half innings. There’s certainly risk with Moore, but the upside is undeniable. He’s owed a bit more than $2 million the rest of this year and then has options for $7 million, $9 million and $10 million the next three seasons. He’s not going to come cheap, but he could be a fixture in the rotation for years to come. It might be worth the cost here to help both this team and the next few.

Ivan Nova – Nova isn’t what you’d call good, but he won’t be expensive in either prospects or money. He’s owed around $2 million the rest of this season and has a 5.46 ERA the last three seasons. He doesn’t walk many and he gets a decent amount of strikeouts. Plus, there’s a history with Dave Eiland, so maybe that’s something that he sees in him. I don’t know. Nova is probably throwing a dart at a problem, but he’s out there and could be better than what they’ve had.

Jake Odorizzi – I’ll start by saying I don’t see this happening. Odorizzi has struggled lately but did pitch well on Sunday in getting the win against the Orioles. He’s got good control, gets strikeouts and gives up some home runs, so he’d fit right in with the Royals. He’s also under team control for three more seasons after this one and will head to arbitration for the first time before the 2017 season. He’s going to cost a ton and the production probably doesn’t match up with what his return will be if they trade him. Still, it’s an interesting thought.

Ervin Santana – I love this idea even though Santana is owed $27 million in 2017 and 2018 and about $6.5 million the rest of this season. He’s still a quality pitcher and could fill a hole in the rotation for the next two years to come. He’s owed a little more money than you’d like, and I’m not sure the Twins will see a need to move him if they think they can compete over the next couple seasons. Now, maybe they’d pay down the deal in order to get a better caliber of prospect back, but I think the best bet for the Royals would be to get him at full price without having to pay too much in prospects. With Terry Ryan’s firing, the Twins may be a little more inclined to sell, so that could help here.

Hector Santiago – He doesn’t get deep into games, but the innings he does give are quality. He limits hits well, gets a few strikeouts and walks a few too many. He also gives up more than his share of homers, but he’s a good guy at the back of the rotation. He’s owed a little less than $2.5 million the rest of the year and is arbitration eligible next year before hitting free agency. The Angels system is so weak that Santiago might be a guy the Royals could target with some quantity from the system over high quality. And he’d give them an extra option next year for a relatively inexpensive salary.

Matt Shoemaker – Shoemaker ditched his curve and began using his splitter more and turned into a completely different pitcher. Since May 21, he’s made 11 starts and averaged just under seven innings per outing. He has a 2.36 ERA with 88 strikeouts and nine walks. These are ace numbers. But because his track record isn’t that great, if the Angels are willing to sell on him, they probably aren’t going to get quite as much as someone with those numbers should command. I don’t think they’ll trade him. They shouldn’t, anyway. If so, it might be the same situation as Santiago where the Royals could use quantity to get him. He’s not arbitration eligible until next year and won’t be a free agent until after the 2020 season. If this is for real, he would be a huge get.

Drew Smyly – He hasn’t been good this year by any stretch, but he strikes out a ton of hitters and limits walks pretty well. Of course, he also gives up plenty of hits and plenty of homers. He also doesn’t have the best track record concerning health. I’m not sure the Rays would trade him with his value as low as it currently is, but if they did, he’d be a great buy low candidate. I also think he would cost a lot more than the Royals would be willing to pay.

Dan Straily – Here’s another guy who makes a lot of sense. Straily isn’t going to ever be confused for a top of the rotation arm, but he was solid with Oakland in 2012 and 2013 and after a lost last two years, he’s resurfaced with the Reds where he has a 4.14 ERA as a starter in 100 innings. He’s a back of the rotation guy with not enough strikeouts and a few too many walks, but he’s very difficult to hit, which is his saving grace and helps his WHIP to be a reasonable 1.21 as a starter. He’s already 27, but he has a ton of control left as he’s not even eligible for arbitration. I wonder if he’d be part of a package deal or if the Royals could get him for a bottom half of the top 20 prospects they have. I first mentioned him in early June, and still think he’d be a nice fit.

So there are a bunch of starters who I think could be available and the Royals could keep an eye on. I’m not sure they’ll make any trade, but unless they go way off the grid, these are the likely targets. Tomorrow, I’ll cover the position players they could be after.

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4 comments on “Trade Candidates: The Starting Pitchers”

Brett Matney

Why would you focus on outfielders tomorrow. The outfield is three of our top five spots, and we have a log jam there. Focus on Shortstop. fWAR of the positions on the diamond so far this year:

Volquez: 1.5
Duffy (as a starter): 1.3
Ventura: 0.8
Kennedy: 0.5
All others: -1.3

Herrera: 1.5
Davis: 0.8
All Others: 1.0

Positions (from best to worst):
Catcher: 2.7
Center Field: 2.4
Third Base: 1.5
Left Field: 1.3
Right Field: 1.1
2nd Base: 0.9
1st Base: 0.6
Designated Hitter: -0.3
Shortstop: -0.5

David Lesky

For one, tomorrow is position players with an emphasis on outfielders because that’s what they’re looking at, whether you agree with it or not.

And you might be surprised what is on the list tomorrow, so maybe just come back and give it a read.

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