Heyman: Six teams looking to land a starter
At least a half-dozen teams are in the market for a starting pitcher, but unusual parity, the expanded wild-card system and hesitant potential sellers have conspired to put a block on the market.
At least the Astros, Blue Jays, Royals, Dodgers, Pirates and Yankees are looking into the starters’ market, but the only top-of-the-rotation starter on the trading block remains Cole Hamels, who’s been out there for many months at this point. The market awaits new entries, but with the tightness of the races, one AL GM predicts there may not be big deals for big starters until close to the July 31 trade deadline.
By this point last season, Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel and Brandon McCarthy had already been traded.
Hamels certainly fits the description of an ace pitcher, but a $24 million salary, 20-team no-trade list and the Phillies’ inability to receive an offer close to their asking price has kept him in Philly. The Jays and Astros have interest, but he signaled early that he likely wouldn’t accept a deal to Toronto, and he is believed unlikely to OK one to Houston, either.
Interestingly, three of the teams most linked to Hamels aren’t among the six clubs most interested in a starter; the Red Sox, Rangers and Cubs have at some point during Hamels’ long trade-block odyssey been in talks with the Phillies, who seek a very top prospect as part of a package.
Other top pitchers viewed as possible trade targets this month include the Reds‘ Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake, the White Sox‘s Samardzija, the A’s’ Scott Kazmir and the Padres’ Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross. Cueto, Leake and Samardzija all can become free agents after the year.
However, word is the Reds aren’t ready to sell (though some believe things may loosen up there after the July 14 All-Star game at Cincy), the White Sox are waiting as they begin to heat up (top Chisox executive Kenny Williams recently affirmed to USA Today they aren’t in sell mode yet), the A’s are playing much better than their record and the Padres are heavily invested in this season.
There are a few mid-rotation starters on the market now, such as the Mets‘ Jon Niese, but $9.5-million guaranteed to him after this year seems to have discouraged some potential buyers, though he’s pitched well lately (he beat the Giants 3-0 Monday). Plus, teams in need of a starter are generally holding out hope they could land a top guy later this month.
Almost anyone can believe they are a playoff contender with two wild cards and so many teams close to .500. The Phillies, long established as a seller, are the only team completely buried, at 29 games under .500. The Brewers are 13 games under, but their two veteran starters, Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza have struggled (and Garza is on the disabled list), and the Rockies aren’t stocked with veteran starters, either.
Cole Hamels is likely to move, but the market is stalled. (USATSI)
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