MLB Rumors: Starting pitching market is bare

July 28, 2014 – 2:45 pm by Ryan Phillips
    Jon Lester

Several contenders are looking for starting pitching as Major League Baseball’s trade deadline approaches, but according to sources we’ve talked to and reports around the web, they’re not finding it. Teams that appeared willing to deal certain players two months ago are now more inclined to hold on to their top-end starters and it’s driving up the price on lower-tier guys. As a result, there is a chance we don’t see much dealing before Thursday’s deadline.

A few weeks ago it looked like the Philadelphia Phillies were in full-on sell mode. They had put both Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee on the market and were also willing to dump Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in an effort to get younger. But while Lee (along with his elbow issues and massive contract) can certainly be had, Hamels has reportedly been pulled off the market*. Rollins, Utley and Howard can probably all be had but each carries a significant contract and the Phillies would want prospects in return.

The Tampa Bay Rays were dead-set on trading ace lefty David Price a few weeks ago, but they are now back in contention in the American League East and are on a roll, having won nine out of their last 10 games. With every win, it’s far less likely the Rays deal Price, who is widely considered the best arm available this year. The Rays control Price for another season, which means they can always trade him this winter or next season if they can’t sign him to an extension.

The San Diego Padres looked like they were open for business in fire sale mode a month ago, but after dealing closer Huston Street to the Angels and third baseman Chase Headley to the Yankees things have calmed down on that front. The Padres are still without a general manager and may be inclined to hold on to their assets until a new one is hired. That means a starter like Ian Kennedy – who was certainly available a few weeks ago – may wind up staying in San Diego.

The good thing for the Padres is that with the starting pitching market drying up they could get a great offer for Kennedy, despite the fact that he missed a start this week with a strained oblique. Kennedy is under team control for next year, so San Diego isn’t rushing to deal him, but given the upward trajectory of his season, he could be a huge time asset to a contender.

The only big-time arm that seems to be available right now is Boston Red Sox lefty Jon Lester. The problem? He is a free agent after the season and has indicated a willingness to re-sign with the Red Sox even if they trade him away. Lester is 10-7 with a 2.52 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP this season, and also carries a 0.93 ERA in four July starts. He’s an ace-quality guy but, again, he would likely be a rental for whichever team he goes to. He’s the only big name starter likely to be moved at this point.

So as we approach Thursday’s trade deadline all is quiet on the starting pitching front. That certainly could change, but it would take some serious movement by all the major players involved.

*UPDATE: A report from Jon Morosi claims the Phillies have now decided to make Hamels available, but it will still likely take a lot for him to get moved.

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