Rotation Upgrades?

Why so many HRs, Tommy? - Ezra Shaw

Last week, Nathaniel Stoltz talked about middle infield upgrades, and what really made sense for the A’s in light of what Eric Sogard and Adam Rosales actually are, and what the available upgrades are. Today, I thought I’d do the same for starting pitchers.

First, let's break down how the A's rotation actually looks right now. All data will be presented using ERA- and FIP-. Regardless of how you believe pitcher effectiveness should be measured, you should know that smaller numbers are better here.

Pitcher

ERA-

FIP-

Bartolo Colon

70

83

A.J. Griffin

90

105

Tommy Milone

105

117

Jarrod Parker

104

122

Dan Straily

126

94

At this point, given his uneven performance when he was healthy and his uncertain status going forward, let's just leave Brett Anderson out of the picture. In any case, it's pretty clear that the A's could use a league-average arm. Of course, an ace would be best, but I simply do not believe that's realistic from a trade perspective. As far as the current starting crop goes, Bartolo Colon is pitching at near-ace levels, Griffin and Straily have been adequate, but Tommy Milone has definitely struggled this year, especially when it comes to HR/9 of 1.62, which is well above league average of 1.05. I realize that's not incredibly predictive, but his current tendencies are worrisome, at least. Throw in Jarrod Parker's hamstring issue now, and the need for a starter is pretty clear. But just who is available?

Here are the teams that are at least arguably out of contention right now, either by overall record or by games back in the division.

LAA

SEA

HOU

MIN

CWS

PHI

NYM

MIA

CHC

MIL

Now, of their starters, which would the A's actually be interested in. Given that any trade has to be worthwhile for the A's, let's limit the list to starters who are near league-average, which is 95 ERA- and 100 FIP-. I'll also avoid any obviously out of the question candidates, like Felix, Weaver, or any other guys who are essentially untradeable for one reason or another. Sorry rosterbators, no Matt Harvey or Zach Wheeler here.

Pitcher

ERA-

FIP-

Jason Vargas

93

103

Hishahi Iwakuma

63

92

Bud Norris

83

88

Jordan Lyles

99

91

Sam Deduno

82

94

Liam Hendriks

115

99

Chris Sale

Yeah

Right

Jose Quintana

93

97

Hector Santiago

81

98

Jake Peavy

101

88

Kyle Kendrick

95

98

Cliff Lee

Dream

On

Ricky Nolasco

104

92

Matt Garza

98

99

Scott Feldman

89

100

Jeff Samardzija

86

80

Of these candidates, there are some we can drop off right away. Iwakuma is on a reasonable deal, but the Mariners would ask for nothing less than a massive haul of prospects that the A's don't have. Same for Samardzija and the Cubs, and probably Bud Norris, who is probably on the top of every contending GM's wish list right now.

This article would definitely get into the TL;dr realm if I broke down every guy. But, here are a few guys that I think are gettable because they are signed to reasonable deals, and are close enough to arbitration that a team may be willing to part with him to avoid that player's upcoming higher payday. Or they are simply free agents after the season anyway and are total rentals.

Kyle Kendrick

This is a little unorthodox, and he's a little Twins-y with the low K's (peaked at 17.2% last year), but that's just the sort of guy that might come for relatively cheap. His FIPs were high in previous years, but that's largely a product of the low K's and relatively high HR/9. Put him in Oakland, though, and he may be a right-handed and slightly better Tommy Milone.

Contract wise, he is signed through this year at $4.5M. Chump change. Appears to have one arbitration year remaining.

Sam Deduno

He's on an MiLB contract right now, and through 7 starts has been pretty solid. Even more Twins-y with a 13.0 K%, he's stingy on HRs and a little better than average walk-wise, at 0.42 HR/9 and 7.6BB%, respectively. Target Field is a relatively hitter-suppressing stadium like the Coliseum, so the transition seems simple enough. I'm not sure the Twins are motivated to move him, but a lower-level talent would be a decent return from their perspective, I would think.

Scott Feldman

Total free agent rental. Basically a league-average pitcher. Has some low-BABIP issues maybe, but definitely not bad. He has league-average HR rate, keeps his walks down (6.7%), and strikes out guys at a slightly-below average rate. He is making $6M this year, and will walk at the end of the season.

Of course, this discounts the idea that Sonny Gray may be a league average starter himself if he started MLB games now. I'm not saying I don't believe that; he may well be as good as or better than these guys. I just want to see a couple more months of starts down in AAA before I'm totally sold that a pitcher with essentially two pitches can compete in MLB.

What do you guys think? Is there a pitcher on my list above, or a guy that I missed that could be had? Or do you think the A's should dream bigger?

The A's face Feldman and the Cubs today at 7:05 PM. I guess if the A's destroy him that's okay. Lev Facher will have your game thread.

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