You can never have enough pitching the saying goes. As we have seen with free agent signings like Zack Greinke and Anibal Sanchez and blockbuster trades like the James Shields and R.A. Dickey deals, the cost of pitching has never been higher. Here are five pitchers who could become trade bait this off-season as the market narrows.
Johan Santana: Following the trade of R.A. Dickey, dealing Johan Santana following a season in which he threw the first ever no-hitter for the Mets franchise would be a sore test of fan loyalty, but it would also make sense. Santana missed the entire 2011 season with shoulder issues and managed just 117 innings last year. His 4.85 ERA is not going to help things, but Santana still showed some of the skills that made him so dominant early in his career during the 2012 season.
He struck out 8.5 per nine with league average walk rate and his ability to miss bats was still very good, with a 11.6% swinging strike rate. The Mets would need to eat the majority of the $30.5M he is owed from his 2013 contract and the $5M buyout for 2014, but for a low cost, he could still be an impact player for a contender if he can stay on the field.
Ricky Nolasco: The Marlins are in full sell mode once again, but finding a taker for Nolasco may prove difficult. He is a puzzling guy. He has been durable, throwing over 180 innings and making 30+ starts in four of the last five years, but what you will get in those innings is a mystery. His strikeout rate has been on the free fall, going from 9.5 K/9 in 2009 all the way down to just 5.9 last season. That is problematic, but his ERA has gone down as well, thanks in large part to a ground ball rate that has gone from 38.3% to 46.6% over the same period.
Despite the shift in pitching style, Nolasco has never had an ERA better than league average, or FIP worst than league average. He is owed $11.5M for next season, so
Aaron Harang: While Molasco has consistently underperformed the fielding independent numbers, Aaron Harang is coming off of a season in which he posted a very good 3.61 ERA in 31 starts for the Dodgers despite the continued decline of his peripherals. In 2012, Harang walked 4.3 batters per nine, his highest rate since his rookie season and featured a strikeout rate that was well below league average, but he still managed to be 4% better than league average (by ERA-).
He has been a fairly reliable source of innings outside of an injury plagued 2010 season, but he is one of the most extreme fly ball pitchers in the game and a tough fit for many teams playing in home run friendly parks. He is owed $7M for 2013 with a $2M buyout should his team turn down the $7M mutual option in 2014.
At that price, he is not going to bring the Dodgers much in return prospect-wise, but
Gavin Floyd: The White Sox surprised a lot of people by giving the Tigers a run for their money in 2012 and they could sneak up on people again in 2013, but with some many of their best players past their prime, Chicago could look to move righty Gavin Floyd to address other holes in the team or with an eye to the future. Floyd is owed $9.5M in 2013 and will be a free agent after the season, so he won’t command the type of haul superior pitchers like James Shields or R.A. Dickey have, but his salary is quite reasonable and he has shown the ability to be an average or better starter quite consistently. 2012 was something of an off-year for the 29 year old.
He posted a 4.29 ERA in 168 innings and saw his walk rate jump above league average for the first time since 2008. However, Floyd has been pitching in the home run haven that is U.S Cellular Field and his 12.8% HR/FB rate was his highest since his rookie season. In a different environment, Floyd could be a good number three starter and if he is made available interest should be high, even if teams are asked to pick up the full value of his 2012 contract.
Matt Garza: Garza could well be known as Matt "Trade Rumor" Garza for all the speculation that has surrounded him in his career. He has been traded twice already in his young career and a third deal could just be a few healthy innings away. He was a lock to be moved last season before he suffered an elbow injury that shut him down after 103 innings and 18 starts. He is in his final arbitration season and will be a free agent next year, so the team acquiring him will not have risk a long term commitment.
Prior to the injury, his strike out, walk and ground ball rates were all on par with his strong career numbers, so it should just be a matter of showing teams he is healthy. If he can address that in Spring Training he may hit the market before opening day, but an in season trade is the most likely option.