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While the MLB trade deadline deals don’t always live up to the hype, the rampant speculation keeps the rumor mill churning at full blast. Whether we get any blockbusters remains to be seen but there are a number of impact players that could be available. Last week, we talked about the Top 5 Fantasy Baseball hitters that could be had via trade and this week, we’ll turn to the starting pitchers. This is an intriguing market if you are in need of a starter for the stretch run. For those that do not want to part with a good chunk of their dynasty team’s future to score a frontline starter, Scott Kazmir is a perfectly acceptable option. Andrew Cashner can certainly help a contending team as a mid-rotation arm with upside. The Orioles are reportedly willing to trade Kevin Gausman in a deal, which any selling GM should jump all over. He has the type of upside that could make Baltimore regret trading him almost instantly.
Who are the Top 5 starting pitcher trade candidates that could be available at this year’s deadline?
- David Price (Tigers, SP) – Will the Tigers be sellers at the deadline? Any contending team looking for a premier starter should hope so. Price would immediately become the best pitcher available. He is a free agent after the season, so this is strictly a rental. The power lefty has the upside to be a true difference-maker down the stretch and in the playoffs. His Fantasy value would remain largely unaffected regardless of where he pitches for the last two months.
- Cole Hamels (Phillies, SP) – Hamels has been on the block for the better part of two years now, but should finally find a new home by next week. He could benefit more than anyone else on this list from a change of scenery, having won 22 games over the past two and a half seasons for the hapless Phillies. His previous six seasons all featured double-digit wins, including a career high 17 in 2012. Hamels has been a durable starter throughout his career with an impressive 3.31 ERA and almost a strikeout per inning average. He will bring with him a sizeable contract and that is going to limit his market a bit. Still, the Dodgers, Red Sox and Rangers have all been rumored to have various levels of interest. Hamels owners would welcome a trade to a new team with open arms.
- Johnny Cueto (Reds, SP) – As we discussed in last week’s column, the Reds could be on the verge of moving a number of veteran players, including Cueto and Mike Leake. While Leake is a solid back end starter with limited upside, Cueto is the main attraction. He has always had top-notch stuff, but injuries have prevented him from eating innings consistently like a true ace. Everything came together for him last year, as he notched 20 wins in 34 starts, along with 242 Ks, a 2.25 ERA and a WHIP below 1.00. He has had a few starts pushed back this season, a concern for teams that are kicking the tires on him. He has a very affordable $10 million salary this year, but is a free agent after the season ends. Getting a new home park could definitely help Cueto put up SP1 numbers in August and September.
- Jeff Samardzija (White Sox, SP) – Is it me, or has Samardzija been on the trade block since he debuted for the Cubs in 2008? Well, maybe it hasn’t been that long, but the Shark has been traded twice since the 2013 season ended, and he is constantly rumored to be available. He put everything together last season in Oakland, but found himself traded to the White Sox in the offseason. He has not been quite as dominant this season, but offers SP2 potential if traded out of town. A free agent after the year is up; Samardzija is a prime candidate to be moved. The White Sox should look to grab a couple of young prospects and unload him for what amounts to nothing more than a two month rental at this point.
- Tyson Ross (Padres, SP) – Ross has the best combination of upside and future cost on this list. He is making just $5.25 million this year, before becoming arbitration eligible in 2016-2017. Even though he has not matched the numbers from his 2014 breakout, Ross is an ideal mid-rotation starter with the ability to pitch as a SP2 when he’s on. His WHIP is sitting at 1.39 right now, but he still has a 3.39 ERA and more than a strikeout per inning. He is already 28 years old, but has just started to hit his stride as a starter. The bidding for his services should fetch the Padres a hefty package of prospects if they choose to move him.