WASHINGTON — Contending teams pursuing starting pitching continue to operate as if Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard are not moving before the trade deadline, forcing clubs such as the Yankees to mull these questions in an ace-less marketplace:
1. Do they prioritize the kind of starter unlikely to be bothered by pennant-race intensity and likely to keep them in games such as Toronto’s J.A. Happ and Minnesota’s Lance Lynn, or do they gamble on more volatile types such as Cincinnati’s Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler, who have worrisome injury histories and concerns about their makeup, but stuff that if all goes well, pushes them up a rotation?
2. Do teams wait closer to the July 31 non-waiver deadline and see if new candidates become available, with scouts and executives at the Futures Game mentioning the Cardinals with Carlos Martinez and the Angels with Andrew Heaney and Tyler Skaggs, in particular?
The Cardinals fired manager Mike Matheny after a loss Saturday moved them to 47-46. St. Louis is still trying to make the playoffs this year. But the Cards open the second half with their first eight games on the road, five at Wrigley to start, and follow that with a three-game series at home against the Cubs. If St. Louis continues to plummet, the expectation is the Cards would seriously consider selling.
Martinez is in season two of a team-friendly five-year, $51 million pact. He has pitched well this season, but not to his peak as he has struggled with control. Outside executives wonder if St. Louis could get full value for him right now and — if not — would the Cardinals even mull dealing the righty? The Cardinals’ strength, though, is young arms, so perhaps they could address other issues with Martinez, especially in a market lacking an ace.
As for Heaney/Skaggs, one executive summed up Angels GM Billy Eppler’s dilemma: “You want to keep building up the system, but you have Trout and want to try to win before he can be a free agent [after 2020].” Another executive said, “I think Billy is in keep-loose mode and could pivot [to being a dealer] if the Angels don’t get back in it right after the break.”
The Angels would have prioritized trading Garrett Richards since he is in his walk year, but he needs Tommy John surgery. Heaney and Skaggs would help next year’s Angels, but in this deprived market they are injury-prone pitchers who could get Los Angeles a haul right now.
Meanwhile, since June 1, Harvey has a 3.60 ERA with a .626 OPS against and Wheeler 3.61 with a .591 OPS against. The Mets are said to want to add as many position-player prospects as possible for Wheeler, Asdrubal Cabrera and Jeurys Familia. As for Harvey, one talent evaluator said: “He was so good, so he gets compared to himself. He is not that guy now, but he has pitched well.”
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