Starting Pitcher Trade Targets, by Projections

The Dodgers need another starting pitcher. I know that, you know that, and Andrew Friedman (probably) knows that. Some of the big names (Hamels, Cueto) are obvious, but it might be interesting to look a bit deeper than that.

One way to find potential under-the-radar trade targets is by projection systems. One way projection systems help is that they can separate contenders from teams who have lucked into a good record and could fall by the deadline. Let’s limit the potential pool of trade partners to teams with <25% odds of making the playoffs (before Thursday’s games), per FanGraphs. This leaves the following: A’s, Braves, Brewers, Diamondbacks, Mariners, Marlins, Mets, Padres, Phillies, Rangers, Red Sox, Reds, Rockies, Twins, and White Sox.

Projections for individual players are also useful because they look beyond single-year pitching numbers. They’re also easy to sort – the table below is sorted by projected WAR per 80 innings pitched, or about what a trade piece would hopefully pitch for a new team at this point. It’s not an order of preference, or even intended to be particularly accurate. Instead, it’s a starting point.

The starters on the list are selected from the top five on the FanGraphs team depth chart for each team listed above. The projected WAR is a blend of Steamer and ZiPS. Here are the top 25 pitchers by that list:

Player Team ERA FIP WAR/80 IP
Chris Sale White Sox 2.75 2.74 2.1
Felix Hernandez Mariners 2.97 2.88 1.9
Jose Fernandez Marlins 2.96 2.82 1.9
Matt Harvey Mets 3.13 3.14 1.8
Noah Syndergaard Mets 3.41 3.21 1.7
Jacob deGrom Mets 3.3 3.16 1.6
Cole Hamels Phillies 3.4 3.4 1.6
Johnny Cueto Reds 3.1 3.42 1.6
Tyson Ross Padres 3.28 3.18 1.5
Sonny Gray Athletics 3.34 3.35 1.5
James Shields Padres 3.37 3.33 1.5
Phil Hughes Twins 4.07 3.58 1.3
Alex Wood Braves 3.53 3.48 1.3
Mike Fiers Brewers 3.76 3.8 1.3
Jose Quintana White Sox 3.88 3.7 1.2
Jeff Samardzija White Sox 3.97 3.71 1.2
Andrew Cashner Padres 3.65 3.56 1.2
Jesse Chavez Athletics 3.74 3.71 1.2
Scott Kazmir Athletics 3.71 3.62 1.1
Hisashi Iwakuma Mariners 3.57 3.58 1.1
Mat Latos Marlins 3.7 3.6 1.1
Clay Buchholz Red Sox 3.81 3.65 1.1
Bartolo Colon Mets 4.02 3.78 1.0
Julio Teheran Braves 3.72 3.92 1.0
Ian Kennedy Padres 3.94 3.85 1.0

First impression: holy crap, Mets. Second impression: the top six on the list are all pretty unrealistic. The names after that are pretty interesting, though. We all know about Hamels and Cueto, but could the A’s go into full-on rebuild mode and trade Sonny Gray? The Braves are already in full rebuild mode and Alex Wood is really, really good, but the Dodgers would probably have to give up something that hurts. The same goes for the White Sox and Jose Quintana.

The two most interesting names on this list, to me, are Mike Fiers and Jeff Samardzija. Fiers pitches for the floundering Brewers and has a profile that doesn’t really match his position on the list. He can barely reach 90mph and has been up-and-down between the majors and the minors a lot. He’s having a down year, too, he’s allowed a 4.39 ERA (111 ERA-) in 80 innings pitched. However, he is league-average by both FIP and xFIP (thanks to a 16.5% K%-BB%. 24th among qualifying starters) and was even better in 2014. Fiers is still making the league minimum, so prying him away from the Brewers could be difficult, but he’s always struck me as a guy most of the baseball world undervalues because of his velocity.

Samardzija is also having a down season (4.53 ERA, 113 ERA-), but he had a career year in 2014 and his peripherals in 2015 are still normal for him. He is almost certainly going to be traded, as the White Sox are awful and Samardzija is a free agent after the season is over. He is an interesting intersection of contract length and salary. A trade for Samardzija would not likely cost any prospects fans would miss, which can’t be said for most of the names above him on the list.

Overall, any of these names would improve the Dodgers’ rotation (Carlos Frias is projected for ~0.5 WAR/80IP). This list wasn’t intended to look into prospect cost or contract value, but rather to give a rough idea of who the Dodgers might go after. If this list turns people on to a few of the lower-tier options, then it has done its job. The Dodgers need a starter, but they don’t necessarily need the best starter.

About Daniel Brim

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Daniel Brim grew up in the Los Angeles area but doesn't live there anymore. He still watches the Dodgers and writes about them sometimes.