On Monday, Ken Rosenthal reported that the Red Sox were pushing to acquire a starting pitcher and wanted to do so sooner than later. As I discuss in the linked post, it makes sense, as the team has a clear hole that has no chance of being filled internally. This team is in a crowded American League wildcard race and needs to win as many games as possible as quickly as possible if they want to separate themselves from some of these other teams. So, we know they are motivated and we know — as long as we believe Rosenthal, and there is zero reason not to — that they are actively looking for answers. The question now is who they could possibly be targeting. To answer this question, let’s go through all of the likely sellers on the market and see what they can offer in terms of starting pitchers.
Candidate(s): Andrew Cashner
The Orioles are perhaps (probably? definitely?) the worst team in baseball, so it’s no surprise that they don’t have a ton of potential trade chips to help teams that want to win now. If they have any starters who could be moved before the deadline, it’s Cashner. The righty is actually having a better year in 2019 than he has in recent seasons, but he doesn’t miss bats and if his control takes a step back towards career norms he’ll be more of a liability than a help. Cashner is a Plan D type option, not someone to target right now.
Candidate(s): Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez
The Blue Jays have an exciting future, but they are still building for a couple years from now and anyone who isn’t going to help in that window isn’t going to be kept. That includes Stroman, who will be one of the more exciting targets of the summer. He’s not an ace, but he has solid command and gets a ton of ground balls which helps keep the home run rate down. Teams have apparently asked about packages including him and closer Ken Giles, which is probably too expensive for the Red Sox but would be a perfect duo to add to the roster. Sanchez was once supposed to be part of a one-two punch with Stroman, but he’s had a brutal year and has had major control issues. I don’t think Toronto would trade him at his current value, and even if they would he’d be a wildcard reclamation project rather than an answer to Boston’s rotation woes.
Candidate(s): Matt Boyd
Detroit is going to be one of the centers of this trade deadline because of Boyd, who is one of the more exciting targets who is readily available right now. There is going to be plenty of competition for the Tigers southpaw, who is under control through 2022. He’s striking out 12 batters per nine innings this year with an elite walk rate to boot. He would be the kind of legitimate upgrade this team needs and the Red Sox are surely interested. That said, they have reportedly asked for prospects like Kyle Tucker in return. The Red Sox farm system doesn’t have that kind of talent, so this could be a longshot for Dave Dombrowsi and the Red Sox.
Candidate(s): Danny Duffy, Homer Bailey
The Royals are yet another bottom-feeder in the American League who are obvious sellers, and have a couple of arms that could be available this summer. Duffy would have been a hot commodity a couple of years ago but has seen his stock drop significantly over the last two seasons. He’s due $15.25 million over the next two years after 2019 so the Red Sox may not want to take on that contract, but if they believe they can tweak something and get the Royals to eat some money (what a crazy sentence that is) perhaps this could be a nice buy-low. Bailey, meanwhile, wouldn’t be a needle-mover, but he could provide innings and has been better in 2019 than in recent memory. Like Cashner, it’s not Plan A but could be the move in a week or two if the market proves more expensive than the Red Sox anticipated.
Candidate(s): Mike Leake
As we all know, the Mariners got off to a hot start this year but cooled off considerably and are clearly building for the future. Leake likely won’t be a part of that future and will be on the block this summer. He is perhaps the most boring option on this list, but that doesn’t mean he’s bad. Leake is a prototypical average innings-eater. His home run tendencies would have me worried about him moving east, but he wouldn’t require a major return and if the rest of the rotation pitches to their potential they wouldn’t need huge production from the number five spot. The biggest hangup here could be that Leake is owed $11 million next year and has a $5 million buyout for 2021.
Candidate(s): Mike Minor
The Rangers aren’t making and trades along these lines right now, and there’s certainly no guarantee they become sellers at all. Texas is right in the thick of the playoff race, just a game worse than the Red Sox right now. That said, Minor has been a rumored trade chip for a while now so I have to mention him. If he does become available I certainly think the Red Sox would look into that possibility. Minor has been phenomenal this year and if he does become available the southpaw would be a highly sought after commodity. He’s under control next year for a little under $10 million, too.
Candidate(s): Zack Wheeler, Jason Vargas
The Mets seem to be avoiding committing to a rebuild, and trying to predict what this organization will do at any point is a fool’s errand. That said, it’d be surprising if they don’t eventually sell. Wheeler will be the most targeted pitcher from this roster, as he’s a free agent at the end of the year. With the lack of future control he may not cost quite as much as some of the other top-end names on this list, but the 29-year-old could be as much of a help for this year. His ERA of 4.69 in 2019 is ugly, but his 3.65 FIP and 3.12 DRA provide more optimism. Home runs have hurt him a lot this year, though a move to the American League East won’t really help matters. Still, he’s probably my favorite target on this entire list, and the Red Sox are indeed reportedly talking with New York about the righty. Vargas is another Bailey/Cashner/Leake-tier guy. He’s pitched surprisingly well this year, but it’s hard to see that continuing.
Candidate(s): Tanner Roark
The NL Central is a jumbled mess with all five teams realistically having an argument to avoid making any decisions for the next couple weeks. The Reds are five games under .500, but they also have a positive run differential and are only 4.5 out of the wildcard. They have enough young players up and in the majors that they could talk themselves into wanting to get experience in a playoff race. Still, Roark isn’t such a big piece that they’d need to hold on to stay in the race. The righty is getting strikeouts at a much higher rate than usual this year, and while his fly ball rate is a big concerning this year with a potential move to the American League, it’s not like he’s doing it in a pitcher’s park right now. Roark wouldn’t quite be a game-changer, but he’d be a solid addition.
Candidate(s): Madison Bumgarner, Drew Pomeranz
The Giants are no longer clear sellers, at least according to their front office, but I’d still expect them to sell by the end of the month. In terms of name value, Bumgarner is the top pitcher who could be available this summer and it’s not particularly close. The former World Series hero is one of the most famous pitchers in the game, but his production just isn’t at that level anymore. The lefty is still good, but he’s not an All-Star, Cy Young-level arm anymore. He would certainly help the Red Sox, to be fair, but I worry the asking price will be too high for is current skill level. As for Pomeranz....just kidding.