MLB trade deadline: Cole Hamels is better than his numbers suggest, plus two pitchers teams should consider
Here are three starting pitching options heading into the July 31 trade deadline
The trade market for starting pitchers is perceived to be thin, especially with the top targets struggling this season. That includes Cole Hamels, whose 4.36 ERA would be the worst of his career. His numbers are even worse as the deadline approaches -- he's got a 5.51 ERA in nine starts since Memorial Day, and he's allowed at least four runs in six of them.
But there are things about Hamels' performance this year that indicate he could help a team trying to make a playoff push.
Getting him away from Globe Life Park in Arlington would be a start -- it's the easiest park to homer in and third-easiest park to score in this season, despite the home team being just 11th in the AL in OPS. Hamels has a 2.93 ERA on the road, almost three full runs lower than his ERA at home (5.83). And he's allowing home runs twice as frequently at home.
Overall, his home-run rate is astronomical -- he's allowing homers on more than 20 percent of fly balls, easily a career high and the highest rate among starters this season. That number can't stay that high -- only two starters the past 15 seasons have finished a season with a HR/FB percentage over 20 percent.
|Cole Hamels this season||Home||Road|
And he still gets ground balls at a rate that's in the top half of the majors for starting pitchers (44 percent of balls in play). The problem with that is, the Rangers allow the eighth-highest batting average on balls in play (.302) of any team in baseball.
Hamels is just one of several pitchers who could help a contender if you look deeper at his performance, just like the Tigers' Jordan Zimmermann. The Tigers are more than a dozen games out in the AL Central, and 17 1/2 games out of the second wild-card spot, but teams willing to take on his salary could lessen the prospect haul needed to acquire him (he's owed $50 million the next two seasons).
Zimmermann's 3.79 ERA in 12 starts would put him in the top 40 in baseball, and he would be in the top 20 in FIP if he had enough innings to qualify, with a mark (3.38) that's just ahead of Corey Kluber's (3.42).
That's because he has the highest strikeout percentage of his career (23.6 percent) and the second-lowest walk percentage he's ever had. He's walking only 4.3 percent of batters he faces, which would be fifth-best among starters this season.
Zimmermann has big game experience -- he threw a no-hitter on the last day of the 2014 regular season, and then a week later he allowed one run in 8.2 innings against the Giants in the NLDS, his last postseason start.
If you're looking for a cheaper option, the Rays' Nathan Eovaldi is an intriguing option. Yes, he's coming off his second Tommy John surgery and yes, he allowed eight earned runs on Friday. But he had a 3.35 ERA in his first eight starts this season, and had allowed just two runs on 10 hits in his previous three starts before Friday.
Eovaldi is making $2 million this season, so money shouldn't be an issue for any club, and he's a free agent at the end of the year. The Rays are still within shouting distance in the wild-card race (nine games back of the second spot), but that shouldn't stop them from moving Eovaldi if a deal comes along.
He's only made nine starts, but his strikeout percentage (23 percent of batters faced) and walk percentage (4 percent) would each be the best of his career (he's got 45 strikeouts and just eight walks). And he's throwing almost just as hard as he did before his surgeries.
He's allowed 10 homers in nine starts, but four of those came in one start in Houston (his 19 percent HR/FB rate is unlikely to stay that high). And he's allowed a .222 batting average and a .255 on-base percentage this season -- basically he's turning opposing batters into Salvador Perez at the plate.
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