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Philadelphia Phillies in the MLB 2020 free agent market

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Super agent Scott Boras again finds himself in the middle of much of the big Hot Stove season action

 

Welcome to the latest episode of the ‘Ring the Bell‘ podcast. For those simply reading this piece at the website, it doubles as the script for today’s episode.

As I discussed in yesterday’s episode which evaluated the Phillies current roster and payroll situations, the ball club has a number of important needs. General manager Matt Klentak will find himself increasingly under the glare of the spotlight as this Hot Stove season moves along and he attempts to fill those needs.

First, let’s take a minute to run down the list of what I see as those Phillies needs this off-season, in order of importance:

  1. Starting pitching
  2. Starting pitching
  3. Center field
  4. Bench
  5. Bullpen
  6. Third base (?)

That was not a typo in listing ‘Starting Pitching’ twice. It is simply that important, first of all. And also, the club needs two new proven winning veteran starting pitchers, at least one of whom should be an “ace” level rotation arm. Now, let’s take a look at who is available on the free agent market.

STARTING PITCHING

There are two big names here, Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg. They should and will be the Phillies top two targets in free agency. Principal owner John Middleton has made the addition of top-level starting pitching a priority for the team, and is prepared to spend top dollar to secure such an arm.

The problem is not going to be one of either money or will power. The problem for the Phillies will be that they are not the only team in search of this level of pitching talent, not by a long shot.

The world champion and division rival Washington Nationals and their World Series opponents, the Houston Astros, are not simply going to let Strasburg and Cole respectively walk away from their ball clubs without a major effort to retain them.

Also, it is publicly known that the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels will be shopping aggressively for this type of arm as well. Speculation is that the San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago White Sox, and Atlanta Braves are among any number of other teams with the desire and money to land one of these top two starting pitchers.

It’s hard to know what is going through Strasburg’s mind. There has been some speculation that opting out of his contract with the Nationals was purely a strategy to get more money from the only organization he has ever known.

The 31-year-old, 10-year veteran was due to make another $100 million over the next four years in Washington. Some have speculated that he could get another $50 million and another year, at least, on the open market.

While it would not be a surprise to see the Nationals and Strasburg announce a new deal at any point, that is far from a given. The longer he hangs out there on the market, the more clubs are going to his agent, Scott Boras, with interest.

Cole is also represented by the Boras Group. The 29-year-old is the biggest name on the free agent market this winter. I expect to see Boras take him on a tour of interested teams and cities, similar to what we saw happen last year with Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Don’t expect to see Cole sign with anyone until February.

While the Phillies will be in the mix for both, their money and genuine interest making them legitimate contenders, they should not be considered the favorites for either pitcher. Cole, a native of Newport Beach, is said to be interested in either a return to SoCal or a spot at the top of the Yankees rotation. Strasburg, a San Diego native, may also go the SoCal route if he doesn’t return to D.C.

It is going to be curious to watch the Phillies pursuit of a top arm, because as I said, what the rotation really needs is two more experienced, proven, veteran starting pitchers.

The longer that Cole remains unsigned, and Strasburg as well for that matter, and the longer the Phillies genuinely believe that they are in the mix for one or the other, then it becomes a somewhat dangerous game.

There is a large group of talented starting pitchers just below the talent levels of Cole and Strasburg. Most if not all of those pitchers are going to sign somewhere earlier than at least Cole will be signing. The Phillies are going to have to commit to one of the next level of pitchers by Christmas, possibly even within the next few weeks.

The most obvious target would appear to be 2008 World Series MVP Cole Hamels. Turning 36 years of age two days after this coming Christmas, Hamels has already said that he would be open to a return to the club with whom he broke into the big-leagues and first became a star.

Judging by social media, Hamels remains popular with the fan base. And judging by his comments, the feeling is mutual.

MLB Phillies insider Todd Zolecki quoted Hamels earlier this week:

I know Philly is finally trying to make that push. They’re building their roster. If I fit on their roster and their plans, I’d love the opportunity to come back. It’s probably more on their end, though, to reach out and see if I actually do fit in their plans. It would be difficult for me to say, ‘Hey, I want to play there, can you guys make it happen?’ But I’m always willing to play for that team and city and attempt to win a World Series. That’s where I am right now. I just want to have the opportunity to get to the postseason, just so that I can try to win.

Hamels then went on to say, according to Zolecki, that he would even be willing to play on a one-year contract:

I’m not there to handcuff somebody or an organization…I can do one year here and there and just play as long as I can play. I think that’s what will help give me an opportunity to play on teams that are trying to go to the postseason. If you need one guy, I can just kind of bounce around. Obviously, if the Phillies were interested in longer than one, I’d entertain that, too. But I think I want the opportunity to have as many opportunities to get to the postseason and try to win. I’ll go every year. I’ll prove myself. I don’t mind having my back against the wall. I think I perform better like that anyway. It just keeps me more accountable.

This just seems to make too much sense. Hamels is clearly interested in a return to the Phillies. The fans would love to have him back. He has the talent and experience that the club is looking for, and he has something else going for him – Hamels is left-handed. The club has not had a truly effective southpaw in their rotation since, well, since Hamels left in 2015.

No longer in his prime, this could absolutely work on a one-year deal with a club option for another year or two. The Phillies, as long as all the medicals check out, should waste no time with this decision. Klentak should be on the phone with Hamels agent today.

If they just can’t work something out, or don’t want Hamels for some reason, there are other interesting arms.

Available free agent left-handers include 30-year-old, 4x NL All-Star and former World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner…32-year-old, 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel…33-year-old Korean native and 2019 NL All-Star Hyun-Jin Ryu…29-year-old, 2017 NL All-Star Alex Wood.

Available right-handers would include 29-year-old, former first round MLB Draft pick Zack Wheeler…31-year-old, 2016 AL Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello…30-year-old, 2019 AL All-Star Jake Odorizzi.

There are a few dozen other possibilities as well. But frankly, anyone other than the pitchers mentioned already would be a disappointing addition.

The Phillies would be wise to take Hamels up on this word, and wrap him up to fill the 3-4 slot in their starting rotation for 2020. Then they can concentrate all of their efforts into trying to land one of the really big fish.

CENTER FIELD

There are a lot of Phillies fans who seem to think that the club is okay here with either Scott Kingery or Adam Haseley. Frankly, if you truly want to be a contending team, I think that is just crazy talk.

Kingery has handled himself admirably out there for someone who is not a natural outfielder. Haseley deserves much credit for rising from Double-A to a regular big-league role last season.

But neither is the answer for a contending Phillies ball club.

Kingery needs to be handed his natural second base position and allowed to play it every single day, barring some situational need or emergency. Haseley would be well served getting more everyday plate appearances at Triple-A or serving a fourth outfielder apprenticeship in 2020.

There has been some chatter on social media about the team bringing back free agent outfielder Corey Dickerson, who excelled with the Phillies following his arrival from Pittsburgh at this past season’s trade deadline.

Yes, Dickerson hit .293 with eight homers and 34 RBIs in just 137 plate appearances with the Phillies. Extrapolate those numbers over a full season and you have something like a 35 homer, 120+ RBI campaign.

However, the 30-year-old Dickerson is a free agent for the first time. He is going to parlay that performance into a nice, well-deserved payday. And he is, unfortunately, not a center fielder. Just 27 of his 571 big-league games in the outfield have been played in center.

If you are thinking of putting him in left field and having Andrew McCutchen slide over to become the everyday man in center field for the Phillies, you really need to think again.

McCutchen is now 33-years-old and has not played center field regularly in either of his last two seasons. He is coming off major knee surgery as well.

While he can spot-start or slide over temporarily during a situational or emergency need, as he did for 10 starts and 15 total games this past season with the Phillies, he is no longer the player who won a 2012 Gold Glove Award as a center fielder.

Roman Quinn is also not the answer. I love Quinn’s tool set and have been publicly in his corner for a few years now. But even someone who is as big a fan as I am has limits. Quinn has proven that he simply cannot remain healthy long enough to be a reliable starting option.

No, what the Phillies really need is a new center fielder, someone from outside the organization. Unfortunately, there really are not quality options available this year in free agency.

You have a premier defender such as Juan Lagares. There is pure base stealing speed in Billy Hamilton. There is an aging veteran such as 34-year-old, 5x AL All-Star, 4x AL Gold Glove Award winner Adam Jones.

None of those is a realistic option. Jones played just one game in center last year for the Dbacks, and two years ago with Baltimore he was rated as one of the worst regular center fielders in the game defensively by Fangraphs.

Lagares will turn 31-years-old in spring training and has just a .254/.297/.361 career slash line in 2,119 career big-league plate appearances. With a slash of just .242/.297/.326 over 3,089 plate appearances, Hamilton is even worse with a bat in his hands.

There is no answer available in free agency. If the Phillies want to improve in center field, it is going to have to come via trade.

During this past season, I wrote that a worthy trade target could be found in Boston Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. He turns 30 years of age early in the 2020 season and can become a free agent after next year.

If I’m Klentak, I’m on the phone looking to see if we can find a reasonable match in trade for the 2018 Gold Glove Award winner and ALCS Most Valuable Player.

THIRD BASE

Don’t count me among those who feel that the Phillies need a third baseman. Again, this is assuming the club does what I think it should do – give second base to Scott Kingery, and cut ties to Maikel Franco by not offering him arbitration.

If I’m running things, top offensive prospect Alec Bohm is starting at third base on Opening Day 2020. I let him know that right now.

When Bohm’s season ends following the conclusion of the Premier 12 tournament, at which he is Team USA’s starter at the hot corner, I tell him to go home and enjoy the holidays. Just keep working out and stay in shape. Don’t report to Clearwater until early February. And be mentally ready for your role as the Phillies starting third baseman.

Now, that’s me. The club could actually go in a number of directions. They could offer a contract to and bring back Franco as the starter, at least to begin the season. Then let him try to hold off Bohm for as long as he can.

Or the club could offer a contract to Cesar Hernandez, cut ties with Franco, give the third base job to Kingery, and fill center field some other way. Once Bohm is deemed ready, they could either slide Kingery back to center if no good option has emerged, or work out some king of position-sharing scheme involving the players. That option seems too messy.

Another option would be to cut ties with Franco and sign a free agent. There are a handful of interesting options if the Phillies try to take this route.

In order of talent, those free agent options would be Anthony Rendon, Josh Donaldson, and Mike Moustakas.

Rendon will be expensive and would tie up the position for years, meaning that the Phillies would either be banking on the NL getting a DH as soon as the 2021 season, or they would be considering a trade of either Bohm or Rhys Hoskins. I love Rendon as a player, but with Bohm nearly ready, this just doesn’t seem like the right move.

Donaldson just played on a one-year deal with Atlanta at a $23 million salary. He’ll turn 34-years-old a month from today. Perhaps the Phillies could lure him with a similar one-year offer? That would mean Bohm at least starts the season back at Triple-A.

The 31-year-old Moustakas is a bit trickier. He played with Milwaukee this past season at $7 million and received a $1 million buyout of his contract for next year, rather than the Brewers committing to his $11 million mutual option.

Moustakas is going to be seeking a multi-year offer from some team. He is still young enough that someone is likely to make that kind of offer in order to add a 35-homer bat to their lineup. I am betting it won’t be the Phillies.

Again, my choice here is to give the job to Bohm, spend your free agent money on pitching, and move on from the old, losing Franco-Hernandez infield combination.

BENCH

Putting together a bench group that includes at least a few veteran options for new manager Joe Girardi, preferably options that can hit the ball, will be another Klentak challenge.

The Phillies are already slated to have Jay Bruce return. He should help out as a pinch-hitter, on the outfield corners, and could even turn out to be a lefty-hitting backup first base option, giving Hoskins a blow against a few tougher right-handed pitchers. Girardi should be able to get him plenty of at-bats to keep him sharp and happy.

Assuming the Phillies move on from both Franco and Hernandez, as well as Odubel Herrera, that leaves other outfield depth options as Roman Quinn and Nick Williams. The infield would need help. There are a bunch of interesting options who could fit the bill:

The club could try to re-sign 30-year-old Brad Miller, who appeared in 66 games with the Phillies this past season. Miller played four different positions, mostly at third base and in left field, and produced a dozen homers in just 130 plate appearances.

38-year-old Ben Zobrist can play second base and an outfield corner. He even covered shortstop for one game last season with the Cubs.

Starlin Castro turns 30 at the end of spring training. He played both second and third this past year with the Marlins, and even held down shortstop, where he was a former starter, in three games.

At age 36, Howie Kendrick showed just how valuable he can be in a part-time role while helping the Nationals win their World Series. Kendrick, who played in 39 games with the 2017 Phillies, saw time at first, second, and third this year in Washington.

30-year-old Derek Dietrich ripped 19 homers in 306 plate appearances while covering first, second, and left field this year in Cincinnati. He even appeared in one game at the hot corner, and has played in 146 career games there.

33-year-old Eric Sogard hit .290 while playing five different positions between stops in Toronto and Tampa Bay this past season.

Former popular Phillies outfielder Hunter Pence turns 37 in April, and enjoyed a bounce-back campaign in which he was named to the American League All-Star team. His bat, outfield glove, and infectious enthusiasm could be a perfect mix for this team’s bench group.

The Phillies could use a reliable backup catching option, and yesterday I mentioned one of their former prospects as a possibility. That would be 31-year-old Travis d’Arnaud, who finally stayed healthy this past season and showed off his fine combination of offensive and defensive skills.

More veteran backstop options who could add an alternative to Andrew Knapp include 37-year-old Russell Martin, 34-year-old Matt Wieters, 32-year-old Bryan Holaday, 36-year-old Robinson Chirinos, 34-year-old Jonathan Lucroy and a half-dozen or so others.

These are just a representative sample of the dozens of names who could fill out a veteran bench for the Phillies.

BULLPEN

As I mentioned on yesterday’s podcast, assembling a bullpen is a tricky proposition from year to year. The Phillies pen was decimated by injuries this past season, but most of those arms should be back in 2020.

They could do nothing, and still end up with an effective group. However, adding someone as a strong, veteran back-end option couldn’t hurt. Dellin Betances, Will Smith, Steve Cishek, Will Harris, and Pedro Strop are just a few of the couple dozen veteran relievers available.

And how about this possibility: lefty Jake Diekman? Wouldn’t it be sort of ironic if the Phillies brought back both Hamels and Diekman, who they traded away together in 2015, in the same off-season? Diekman turns 33 in January, and struck out 84 batters over 62 innings this past season as a southpaw out of the pen.

Again, as with third base, I don’t feel this is an area of desperate need. But if the Phillies want another bullpen arm, there are plenty from which to choose.

WRAPPING IT UP

Well, that’s a look at the free agent market. The Hot Stove season is officially underway. Free agents can sign with any team at this point, though signings of the bigger names are likely to take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.

And those free agent ranks are only going to swell when the December 2 deadline passes for teams to offer arbitration, which is the decision that the Phillies will need to make on Franco and Hernandez.

As we move through the off-season, this podcast will focus occasionally on rumors regarding the club, and I’ll certainly be talking and writing about any big signings.

I hope you’ll come back tomorrow, when I’ll be talking about the MLB Award winners to this point, as well as the nominees for the major awards to be handed out next week, including the Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Awards in each league.

Remember, you can follow any written pieces or podcast episodes through links at the Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram feeds @philliesbell. I hope you’ll stop by and enjoy. Until next time, God bless you and yours.

Slumping Phillies visit struggling Mets prior to MLB All-Star break

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Phillies visit Citi Field just prior to the 2019 All-Star break

It was just 10 days ago that the Philadelphia Phillies (45-42) season was on life support. Seven straight defeats and losses in nine of their previous 10 games had dropped the club to just a game over the .500 mark.

Turned out the temporary cure at that time was arriving at Citizens Bank Park in the form of the New York Mets, a club perhaps struggling even more than the Phillies.
Now here we are, a week and a half later, and the Phillies season appears to once again have relapsed. Since that visit to South Philly by the Mets, the Phillies have dropped two of three games to both the last-place Miami Marlins and first-place Atlanta Braves.
The Phillies are not only looking up at the Braves in the NL East standings, they are also now trailing behind the Washington Nationals by a game in the loss column. This marks the first time all season that the Phillies have fallen below second place in the division. In fact, they have now also slipped out of even an NL Wildcard playoff slot.
Could the Mets once again prove to be just what the Phillies need to feel a bit rejuvenated heading into next week’s four-day MLB All-Star Game break? As this weekend before that Mid-Summer Classic break begins, the Phillies will visit Flushing, Queens for three games at Citi Field.
The Mets slipped to fourth place in the division back on June 19 and have been stuck there ever since. They are coming off a split in their two-game Subway Series match-up with the New York Yankees and had the day off on Independence Day. Losers of eight of their last 10, the Mets have not won three games in a row since mid-May.

NEW YORK METS

TOP LINEUP THREATS

Michael Conforto: 26-year-old right fielder slashing .247/.361/.477 with 16 homers, 32 extra-base hits, 43 RBIs, 47 runs.
Jeff McNeil: 27-year-old left fielder slashing .349/.411/.516 with 7 homers, 31 extra-base hits, 35 RBIs, 38 runs.
Amed Rosario: 23-year-old shortstop with 9 homers, 42 RBIs, 36 runs.
Todd Frazier: 33-year-old third baseman with 11 homers, 34 RBIs, 27 runs over just 236 plate appearances.
Wilson Ramos: 31-year-old catcher slashing .275/.348/.414 with 9 homers and 41 RBIs played with Phillies in late 2018.

SPOTLIGHT PLAYER

Pete Alonso: 24-year-old rookie first baseman slashing .278/.372/.623 with 28 homers, 50 extra-base hits, 64 RBIs, 55 runs. The Tampa, Florida native was the Mets second round choice at 64th overall in the 2016 MLB Draft out of the University of Florida.
Phillies pitchers have proven to be among the few who have been able to keep Alonso under control. The 6’3″, 240 pounder has slashed just .229/.357/.286 with no home runs and two doubles in the 10 games (9 starts) in which he has played between the two teams this season.
In a recent poll of five MLB scouts, three chose Alonso as having a better long-term career outlook than Yankees young slugging phenom Aaron Judge. “Right now, I’d take Alonso,” one scout told Matthew Cerone of SNY. “Like most of the league’s power hitters, they both use the popular ferris wheel swing, inside out style, but Alonso tends to square up better and often faster.
The Phillies offense has to face three tough pitchers this weekend. Continuing to find a way to keep Alonso under control will prove a major challenge, but one that will be vital to picking up more wins against the struggling Mets.

SCHEDULED STARTING PITCHERS

FRIDAY – Jacob deGrom (31/RH): 4-7, 3.32 ERA, 1.107 WHIP, 92 hits over 103 IP across 17 starts with a 128/22 K:BB. After winning the 2018 NL Cy Young Award, deGrom struggled a bit in the early going. But over his last eight starts, deGrom has allowed as many as three earned runs just once, and has a 2.65 ERA and .235 batting average against. This will be his first start of the year against the Phillies.
SATURDAY – Noah Syndergaard (26/RH): 5-4, 4.56 ERA, 1.242 WHIP, 98 hits over 100.2 IP across 16 starts with a 98/27 K:BB. After spending two weeks on the IL in late June, “Thor” returned to the Mets rotation last week. Just seven of his 16 outings have resulted in Quality Start efforts. The Phillies got to him for five earned runs on nine hits back on April 15 at Citizens Bank Park.
SUNDAY – Zack Wheeler (29/RH): 6-5, 4.42 ERA, 1.246 WHIP, 110 hits over 114 IP across 18 starts with a 123/32 K:BB. Wheeler, set to become a free agent after this season, has been the subject of trade speculation for over a year now. If the Mets don’t spurt back into the race in the next couple of weeks, he is likely to be dealt. He is making the price go up of late, as over his last three starts the righty has allowed just 12 hits and four earned runs over 19.1 IP with a 20/4 K:BB. Wheeler has already made three starts against the Phillies on April 17 and 23, and June 27. The Mets lost the first and last, but on April 23 he tossed a gem, striking out 11 over seven shutout frames.

THE SKIPPER

Mickey Callaway: There was intense speculation that Callaway could be canned after the Phillies swept his club at the start of last week. But the second-year skipper has survived to this point.
The 44-year-old native of Memphis, Tennessee has a 116-133 record at the helm of the Mets. He was recently involved in a high-profile altercation with a member of the New York media and has come under much negative scrutiny in the press over the last two weeks.
Just a week ago, Callaway even seemed to throw in the towel on his team’s 2019 chances. His club sat 6.5 out of a Wildcard berth with seven teams standing between them and the second NL Wildcard slot at the time. “We’re in a tough spot. It’s gonna take a miracle,” The Mets manager told WFAN’s Mike Francesa. ‘I’ve seen miracles before … We’re down in the win-loss column. That’s the bottom line.

THE BALLPARK

Citi Field is located in the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park area of New York City in the borough of Queens. It was built adjacent to the former Shea Stadium, which had been home to the Mets since 1964, and opened to replace that old ballpark for the 2009 season.
There is a normal seating capacity of 41,922 and can fit up to 45,000 when taking standing room into account. The dimensions are 335 and 330 down the left and right field lines. Left-center is a close 358 feet, it is then 385 to deep-left center and 408 to straightaway center field. The deep-right center field fence is 398 feet away, and right-center is at 375 feet.
As homage to a tradition from Shea Stadium, the Home Run Apple, a giant apple which has a Mets logo on the front that lights up, rises from its housing in the center field batter’s eye whenever a Mets player hits a home run.
There is a Mets Hall of Fame & Museum located adjacent to the Jackie Robinson Rotunda at the front entrance to the ball park on the first base side. The museum includes plaques honoring inductees to the team’s Hall of Fame, replicas of the two World Series trophies won by the organziation, and other memorabilia.
An extreme pitcher’s park in it’s first few years, changes to the fences for the 2012 season were made to allow the park to play much more fairly. However, Citi Field still ranks just 22nd in all of Major League Baseball in the ESPN Park Factor rankings for runs scored.

Phillies have a number of potential starting pitching trade targets this summer

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Marcus Stroman is a major trade chip for Blue Jays

Like pretty much every other legitimate contending team in Major League Baseball, the 2019 Philadelphia Phillies could really use another solid veteran pitcher to bolster their starting rotation.

The top four starters for the club this season have been Aaron NolaJake ArrietaZach Eflin, and Nick Pivetta. The Phillies have also given regular turns to Jerad Eickhoff to this point, and just recently finally made the long-anticipated move of flipping Vince Velasquez to the bullpen.
When emergencies have cropped up, 25-year-old lefty Cole Irvin has been given three starts. Manager Gabe Kapler even turned to Jose Alvarez as an “opener” in one game, using the veteran lefty for the first two innings and then bringing in Irvin to cover nearly four frames on June 1 against the Dodgers in Los Angeles.
In most of the Phillies recent seasons, Eickhoff would deserve more of a chance. And he will continue in the rotation as long as he remains healthy and doesn’t completely implode. Having allowed four earned runs or more in half of his 2019 starts, Eickhoff would likely be the odd man out if general manager Matt Klentak was able to bring a solid option in to bolster the rotation.
But is such an arm actually out there and available? In evaluating the landscape in Major League Baseball, there would appear to be a number of such options. Their skills and experience levels are wide-ranging. It could be arguable as to whether a couple of them would be a legitimate upgrade.
These 10 arms seem to be the best possibilities for a trade to the Phillies. Many of them will absolutely find themselves putting on the uniform of a new team prior to the July 31 MLB trade deadline. You can bet that Klentak has already been considering most, if not all, of these pitchers, and has perhaps already been engaging in some preliminary negotiations.
Each pitcher is listed with their their team, “handedness”, age, and 2019 statistics through games of June 8. Also shown is their current contract status.
Trevor Bauer (28/CLE/RHP): 4-6, 3.93 ERA, 1.156 WHIP, 66 hits allowed over 91.2 IP across 14 starts with a 103/40 K:BB. Contract moved from $6.25 million last year to $13 million this year through arbitration. He is again arbitration-eligible for the 2020 season, after which he is due to become a free agent at age 29.
Madison Bumgarner (29/SF/LHP): 3-5, 4.05 ERA, 1.200 WHIP, 80 hits allowed over 80 IP across 13 starts with a 79/16 K:BB. He turns 30-year-old on August 1, and will be a free agent after this season. Currently making $12 million in the final season of an eight-year deal worth just north of $58 million total.
Andrew Cashner (32/BAL/RHP): 6-2, 4.73 ERA, 1.379 WHIP, 71 hits over 70.1 IP across 13 starts with a 51/26 K:BB. The least attractive arm on this list, but perhaps also the least expensive from the perspective of what you would have to give up. Making $9.5 mill this year, $10 mill option for next year is guaranteed if he reaches 187 innings this season, which is not likely. If not, he becomes a free agent after this season, so the commitment is also short-term.
Zack Greinke (35/ARZ/RHP): 7-2, 2.87 ERA, 0.935 WHIP, 68 hits over 87.2 IP across 14 starts with an 82/14 K:BB. Did you realize Greinke was already 35-years-old? Good for you, because I thought he was about three years younger before researching this piece. He is owed $35 mill in each of the next two seasons. His performance has shown no signs of slipping over the last few years. Can he actually remain an All-Star caliber ace for two more? That would be the big bet.

Lefty Mike Minor of the Texas Rangers will be a hot commodity as the 2019 MLB trade deadline approaches. (Keith Allison)
Mike Leake (31/SEA/RHP): 5-6, 4.30 ERA, 1.273 WHIP, 88 hits over 81.2 IP across 13 starts with a 56/16 K:BB. Along with Cashner, he isn’t going to elicit excitement in the fan base. But Leake is a steady, reliable, experienced starting pitcher who got a start in the 2014 NLDS for the Cincinnati Reds. He will earn $15 mill next year, with $4 of that paid by Saint Louis. He has a 2021 mutual option for $18 million with a $5 mill buyout.
Mike Minor (31/TEX/LHP): 5-4, 2.55 ERA, 1.217 WHIP, 73 hits over 81.1 IP across 13 starts with an 87/26 K:BB. The southpaw is owed $9.83 mill for next season and then is due to become a free agent. After missing most of the 2015 season and all of 2016 following shoulder surgery, Minor came back in 2017 as a reliever with Kansas City. Texas signed him as a free agent, moved him back into the rotation where he began his career in Atlanta, and he has looked strong.
Tanner Roark (32/CIN/RHP): 4-5, 3.74 ERA, 1.411 WHIP, 68 hits over 67.1 IP across 13 starts with a 69/27 K:BB. He will become a free agent after this season, in which he is being paid just $10 million. The ultimate pure rental.
Aaron Sanchez (26/TOR/RHP): 3-7, 4.25 ERA, 1.542 WHIP, 71 hits over 72 IP across 14 starts with a 61/40 K:BB. The youngest and cheapest salaried arm on this list is making $3.9 mill this year and arbitration-eligible next season, after which he can become a free agent. What is Sanchez? Starter or reliever? Sort of a Velasquez-type situation. Do the Phillies want to get involved in that again? Do they believe he can be more?
Marcus Stroman (28/TOR/RHP): 3-8, 3.31 ERA, 1.322 WHIP, 80 hits over 81.2 IP across 14 starts with a 63/28 K:BB. Making $7.4 million, eligible for arbitration next season, and then up for his first possible taste of free agency. Stroman is one of the more intriguing options out there and will be highly sought at this year’s deadline. The Jays could wait until the off-season or even into next year before making a deal, so the cost in trade to add a talented arm in his prime would be high.
Zack Wheeler (29/NYM/RHP): 5-3, 4.61 ERA, 1.226 WHIP, 78 hits over 84 innings across 13 starts with a 93/25 K:BB. Pending free agent would be a great candidate for a trade-for-and-extend deal for the Phillies. However, his being on the market at all would require the Mets falling totally out of the race, so it wouldn’t happen until after the MLB All-Star break in all likelihood, if at all. Even then, would the Mets deal him inside the division? Sure, if the Phillies paid the right price. Tough one. Would probably have to give up good prospects, with no guarantee beyond the last 2-3 months of this season.