There is no secret about the fact that the Detroit Tigers would like to improve their starting pitching rotation. Regardless of whether Justin Verlander can get back to being a dominant force, or whether Alfredo Simon can even be worthy of staying in the rotation, the Tigers need pitching help if they want to make a run at another division title.
The numbers halfway through the season show that Detroit’s rotation ranks 13th in the American League with a 4.45 ERA. They rank 11th in FIP, WAR, and strikeout rate, and matters are only getting worse. Over the past 30 days, Detroit’s starters have an ERA of 5.16 and an FIP of 4.84.
Kyle Lobstein started the season in the rotation, followed by Buck Farmer, and then Kyle Ryan. Shane Greene is struggling in Triple-A Toledo, and fans are even starting to miss Lobstein with his 4.34 ERA and 3.78 strikeouts per nine innings. Let’s face it, there are no answers within the organization.
Here is a look at 10 starting pitchers who might be available at the trade deadline.
Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies
With a contract of $22.5 million per season that runs through 2018 (and a vesting option), plus being among the top 10 pitchers in the major leagues over the past three seasons, Hamels is in a class by himself in terms of value. The Phillies will want a premium package of young talent in return, making him the most expensive man on this list. In 2015, he has a 3.02 ERA, striking out 9.5 batters per nine innings. At age 31, he should have several good years in his left arm remaining.
Jeff Samardzija, Chicago White Sox
The Chicago native and former Notre Dame football star went from the Cubs to Oakland, then was traded to the White Sox during the offseason. He is making $9.8 million in his final year of arbitration eligibility, and will be a free agent following the 2015 season. His ERA hasn’t been sparkling, but he ranks 16th in fWAR and fifth in innings pitched in the majors since 2013. Shark presents a solid set of numbers that will earn him a big contract in free agency in the offseason.
Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati Reds
Cincinnati won’t be able to keep their ace starter when he becomes a free agent after this season, so would be wise to get as much for him as they can. He ranks in the top 10 starters in the majors over the past two seasons with an ERA of 2.37, striking out almost a batter per inning. At age 29, he will be one of the top free agent pitchers in the offseason. Start the bidding at a couple of very good major league ready prospects.
Bartolo Colon, New York Mets
The durable 42-year-old former Cy Young winner just keeps on throwing strikes. He keeps his team in the game most starts, so he has value. He’s in the second year of a two-year, $20 million contract and the Mets have already headed south for the winter, so he should be available for much less than some of the other starters on the market.
Scott Kazmir, Oakland Athletics
The 31-year-old lefthander is in the second of a two-year, $22 million contract. He is having one of his best seasons with a 2.49 ERA, a 1.12 WHIP, and 8.5 strikeouts per nine innings. He has had issues with consistency and durability in the past, but has been a solid pitcher the past couple of seasons. He is worth a qualifying offer, which he will reject, so start the bidding at a couple of very good prospects.
Mike Fiers, Brewers
Despite being 30 years of age, this right hander has four full seasons to go before free agency, and won’t be eligible for arbitration until 2017. He’s earning just above the minimum and has solid numbers. If Milwaukee is going to trade him, bring a couple good prospects to the table.
Ian Kennedy, San Diego Padres
Since being traded from New York to Arizona in the three-team mega trade in 2009, Kennedy has averaged over 200 innings per season. He has a career ERA of 4.00, but is not having a particularly good season. He presents as a reliable starting pitcher who can be dominant but inconsistent. He is a free agent at the end of this season and is earning $9.85 million this season.
Mat Latos, Miami Marlins
After nine starts with a 6.12 ERA, Latos went on the disabled list, but has returned and righted the ship. He’s had an ERA in the low 3's for the past four seasons, but that’s up this year. His FIP suggests he is much closer to his career numbers. This is a very good pitcher who is worth trading good prospects, but he is an expensive rental.
Kyle Lohse, Milwaukee Brewers
The 14-year veteran is in the final season of a three year, $33 million contract and is not having a good season in his "walk year." He’s had a bad experience turning down a qualifying offer, so he may be open to a reasonable extension. He doesn’t walk many batters but isn’t a big strikeout pitcher, and he serves up his share of home run balls. He is good for close to 200 innings in the middle of an average rotation. A crowded market could drive his price tag down.
Clay Buchholz, Boston Red Sox
There are some big ifs here. If the Red Sox are willing to throw in the towel in July, and if they are willing to trade Buchholz, the question is if the Tigers have enough to get him and if they’re willing to pay a high price. Buchholz has outperformed his ERA by a good margin the past couple of seasons. He is the best starter on the Boston staff, with an FIP of 2.54 and a WHIP of 1.19. He earns $12 million this season and has two team options at $13 million the next two years.
Honorable mention: Dan Haren, Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross, Aaron Harang.
Following is a link to a customized chart, sortable by any statistic, or convertible to multiple seasons. Check it out!