While not on the order of Matt Garza or Ryan Dempster, Paul Maholm is a valuable trade piece, should the Cubs be interested in moving him. Not only is Maholm in the best stretch of his season – four straight excellent starts, and his ERA is getting ready to dip under 4.00 – but he (1) is a lefty, and (2) costs just $4.75 million this year (with a $6.5 million team option for 2013).
In other words, Maholm has been a good lefty, and is affordable. Why wouldn’t teams have interest?
And, although we haven’t heard much about it, teams almost certainly do have interest.
For example, reports Paul Sullivan, the Pirates have interest in their former starter. In fact, they’ve had a top scout trailing the Cubs for some time, and they would like to pick up a veteran pitcher. Considering the cost, Maholm might interest them more than, for example, Ryan Dempster or Matt Garza.
Sullivan mentions two AAA pitchers who could interest the Cubs, Jeff Locke and Rudy Owens. Both are 24-year-old lefties putting up good numbers this year in the minors, and could become decent back-end options in the near future. Neither has the upside of a top prospect, but they are certainly interesting players of the kind you wouldn’t mind getting for Maholm. Coming into 2012, each fell just outside the Pirates’ top 10 (a good system).
If the Cubs could get both of those guys for Maholm, they’d be very hard-pressed to say no.
And, for his part, Maholm doesn’t exactly sound torn up about the possibility of being dangled as trade bait.
“If your name is out there, obviously somebody wants you,” Maholm told Sullivan. “That’s not a terrible thing. Obviously I signed here to play here and to win here, so whatever happens in the next 10 to 12 days, I think everyone in the clubhouse is professional enough to deal with it.”
Given that he just signed this past offseason, you can understand why Maholm may not have the same heart pangs about being traded as might, for example, Ryan Dempster.
While you could understand the Cubs hanging onto Maholm, given his relatively affordable team option for next year, and his recent stretch of success (and the fact that *someone* has to pitch for the Cubs in 2013), there’s just no reason for them not to shop a guy who has value, and who might not have a long-term future with the Cubs.
I talked about Maholm’s trade value a few weeks ago (I do think it’s gone up since then), and I still think the return on him would be far behind that for Matt Garza, and a fair bit behind that for Ryan Dempster. But I do think it could be notable – a solidly top 10 prospect in an average system? A couple guys in the top 15? I don’t see why not.
As for the Pirates, specifically, Maholm’s final two starts before the trade deadline come against the Pirates, so they have a unique (small, but unique) incentive to pull off a trade for Maholm, and soon.