Supply and Demand Creating a Seller’s Market on Starting Pitching

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Teams buried in the standings are beginning to evaluate their rosters to decide who can be traded over the next few months. This year, the field has become a seller’s market, more so than any deadline in recent memory, and that is especially true regarding the starting pitching market. This summer, the market will be reliant on the inexpensive rentals, as frequently rumored trade chips Chris Archer and Marcus Stroman have both struggled terribly thus far in 2018, and it remains to be seen whether the Baltimore Orioles are going to blow it up enough to trade Dylan Bundy and/or Kevin Gausman. That’s not to say that they shouldn’t, but I would be shocked if they traded anybody under contract beyond 2018 based on the obvious delusion taking place within the front office.

Potential Buyers

Injuries are currently running rampant throughout the league. At this point, I would consider the following teams to be in the market for an inexpensive rental starter:

  • New York Yankees
  • Cleveland Indians
  • Seattle Mariners
  • Atlanta Braves
  • St. Louis Cardinals
  • Milwaukee Brewers
  • Los Angeles Dodgers
  • Arizona Diamondbacks

Also, possibly:

  • Philadelphia Phillies
  • Colorado Rockies
  • Washington Nationals

Potentially Available Starters

Here are all of the players who should become available this summer as inexpensive rentals. The order is an estimated ranking.

To get a feel for what teams are typically able to get for these rental starters, here are some of the most recent deals with these circumstances:

2017:

  • The Twins acquire Jaime Garcia ($12 million base salary) for Huascar Ynoa (#31)
    • Scouting Report: Ynoa was acquired from the Twins in the Jaime Garcia deal over the summer. He was a hyped international signing who has not been very encouraging thus far. He has very good stuff but, like many others before him, can’t seem to control it. At this stage, he’s looking like organizational depth, although there is longshot ceiling of a high leverage reliever.
  • The Yankees acquire Jaime Garcia (same salary) for Dietrich Enns (#19) and Zack Littell (#8)
    • Scouting Reports: Littell has a relatively low ceiling, but the floor is that of a near guarantee for the major leagues. At the very least he’s a spot starter, but there is a more likely shot that he is a good four. He’s something of a control artist and induces a good amount of grounders.
    • Enns is a very strong back of the rotation starter. He can eat up innings admirably while walking very few. While he may not be the flashiest guy in the world, he strikes me as a 200-inning guy who can post a 4.20 ERA year in and year out.
    • The report on Enns was written before the season began. I included it to describe what people thought of him around the time of the deal. I still believe he could rebound, but he has been uncharacteristically awful this season, as he has lost all of his control.
  • The Rangers acquired Miguel Gonzalez ($5.9 million base salary) for Ti’Quan Forbes (#46)
    • Scouting Report: Forbes is a player kept alive by his draft status, and while he has the tools to be a solid player, he’s looking like depth at this point.
  • 2016
    • The Jays acquired Scott Feldman ($5.24 million base salary) from the Houston Astros for Guadalupe Chavez, who has since retired but was a very good rookie league pitcher who honestly never showed any signs of weakness throughout his minor league career.
    • I am going to include the Rich Hill trade, despite the fact that it was a package deal, but regardless, the A’s signed Rich Hill to a one-year contract worth $6 million and traded him to the Dodgers with outfielder Josh Reddick for a very strong package of prospects including Jharel Cotton, who has become a part of the A’s rotation but is out for the year after Tommy John surgery; Frankie Montas, a borderline top-100 prospect at the time of the deal who is currently in Triple-A working as a starter and has shown improved control with a decent 4.39 ERA in the PCL; and Grant Holmeswho has struggled in the upper minors but was a consensus top-100 prospect at the time of the trade.
    • The Pirates picked up Ivan Nova (~$2.7 million base salary) from the Yankees for Tito Polo and Stephen Tarpley.
      • Polo is an outfield prospect who has struggled in 2018 but is coming off a 2017 in which he stole 34 bases and hit .301/.363/.442. I am higher on him than most, and had him ranked 14th preseason, but he seems likely to drop a bit at my midseason update.
      • Tarpley is a very solid minor league reliever who has been solid in Double-A this season and has been dominant since his full-time move to the bullpen last year.
      • Both were considered C+/C prospects at the time of the trade.

Essentially, because it seems like a seller’s market, I would anticipate returns slightly higher than those of the past two years. Another thing that would increase returns is the fact that most of the guys on the market this season are making less than the guys who I mentioned here, while posting the similar or even better results.

While the Rangers won’t be getting Gleyber Torres (#1) for Doug Fister, I wouldn’t be shocked to see a return that is more than one would typically expect a player like Fister to command.

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