When the trade deadline nears each year, there’s always a big name or two associated with the Yankees. This year is no exception, as the biggest name on the market, Roy Halladay, has been linked with the Bombers. That talk has since quieted. Toronto is asking a lot for their ace, as they should. The Yankees, already spending over $30 million on their top two pitchers this year (counting CC’s signing bonus), apparently don’t want to take on yet another hefty salary and surrender their top prospects. There’s still a chance they swoop in at the last minute, but it’s not at all likely.
This morning, Mike looked at other starting pitchers who could be on the market. With Sergio Mitre holding down the fifth spot in the rotation until further notice, the Yankees are right to keep their feelers out for any potential deals. But does it have to be for a starter? After all, they do have a perfectly good starter in the bullpen right now. They could always acquire a reliever and take the time to stretch out Hughes. What relievers could they acquire?
We’ve surely done this exercise before, but the landscape has changed in July. Some guys we’d thought were available are now not. Others who previously flew under the radar are now showing up. Here’s the most up-to-date list. I’m sure we’ll do this again next week.
Chad Qualls and Jon Rauch
At 21 games back in the NL West and 12 games back of the Wild Card, the Diamondbacks are essentially done. This puts them in the sellers’ column. The Yanks could be interested in two of their relief pitchers: Chad Qualls and Jon Rauch. Both are 30 years old, and both are posting solid seasons.
Qualls boasts a decent strikeout rate and a super-impressive walk rate (1.1 per nine). He could fit into the eighth inning role nicely. His Major League experience dates back to 2004, and he’s never posted an ERA above 3.76 in any season. He’s also kept his walk rate below 3 per nine in every season he’s pitched. The only problem is that he’s relatively cheap for a closer ($2.535 million this season), and still has one more arbitration year. The D’Backs might want to hold onto him for their 2010 campaign.
Rauch pitched horribly after the Nationals traded him to the Diamondbacks last season, and started off equally poorly this season. Since the 27th of May, though, the 6′ 11″ righty has been quite good, allowing just five runs over 22.2 innings, striking out 12 and walking five. He’s thrown strikes — 65 percent — and has kept the ball in the park, surrendering just one homer in that span. He’s another one the D’Backs might want to keep, though: he has an affordable $2.9 million club option for 2010.
After three and a half solid seasons at the big league level, Rafael Betancourt exploded in 2007, posting a 1.47 ERA and striking out 80 batters over 79.1 innings. More impressively, he walked just nine batters all season. After a clunker of a 2008 season, Betancourt has returned to his pre-2007 form this year. That is, a fairly capable bullpen arm. He’s striking out about a batter per inning, though his walk rate is way up (4.4 per nine). The last-place Indians could certainly deal him now rather than make a decision on his $5.4 million club option in the off-season.
Betancourt missed all of June with an injury. He’s appeared five times since returning, pitching an inning each time and allowing just two hits and one run, walking one. It’s nothing to make a trade on, but it could entice a team with a bullpen need to make a move.
Neal Huntington took over as Pirates GM in September 2007, and he’s absolutely cleaned house. Of the main eight starters that season, based on plate appearances, just two remain: Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez. And guess what? He’s making an effort to trade them now, though both could hit free agency after the season. He does have a few pitchers left over from before his time, and just about every one of them is available in some capacity.
The Yanks already snagged Damaso Marte from Huntington, and the hope is that he can contribute in August. Even so, the Yanks could add another arm. Seemingly atop Pittsburgh’s dish-list is free agent to be John Grabow. His ERA sits pretty at 3.07, but his walk rate, almost 5 per nine, is unacceptable. Looking at his hit and walk rate combined, it would seem that he’s due for an implosion. Let that happen on another team.
The Oakland A’s are just no good this year. When they’re not competing, you know Billy Beane is working behind the scenes to pick up some young players. One interesting name is Michael Wuertz, a 30-year-old righty who quietly pitched well in the Cubs bullpen before this season. The A’s acquired him in a minor move, and it has paid off.
Wuertz currently boasts the lowest walk rate of his career, and is combining it with excellent strikeout numbers. His slider has been deemed the toughest pitch to hit in baseball. Problem is, the A’s have his rights through the 2011 season, so he won’t come cheap. Players rarely do when Billy Beane deals them.
This list doesn’t look too promising. Most of the players are either bad or under team control for a number of years. The Yankees won’t want any of the former — they have enough mediocre bullpen arms, thank you very much — and the latter might cost a bit much. Still, if they’re going to deal for an arm, these are basically the guys on the list. What’s the preference out in Yankeeland? I’m a Rauch guy myself, and think he could come at the best value, considering his contract, age, and team.