Three Low-End Starting Pitchers on the Trade Market

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The MLB trade deadline is less than a week away, so rumors have been swirling about the star players available on the trade market. There is a low supply of quality starting pitching, but the big names like Max Scherzer and Jose Berrios have been active names on the rumor mill. For some teams, acquiring one of these pitchers would be too expensive, so let’s take a look at some cheaper options that will still help contending teams in the playoff hunt.

Jon Gray

Jon Gray joins Trevor Story, Mychal Givens, and Daniel Bard as Rockies’ trade chips ahead of the 2021 MLB trade deadline. Although Gray hasn’t been thrown around in many rumors, he’d be a great fit for teams on the brink of playoff contention like the Blue Jays and Mariners. Gray isn’t having one of the best years of his career, but he’s been very productive at Coors Field, where it’s rare to find sub-4.00 ERA pitchers.

In 2020, Jon Gray had the worst year of his career, posting a 6.69 ERA, 5.06 FIP, 5.68 xFIP, and 5.58 SIERA in just 39.0 innings over eight starts. This year, he’s had a bounce-back year, as he has a 3.68 ERA, 3.98 FIP, 4.17 xFIP, and 4.39 SIERA. The strikeout stuff isn’t there quite like it was in his first five seasons, but it’s a huge uptick from his 2020 season. His amount of volume in 2021 has been incredible, as he’s thrown 93.0 innings through his first 17 starts, which makes him a great inning-eater at the back of a teams’ rotation.

The Rockies would likely only be looking for a mid-level prospect for Gray, as he’s an expiring contract after the 2021 season. He’s on a one-year, $6M deal, so his new team would only need to pay him about $2M for the rest of this season. Steamer projects him for another 1.0 fWAR this season, so this would be a bargain of a contract. Offloading Gray would be a smart move for Colorado, as they have no reason to keep him with the team for the rest of the season. For the buyer, he’d be a cheap, back-end of the rotation option that any farm system could afford.

Michael Pineda

Michael Pineda may not be the best Twins’ pitcher available at the deadline, but he’s surely the cheapest and wouldn’t require a long-term commitment from the buying team. Pineda has had an up-and-down career, but his last two seasons in Minnesota have been productive. The Twins were contenders entering the season, but they haven’t lived up to expectations, as they’re in fourth place in the AL Central with a 42-56 record. They’ve already started selling off pieces, as designated hitter Nelson Cruz was shipped off to Tampa Bay for prospects.

Pineda was incredibly productive in his time in New York, as he consistently posted elite peripherals despite his inflated ERA. From 2014-2017, Pineda threw 509.0 innings of 4.16 ERA ball, but he had a 3.65 FIP, 3.58 SIERA, and 19.4% K-BB% during that time frame. Tommy John surgery shortened his 2017 season, and he didn’t pitch in 2018. He returned in 2019 as a member of the Twins, and he’s been a productive pitcher since. This season, he has a 3.93 ERA, 4.30 FIP, and 4.27 SIERA in 66.1 innings.

Michael Pineda wouldn’t command much value in a trade, as he’s also an expiring contract. He is making $10M this year, so the team that lands him in a trade would need to pay him around $4M for the rest of the season. He’s projected for another 0.5 fWAR this year, so there’s not as much surplus value, but he could always outperform the projection, as he has in the first half. He’s another good back-end option who could shift to the bullpen in the postseason, and he fits well on teams like the Braves and Angels.

Tyler Anderson

Although mid-tier names like Danny Duffy and Kyle Gibson could’ve taken the last spot on this list, there’s been plenty about them so far this season. One name that hasn’t been talked about nearly as much is Tyler Anderson, who has been one of the Pirates’ best starters and is a valuable asset for teams in the playoff hunt. Anderson’s first year in Pittsburg has been his best season since 2018 when he was a member of the Colorado Rockies. The Pirates aren’t in any position to hold on to Anderson, as he’s an expiring contract and they are in last place in the NL Central.

Anderson had an up-and-down tenure in Colorado, ending on a sour note with a terrible showing in 2019. Last year, he had a 4.37 ERA and 4.36 FIP in 59.2 innings, but his 6.1% HR/FB%, 5.93 xFIP, and 5.69 SIERA showed some room for concern. He signed a one-year, $2.5M contract with Pittsburgh in the offseason, and has had one of the best years of his career. In 2021, Anderson has thrown 103.1 innings in 18 starts, posting league-average rate stats. He has a 4.35 ERA, 4.26 FIP, 4.41 xFIP, and 4.42 SIERA on the season.

Anderson is on the cheapest contract of the three, and it also expires at the end of the season. He’s projected for another 0.6 fWAR by Steamer, and would only be paid about $1M by his new team, which would be another bargain. He has upped his cutter usage this year, and it’s been his best pitch, as he has a -4 run value with the pitch. There’s also potential for a new team to figure out Anderson, especially if he ends up somewhere like Houston, Tampa Bay, or back in San Francisco.

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