12/19/11 12:00 AM EST
GMs eye trade route for starting pitching help
Gio, Jurrjens, Pineda among starters that could be on block
By Paul Hagen / MLB.com
Easy. You acquire pitching the old-fashioned way. You trade for it.
Well, it's not that easy. Making deals requires satisfying the expectations of an opposing general manager. And no club gladly gives up frontline starting pitching. Still, it can be done. In fact, the deal that sent just-turned-24-year-old Mat Latos from the Padres to the Reds for a package including right-hander Edinson Volquez -- a 17-game winner in 2008 -- may signal that teams are starting to turn their attention to the trade market.
With that in mind, here's a look at the 10 most interesting starting pitchers who, according to the baseball grapevine, could be in play under the right circumstances.
A's LHP Gio Gonzalez: He's only 26, and he's 31-21 with a 3.17 ERA while pitching over 400 innings the last two seasons. He's under control until 2016. He's also arbitration-eligible for the first time, though, and that matters in Oakland. It figures to take a huge haul of talent to get him, however.
"[General manager] Billy Beane does a good job of hyping his players, and a lot of teams have been burned by that," one scout said. "But Gonzalez may be worthy of what it would take to get him."
Braves RHP Jair Jurrjens: Again, it's difficult to understand why a pitcher this good might be available. But he's had knee problems each of the last two seasons, and figures to make about $5 million in arbitration -- he is two years away from free agency. So the Braves' thinking is that they might be able to get a top prospect or two in return and also free up enough payroll to sign a right-handed-hitting outfielder.
It also helps that even without Jurrjens they would still have Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, Brandon Beachy, Mike Minor and prospects Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado. They could also consider moving Kris Medlen from the bullpen to the rotation.
Mariners RHP Michael Pineda: There have been rumors that Seattle's quest to add a bat might lead to parting with Felix Hernandez, but it's unlikely that management would risk the fan backlash. They might, however, have to think about moving Pineda -- though he's a 22-year-old All-Star who finished fifth in the American League Rookie of the Year voting -- if the price is right.
Cubs RHP Matt Garza: In his first year on the North Side, Garza was the Cubs' best starter, and new president of baseball operations Theo Epstein has repeatedly said that he's not being shopped. Still, he's probably the best trade chip that Epstein has as he rolls up his sleeves and goes to work.
"If Theo trades Garza, he'll be looking to take someone to the cleaners," one scout predicted.
Garza made $5.95 million last year and is two years away from free agency, so if the Cubs can't sign him to a long-term extension, a trade might be a viable option.
Rays LHP David Price: "There may be a sense out there that he took a step backward last year," one scout said.
Really? Yes, his ERA jumped, but his WHIP went down. With only two full big league seasons behind him, he still appears to have a lot of upside. But the whisper is that either Price, or even ace James Shields, could be available for a team willing to cough up enough talent.
Mets LHP Jon Niese: The 25-year-old could be an under-the-radar target for teams looking for pitching, although all indications are that New York won't let him go cheaply.
"Because the Mets have been down, he might not be looked at in a sexy light," one scout said. "But he went 11-11 for a really bad team last year, and that counts for something."
Orioles LHP Jeremy Guthrie: Another pitcher who tends to be overlooked, Guthrie is a dependable innings eater who has made at least 30 starts and pitched at least 200 innings each of the last three seasons. He made a reasonable $5.75 million last year, is eligible for free agency after the 2012 season and doesn't appear to figure into the long-term plans for a rebuilding franchise.
Astros LHP Wandy Rodriguez: Houston controls Rodriguez through 2014, but at a high cost. He'll make $10 million next season, $13 million in 2013 and then has an option for $13 million or a $2.5 million buyout that becomes a player option if he's traded. That might be a little rich for a team trying to start over after a 106-loss season with a new owner and general manager.
Cubs RHP Carlos Zambrano: Nobody doubts his talent, and he's still only 30 years old. The questions are whether the Cubs have tired of his high-maintenance ways, and if there's a team out there that could not only give up what it would take to get him, but be willing to take on the $18 million he's owed next season.
White Sox LHP John Danks: He'll be 27 next year and is a year away from free agency, so he would be a nice fit for a club that's not looking for a long-term commitment. The hitch is that, coming off a down season (8-12, 4.33) he might not fetch the multiple prospects that the Sox are believed to be looking for.
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.