Trade Deadline Primer: Starting Pitchers

Johnny Cueto

Trade Deadline Preview: Starting Pitchers

The August 31st Trade Deadline is quickly approaching and there are some names that are starting to emerge as legitimate trade candidates. Things started to move this past Friday when the Boston Red Sox made a trade with the Philadelphia Phillies. It was a trade that fulfilled the needs of both clubs and as always, that’s going to be the goal for any trade that happens over the next eight days.

In the past, the trend has always been for contending teams to focus on bolstering their bullpen. This year will likely be no different as there will be plenty of relievers on the move. Another key area of focus for postseason bound clubs will be the starting rotation. While there aren’t numerous options available on that front, there are some intriguing names out there.

With that being said, here are the biggest starting pitchers to watch prior to next Monday’s Trade Deadline.

1. Johnny Cueto/Jeff Samardzija (San Francisco Giants)

The San Francisco Giants are still in full rebuild mode even though they are currently in the midst of a five-game win streak heading into play Sunday. As is always the goal for rebuilding teams, the focus for the Giants here is to get younger and clear as much payroll space as possible. Johnny Cueto is under contract through the end of next season but does have a $22 million dollar team option or $5 million dollar buyout for 2022. He has struggled over the last few seasons, but his strikeout-per-9 rate has remained consistent so far this season (7.8).

Meanwhile, Jeff Samardzija might have a 9.88 ERA over three starts this year. However, he is someone that is a workhorse from an innings standpoint and a contending team might see that as an advantage. In addition, he will be a free agent this coming offseason meaning that this will be a rental for any acquiring team.

2. Mike Clevinger/Zach Plesac (Cleveland Indians)

It’s still not a guarantee that the Cleveland Indians will look to move Mike Clevinger and/or Zach Plesac before next Monday’s deadline. Although, the organization is still manipulating the service time for both pitchers and it’s unclear what the response would be if they were to rejoin the Indians big league squad. Given the need for an additional bat or two, Cleveland might feel as though either Clevinger or Plesac are their best trade chips to accomplish that need. Clevinger is still under control through the 2022 season and that could really benefit a contending team looking for a long-term starting pitching option.

As far as Zach Plesac goes, he still has plenty of control remaining as he has yet to even reach one full-year of service time. Therefore, the Indians will want a significant package in return and rightfully so. After making his debut at the end of May 2019, Plesac has 24 big league starts under his belt. Over that span, the right-hander has a 3.42 ERA with a 1.141 WHIP and a 7.4 K/9 rate.

3. Matthew Boyd (Detroit Tigers)

Once again, Matthew Boyd is in the trade spotlight as the Detroit Tigers continue navigating their way through their current rebuild. Boyd is under control for the remainder of this season and the next two years. While he has certainly struggled this year (8.48 ERA over six starts), this might be one case where a simple change of scenery benefits the player involved. Although the ERA is high, one of the promising things about Boyd is that his strikeouts-per-9 rate continues to remain consistent. Last year, it sat at 11.6 with a total of 238 strikeouts. So far this season, he has racked up a 10.4 K/9 rate.

4. Danny Duffy (Kansas City Royals)

The Kansas City Royals are going to continue to look to shave money from their payroll. As part of those efforts, it would not be a surprise to see the team look to move Danny Duffy. Kansas City is ripe with young pitching depth and therefore they could feel as though now is the time to move on from Duffy. Duffy is under control through the remainder of this season and next year at a salary of $15.5 million dollars. So far this season, the 31-year old left-hander has a 3.99 ERA with a 3.74 Fielding Independent Percentage (FIP) over 29 and one-third innings of work.

5. Marco Gonzales (Seattle Mariners)

Marco Gonzales of the Seattle Mariners isn’t necessarily a name that jumps out on paper. However, for anyone that has watched him the last few seasons, he could provide some valuable middle-of-the-rotation depth for a number of contending teams. To date, the 28-year old right-hander has a 3.34 ERA over five starts with a 0.876 WHIP. Furthermore, he comes at a very affordable rate which could be significant for teams who are restricted with their spending efforts. After inking a four-year extension with the team last February, Gonzales is set to earn $30 million dollars through the 2024 season. He also has a $15 million dollar team option for 2025.

6. Trevor Williams (Pittsburgh Pirates)

The Pittsburgh Pirates starting rotation has had it’s fair share of injuries this season, but with the demand for starting pitching Pittsburgh might feel as though now is the time to capitalize on the value of Trevor Williams. Williams is in his fifth big league season and has a 3.70 ERA on the year with an 8.5 K/9 rate. If Pittsburgh were to trade Williams, they would have an obvious hole given that both Joe Musgrove and Mitch Keller are on the Injured List. Although, they could always elect to use “The Opener” instead or give someone like JT Brubaker a bigger role in the rotation. MLB.com ranked the Pirates system 15th overall heading into this season.

Other potential names to watch depending on which direction their respective teams go: Lance Lynn and Mike Minor of the Texas Rangers, Dylan Bundy of the Los Angeles Angels, and Jordan Yamamoto of the Miami Marlins.

Final Thoughts

There is still a lot of uncertainty regarding what the August 31st Trade Deadline could look like. However, for General Managers willing to get creative and look at all possible options, there are deals that could be made. The aforementioned names are the biggest ones to watch on the starting pitching market. A market that should see lots of activity over the next eight days leading up to the Trade Deadline.

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