The rumor mill is awfully pitcher-heavy right now, not that there are a lot of pitching options out there …
- Jon Morosi talks about teams that could be buyers or sellers this year, pointing out three that are on the fence right now: the Phillies, the Blue Jays, and the Padres. The latter team is playing so well that it might be hard to justify selling. On the Phillies, Morosi wonders whether they’ll really decide to keep onto closer Jonathan Papelbon, given the interest around baseball. Papelbon will easily be the best closer potentially on the market, but a team would have to pay for it: not only would he cost a handsome return in prospects, but he’s owed $13 million per year through 2015, with a reasonable vesting option (also at $13 million) for 2016. That’s very expensive for the back-end of your bullpen. Phillies GM Ruben Amaro still says he doesn’t want to trade Papelbon (or Cliff Lee, for that matter), which would be good news for the Cubs as they shop Kevin Gregg (which I looked into yesterday).
- On the Blue Jays, Morosi points to Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle as potential selling pieces if the team decides it’s out of it. Obviously that would dilute the pitching market slightly for the Cubs, who presumably would like to shop Matt Garza and Scott Feldman as two of the best arms on the market. You’re going to want to pull for a Blue Jays turnaround.
- Speaking of Feldman, he told ESPN that he’s not too worried about the trade season, since there’s nothing he can do. That said, he hopes to be able to stay with the Cubs. “Absolutely. Yeah. I’d love to [stay here],” Feldman said. “That kinda stuff always happens this time of year with a number of players, and I’ve never really been in that position before, but I hope we can get hot and get back in this thing a little bit and then it’ll be harder to trade away some of the guys. But either way I love it in Chicago, and I’m happy to put a Cubs uniform on.”
- Jim Bowden’s take on the top 20 pitchers who could be traded features Matt Garza (listed as a number three starter) and Scott Feldman (listed as a number four). He gives Garza a 90% chance of being traded, and Feldman 70%. Those two stand behind only the Marlins’ Ricky Nolasco in terms of likelihood of being traded (which sounds about right).
- Nick Cafardo reports that Astros’ starter Bud Norris is drawing heavy interest from all around baseball. He’s pitching well this year (3.54 FIP), but his peripherals are only OK, and it’s the best year of his career, at least by FIP. He’s only in his first year of arbitration, though, so an acquiring team would get control over him through 2015. That could make him a more attractive trade target than rentals like Garza or Feldman for some teams.
- Cafardo adds that the Cubs are “remaining patient” with Matt Garza right now, and letting the market come to them. He sees Scott Feldman as a possible good fit for the Orioles, who are openly looking for a starter.
- In terms of finding pitching in the long-term for the Cubs, Theo Epstein told ESPN that you can still find it on the trade market – even young pitching. “Just a couple of years ago there were a lot of young pitchers traded,” he said. “Gio Gonzalez was traded and [Trevor] Cahill. I think teams will still trade their young pitching. That was our focus last year; we tried to get a pitcher in every deal. If we end up going that route this year, pitching will be a focus.” It’s been my belief for a while now that this was the route the Cubs would go to try and land impact pitching for the upcoming competitive run (hopefully beginning in 2014). If the Cubs do try to pick up a quality young arm in trade, you’ll have to brace yourself for the impact – Gonzalez cost the Nationals 3 of their top 10 prospects (a very good system at the time), plus another quality prospect.
- Joel Sherman says that, yes, the Cubs were heavily in on Yasiel Puig when the now-star Cuban was on the market last year. The information available on him was incredibly scant, and the Dodgers went all out on him on the basis of a few interviews, a tiny bit of game tape, and workouts plus batting practice. That’s it. While it’s hard to feel bad about missing on Puig at $42 million given the risk (and there are still risks), credit the Dodgers for going balls out on a guy that, so far, has been worth it.