Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Trade Deadline Targets: Starting Pitchers

Hiroki Kuroda Hiroki Kuroda #18 of the Los Angeles Dodgers delivers a pitch against the Philadelphia Phillies in Game Three of the National League Championship Series during the 2008 MLB playoffs on October 12, 2008 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California.
Over the next week I am going to look at the baseball trade market for the positions the Red Sox could be interested in. I’ll be looking at players you are likely to hear about in rumors between now and July 31st (the non-waiver trade deadline) and splitting them into different groups based on their likelihood to be traded and how valuable they would be to the Red Sox. I’ll also close each post with what I think the Red Sox should and will do. Today let’s start with the position that shouldn’t be a need, but with injuries to Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka and possibly Josh Beckett it could very well be a huge area of concern.

The Megan Fox Group (totally hot, totally unattainable)

Matt Garza, Cubs; Ubaldo Jimenez, Rockies 

I’ve heard these two names mentioned recently as possible trade targets for teams. Listen closely boys and girls: there is no way either of these players will be traded at this year’s trade deadline unless Washington calls offering Bryce Harper or the Angels offer Mike Trout. Both guys are young (27 years old), relatively affordable (Garza has 2 more years of arbitration, Jimenez has two cheap club options in ’13 and ’14) and excellent pitchers. Short of giving up Jacoby Ellsbury and Buchholz, I don’t see these guys coming to Boston.

The Zooey Deschanel Group (non-traditionally hot, only attainable if hotness unrealized by the beholder)

Scott Baker, Twins; Tom Gorzelanny, Nationals

Both guys are young (29 and 28, respectively) and fairly cheap (Baker: 2 years, $15.75 M; Gorzelanny: 1 more year arbitration), so on this merit alone they may be hard to acquire. But Baker barely won the fifth starter job coming out of spring training and Gorzelanny has already been traded twice in his career so it seems as though teams undervalue both pitchers. Baker is probably tougher to pry away because he has strong traditional stats like a winning record and an ERA of 3.01 at the moment, but Gorzelanny has a losing record and highish (3.96) ERA. Where both excel, and why I would love them on the Red Sox, is their high strike out to walk ratios. Baker strikes out 3.47 for every 1 he walks and Gorzelanny checks in at 3.04. This is a great single metric to look at to evaluate in-season performance. It’s possible that one of these clubs may consider a deal for either Jose Iglesias or Anthony Ranaudo, but is this too much?

The Amanda Peet Group (attractive girl next door, feel like you could totally have a shot)

Erik Bedard, Mariners; Fransisco Liriano, Twins; Hiroki Kuroda, Dodgers; Ted Lilly, Dodgers

Bedard and Liriano could be home runs for the Red Sox and totally attainable (especially once Seattle realizes they aren’t contenders). Both come with major injury red flags, but both have also been Cy Young candidates in the not too distant past so both could make the playoff rotation even if all current starters return. Bedard is having the better season, but is currently on the DL. Liriano had a terrible start to the season, but since he has ditched the Twins proposed “pitch to contact” method, he has been much better. Their high risk/high reward profile would probably require a couple B prospects like Will Middlebrooks, Yamaico Navarro, Kyle Weiland or Oscar Tejeda.

Kuroda and Lilly could turn out to be the most available good pitchers on the market. Each has really good strike out to walk ratios, but Lilly has suffered from the long ball. The reason they are so available is because of the financial mess that the McCourts put the Dodgers in. Lilly has two years left on his contract for $22.5M, so Theo may not want an older pitcher on a long term deal (cough John Lackey cough), but Kuroda is on a one year, $12M deal so he becomes a free agent after this year. A team as desperate as the Dodgers are may let either of these guys go for some C+ prospect like Lars Anderson (yes, he’s just a C+ now) or even less.

The Blake Lively Group (completely overrated and overpaid, can be had, but no thanks)

Jake Peavy, White Sox; Edwin Jackson, White Sox; Ryan Dempster, Cubs; Carlos Zambrano, Cubs

I haven’t heard Peavy or Dempster mentioned in any trade rumors, but they both strike me as pitchers who would be moved if the Sox were willing to take on their salaries. Peavy, the former Cy Young winner, is trying to come back from an injury nobody has ever come back from. His traditional stats look bad, but his walks and home runs are incredibly low so his performance may be undervalued by the White Sox. Unfortunately, his name value will definitely be overvalued by them and he is set to make $17M next year so I don’t think he is a fit. Dempster similarly underperforms in traditional stats, while excelling in some other areas. Again, he has a player option for $14M next year that he would probably pick up so I don’t think he is worth it.

Jackson and Zambrano have both been mentioned as possibly on the move. Jackson is a free agent after the year, so money isn’t an issue, but he is one of the more overrated pitchers in baseball. He has been traded for 4 times already on the promise of his tremendous stuff, but everywhere he goes he disappoints. Zambrano is saddled by a large salary next year of $18M (and an easily vested option of $19.25M in ’13). He is also extremely overrated. Burdened by high walk rates and a decreasing strike out rate, Big Z is nowhere near the pitcher he was when he had top 5 Cy Young finishes three out of four years. Dude can hit though so maybe they could try him in right field?

The Wanda Sykes Group (I wouldn’t touch them with your dick, but could be had for a song)

Javier Vazquez, Marlins; Brett Myers, Astros; Jason Marquis, Nationals; anyone on Kansas City

Vazquez used to be a stud, but has completely lost the ability to pitch effectively due to a loss of fastball velocity. Myers is giving up a ton of home runs this year and is an extremely streaky pitcher who I don’t think would last a day in the American League. He also beat his wife in Boston so I don’t think he would be well received. Marquis is just not very good and also has no business pitching in the American League. Don’t even get me started on the dredge taking the mound in Kansas City. If the Sox acquire any of these guys, you know Theo is truly desperate.

What the Red Sox should do

Theo should stand pat for as long as possible. It appears that the injuries to Lester, Buchholz and Beckett will not be too serious and that barring any new injuries they will all be healthy for the post season. Even with a couple of these guys missing another month or two, I think the Red Sox will at worst end up as the Wild Card because of their ridiculous offense. If it turns out that one of these three does have a serious injury, then he really needs to look at acquiring someone from the Deschanel or Peet groups. The key here is the playoff rotation; if they acquire someone who will play a role in the playoffs then it is worth it. Otherwise, I don’t think anyone on this list (save for Jimenez and Garza) would push any of the Sox top 3 starters to the bullpen in the playoffs. In addition, I think Tim Wakefield, Andrew Miller, John Lackey, Felix Doubront, Kevin Millwood and Kyle Weiland are more than adequate to serve as 4th and 5th starters for the rest of the regular season. 

What the Red Sox will do

Trade Anderson for Kuroda. The Dodgers are bankrupt so they should be willing to shed money. They also have one of the worst first basemen in baseball in James Loney. Though Anderson has lost most of his prospect luster, there is still enough there to pull off this trade. I suspect that either Lester or Buchholz will not be back by the trade deadline so Theo and the boys will be a little skittish. Even if everyone is healthy, I imagine the Sox will look for an upgrade in the 4 spot because Major League teams now use 4 starters in the playoffs even though they don’t really need to. I’m sure Theo, the owners, Terry Francona and all of Red Sox Nation would rather receive a prostate exam from Andre the Giant than watch John Lackey pitch in a playoff game this year, so expect to see someone like Kuroda added.

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