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UPDATED Trade Deadline Preview: Starting Pitchers the Guardians Could Target

Los Angeles Angels v Seattle Mariners
Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

Re-examining some pitchers the Guardians could potentially acquire

The Guardians have been consistently in the bottom five of the league in starting pitching numbers in 2024. Will they upgrade at the deadline?

The Guardians have the best record in the American League. If you make the playoffs, you can make the World Series. If you make the World Series, you can end a 76 year drought. It's time for Cleveland’s ownership and front office to do whatever they can to shore up a good roster for the stretch run.

You’ll hear a lot of names bandied about in trade rumors over the coming month, so let’s take a look to see which players and teams, as potential trade targets/partners, should have your full attention. In the weeks to come, our Matt Seese will offer an article summarizing the most likely options for Cleveland with easy to read graphics depicting the skills each player offers, so be on the look for that.

Note: I refuse to analyze potential trades with the Colorado Rockies. I’d be interested in German Marquez and Ryan Feltner, and who wouldn’t want Cal Quantrill back to eat innings and bring vibes? But, that team doesn’t care about doing what would make for their best future roster. They never make the trades you expect them to make and so I’m not going to even speculate that they might because they are not a serious baseball club.

Realistic Options (stats current as of Wednesday, June 26th, 2024):

Jack Flaherty, RHP, Detroit, 28 years old, Free Agent in 2025, Around $7M left on his current deal

Stats: 2.70 FIP, 11.66/1.40 K/BB/9.

Analysis: It sure looks like Detroit has helped Flaherty reach his full potential, something the Cardinals and Orioles were unable to do. Right now, Flaherty is pitching like someone you’d absolutely want starting game one of a playoff series, and, as we’ll see below, there aren’t too many other options out there about which you can say that. Since I last worked on this article, Detroit has fallen back in the wildcard race, making it fairly likely they will trade this rental contract. I don’t know that the Orioles, who have the ammunition and need, will look to acquire Flaherty for the second trade deadline in a row, so that might mean Cleveland only needs to worry that the Los Angeles Dodgers could outgun them in terms of prospects for Flaherty. Personally, I don’t think the Tigers would balk at sending a rental player to Cleveland, but I do wonder if Cleveland would ultimately blanch at the idea of sending players who could be valuable major leaguers in the future to a division rival for a player who will only help in 2024. I’m a believer in Flaherty, though, so I’d support the gamble.

Garrett Crochet, LHP, Chicago White Sox, 25 years old, arbitration eligible through 2026.

Stats: 2.54 FIP, 12.4/1.91 K/BB

Analysis: Crochet has been insane this season but he threw 12 innings last season and 54 innings the year before. So, any team acquiring him will be doing so with hopes of having him anchoring a rotation for future seasons. For 2024, your best hope is likely to move him to the pen and then try to stretch him back out in September, which is risky business. Would I support Cleveland acquiring a pitcher this talented for future seasons? Absolutely. But, it’s going to take an absolute haul, which, again, will help a division rival for years to come, and may offer no help for a potential playoff run in 2024. I do believe the White Sox are willing to trade Crochet, but they are going to want multiple top 100 prospects for him. I’m not sure they’ll get it and very much doubt they’ll get it from Cleveland.

Reid Detmers, LHP, Los Angeles Angels, 24 years and 11 months old, under team control through 2027 entering first year of arbitration next season.

Stats: 3.62 xERA, 10/3.86 K/BB/9

Analysis: The Angels are almost Rockies’ level of ridiculous, but reports that their front office wanted to trade Ohtani and their subsequent failure to re-sign him give me perhaps foolish hope that their silly owner, Arte Moreno, will agree to trade some valuable young pieces to embrace a full rebuild. I would absolutely love to let the Guardians’ pitching lab, Carl Willis and Austin Hedges get their hands on Detmers. And, I wouldn’t be surprise if they’d have enough of his issues fixed by September to make him a decent option as a #3 starter. I’d also have hope for more in the future. Is it likely the Angels trade him? No. But, if they want to explore it, Cleveland giving up a couple good prospects for a young pitcher who has flashed signs of dominance in the majors would be exactly what the doctor ordered.

Jose Soriano, RHP, Los Angeles Angels, 25 years and 8 months, under team control through 2028 and arbitration eligible in 2026.

Stats: 3.48 FIP, 7.79/3.39 K/BB

Analysis: See above about the Angels. In a reasonable world, the team should look to capitalize on the success story of a reliever turned starter in a way similar to what the White Sox will likely do with Crochet. I’d be interested to see if the Guardians can find a way to get Soriano’s secondary offerings to play up to get him to more strikeouts but that 98 mph sinker is already getting him a 60% (!) groundball rate which would play very well with the Guardians’ excellent middle infield defense. The Angels have no compelling need to trade Soriano now, so the Guardians would have to really impress them with an offer to help remake their poor farm system. Is that likely? No. But, I’m here for them exploring the idea.

Zac Gallen, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks, 28 years and 10 months old, under arbitration team control through 2025.

Stats: 3.26 FIP, 9/26/2.44 K/BB

Analysis: I do not expect the Diamondbacks to fall out of the messy NL Wildcard race. However, if July goes extremely poorly for them, it’s a possibility they may look to reload for 2025 and Gallen would be an extremely valuable piece with which to do that. He’s proven himself as a playoff option. I think it’s more likely Arizona tries to work out an extension with him this offseason than that they trade him, but it’s within the realm of possibility. If it becomes a potential, I really hope the Guardians would pursue the option hard.

Zach Eflin, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays, 30 years and 2 months old, signed through 2025 and owed about $22 million.

Stats: 3.78 FIP, 6.97/0.66 K/BB/9.

Analysis: Recently rumored to be available, I wrote about Eflin here. I think he’s probably one of the best potential options who will be traded in the coming month.

Nathan Eovaldi, RHP, Texas Rangers, 34 years and 4 months old, under team control through this year with about $8 million owed. If Eovaldi pitches 90 more innings in 2024, he has a vesting player option for 2025 for $20 million.

Stats: 3.68 FIP, 9.29/3.41 K/BB/9

Analysis: I don’t think the Rangers will trade their World Series hero even if they fall out of the wildcard race. I also don’t think the Guardians would risk that vesting option kicking in. But, we are scouring, folks, and this is at least a plausible option so I’ve listed the gritty veteran who has proven himself in multiple World Series title runs, now.

Chris Bassitt, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays, 35 years and 4 months old, under team control through 2025 owed about $31 million still.

Stats: 3.85 FIP, 8.18/3.45 K/BB/9

Analysis: Are the Guardians going to acquire a #3 starter who is 35 and owed $30 million? No. They are not. But, he is a potential trade piece, so I have listed him.

Kevin Gausman, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays, 33 years and 5 months old, under team control through 2026, owed approximately $55 million.

Stats: 3.89, 8.72/2.08 K/BB/9

Analysis: I do think the Blue Jays might try to trade Gausman, who has the reputation of an ace and is the kind of pitcher you’d trust in game two of a playoff series. But, the age and that price tag will probably mean he stays in Toronto for now, especially given that he is pitching like a #3 starter at the moment. But, if Gausman gets hot in July and pushes his K-rate back up closer to his career 9.35 per 9 rates, then maybe this becomes something some team pursues. And, hey, maybe Daddy Blitzer steps in and says, “I’ve got this one, get us our aging ace to anchor our staff for a World Series run”, who knows?

Sean Manaea, RHP, New York Mets, 32 years and 4 months old, Will Likely Opt Out of $14M deal for 2025 but due that and approximately $7 million the rest of this year.

Stats: 3.73 FIP, 9.21/3.66 BB/K/9

Analysis: The Mets are making a run right now, so Manaea’s potential availability has decline for the moment. Additionally, the potential of him being injured at some point is high and the Guardians being on the hook for $14 million in 2025 could be a big issue for Cleveland. However, a healthy Manaea is the kind of player you can happily pencil into the third spot in a playoff rotation and feel confident in him giving you a reasonable chance to win the game. If the Mets struggle in July, I’d expect Manaea to get traded given the market, and I’d be happy if Cleveland ended up for him at what will likely be a far more reasonable cost than several others in this list.

Yusei Kikuchi, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays, 33 years old, Free Agent in 2025, owed approximately $6 million

Stats: 3.52 FIP, 9.29/2.16 BB/K/9.

Analysis: Kikuchi has pitched extremely well for a 28-32 Blue Jays team, but it’s fair to wonder if he will sustain an FIP a full run lower than his career FIP. However, even a 3.93 FIP would be a decent option for a third starter in a playoff series (perhaps as a five and fly guy). I think it’s fairly likely the Blue Jays will end up trading him. Will the Guardians’ connections with Mark Shapiro finally pay off?

Jon Gray, RHP, Texas Rangers, 32 years and 7 months old, Free Agent in 2026, owed approximately $21 million

Stats: 3.14 FIP, 8.02/2.41 KK/BB/9.

Analysis: Gray is ALMOST at the point of being unaffordable, but, man, is he having a good season. He’s a little old to bank a lot on him, but the way the Rangers are playing, I can definitely see them dangling Gray in a busy pitching market, especially if a younger pitching prospect they like is available in return. I’d rank this possibility as one of the least likely on this list, given all those factors, but it’s one to consider. My guess is that the Rangers will right the ship enough in July to be a factor in the wildcard race, and so, will hang on to Gray.

Nick Pivetta, RHP, Boston Red Sox, 31 years and 3 months, Free Agent in 2025, owed approximately $3.75 million

Stats: 3.06 xFIP, 10.7/1.78 K/BB/9.

Analysis: I suspect the Red Sox are more in a position to add than subtract at the deadline. However, if they stumble over the next few weeks, that could change, and Pivetta will surely be attractive to several teams as a potential number 3 starter-type. In this case and others, the Guardians would not be getting help for future seasons, but acquiring controllable pitching is always extremely expensive and the team will have to make the best move available to them. Pivetta is a good example of one of those potential “best move available” options... IF his team is in a position to consider dealing him.

Erick Fedde, RHP, Chicago White Sox, 31 years and 3 months old, Free Agent in 2026, owed approximately $11.25 million dollars.

Stats: 3.53 FIP, 8.2/2.29 K/BB/9

Analysis: Another in-division option, Fedde has taken the Ben Lively route of returning from pitching overseas. Has Fedde fixed things for the forseeable future? Has Lively? Those are questions that lead to some uncertainty. But, I’ll be shocked if the White Sox don’t end up trading Fedde and they’ve been unafraid to trade with Cleveland in the past (there are newer folks in the front office, however). If Fedde is starting game three of a playoff series as of right now, a team would feel reasonably confident that they’d have a good chance to win.

Luis Severino, RHP, New York Mets, 30 years and 3 months old, Free Agent in 2025, due about $6.5 million for the remainder of this year

Stats: 3.93 FIP, 7.07/3.09 K/BB/9

Analysis: Severino is a workhorse with a lot of experience. I can't deny the idea of him starting a game for the Guardians against the Yankees and getting sweet, sweet revenge is enticing. His strikeout abilities have severely declined but he's firmly in the group of folks who would be decent options as #3 starters and should absolutely be available. Something our Matt Seese pointed out to me is that Severino and other groundball/weak contact pitchers are good fits for the Guardians, who have good defense. Severino also put up an 11-K game recently, so I’m in. For what it’s worth, Jim Bowden’s recent survey of MLB GM’s for the Athletic indicated that the Mets would look to trade Severino even if they are in the thick of the wildcard race.

Summary: There are always a dozen or so (now injured) Zak Kent-types the Guardians can pursue in hopes of finding a Ben Lively. Just search through Minor League Leaderboards and you’ll quickly see names like Osvaldo Bido, RHP for Oakland who has some interesting swing-and-miss stuff and perhaps a team like Cleveland might see a tweak or two to help his control. But, I’m not going to spend much time on arms like that because the likelihood of finding a Lively arm is so small; if the Guardians acquire more of these pitchers, I’ll be optimistic because of their reputation. But, it’s not a needle-mover until they prove otherwise.

I don’t want to spend a lot of time trying to figure out whom the Guardians will trade, because it’s impossible to say which players another team will want. Suffice it to say, as long as it’s not Jose Ramirez, Andres Gimenez, Steven Kwan, Josh and Bo Naylor, the viable ML starters we have on hand, or Emmanuel Clase, I think the team will listen on anyone. In case anyone hasn’t been paying attention, Guardians’ hitters in the minors, as a whole, have been showing a lot of promise. The Guardians also do have some interesting arms further away from the bigs. So, the prospects and players needed to pull off a deal - especially with the number one pick in July coming to help replenish the farm - shouldn’t be an issue for Cleveland.

Perhaps naively, I do believe the Guardians will acquire one of the pitchers listed above at the deadline, as they can see this team has the potential to make a World Series run in the playoffs if the starting rotation can be reinforced. My dream would be to find a way to pry Flaherty from Detroit or Gallen away from Arizona should the Diamondbacks falter (heck, a Padres collapse ending with Dylan Cease in Cleveland is even MORE my dream), but Eflin, Kikuchi or Severino seem like the most likely options to end up in Cleveland. For the present AND the future, I’d be most excited about a Crochet (obviously) or a Detmers acquisition.

Let us know in the comments below which player you prefer the Guardians to target and if we missed a name you think they'll be considering.

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