MLB trade deadline: Happ, Hamels, Archer and Mets headline starting pitching market
Surveying the market for starters ahead of the July 31 trade deadline
Now that it's July, it's time to start thinking about Major League Baseball's trade deadline. Per usual, teams have until July 31 at 4 p.m. ET to make deals without needing to resort to waivers.
As part of our deadline coverage, we'll be previewing the market in a variety of ways -- that includes a positional overview. We've covered theand markets, and now, let's take a look at the potentially available starters. (Note: the starters are organized alphabetically.)
Chris Archer has served as a walking trade rumor the past few seasons, but there are new developments that make a trade more likely than in the past: Archer will enter the final guaranteed year of his contract next season, and at this point it might be time to accept he's someone who is consistently going to underperform his stuff and peripherals. The Rays have no reason to give him away, but they're getting close to the point where they'll either have to deal him or accept that they won't be getting a horde of high-quality prospects in return.
The ageless one, all Bartolo Colon does is throw strikes ... and give up home runs. Go by his ERA+ (95) and he has been a league-average starter. Go by some of his other numbers and he has been considerably worse. Colon should come cheap and he's shown a willingness to accept a bullpen role before, suggesting he could serve as a short-term stand-in for a team down a starter.
Based on how he has pitched so far, Jacob deGrom figures to be in the running for the National League Cy Young Award -- provided, that is, the Mets don't trade him to the American League. Odds are deGrom at earliest, but his status as one of the best pitchers in baseball -- one who is under team control for an additional two seasons -- justifies an inquiry by any and all contenders. If he's moved, he's going to impact a pennant race this season, and those in the years to come.
The second half of Marco Estrada's career with the Blue Jays hasn't gone as well as the first half, when he earned a Cy Young Award vote and made an All-Star Game. Nonetheless, he's a mid-rotation starter type who does well to limit the damage on the home runs he yields. Estrada is a free agent at season's end, and the Blue Jays have no real reason to hold onto him.
Already this summer Michael Fulmer has seen his name connecting him to the Yankees. Of course, the Tigers don't have to hurry to make a trade; Fulmer is under team control through the 2022 season and won't reach arbitration until this winter. If he does get moved, he'll slot in nicely near the front of a contender's rotation.
Believe it or not, Kyle Gibson will qualify for free agency following the end of next season. The 30-year-old (how did that happen?) is sporting the best ERA+ (116) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.29) of his career thanks in part to improved results from his slider, which is generating a whiff on 25 percent of the swings taken against it.
Cole Hamels is a handsome, playoff-tested veteran who has two things working against him. One, he's given up entirely too many home runs -- the majority of which have come in home starts. Two, he's due around $18 million the rest of the way when the buyout on his option is factored in. The Rangers may well have to swallow some of the cost to get a real return.
Arguably the best starter who is likely to be dealt at the deadline, J.A. Happ is an impending free agent who has authored an impressive late-career turnaround. He's consistently been an above-average starter since being dealt at the 2015 deadline, and so far this season he's sporting a would-be career-best 3.93 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Yes, Matt Harvey was already dealt once this season. Yes, Harvey has a 4.91 ERA on the season. Yes, Harvey is probably going to be mentioned in more trade rumors between now and the deadline -- especially considering he's gotten better results lately, thanks in part to an improved slider. Whether or not he keeps up the good pitching is to be seen, but credit him for performing better with the Reds than most anyone expected.
Even if the Mets decide on a rebuild, it might seem surprising that lefty Steven Matz would be put on the trading block. It's just that many people might not realize Matz is 27 years old (he feels younger, right?). He's having a good-but-not-great season (3.46 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 8.2 K/9) and has been healthy. Given that he's under team control through 2021, he could fetch them a nice return.
After a rough start to the season, Ivan Nova has settled in as his usual boring, if productive self. He doesn't strike out a ton of batters, but he limits damage by walking next to no one. Nova is more than a rental too, as he's guaranteed more than $9 million next season, the final year of his contract.
That Tyson Ross finds himself on his list is within itself a victory for him and the Padres. He looked like the latest victim of thoracic outlet syndrome, having struggled last year in 12 appearances with the Rangers. Yet Ross has returned to being an effective starter, notching a 105 ERA+ and 2.37 strikeout-to-walk ratio over his first 17 starts. So long as the slider is good, Ross should continue to hold a spot in someone's rotation.
James Shields' return to relevance is almost as shocking as Ross'. Though Shields' peripherals suggest he's not likely to continue pitching this well, he does have a reputation for being a good clubhouse guy. He's also an innings sponge: he's worked at least six innings in 12 of his last 13 starts. Contenders shouldn't want Shields making a postseason start, but he seems like he can help save a bullpen en route to the playoffs.
A popular name at last year's deadline and during the winter, Dan Straily has not pitched nearly as well this season. His velocity is actually up (from 90.8 to 91.1 mph), yet his control and command have been worse. Straily has two seasons of team control remaining and the past two seasons showed he could be at least a back-end starter. He should draw interest as a result, even if it's possible the Marlins opt against what they perceive as selling low.
Noah Syndergaard fits in the same box as Jacob deGrom: at the deadline (that he's expected to remain on the DL until the middle of the month suggests he won't be). If he is, he has the potential to impact the playoff race as much as any other moved player.
Zack Wheeler doesn't get as much attention as his Mets rotation mates, but he's expected to draw interest all the same. Wheeler, who has one more year of team control left, has better peripherals than his 85 ERA+ suggests -- he's improved each of his main rate statistics (hits, home runs, walks, and strikeouts per nine) versus last year. Whatever team acquires Wheeler, if any, will be getting a pitcher whose best work may lay ahead of him.
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