It's a near-certainty that there will be aces dealt between now and July 31. For now, they're buried at the bottom of the deck.Pardon the poker pun, but when it comes to the availability of top starting pitchers, most teams are keeping their cards close to the vest."This is shaping
It's a near-certainty that there will be aces dealt between now and July 31. For now, they're buried at the bottom of the deck.
Pardon the poker pun, but when it comes to the availability of top starting pitchers, most teams are keeping their cards close to the vest.
"This is shaping up to be a very slow-developing market," one American League general manager said. "You talk to most GMs, they're saying, 'We're going to see where we are in the next two weeks.'"
With the non-waiver Trade Deadline still more than three weeks away, the only frontline starters who are known to be out there are the A's Sonny Gray and Jose Quintana of the White Sox, each of whom carries two additional years of team control beyond this season.
But do either of them qualify as the top-of-the-rotation type of arm that teams such as the Astros or Dodgers appear to be seeking?
"Gray and Quintana are good, but do you trust them in October?" another AL source said. "Neither of those guys are necessarily the guy you want starting for you in Game 2 or 3. Those kind of guys will be available before the Deadline -- we just don't know who they are yet."
Other starters believed to be available now include Philadelphia's Jeremy Hellickson, San Diego's Trevor Cahill and Cincinnati's Scott Feldman, though all are considered mid- to back-of-the-rotation arms that would bolster a team's staff for the second half rather than being a hammer to drop in a short series come October.
Given that 12 AL teams and seven more in the National League were within five games of a postseason spot as of Wednesday, the vast majority of teams have yet to declare themselves as buyers or sellers. That could change soon, though a logjam in the standings could prompt some teams to wait as long as possible before making any final decisions.
"The pitching market hasn't even started to sort itself out," the second source said. "The guys that are already available aren't the difference-makers the top teams are seeking. We may not know who those guys are until July 29 or 30."
So who could those pitchers be? Here's a look at four aces that could be made available before July 31:
The Tigers are far closer to the worst record in the AL than a playoff spot, meaning big changes could be in store for Detroit. Verlander tops that list, while J.D. Martinez, Ian Kinsler, Justin Upton and Justin Wilson could also find themselves on the block this month.
The former AL MVP Award winner, AL Cy Young Award winner and AL Rookie of the Year Award winner was on a pretty good roll from May 30 to June 27, posting a 3.74 ERA over six starts while striking out a batter per inning, though the Indians roughed up Verlander for seven runs over 3 1/3 innings in his last start on Sunday.
While Verlander carries a strong track record, he's 34 and makes a ton of money -- he's owed $14 million more this year and is guaranteed another $56 million over the two following seasons -- making the right-hander a risky addition for most teams.
Like Gray and Quintana, Cole comes with two more years of team control, but it's no certainty that the Pirates will look to trade their ace before July 31. Cole finished fourth in the NL Cy Young Award voting in 2015 with a 19-8 record and a 2.60 ERA, but he regressed last season (7-10, 3.88) and has been up and down this season (6-7, 4.51).
Cole was hit hard in each of his first two starts in June (14 earned runs in 9 2/3 innings), and while he bounced back with three strong outings (three earned runs in 20 innings), he was knocked around by the last-place Giants on June 30, allowing seven runs in 5 1/3 innings. Pittsburgh will get Starling Marte back from suspension after the All-Star break to join the red-hot Andrew McCutchen, so the Bucs will likely wait until the final days of July before selling any big pieces.
Texas was a game out of an AL Wild Card berth only a week ago, but a 1-6 stretch dropped it behind seven teams in the race for the two spots. GM Jon Daniels dealt for reliever Jason Grilli in an attempt to shore up the bullpen, a sign that the Rangers plan to stay in the mix, but if things fall apart in the next two or three weeks, could they put their ace -- who is headed for free agency after the season -- on the block?
"If the Rangers move Darvish, they probably won't make that decision until three or four days before the Deadline," one source said.
Darvish would likely be the best pitcher available and would have a major impact on both a pennant race and -- assuming he went to a playoff team -- the postseason itself. Pairing Darvish with Clayton Kershaw in Los Angeles or inserting him into a Houston rotation with Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers would be a potential championship acquisition.
The Giants are obvious sellers, though Cueto's contract situation makes him a less-than-obvious candidate to be traded. The right-hander can opt out of his deal at the end of the season to become a free agent, which is what most industry insiders expect him to do, as long as he has a strong second half.
But if Cueto has a subpar few months -- or worse, suffers an injury -- then his new team would potentially be stuck owing Cueto $89 million in guaranteed money over the next four years. That's quite a risk to assume. That said, Cueto has been a difference-making Deadline acquisition before, helping the Royals during their 2015 World Series run.
Mark Feinsand, an executive reporter, originally joined MLB.com as a reporter in 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.