The Cubs could stand to add a proven starting pitcher before the July 31 Trade Deadline, even though they have four starters among the National League’s top 17 pitchers by FanGraphs’ WAR standards.
It seems as if everyone is on high alert, especially with Cole Hamels scheduled to start Saturday for the Phillies during their trip to Wrigley Field and the Athletics jumping the market and setting the going rate for a rental starter in the Scott Kazmir deal. Couple that with the relative struggles of Dallas Beeler and Clayton Richard, the perception of need is a bit more noticeable.
For such a deal to be consummated before July 31, the Cubs need to find a partner and agree on a fair price. Team that with a rapidly closing window and it makes for a difficult task.
Prior to the Kazmir deal, there have been 11 pitchers since 2010 who accumulated at least 2-WAR (by Baseball-Reference standards) at the time of their July deal. Projecting them out, then, you’re talking about 4-ish win pitchers (or more) over the course of a season. These are, in the season in which they were traded, at least, very good pitchers.
Ever wonder how much those types of pitchers cost in recent years?
The following is a collection of those pitchers and what they netted for their teams in return. The pitchers are presented in the (perhaps surprising) order of how much bWAR they’d accumulated on the year at the time of the trade.
1. 2012 Ryan Dempster (0.5 years control)
What the Rangers received: Dempster accumulated 3.5 bWAR in 16 starts before being dealt to Texas. He was 5-5 with a 2.25 ERA and 3.43 FIP at the time of the deal. In 12 starts with Texas, Dempster was worth 0.3 bWAR even though he went 7-3 down the stretch. He posted a 5.09 ERA, and 4.08 FIP.
The cost: The return for Dempster was 22-year-old righty Kyle Hendricks, who ranked just outside of the Rangers’ Top-20 organizational prospects at the time of the deal and 21-year-old third base prospect Christian Villanueva, who was ranked as the No. 100 prospect prior to the 2012 season by Baseball America. Hendricks’ 2.2 fWAR ranks 17th among NL pitchers, while Villanueva is playing well for the Triple-A Iowa Cubs.
2. 2010 Cliff Lee (0.5 years)
What the Rangers received: Lee was no stranger to deals by the time the Mariners dealt him to the Rangers. Lee pitched to a 3.4 bWAR, was 8-3 with a 2.34 ERA and 2.16 FIP in 13 starts. His numbers took a dive in Texas as he was 4-6 with a 3.98 ERA, 2.99 FIP and 1.4 bWAR in 15 starts.
The cost: Lee was traded with reliever Mark Lowe for Blake Beavan, Matt Lawson, Justin Smoak and Josh Lueke. Beaven (2007) and Smoak (2008) were former first round picks. Smoak was the headliner, ranking as high as 13th by Baseball America and 17th by Baseball Prospectus prior to 2010.
3. 2014 Jason Hammel (0.5 years)
What the A’s received (Part I): Despite Jeff Samardzija being the headliner, Hammel (3.1 bWAR in 17 starts with the Cubs) was the more valuable pitcher at the time of the deal. He couldn’t match that in Oakland where he was a 0.0 bWAR pitcher in 67.2 innings (13 games, 12 starts). More on this trade later.
4. 2014 David Price (1.5 years)
What the Tigers received: Detroit acquired the second most control of any pitcher on this list by getting Price a year and a half before he hit free agency. Price had pitched to a 2.7 bWAR in Tampa Bay, going 11-8 with a 3.11 ERA and 2.93 FIP in 23 starts.
The cost: This might be the most costly of the deals as the Rays landed three former top-100 prospects in exchange for Price — including a pair of shortstop prospects. Nick Franklin was a 2009 Mariners draft pick who was rated as high as 44th by Baseball Prospectus (2011) and third in Seattle’s organization. He landed in Tampa after the Tigers sent center fielder Austin Jackson — a former top-100 prospect as recently as 2010 — to Seattle. Detroit also sent 18-year-old shortstop prospect Willy Adames to Tampa Bay. Adames began the year in the top-100 rankings of the Baseball America (84th), Baseball Prospectus (94th) and MLB.com’s Pipeline (77th).
Detroit also sent lefty Drew Smyly to Tampa Bay to complete the deal. Smyly, drafted in the second round in 2010, was the Tigers’ No. 6 prospect as recently as 2011 and was MLB.com’s No. 82 prospect prior to 2012.
T-5. 2014 Jon Lester (0.5 years)
The deal: In a rare swap of major league regulars, the Athletics dealt 1.5 years control of outfielder Yoenis Cespedes — who had accumulated a 2.8 bWAR in 432 plate appearances for the A’s — in exchange for a half-year of Lester, who pitched to a 2.7 WAR with Boston prior to the deal.
With Oakland, Lester pitched to a 1.9 bWAR in 11 starts, going 6-4 with a 2.58 ERA and 3.13 FIP.
T-5. 2011 Doug Fister (4.5 years)
What the Tigers received: In an absolute steal by Dave Dombrowski, the Tigers fleeced the Mariners by acquiring Fister — who pitched to a 2.7 bWAR despite a 3-12 record, a 3.33 ERA and 3.27 FIP — for a prospect haul. Fister pitched to a 2.5 bWAR as he went 8-1 with a 1.79 ERA and 2.48 FIP.
After that, Fister had a 3.3 bWAR in 2012 and 4.1 bWAR in 2013 in 58 starts for the Tigers.
The cost: The aforementioned prospect haul featured 3B Francisco Martinez, OF Casper Wells, LHP Charlie Furbush and RHP Chance Ruffin. Martinez (fourth) and Ruffin (seventh) were both organizational Top-10 prospects before the 2011 season, per Baseball America.
7. 2010 Roy Oswalt (1.5 years)
What the Phillies received: Oswalt was 6-12 with a 3.42 ERA, 3.37 FIP and 2.4 bWAR with the Astros. He really hit his stride with the Phillies, going 7-1 with a 1.74 ERA and 3.13 FIP and pitching to a 3.2 bWAR in 13 games. It is the best half-season run for any player on this list.
The cost: The Astros picked up a decent prospect haul of OF Anthony Gose, LHP J.A. Happ, SS Jonathan Villar. Prior to 2010, Gose was the Phillies No. 6 prospect, per Baseball America, while Happ ranked ninth in 2009. Gose rose to a No. 2 ranking in the Blue Jays system in 2011 and 39th overall by Baseball America before the 2012 campaign. Villar ranked as high as 94th on Baseball America’s top-100 before 2011.
8. 2011 Edwin Jackson (0.5 years)
What the Cardinals received: A complicated deal sent Jackson — a 2.3 bWAR pitcher with the Whtie Sox at the time of the deal — to Toronto and eventually to St. Louis, where he pitched to a 0.6 bWAR in 13 games (12 starts) for the Cardinals.
The cost: The White Sox picked up pitchers Jason Frasor and Zach Stewart from the Jays. Toronto ended up getting the highest rated former prospect in any of the deals by getting former No. 3 overall prospect Colby Rasmus (2009, Baseball America) and pitchers Trevor Miller, Brian Tallet and P.J. Walters. Before 2011, Walters graded out with the organization’s best change-up for the fourth straight year, per Baseball America.
The cost (Part II): Along with Jackson, the Cardinals received relievers Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynski and outfielder Corey Patterson.
Fun fact: As Cardinals voodoo would have it, Jackson also came with draft pick compensation when he left to sign with the Nationals via free agency.
9. 2010 Ted Lilly (0.5 years)
Deal details: The most insignificant move on the list might be the Cubs’ deal of Lilly to the Dodgers, as the Cubs tied Ryan Theriot (and his -0.0 bWAR) along with Lilly’s 2.2 bWAR.
The cost: The Cubs didn’t get much as Kyle Smit and Brett Wallach never made The Show, while Blake DeWitt played a bit role and is no longer on a major league roster.
T-10. 2012 Zack Greinke (0.5 years)
Deal details: In hindsight, we might be able to point to this Greinke deal as when expectations started to turn for what teams were giving up for rental players. Greinke pitched to a 2.2 bWAR on the strength of a 9-3 record, 3.44 ERA and 2.53 FIP. With L.A., he posted a 1.4 bWAR, 6-2 record, 3.53 ERA and 3.89 FIP in 13 starts.
The cost: The Angels dealt a top 100 prospect — SS Jean Segura, who ranked as high as 35 by Baseball Prospectus before 2011 — along with organizational arms Ariel Pena and Johnny Hellweg. Pena was Brewers No. 12 prospect in 2012, while Hellweg ranked as third in the organization in 2013.
T-10. 2014 Jeff Samardzija (1.5 years)
What the A’s received: Samardzija had his best half-season with the 2014 Cubs, pitching to a 2.0 bWAR behind a 2-7 record, 2.83 ERA and 3.09 FIP. After the trade, Samardzija had a 1.7 bWAR with the A’s to go along with a 5-6 record, 3.14 ERA and 3.30 FIP in 16 starts.
In case you’re curious about the last time Cubs traded for a 2-WAR pitcher in July, it was 2008 when they acquired Rich Harden from the A’s. The Cubs received 1.5 years of control of Harden, who posted a 2.6 bWAR with Oakland at the time of the deal.
He turned in a superb 2008 run for the Cubs, posting a 3.4 bWAR in 12 starts, thanks in part to a 5-1 record, 1.77 ERA and 3.08 FIP.
The cost? A handful of young pieces including outfielders Eric Patterson and Matt Murton, pitcher Sean Gallagher and, eh hem, catching prospect Josh Donaldson.