Blue Jays Deadline Fixes takes a look at starting pitchers who could be available at a knock down price that can help Toronto make that push back to the post-season.
Welcome to “Blue Jays Deadline Fixes”, where we take a look at players the Blue Jays can target to fix what ails them on the diamond and improve the chances of another playoff run.
This installment looks at some starting pitchers that might be available for relatively cheap. Pitchers that cost less than a Jeff Hoffman, but a little more than a Sean Ratcliffe. They aren’t going to put up David Price numbers, but might be able to match what Johnny Cueto did for the Royals at a fraction of the price.
Given that the Blue Jays seem committed to dragging Aaron Sanchez kicking and screaming back to the bullpen while Marco Estrada has a small injury concern and Marcus Stroman has been showing too much to batters, some more starting pitching help would be appreciated. For a team that’s already proving to be very shrewd on the trade front with the Jason Grilli pickup, here are six starting pitchers who could reap similar dividends.
Rich Hill, Oakland Athletics
Not breaking any new ground with this one. Hill, who at this point last year was a free agent about to sign with the Long Island Ducks, is now the most in-demand starting pitcher at the deadline. After a whirlwind four game September appearance with Boston last season, Hill signed a one-year, $6M show-me deal with Oakland that was widely panned as paying for one month’s performance. Billy Beane looks to have exploited another market inefficiency as Hill has thrilled for a team with little to cheer for. 9-3 with a 2.25 ERA, with that terrible Athletics defense behind him, Hill looks ready to pay off in another way for Oakland.
The Blue Jays have sent scouts to watch Hill work, as the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo reports. The problem is their main rivals have done likewise, as the Red Sox, Orioles and Royals have all sent scouts to watch him work. This will likely drive the price on Hill higher than the Blue Jays would like, and given his recent success in Boston, a return to Fenway might be more tempting for the 36-year-old.
Jeremy Hellickson, Philadelphia Phillies
Should the Blue Jays fail to land Hill, Hellickson is not a bad fall back option. Similar to Hill, the 29-year-old signed a one year show-me deal, the Phillies paying $7M for his services after acquiring him a trade with Arizona. Hellickson has been more than serviceable as the veteran arm in Philadelphia’s kid-laden rotation, sitting at 6-6 and a 3.97 ERA. His 7.9 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 rates are also the best of any full season.
The Blue Jays are very familiar with Hellickson’s work. The former Ray stared them down for over four seasons on the other side of the AL East battles, so he knows the division well. So do the Red Sox, who also have interest in the Des Moines, Iowa native. The Phillies have responded by scouting the Boston farm system, so again, competition will drive up the price, but it’s unlikely the Red Sox will be able to land both.
Andrew Cashner, San Diego Padres
There is a common theme in the cheap portion of the starting position available, most of them are rentals. No team control and set to become UFAs at the end of the year. Cashner is no exception. Another 29-year-old, previously best known for being “That guy San Diego got for Anthony Rizzo“, Cashner has been a good starting option for the Padres since arriving from the Cubs, with a 3.70 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in five seasons. That includes this year, when he’s been less than stellar. In 13 starts, the bearded one’s been rocked to the tune of a 5.40 ERA, while his H/9 and HR/9 numbers have spiked dramatically, to 10.1 and 1.6 respectively.
This is as close to a Grilli candidate as you will find on this market, bar some Atlantic League-deep diving, and the Padres have opened the doors to dealing everyone under the Petco Park shade. Jeff Todd of MLB Trade Rumors reports Boston and Kansas City as both being interested in taking some Cash, but he’s far from their top priority, especially given the strained neck the Texan suffered earlier this year that landed him on the DL. If Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro want to try and steal another arm, this is the guy to target.
Hector Santiago / Matt Shoemaker, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The bottom has fallen out of the Angels this season, and Mike Trout‘s teammates are going to pay the price for it. The offense has been spotty and the starting pitching has been dreadful, but there are a couple targets that can be had. Santiago has regressed from his All-Star form of last year, a full run spike in the ERA, while the BB/9 has climbed back above four. He’s eligible for arbitration at the end of the season, which means an extra year of team control for the 28-year-old. MLB’s Alden Gonzalez believes the Angels can shop Santiago now that he’s heated up, but the Newark native might be a better fit for the suddenly pitching-depleted Mets.
Shoemaker, when he’s not battling Cashner for beard supremacy rights among pitchers, is a more attractive piece. He’s not lighting the baseball world on fire like he was in 2014, when he went 16-4 and came in second in AL Rookie of the Year voting to some guy named Jose Abreu. He’s also not likely to be on the block, as he has four years of team control left, but at 29 and a far cry from those halcyon days when Waves dominated radio waves, Shoemaker will likely be available.
ESPN’s Keith Law rated the Angels’ farm system dead last in his rankings at the start of the season. Trading away one of their starting pitchers would help put a little value back into it. Whether or not the Blue Jays have the pieces to help fill that system, that will be up to Angels GM Billy Eppler to decide.
CC Sabathia, New York Yankees
OK, stick with me on this.
Yes, Sabathia has a ridiculous $23M salary. However, there is a $5M buyout clause at the end of this season that makes him a free agent, and two month’s salary is peanuts for a pitcher that has shown he can dominate well into the post-season, as his ridiculous 2008 Milwaukee run showed. Rogers won’t be on the hook for anything other than that $5M should they choose that option, so the finances make sense.
Yes, Sabathia has a no-trade clause. However, there is no reason to believe that he wouldn’t wave it for another run at the playoffs, even with an AL East rival.
Yes, Sabathia is 35 and was in rehab last year. However, he has found something this season that has led some of his best work since 2012. In May, he had the second lowest ERA (1.04) among qualified pitchers, behind another dominant lefty who plies his trade out west. Fangraphs reported that Sabathia junked his four-seam fastball, which had lost six mph from it’s peak velocity in 2011, and replaced it with a cutter/sinker combo reminiscent of latter-career Roy Halladay. It’s been very effective, contributing to his lowest ERA since 2012 (3.77) and his lowest HR/9 rate since 2011 (0.6).
Yes, he is still a hated Yankee, but David Price was a hated Ray before coming to Toronto. Plus, those hated Yankees are of a new breed now, the kind that wants to shed payroll and focus on developing players, which they can’t do with CC taking turns away from guys like Brady Lail and Dietrich Enns who have a chance of being a part of the hopefully distant future when the Yankees might contend again. The New York Post knows the Yanks are in firesale mode, and mentioned a lot of pieces available who aren’t named CC. It’s the kind of stealth move that teams make to grab victory.
There isn’t a David Price on the market this year. In-form CC Sabathia might be as close as teams can get. It’s worth the risk.
*Featured Image Credit: freaktography UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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