At this point in the MLB season, teams are beginning to decide whether or not they will be able to compete for a playoff spot, or if they should plan for the future. In some cases, specifically with small market teams, a decision must be made on whether they want to lock up their star players or trade them for future assets. In this article, I have chosen to discuss five starting pitchers who could be on the move this July.
1. Cliff Lee – Philadelphia Phillies:
The Phillies currently sit 7.5 games behind the first place Braves in the NL East division. With Roy Halladay lost to injury for potentially the entire season and Cole Hamels struggling the way he has so far, it doesn’t look like the Philies have much going for them. At some point the Nationals should begin to play at a higher level, and that will only make matters worse for the Phillies. If things don’t start to get better soon, expect them to shop Cliff Lee for multiple prospects and begin a rebuilding phase. Lee has been a top-tier starting pitcher this year, posting a 7-2 record with an ERA of 2.45, 74 strikeouts, and a WHIP of 0.96 in 88.1 innings. He will be highly sought after by any team who is in striking distance of the playoffs and who is willing to take on Lee’s large annual salary. I’d personally love to see his old team, the Cleveland Indians, make a play for him if they continue to stay close enough to the Tigers in the AL Central.
2. David Price – Tampa Bay Rays:
The 2012 AL CY Young award winner has not had a season that anyone could have expected. He got off to a 1-4 start with an ERA of 5.24 and a 1.44 WHIP. Before he got the chance to turn things around, he was placed on the DL, and has been out of the Rays lineup since mid May. The Rays are still competitive, and are within striking distance of a wild card spot and the lead in the AL East. However, they are a small market team with limited funds available for their superstar players. For example, since 2009 they have had to let Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton leave via free agency, as well as trade James Shields this off-season for long-term assets, with the expectation that they would not be able to re-sign him after the 2013 season. The Rays will face a similar situation this off-season with Price, as his contract ends after 2014. I believe the Rays will try to move Price this season so that they can get a better return for him. If they trade him next year, he will be a rental player wherever he goes. If he gets traded this year, he will have a full season with his new team next year, and there will be ample time to discuss a long-term extension with that team before he is eligible to hit the open market as a free agent.
3. Josh Johnson – Toronto Blue Jays:
The 2013 season has not gone the way anyone expected for Johnson or the Toronto Blue Jays. The Jays currently sit in dead last in the AL East, and Johnson has already had a stint on the DL. Before getting injured, Johnson was ineffective, which was partially due to his decreased velocity from 2012. Johnson’s contract with the Jays will expire at the end of this season, so it would make sense for them to move him at the deadline. With the way the team has struggled thus far, I would expect them to be sellers rather than buyers in July. Johnson will likely want to test the free agent market and the Jays would be smart to trade him for a package of prospects at the deadline, as teams will be more desperate to make a move.
4. Matt Garza – Chicago Cubs:
Garza hasn’t been what the Cubs expected when they acquired him from the Rays prior to the 2011 season. With Garza’s contract coming to an end after the 2013 season, Theo Epstein will do everything in his power to find a contender to take Garza off his hands for a prospect or two. The Cubs have been one of the worst teams in baseball over the last 5+ seasons, and a haul of prospects in exchange for Garza will help them with their ongoing rebuilding phase. Last year, Zack Greinke and Anibal Sanchez were both slated to become free agents at season’s end, so they were traded away from their struggling NL teams for top prospects. Sanchez and Greinke both received massive free agent contracts that their former teams could not afford to hand out. Garza is in a similar situation this season, with his team positioned towards the bottom of the NL standings. Garza started this season on the DL, which could hurt his trade value, however, he still has 7-8 weeks to show what he can do. There is no doubt that Garza can help many teams, but he will need to stay healthy prior to the deadline.
5. Ricky Nolasco – Miami Marlins:
Nolasco was the only notable Marlins pitcher to not be traded last year or in the off-season. Heath Bell was sent to Arizona, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson were part of the blockbuster deal with the Blue Jays, and Anibal Sanchez was traded to the Tigers. With his contract set to expire at season’s end, the Marlins are likely to move Nolasco by the trade deadline. Nolasco may benefit from a change of scenery the way that Sanchez did last year, and there is always a market for starting pitchers. With the added wild card spot, there are a lot more buyers than sellers at the deadline, which will work in Miami’s favor.
I expect to see a lot of pitchers moved by the deadline, so I encourage people to share their thoughts and opinions on who will be moved and where they will go. Some other notable names that could be on the move are R.A. Dickey, Jake Peavy, Bud Norris, Edwin Jackson and Yovani Gallardo.
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