Saturday marks the unofficial end of the waiver trade season – so designated because only players acquired prior to September 1st may be used in the playoffs. The Braves are still looking for pitching to get them through the rest of the season. Freddy Garcia was stashed at AAA Gwinnett just for that kind of reason at the end of last week.
The “why?” part is pretty easy: we have only five healthy pitchers (Maholm, Minor, Medlen, Teheran, Wood), and three of these (Minor, Medlen, Maholm) have been showing signs of wearing down… or haven’t been successful in getting very deep into games lately. In particular, Medlen and Maholm have both been suffering from the ‘one big inning’ syndrome that forces the offense to overcome an opponent’s multi-run outburst. But lose one more and Atlanta’s run into the post-season could be more like a ‘crawl’… and a short one at that.
The next question, them, is “who?”… or “how?” The following list represents every major league pitcher about to become a free agent after the end of this season (from a list available on the MLBTR site). For each hurler, I’ve attached an estimate on whether Atlanta could get the player – and whether they should try. The age of each one for next year is in (parentheses). Contract options (if any) are listed.
Executive Summary: there’s truly only two names of any kind of interest here.
- Bronson Arroyo (37). Won’t happen – Cincinnati is still in the thick of it.
- Scott Baker (32). Hasn’t pitched all year (injury), not counting 19 innings in the low minors.
- Erik Bedard (35). More concerned about his innings total and potential for injury than winning. Multiple instances of this. Apparently wants to shut it down at 140 innings… only 16 to go. I can understand the thought process – to a point. But if I’m searching for free agent pitching this winter, he’s not on my list.
- A.J. Burnett (37). I think the Pirates would want to keep him.
- Chris Capuano (35) – $8MM mutual option with a $1MM buyout. The Dodgers would probably let him go, but there’s a good reason (4.74 ERA) for that.
- Chris Carpenter (39) – I will call him The Most Interesting Pitcher in Baseball: ‘If I could pitch, I’d pitch for the Cardinals.’
Bruce Chen (pictured at right) (37) – Kansas City has 6 games this week between Monday and Saturday night. They are completely out of the division race and 7 behind in the Wild Card. Chen is very usable (2.88 AL ERA), but will the Royals admit defeat and let him go? I expect they will if they don’t intend to try and bring him back next year (in my opinion, they should put him on waivers regardless). Cost? Likely a B-level prospect: like an Emerson Landoni or so – a decent prospect that Atlanta would not likely miss. Biggest hurdle? Atlanta would be last in line for claims on him.
- Bartolo Colon (41) – Can’t believe he’s pitching this well (under 3 ERA) at age 40. Neither can the A’s… and they want to keep riding that horse.
- Jorge De La Rosa (33) – Probably the Best Pitcher Nobody’s Ever Heard Of. The Rockies should flip him. And they probably won’t. Even if they try, their usual game is to ask so much in price that nobody ever calls back.
- Scott Feldman (30) – Rangers. 5.09 ERA. Both of the reasons he isn’t going anywhere.
- Gavin Floyd (31) – out for the year. Since early May.
- Jeff Francis (33) – last good year was… well, he’s never actually had one.
- Freddy Garcia (37) – might be a decent idea if we plucked him from the Orioles AAA team and stashed him at Gwinnett. You know, just in case.
- Jon Garland (34) – Well, at least he’s cheap. The Rockies released him in June after posting an ERA of nearly 6 in 68 innings/12 starts.
- Matt Garza (30) – Rangers. Sub-4.00 ERA. Both of the reasons he isn’t going anywhere.
- Roy Halladay (37) – $20MM vesting option… which isn’t gonna vest. Heard that he was throwing again, but “topping out” at 88 mph. Will need the off-season to try and regain form/strength in the repaired shoulder. Will be an interesting sign for someone next Feb/March.
- Jason Hammel (31) – the Orioles still need him … if he can come back from injury.
- Aaron Harang (36) – $7MM+ mutual option with a $2MM buyout. Cleared waivers early in the month. Given up exactly 7 earned runs in 3 of last 5; 4 of last 7 starts. Very uncharacteristic. But too risky.
Dan Haren (pictured at right) (33) – Colossal disappointment for the Nats early this year, but pitching much better lately (9 earned over last 7 starts). Washington needs to see if they want to re-up him. If not, they should trade him, because there’s value here for them. Nonetheless, I can’t possibly see 13 NL teams passing on him (especially the Dodgers) so that Atlanta could scoop him up.
- Roberto Hernandez (33) – Not pitching particularly well (consistently mediocre), but the Rays need him, regardless.
- Tim Hudson (38) – A sad tale.
- Phil Hughes (28) – Darn those Yankees! 3.5 back in the Wild Card and continuing to lurk, especially with Soriano hitting for them. So Hughes will have to stay put. Probably would have been of some interest otherwise.
- Ubaldo Jimenez (30) – may void $8MM option for 2014. Cleveland (1.5 back in Wild Card); throwing well. They need him badly.
- Josh Johnson (30) – great talent, but is making Mike Hampton look durable. Currently shut down.
- Jeff Karstens (31) – Missing this great Pirates’ run with injury; recently started a throwing program, but not available regardless.
- Scott Kazmir (30) – was a nice pick-up for the Indians off the scrap heap. Still holding his own (4.25 in an AL division that includes the Tigers), though being rested a bit. They are keeping him.
- Hiroki Kuroda (39) – the anchor of the Yankees’ staff. Nuf’ said.
- Jon Lester (30) – $13MM club option with a $250K buyout. Boston keeps.
- Colby Lewis (34) – Hasn’t pitched in the majors; recent ‘hip resurfacing’ surgery.
- Ted Lilly (38) – Been available for free for close to a month now. That’s all you need to know.
- Tim Lincecum (30) - Is he “back” or not? Since the no-hitter (July 13), he’s given up 8, 2, 1, 0, 6, 5, and 3 earned runs. Before that it was 3, 3, 4, 3, 2, 2, 1, 5, 4, 6, and 0… that last one vs. Atlanta, of course. The trouble is that his cost would be a solid ‘top 5′ prospect since the Giants are in position to claim an after-the-first-round draft pick if they lose Timmy this Winter. He’s just not worth that much.
- Paul Maholm (32) – wish he could reclaim the magic from a year ago.
- Shaun Marcum (32) – Released by the Mets in July. See also “Lilly, Ted”
- Jason Marquis (35) – Blew out his elbow in July; done for the year. Maybe done all together.
- Ricky Nolasco (31) – throwing very well for the Dodgers, thank you.
- Roy Oswalt (35) – I think he’s the only one in the baseball universe who still thinks he’s got something left to give.
- Mike Pelfrey (30) – Was terrible for Minnesota in April-May. Now up to “reasonably okay” in July-August. In all honesty, I think I’d at least make the inquiry to the Twins. ERA in 2nd half translates to about 3.5 for the NL. That organization isn’t nearly as hard to work with as the Rockies, but they do want to have solid reasons to believe they ‘won’ the trade. But they might very well want to bring up a couple of their young stud pitchers for September.
- Andy Pettitte (42) – Even if the Yankees wanted to move him (they wouldn’t), he has 10-and-5 rights and would veto any deal.
- Wandy Rodriguez (35) – $13MM club option with a $2.5MM buyout. Pirates; injured… consulting with Dr. James Andrews.
- Jonathan Sanchez (31) – Has not pitched well since 2010… maybe 2011. Terrible this year; 5.34 ERA at AAA.
- Ervin Santana (31) – If I’m calling KC about pitchers, it’s Bruce Chen or nobody; Sanchez is worth an extra draft pick for them: he stays.
- Johan Santana (34) – $25MM club option with a $5.5MM buyout
- Joe Saunders (33) - mutual option. Not pitching well lately: 4, 5, 4, 2, 5, 5, 3 earned runs in past seven starts. Seattle blew their chance to move him in July.
- James Shields (32) – $12MM club option with a $1MM buyout. The central piece in the Wil Meyers trade. If he were moved, the KC faithful would savage that front office.
- Jason Vargas (31) – Interesting decision by the Angels: move him for a solid prospect (may be too late – coulda done that in July) or may a qualifying offer to seal an extra draft pick next year. He’s probably on the cusp of that kind of contract. Either way, the Braves would have to get 28 teams to pass on him before they could even get the chance to talk with Jerry DiPoto. This could be the last decision he has to make for the LA Angels of Anaheim.
- Ryan Vogelsong (36) – $6.5MM club option with a $300K buyout
- Edinson Volquez (30) – DFA’d by the Padres Saturday. The poster child for why the FIP stat is flawed. Stay away.
- Tsuyoshi Wada (33) – $5MM club option. Currently with Orioles’ AAA club; no major league experience; 2nd year in America.
- Jake Westbrook (36) — $9.5MM mutual option with a $1MM buyout.
- Chien-Ming Wang (34). Just DFA’d today by Toronto. Pitched very well in AAA; not so good in the majors. Could be another ‘in case of emergency’ guy. Unfortunate for him about how his career has turned out since that ankle injury in 2008.
- Suk-min Yoon (27). Korean – no major league experience. Doesn’t really belong on this list.
- Chris Young (35) – Returning from injury (Nats); only 32 innings in the minors this year. Only once could last more than 102 innings in a year: 2007.
- Barry Zito (36) – $18MM vesting option with a $7MM buyout. All right, hang with me on this one for a sec. His option will not vest, so he’s a free agent after this year. The Giants will not offer him even a qualifying offer, either – so he’s not going to be worth a draft pick for them. He is and 10-and-5 rights guy, but I’d have to believe that he’s approve a trade offer if presented? Why? Because of the chance to go to the playoffs once again. Now the bigger question: can he pitch? No, not really. He’s been in the bullpen lately… and pretty mediocre even there (6 earned runs in 4 chances, 5 innings). His last four starts haven’t gone past the 5th inning. Barry Zito should probably just retire at year’s end – taking his money and enjoying life.
So there you go… 51 names; 2 viable candidates: Bruce Chen and Mike Pelfrey. And Pelfrey could end up being the only one available if the Royals go on a roll this week. No, that’s not terribly encouraging. There are a number of others that could be available with 1+ years remaining on their deals, but just as we found that Atlanta was rebuffed on anything good (Kyle Lohse), that’s going to be a difficult effort as Saturday approaches.
But stay tuned… stranger things have happened.