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MLB: 3 Starting Pitcher trade targets for teams, post free agency

As the cream of the crop for MLB free agents have pretty much all found their teams for the 2020 regular season and beyond, the focus for teams now shifts towards upgrading through the means of the trade market.

While the highest amount of movement in terms of trades occurs at the trade deadline, which is July 31st and is only one deadline instead of the waiver and non-waiver deadlines being split up into two separate dates, teams have always used the Winter Meetings to get face-to-face conversations with other front offices, in hopes of conjuring up enough conversation to be able to set the groundwork for a trade.

Rumors floating around involving superstars like Nolan Arenado, Mookie Betts, and Francisco Lindor, as well as Josh Hader, Starling Marte, and Joc Pederson, have injected this offseason with a bit of life, especially with how the flow of moves has died down with the vast majority of players having been signed already.

But there are still a ton of players that can push the needle from on the cusp of contending to being a full-fledge contender, as certain teams are looking to either cash in on a player’s 2019 season and trade them for the highest return, or they are simply looking to recoup some value before heading into a season that is sure to be filled with underwhelming and tanking.

Among the troves of MLB players rumored to be on the trading block this offseason, there were three chosen for this article, due to the validity of the reports and teams interested in them. While speculation helps fuel these moves as the offseason progresses, there is at least some sort of a foundation laid for each of these five players to justify their inclusion in this trade-focused article.

With that in mind, here are three starting pitchers that are currently on the trade block, have been mentioned in the rumor mill to be available or would be good additions for teams looking to compete in 2020.

Robbie Ray
Starting Pitcher, Arizona Diamondbacks

Potential Landing Spots: San Diego, Milwaukee, Oakland, Chicago (NL), Washington

For any player in the MLB, their prime years fall – usually – before they turn 30 years old. And for Robbie Ray, not turning 29 until October 2020 is a blessing for him, but a bit of a looming curse for the Diamondbacks.

With one year left on his current contract, combined with the D-Backs not looking to be all that competitive this season, and it has the makings of a trade just waiting to happen. If Arizona was able to get some value in return for shipping out Ray, then they should be happy with any deal, since he would most likely go where he is offered the most money, something that Arizona does not seem all that inclined to do.

Having just signed Madison Bumgarner to a big-money contract, and having shipped out Zack Greinke to the Houston Astros to get rid of a large-money deal, the team has shown its willingness to pay for top pitching. However, with arms like Mike Leake, Merrill Kelly, Zac Gallen, and Luke Weaver in contention for the starting rotation, on top of MadBum, the writing looks to be on the wall for Ray.

Value-wise, the D-Backs should be able to get a decent return for Ray, as he has a projected salary of $10.8 million for this season, according to projections made by MLB Trade Rumors. While that is a solid chunk of money for any team to add, it pales in comparison to the contracts that were recently handed out in the offseason, showcasing that Ray is a value add for any team looking to compete.

As is a common theme throughout this article, San Diego looks to be interested in pretty much any starting pitcher in the trade market, as their farm system is ripe with prospects that they can turn into proven major-league talent. Ray would be a nice lefty option for their rotation, and they have the funds to throw at Ray to keep him in the state of California for longer than just this season.

Other teams, like the Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland Athletics, Chicago Cubs, and Washington Nationals, would be smart to at least check in on what it would take to acquire Ray this offseason.

For the Brewers, they went out and gutted their Wild Card squad and their rotation mirrors that, as Eric Lauer, Brett Anderson and Josh Lindblom were either signed or traded for this offseason. Ray would make the rotation a bit tight in terms of finding enough spots for everyone, which would also include incumbent ace Brandon Woodruff and solid arm Adrian Houser, among others.

The Athletics love a cheap-ish addition to their squad, so their interest would be warranted, just as it would be for both the Cubs and Nationals, who are both on financially-restricted offseason plans. Ray would represent a nice no. 2 or 3 starter for any team, and he would not necessarily require a ton to acquire him either.

Matthew Boyd
SP, Detroit Tigers

Potential Landing Spots: Los Angeles (AL), San Diego, Atlanta, Philadelphia, St. Louis

Matt Boyd, just like Ray, is currently 28 years of age and looking like a gettable player for any team that wants to upgrade their starting rotation. What differs here is that Boyd has three more seasons, including 2020, of arbitration, helping keep any contract costs down for whichever team he suits up for.

Playing for a team that has struggled as much as the Detroit Tigers have can diminish the value of players – but for Boyd, he holds immense value, regardless of if his stats do not say so.

Yes, only have won nine games in a season with a career ERA of 4.75 are both not-good stats, but being held down by his surroundings in the American League Central is the biggest proponent of his on-paper struggles. When pitching for a team that cannot produce – in a consistent manner – at the plate, pitchers will struggle and their stats will reflect that.

Any sort of trade package for Boyd would be a pretty decent haul for the rebuilding Tigers, but not as big as a deal involving another MLB starter, Michael Fulmer, would. Boyd’s value is as high as it can get as a member of the Tigers, and he has made at least 25 starts the past three seasons, topping out at 32 starts and 185.1 innings pitched in 2019.

A bit of a bigger name than Ray, if the potential is weighed more heavily than production, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Padres, and Atlanta Braves have the farm systems to meet the needs of the Tigers. While the Philadelphia Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals would be smart to also check-in, their systems are a bit decimated due to recent moves, and would not match up as well as the other three teams could.

With no determined timeframe for the Tigers to become contenders again, shipping out pitching assets, like Boyd, is in the franchise’s best intentions. Any sort of a return would help push this team towards becoming a playoff squad yet again, even if that mark took a few more years to reach.

Jon Gray
SP, Colorado Rockies

Potential Landing Spots: San Diego, Oakland, Los Angeles (AL), Washington, Tampa Bay

For the final starting pitcher on this list, Jon Gray has had to produce even while playing in a hitter-oriented part of the United States, as Colorado is the best park for anyone who can handle the bat. The third-overall pick in 2013 out of Oklahoma, Gray would be a solid addition to any team moving forward.

Gray marks the third pitcher to currently be 28 years old on this list, which places him in a very desirable part of his career, both physically and monetarily. Under team control for both 2020 and 2021, Gray would not be able to cash in until he turns 30, which is unfortunate for him but great for whichever team he plays for.

While maybe not living up to his third-overall selection quite yet, Gray has produced 150 innings, 25 starts and a sub-5.00 ERA in three of his last four seasons. With his estimated 2020 salary just south of $6 million, Gray is criminally underpaid and any team would need to fork over a solid package of prospects to acquire his services for two seasons.

Among the teams that are or should be interested in him, the Padres, Athletics, and Tampa Bay Rays make the most sense, as he would be a helpful addition to their current rotations, while also not breaking the bank or setting their farm systems back too far.

Of these three MLB pitchers, Gray and Ray are the two most accomplished arms, but Gray gets a bad rap for pitching in Colorado for five seasons. Gray may cost more than Ray due to having an extra year of control, but Gray would end up being the better investment of the two, as he has proven on a consistent basis that even when pitching in a hitter-friendly park, he can still put up good numbers.