Even in the year of the pitcher with runs in baseball as low as they’ve been in many years, MLB teams can still never have enough pitching.
Almost every team that has hopes of reaching the playoffs will at least consider acquiring a starting pitcher before the 2021 MLB Trade Deadline. Keep in mind that nobody pitched a full season last year, so who knows how pitchers will respond during the second half of the season.
Of course, while some teams will want to play it safe, there are other squads that will try to make a big splash and acquire a frontline starter. At the same time, it’s a little unclear who will be available on the trade market and who won’t be available.
Let’s explore the top starting pitchers who could potentially be on the move before the trade deadline.
Andrew Heaney, Angels
Coming out of the break, it’s possible that the Angels could get hot and make a playoff push. But if that doesn’t happen, Andrew Heaney should be made available on the trade market.
The problem is that Heaney isn’t having a great season, posting a 5.38 ERA over his first 15 starts. But his track record is a lot better than those numbers suggest, so he could be worth a flyer for a team that needs someone in the backend of their rotation to eat up innings.
Merrill Kelly, Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks could be busy on the trade market over the next couple of weeks, and Merrill Kelly is one of the players who could be on the block.
He probably doesn’t have much value beyond being an end-of-rotation starter. However, he has a $5.25 million club option for next season, so he’s not a rental player and doesn’t cost a lot of money. Perhaps more importantly, Kelly has come on strong lately, posting a 4.00 ERA in June and a 3.06 ERA through his first three starts in July, making him an asset to a team in a playoff race.
Zach Davies, Cubs
The Cubs are gearing up to be big-time sellers at the deadline with Zach Davies among the players who could be traded before they hit free agency this winter.
Davies hasn’t been great this year, but he’s been solid and steady, pitching to a 4.37 ERA. He had a 2.73 ERA last year and has a career ERA of 3.86, so he’s underperformed this season based on his track record. It’s possible that Davies could improve in the second half, and even if he doesn’t, he can help solidify the back of a team’s rotation and perhaps be a useful bullpen piece in the playoffs.
Danny Duffy, Royals
Danny Duffy is in the final year of his contract and having his best season since 2014, so it should be a no-brainer that the Royals will trade him. The caveat is that he had some arm issues that kept him out for over a month. But he’s made five starts since returning and only had one troubling out while he stretches back out.
Teams will probably want to see him pitch once or twice more before pulling the trigger on a trade. But as long as he looks healthy coming out of the break, Duffy and his 2.53 ERA will be dealt before the deadline.
Matthew Boyd, Tigers
The Tigers have kicked the tires on trading Matthew Boyd before, but surely they have to do it now. He has one more year of arbitration remaining, so he’s more valuable on the trade market than a rental player.
The Tigers also have to be honest with themselves that they probably aren’t going to be ready to compete in 2022. Boyd’s trade value will only go down from here, so now is the time to strike. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the lefty has a 3.44 ERA through 13 starts. However, he’s unlikely to return from the IL before August after experiencing arm discomfort. But he hasn’t been diagnosed with anything serious and the fact that he’s under contract for next season would eliminate some of the risk for the team that trades for him.
Tyler Anderson, Pirates
Pittsburgh made a wise choice this offseason by signing Tyler Anderson to a one-year deal to fill out their rotation, as the southpaw has turned into a legitimate trade chip.
Through 17 starts, Anderson is 5-8 with a 4.35 ERA. He’s continued to build upon a solid 2020 season and has looked sharp during his two starts in July. There’s no question that the Pirates will have plenty of teams calling to discuss Anderson, who will be a solid if unspectacular addition to any rotation.
Michael Pineda, Twins
The Twins weren’t planning on being sellers when the season began, but they have a chance to unload some talented players before the deadline and get quality prospects in return.
With Michael Pineda set to be a free agent this winter, he’ll undoubtedly be traded before the deadline. The problem is that Pineda looked great in April and May but started to struggle in June before heading to the IL. He then got knocked around for five runs on 12 hits over 5.1 innings in his return from the IL.
His value could come down to how he looks in his first start or two after the break. But if Pineda looks healthy and can get himself back on track, he’ll be a desirable commodity at the deadline and could make an impact for a playoff contender down the stretch.
Jon Gray, Rockies
As much as the Rockies would love to keep Jon Gray, they have to trade him before he hits the free-agent market this offseason.
Among rental players who could get traded this summer, the Rockies have the best position player in Trevor Story and the best pitcher in Gray. Despite a brief stint on the IL last month, Gray has a 3.77 ERA over 16 starts. He’s actually lowered his ERA since returning from the IL and been better at Coors Field than on the road this year.
Gray is the type of frontline starter who can give a playoff contender a considerable boost while also becoming a key figure in their rotation in the postseason.
Kyle Gibson, Rangers
Unless the Rangers think they’re going to be a playoff contender next season, they have to trade Kyle Gibson now.
The 33-year-old was named to the All-Star Team after an incredible first half, going 6-1 with a 2.29 ERA over 17 starts. Given his track record, there’s no guarantee that he’ll be able to replicate that next season, so Texas would be wise to trade him now while his value is high. Keep in mind that he’s under contract for just $7.67 million next season, which is a bargain based on how he’s performed and will make him a valuable commodity on the trade market.
Jose Berrios, Twins
Since he’s not a free agent this winter, the Twins don’t necessarily have to trade Jose Berrios. But that isn’t going to stop teams from calling after he went 7-3 with a 3.48 ERA during the first half of the season.
He’s a bonafide ace and a potential difference-maker if he goes to a team with championship aspirations. The question is whether or not the Twins want to punt on 2022, which they’d be doing by trading Berrios. It’ll likely come down to whether or not a team wants Berrios enough and makes Minnesota an offer that the Twins can’t refuse.
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