With five days remaining until MLB’s waiver trade deadline, conversations are picking up among contenders looking to add one last key piece or patch up a troubling roster hole. Somewhat surprisingly, teams looking to add starting pitching have two options available that just cleared waivers and can now be traded.
The Mets’ Bartolo Colon is the more prominent of the two names. He surely cleared waivers because of the $11 million he’s owed for next season, along with the nearly $2 million still due this year. Colon is also 41 years old, which has probably raised an eyebrow or two among the general managers thinking about acquiring him.
But Colon has pitched well this year. In addition to compiling a 3.82 ERA, his strikeout rate of seven per nine innings is his best in the past three seasons. And his rate of 1.2 walks per nine frames would be the best of his career and leads National League starting pitchers. Colon’s contract is certainly a concern for any club that doesn’t want to add much payroll, but he would help most any contending rotation.
Scott Feldman of the Astros is the other starter that cleared waivers on Monday. He would require more of a financial commitment, with $18 million remaining on his contract through 2016, in addition to the $2.3 million still owed to him this season. But at 31, Feldman is 10 years younger than Colon. And if club control is an issue, he’s obviously under contract longer.
Feldman has a 4.34 ERA in 143 innings (24 starts) for Houston, with 83 strikeouts and 43 walks. He’s also allowing 10 hits per nine innings this season. But that’s the sort of pitcher Feldman has been throughout his MLB career. He’s not going to strike out a lot of batters and stays around the strike zone, so he’ll give up quite a few hits. But Feldman fits the profile of a durable starter to anchor the back end of its rotation, something every contender needs at this time of year.
Los Angeles Angels
Having lost Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs to season-ending injuries in recent weeks, the Angels are the one team everyone is looking at when it comes to making a deal for Colon or Feldman. Getting another starter likely appears even more urgent after Wade LeBlanc allowed six runs and seven hits in just 3.1 innings Monday against the Marlins.
The question is whether or not the Angels have the prospects the Mets are presumably seeking in a trade. Perhaps GM Jerry Dipoto can swing a deal involving a lesser prospect if the Halos agree to take on all of the $13 million Colon is signed for through next season. But if that was something the Angels were interested in doing, why didn’t they just claim Colon on waivers? Is it possible Dipoto is hoping to get that price down by trading a prospect, or even a major leaguer, instead?
Los Angeles Dodgers
With Hyun-Jin Ryu and Josh Beckett on the disabled list, the Dodgers have been using Kevin Correia and Roberto Hernandez for the last two spots in their rotation. Colon would be an upgrade over those two, and his salary presumably wouldn’t be a problem with the Dodgers’ megabucks payroll. The same applies to Feldman.
Beckett becomes a free agent after the season and Haren may join him (though he seems likely to trigger a vesting option at 180 innings), so perhaps GM Ned Colletti would prefer the younger Feldman at the end of the Dodgers rotation for two additional years. Feldman only has 15 NL starts on his resume with the Cubs, but maybe the team also feels that he’d pitch better in the other league, in a more pitcher-friendly ballpark, with a slightly better defense behind him.
In addition, the Mets and Astros probably prefer to make a deal with the Dodgers, knowing they have a deeper pool of prospects.
Kansas City Royals
The Royals were the third club mentioned by the New York Daily News‘ Andy Martino in speaking with an American League executive about the market for Colon. Kansas City doesn’t appear to have a need for another starting pitcher with all five spots in its rotation filled.
But as I wrote a couple of weeks ago, the workload for Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura may become a concern as the season goes into September. (Ventura will miss Wednesday’s start with back tightness.) Adding another starting pitcher, especially one who can throw a lot of innings, could also help a bullpen that hasn’t been overworked by manager Ned Yost, but might benefit from some rest down the stretch if the opportunity arises.
Pitching depth and insurance could be one last edge the Royals hold over the Tigers as they fight for the AL Central title and a wild-card spot.
At six games back, the Pirates are on the verge of falling out of contention in the NL Central. But Pittsburgh is only 1.5 games away from the NL’s second wild-card spot and could use some reinforcements to provide a boost. The offense has gotten some help by moving Pedro Alvarez to first base, moving Josh Harrison to third, and Travis Snider’s hot bat in right field (pushing Gregory Polanco to the minors).
The Pirates are in the bottom-third of the NL in runs allowed, team ERA and opponents’ OPS, and would benefit from some pitching help. Vance Worley hasn’t pitched well in his past three starts, and Gerrit Cole was just activated from the DL, so an extra arm would be useful. Pittsburgh has the prospects to make a deal for Colon or Feldman, but adding payroll has never been something GM Neal Huntington likes to do — or is able to do.
After getting David Price at the July 31 waiver trade deadline, starting pitching would appear to be the last thing the Tigers need. (Bullpen help and a center fielder may even be higher on GM Dave Dombrowski’s priority shopping list.) But injuries and scheduling have taken a heavy toll on Detroit’s rotation over the past week, resulting in the likes of Robbie Ray and Buck Farmer making starts, with Kyle Lobstein pitching in long relief.
Justin Verlander’s shoulder inflammation did not require a trip to the DL, but Anibal Sanchez’s pectoral injury hasn’t yet healed, so the Tigers could need a starting pitcher. As the team continues to seek bullpen help (putting in a waiver claim for Chad Qualls this week), adding a starter like Colon or Feldman who can log some innings could prevent manager Brad Ausmus from having to go to his bullpen too frequently.