Pitchers around baseball have been dropping like a good curveball thrown by one of the few remaining healthy pitchers around baseball.
OK, it’s not quite that drastic. Still, this flood of pitcher injuries might change the complexion of the trade deadline, although not necessarily in a way that favors a seller. (You may insert “White Sox” for “seller” if you wish, but they are over .500, so it seems kinda macabre to be that blunt about speculation.)
For instance, Steven Wright is considering season-ending knee surgery. That’s not as big of a drain on the Red Sox as their play at third base, but its impact depends on whether David Price can successfully return from his arm injury. The Yankees are off to the kind of hot start that can make them buyers, and the Orioles are Baltimoring, as evidenced by Red Sox pitchers spamming Manny Machado. The stage is set for a battle royale that favors sellers.
Likewise, Corey Kluber’s strained back isn’t an immediate crisis for Cleveland, because it might be the breather he needs, and Mike Clevinger is a pretty good sixth starter. But if Kluber struggles to get back to 100 percent, Cleveland may struggle to separate from an AL Central in which all that stands between first and fourth place is one game.
On the other side, Cole Hamels is sidelined eight weeks with an oblique strain, which is the kind of injury that helps out potential buyers. At 11-17, the Rangers were already off to a miserable start before this news. After this news, it makes it incredibly difficult for Texas to pose a challenge to Houston. The Astros already have a 41⁄2-game lead, and unless you believe the Angels (who already lost Garrett Richards for the season) or the Mariners can pose a threat, they might not have the incentive to add a top-flight starter. On Texas’ side, a lost season might prompt them to trade Yu Darvish before he reaches free agency, adding another option to the market.
The Rangers are one of the numerous teams whose hopes have been stomped early. Toronto just saw Marcus Stroman leave his Wednesday start early with arm tightness. He says it isn’t a concern, but any prolonged absence could trigger a liquidation sale. Madison Bumgarner’s dirt bike escapades might have a similar chilling effect on the NL West unless the Diamondbacks and Rockies are really intent on making it a four-way slugfest. The Mets face an uphill climb with Noah Syndergaard’s absence, and the Royals could have a couple starters to trade, depending on whether they feel Ian Kennedy will opt out.
This might all be half-alarming, half-affirming for those who thought the Sox failed by not trading Jose Quintana in the offseason. I might be one of those if I had a sense of what the White Sox rejected. However, the reports only added one player after another to the “untouchable” list, rather than giving a sense of what the White Sox thought was too little, so I’m inclined to think the market was truly inhospitable to one team trying to trade two cost-controlled aces. It’s not like that situation has a ton of precedents.
The deadline might be similarly unfriendly to a Quintana trade, but here’s where we note that there’s a lot of season left, and point to the White Sox’ over-.500 record as proof. Vegas doesn’t believe.
In the meantime, this is why it makes sense for the White Sox to go balls-to-the-wall for Luis Robert. A top-flight position-player prospect materializing out of thin air/Cuba would go a long way to alleviate the anxiety from any alleged missed window for trading Quintana, since a promising young outfielder was supposed to be Quintana’s contribution to the team in 2017. Throw in the June draft and some bullpen-starved MLB contenders, and the White Sox might be able to add to their wave of prospects without forcing Quintana on a market that may still underappreciate him.