Thursday, October 20, 2011
Offseason Pitching Targets
Wow. It's sure been a long time since I posted something relevant.
I've come to realize that I love watching the Blue Jays. A lot. I love the dialog that happens while watching a game and tweeting. And therefore, I neglect my beloved blog.
Therefore, I have re-branded. The 5th Starter is now an off-season blogger. I can speculate, and comment on business moves, and keep talking about baseball until spring training starts.
With all of that said: On to some musings!
Alex Anthopoulos and Paul Beeston have publicly stated that the plan to improve this team in the off season, is to TRADE for pitching. Specifically starting pitching. Solid starting pitching makes the rest of the staff better. The relievers are more rested, and therefore perform better. The hitters can focus on hitting, with the knowledge that the leads will hold up.
But, WHO will the Jays target? I thought I'd take a look.
Anthopoulos has been very clear that anyone that he pursues has to be a significant improvement over the existing pitchers. An "innings eater" is not on the menu, since there are a horde of young, talented arms that can eat innings if injuies occur.
The question then becomes: Who's available that is a definite improvement?
The free agent class is awfully thin:
CC Sabathia is a definite ace, but likely out of every team's budget (except the Yankees, who will bid against themselves).
C.J. Wilson doesn't project as much more than a number 3/4 guy long term, and his contract will certainly be looked at as a nightmare for whichever team signs him.
Roy Oswalt is getting on in years, so he has some significant risk.
Yu Darvish is the darling of everyone's eye, but he has no track record in the MLB.
Leaving the trade market as the best possible means of improvement.
The following is a list of names that would be worth pursuing. I'll comment on each, and might even throw out some scenarios describing mutual "fits":
Trading within the division is risky. Any mistake will come back to haunt the team for years. That said, there are a few trade targets that are worth investigating.
James Shields is widely presumed to be on the market this offseason. Tampa needs offense, and may have an interest in Adam Lind, reclamation project on a team-friendly contract. A way outside the box thought: David Price could be a piece put in play. He's at max value, and could get too expensive soon through arbitration.
Boston will be looking to retool their staff, and may consider dealing some of their Pitchers. Bucholz and Lester aren't going anywhere, and Lackey is a train Wreck. Farrell may have an interest in overhauling Beckett or Matsuzaka, but I don't think either would be worth a legitimate prospect.
The Yankees will be looking to add pitching rather than subtract.
The Orioles don't have anyone that would be an upgrade on the current Jays staff.
Detroit looks set in their rotation. I doubt they'd let any of their pitchers go, and would be more likely to add.
Cleveland might be looking to trade Fausto Carmona, but he's too volatile for my taste.
Chicago might lose Buerhle as an FA, and could move Danks if they think he'll make too much in arbitration. Both would be reliable upgrades, but are unexciting
Minnesota is a mess. Pass.
The Royals have lots of prospects, but will likely be competing with the Jays to acquire a starter.
Everyone wants to talk about the Mariners trading Felix Hernandez. I can't see them letting him go, but I'd consider trading farm systems just to get Hernandez. Nobody would be an exception. Seriously though. I'd trade 4-5 of our top-10 prospects. ANY of them.
Texas will be adding pitching, and looking to continue their run of success.
Oakland matches up well. They have a few legitimate pitcher that may be expendable, and a need for help on offense. Gio Gonzalez is the name most floated out there. I'd have an interest in the injury-riddled Brett Anderson as well.
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are in flux. Depending on their next GM, they could go either direction. I expect they'll try to compete, and will keep all three of Haren, Weaver and Santana, then look to supplement.
Lots of candidates in this division. Starting with a wild card: Johan Santana of the Mets. I'm sure the Mets would be happy to be rid of the money on his deal, and the prospect caliber would be lower, due to his recovery risk. If the Jays are willing to eat salary, why not take a flyer?
I'm sure the Phillies won't want to lose any more pitchers if Oswalt leaves, but Cole Hamels might be of interest? The Phils could open up some payroll and replenish their farm system? Call it unlikely, but it sure is fun to speculate.
Atlanta is a great fit with the Jays. The Braves will reportedly be seeking outfield help, and if Michael Bourn leave as a free agent, they will be seeking speed. The Jays could start a package with Rajai Davis, and another outfielder. The Braves will definitely be looking to move Derek Lowe, but the more likely candidate for the Jays to pursue would be Jair Jurrjens. He fits in many ways. While the two teams are talking, they might also discuss some of Atlanta's young bullpen arms (Venters, Kimbrel)
Florida has some arms that will likely be on the market as well. Nolasco will likely be the most aggressively shopped, but my interest would fall more toward the recovering Josh Johnson. If Florida would like to shed risk and payroll, there could be a fit there as well, though he would certainly cost more in terms of prospects.
Milwaukee and St Louis will certainly be looking to return to the playoffs, and won't be trading any top-flight starters.
Pittsburgh- Nothing to see here. Move along
Houston has Wandy Rodriguez, who the Jays reportedly had interest in at the trade deadline. In the AL East, I can't be confident in him as anything more than a #4.
Cincinnati has an excellent Canadian first baseman that would be a terrific fit for the Jays, but they look to be adding pitching, rather than dealing them.
The Chicago Cubs also have a Canadian. He's a pitcher. Ryan Dempster would be a great candidate in a trade if Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer decide to re-tool. I'd have ZERO interest in taking head-case Zambrano off their hands, even if he came free.
Where to start? There are so many excellent options in the NL West.
Arizona is brimming with young prospects, and could be persuaded to move Hudson, or Kennedy. If they tender Saunders a contract, he'll be a trade-chip, but not an exciting one.
Colorado just got rid of Ubaldo Jimenez, so they won't likely be trading more pitchers.
The Padres are still rebuilding, but don't have any exciting options aside from Mat Latos (who isn't getting traded...)
That leaves the two most exciting potential trade partners in the entire MLB: The Dodgers and Giants could be fantastic options.
Depending on what happens with the Dodgers ownership situation, they could decide to rebuild? in that scenario, Billingsley and Kuroda would certainly be available. Both would be welcome additions to the Jays rotation.
The real star candidates for trade all play for the San Francisco Giants. The Giants have a real need for offense, and may need to open up payroll to a) resign Licencum, b) add a SS, and c) lock up Posey long term. I don't necessarily think that they'd part willingly with some of their secondary aces, but I really salivate at the idea of Cain being available. Jonathan Sanchez is another good candidate. Madison Bumgarner is a dream candidate, and would cost the most, but who knows? Alex Anthopoulos has pulled greater heists.
So, basically, there are not a lot of great options. The ones that are available will be expensive. It really proves the adage that you can never have enough pitching. In order of my preference (and who I think would actually be available)
Cain (Bumgarner, Sanchez)
There. Call it a shopping list. All the items will be expensive, but would leave the Jays as a legitimate contender almost immediately.