A few weeks ago, after a disappointing start by Dan Haren, I investigated the possibilities for a 5th starter. I’m not going to get into how bad his 6.15 ERA is, or that his 61 ERA+ only looks good compared to Espinosa‘s OPS+.
Today, Boz made the point that, thanks to the size of the crowds, the Nats certainly have money to spend. So I want to take a look at the list I made before, which included most of the guys Boz mentioned – Garza, Nolasco and Feldman.
I am still not certain going after the other two he mentioned – Yovani Gallardo and Cliff Lee is realistic. If money was the only object, then sure, get either of them. But I doubt that Nats would be willing to give up the requisite minor leaguers to get these guys. Cliff Lee is worth more to the Phillies, even if they were eliminated from the race, as trade bait. I really don’t think they’d give him up for just the cash. And I’m still under the presumption that the Nats don’t have the minor leaguers to give up in order to get a 5th starter. Now, if Joe Mauer was suddenly available…
As I mentioned last time, here I’m looking for starting pitchers who could be considered rentals, who have been playing well enough that the Nats might want him, and who are on teams that might be willing to give players up. I’m not looking at guys who might cost a ton of minor leaguers, but nobody good is gonna be had for a song, so some level of competence probably means the Nats would have to give something up.
Alright, on with the updates, starting with the guy’s Boz named:
Matt Garza (CHC) – Almost immediately after we last checked in with Garza, he somehow managed to give up 9 ER in 5 IP. While 6 ER sixth inning sounds very Haren-like, it’s probably worse than it looks. That’s because like your snowman after you picked up on the par 4 which could have easily been a 10 or 11, most pitchers just don’t stay in long enough to get blown up that much. His two starts since that day have been downright great, going 7 IP and then 8 IP and only giving up 1 ER in total while striking out 13. His season ERA of 4.25 is a little below league average, but he’s shown he’s capable of pitching well and doing something Haren can’t – pitching deep into games.
Scott Feldman (CHC) – A few weeks ago Feldman looked like he could be a steal, somehow managing a 2.83 ERA despite pitching in Wrigley. Since then he’s started 3 games, and in two of them he gave up 5 ER. But the other one only saw him allow 1 ER, something Haren’s only done once this year. His current 3.39 ERA looks spectacular, but the last few weeks probably indicate what we already knew about him – he’s not that great. Still, if he could just be had for a bag of balls, it’s worth investigating.
Rickey Nolasco (MIA) – The story on him hasn’t changed much since we last looked. He’s still the ace of the Marlins, thanks more to the crappiness of their pitching staff, not because he’s an actual ace. Unfortunately, though, that could drive up his price. But if they can get their hands on his 3.86 ERA and his 77 K to 25 BB in 100 1/3 IP, they’d certainly be happy with him in their rotation.
Ervin Santana (KC) – The surging Royals are now only 3 games under .500 after a 12-6 run. If this is only a run, Santana might be available soon. But if it’s keeps going, who knows. Santana, meanwhile, has gone from very good to great in a few weeks. He’s now given up a total of 3 ER in 4 starts in June, pushing his season ERA down to 2.68 good enough for 3rd in the AL. A few weeks ago it was probably much more likely to trade for him, although he’s still got an expiring contract and KC is still paying him $12 M this year.
Erik Bedard (HOU) – Bedard continues to pitch pretty well after his return to the starting rotation. He did have one really bad start, but righted the ship and went 6 2/3 and 7 IP with only 1 ER total in his last 2 starts. His season ERA is a bloated 4.43, but since he’s come back as a starter after being sent to bullpen purgatory, he has started 8 games and has a 3.06 ERA. Although with his injury history and the luck the Nats have had this year, if Rizzo traded for him, Bedard’s left arm would likely fall off on the plane ride to DC.
Ted Lilly (LAD) – Two days after we looked at these pitchers the time, Lilly went on the DL with neck issues, and hasn’t pitched since. He may be coming of the DL soon, but I don’t think the Nats need to be pursuing a 37 year old who’s already been on the DL twice this year, and hasn’t been great when he was active.
Jason Vargas (LAA) – I didn’t mention Vargas before, but he’s pitching well this year with a 3.65 ERA. The Angels sit at the bottom of their division, and Vargas is in his last year of arbitration. He’s only struck out 62 while walking 30 in 91 1/3 IP, but he’s also gone into the 7th or later in 9 of his last 11 starts and has been effective. The fact that he isn’t a top guy, isn’t a strikeout guy, and has a decent but not great ERA in a pitcher’s park indicates that he might be a bargain, but he could also blow up in their face.
Jason Marquis (SDP) – I mentioned him last time because the Padres were in 4th place. They still are, but they’re .500 and only 3 1/2 GB from the top of the West, so I can’t imagine them being sellers at this moment. Also, I can’t imagine Marquis coming back to help.
There’s certainly a list of guys that could provide adequate fifth starter help. They will probably wait to see how Ross Ohlendorf does in a fill-in role for Haren, who is now sitting on the DL. Ohlendorf’s two appearances have been very good, and it’s tempting to think that his revamped old-timey delivery is the cause. But his 4.27 ERA in AAA this year also came with that delivery, so I’m not sure how long they can expect his success to last.
There is also talk of a few guys out of the minors, including Taylor Jordan, a 24 year old with a tantalizing 0.94 ERA split between high-A and AA. Concentrating on his 7 AA starts and 1 relief appearance, he has a 0.73 ERA there, with 42 Ks and only 8 BBs in 49 IP. He’s another option, and it’s possible you’d see him before they make a trade as well. But unless either of these guys show they can offer consistency – and that includes 6+ IP per start – I think a trade is still on the table.