Starting Rotation Options: Trades


A couple weeks ago, I took a look at some of the free agent starting pitchers who should be available this offseason. The bad news for the Twins, who need at least one (probably two or three) new starting pitchers,is that the field is pretty weak. The good news  is that free agency isn’t the only way to get a new starter. Today I’ll discuss trades.

I do not have any sort of insider information here – most big league GMs don’t return my e-mails, and they tend to get annoyed when I eavesdrop on their phone calls. So instead, I’m basing this list on informed speculation. Teams are more likely to trade talented veteran players when they are rebuilding, or when those players are a year or two from free agency, and likely to hit a big payday. I have also (mostly) tried to avoid ridiculous trades. For example, I won’t suggest the Twins should pursue Tim Lincecum or Roy Halladay, because their team’s GMs would hang up on Bill Smith even faster than they hang up on me if he suggested those moves.

Ryan Dempster

The Cubs righthander seems to be the subject of trade rumors every year. Like Carl Pavano, he’s a veteran innings eater, good for double digit wins almost any season. Unlike Pavano, he can strike opposing hitters out (an important quality to have, given the Twins’ porous defense). The Cubs are a losing team with over $110 million committed to 2012 payroll, so they’ll probably be looking to trade away some pricy players. A team that wants Dempster might not have to give up too much in return. But he turns 35 next May, and his contract expires after 2012.

Matt Garza

Garza, the former Twin, has been solid for the hapless Cubs, with an 8-10 record, a 3.54 ERA, and 175 Ks as of this writing. At age 27 and signed through 2014, he’d be harder to pry away from the Cubs than Dempster. There’s also the issue of his personality, which apparently didn’t mesh well with the Twins’ clubhouse four years ago. But if the Twins were willing to offer a top prospect or two, the Cubs would probably listen.

Josh Johnson

Johnson is a true ace – when healthy. But health has been the biggest problem for the 6’7″ lefty. A shoulder problem has kept him out since May. Given his poor health, and the stingy Marlins’ tendencies to trade away players to save money, it’s possible that Johnson, who is signed through 2013, may make it to the trading block. Then again, the Marlins open a new stadium next season, so they may be looking to hold on to their stars to attract more fans. One interesting note: Johnson was born in Minneapolis, so it’s likely that he has some emotional connection to the area.

Clayton Kershaw

Another true ace, Kershaw is making just $500,000 this year. But he’s due for a huge payday thanks to arbitration. Normally the idea of trading a young star like Kershaw would be completely ridiculous. But the Dodgers have had some well-documented financial troubles this year. If their financial situation continues to spiral out of control, they may have to deal some key players. In the unlikely event that happens, the Dodgers would certainly demand a huge haul of prospects in return.

Wandy Rodriguez

Another pitcher who always seems to be the subject of trade rumors, Rodriguez would be an interesting addition to the Twins’ rotation. The 32 year old has some strikeout ability, and he has kept his ERA under 3.60 for each of the last three seasons. Rodriguez is signed through 2013 with an option for 2014. Rodriguez is probably the most likely name on this list to be traded. He would not be an ace for the Twins, but he’d make a great number 2 or number 3 guy.

Jonathan Sanchez

MLB Trade Rumors recently reported that the Giants’ lefty is a non-tender candidate, which means he might be available as a free agent. If the Giants do offer him a contract, he may be available via trade. The talented 28 year old lefty is intriguing; he struck out 205 batters and posted a 3.07 ERA in 2010. But his 2011 season has been very weak. Sanchez is the exact opposite of a “pitch to contact” guy, which would make him an instant hit with fans sick of that approach. The Twins could take a chance to buy low on the lefty strikeout artist.

What to Give Up in Return?

The problem with trades, of course, is that the Twins would have to give up players to get players. Most likely, if they wanted to acquire any of the players on this list, they’d have to part with several of the organization’s top prospects. The Twins would be at a disadvantage in negotiations, because their farm system is weak at the highest levels. But players like Aaron Hicks and Joe Benson wuold probably carry some weight on the trade market. Whether it would be worth parting with them is another matter.