Less than three months remain until the August 2nd MLB trade deadline, and starting pitching is always a hot commodity. Here’s a look at 18 starters who might be available in the coming months.
Top of the rotation-ish
- Frankie Montas, Athletics: Under team control through 2023, Montas continues to be an obvious trade candidate who can make a major impact on a contending team. He’s picked up right where he left off last year, with a 3.44 ERA and the skills to match. Having moved Sean Manaea and Chris Bassitt after the lockout ended, the A’s are now primed to spark a bidding war for Montas.
- Luis Castillo, Reds: Castillo has shown the ability to pitch near the top of a rotation, even though he struggled in his first ten starts of 2021. Like Montas, Castillo is under team control through ’23. Castillo opened the season on the IL due to a shoulder injury, but he’s penciled in for his debut Monday. If he remains healthy, Castillo should be able to make around 15 starts prior to the trade deadline, so suitors will have plenty of information. The Reds may be able to extract a premium prospect for Castillo.
- Marcus Stroman, Cubs: Stroman may not be thought of as a true ace, but a 3.02 ERA in 33 starts last year is nothing to sniff at. Though Stroman’s ERA sits at 5.13 through five starts, his skills seem unchanged. I generally expect the Cubs to keep Stroman, as trading a player this early into a trumpeted three-year deal is a bad look. Plus, Stroman is on a three-year, $71MM contract with an opt-out after ’23, which may not hold appeal to certain clubs.
- Yu Darvish and Blake Snell, Padres: Once Snell returns from a groin strain IL stint this month, the Padres will simply have too many starting pitchers if everyone else remains healthy. Trading Darvish or Snell would alleviate that situation and give them financial flexibility to improve elsewhere. The Padres may not wait until the trade deadline to address the logjam. While Darvish and Snell had disappointing seasons in 2021, both remain capable of pitching near the top of a rotation. With more than $40MM owed and a 12-team no-trade clause, Darvish could be tricky to move.
Middle and back of the rotation
- Tyler Mahle, Reds: Mahle pitched to a 3.72 ERA with a 28.1 K% from 2020-21, but he owns a 7.01 ERA through his first six starts this year. Mahle, who seems to have cut his slider usage significantly this year, is not missing bats like he has in the past and is averaging only 4.28 innings per start. Mahle is under team control through 2023, and given his past success will be targeted whether or not he’s able to right the ship with the Reds.
- Mike Minor, Reds: Minor is battling a shoulder injury and working his way toward a minor league rehab assignment. If he’s healthy and pitching acceptably, the Reds may flip him at the deadline to save money.
- Zack Greinke and Brad Keller, Royals: Greinke’s early success includes a strikeout rate of just 6.5%. He’s on a one-year, $13MM deal and the Royals figure to defer to his preferences regarding a potential trade. Keller, who is under team control through ’23, also doesn’t miss bats, but does sport a strong groundball rate and ERA in the early going.
- Kyle Hendricks, Drew Smyly, Wade Miley, Cubs: Hendricks’ unique soft-tossing approach has resulted in a 4.90 ERA since 2021, and he has about $27MM remaining on his contract through ’23. Trading him at this stage would be a disappointing end to a player who has meant so much to the franchise. On an affordable one-year deal, Smyly is more likely to go, though his skills have been middling since ’21. Miley has yet to make his Cubs debut due to elbow inflammation, but he’s set to make a minor league rehab start tonight in St. Paul. While the Cubs in a sense have a starting rotation full of trade candidates, the returns wouldn’t be impressive and the club might elect not to decimate that group without worthy replacements.
- Martin Perez, Rangers, Jose Quintana, Pirates, Michael Pineda, Tigers: Though early results are good, there’s nothing skills-wise to recommend these guys. Their teams could could flip them to someone looking for depth, but there’s little urgency.
- Jordan Lyles, Orioles: The Orioles signed Lyles to eat some innings, so they might as well let him eat some innings this year. But they could probably be convinced to trade him.
- Patrick Corbin, Nationals: With $78MM remaining on his contract, Corbin could only be moved as part of a salary dump.
- Stephen Strasburg, Nationals: With $169MM remaining through 2026, Strasburg has one of the least tradeable contracts in baseball. He was set to face live hitters yesterday at the Nats’ spring training facility as he recovers from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery underwent last July. I suppose there’s a scenario where he pitches for a month in the Majors and looks like 2019 Strasburg, and someone goes about the complicated process of taking on some of his contract, but it’s unlikely.
As always, the market will take shape around the middle of July. The Phillies still have a reasonable shot at the playoffs at present despite a disappointing start, but if they fall further, impending free agents like Zach Eflin and Kyle Gibson could be traded. The Red Sox are in a similar place, and could put some interesting names on the market like Nathan Eovaldi, Chris Sale, and James Paxton.