Color me skeptical, but ESPN’s Buster Olney says all of the following starting pitchers have already cleared waivers and are eligible to be traded: Chris Capuano, Bruce Chen, Tom Gorzelanny, Ted Lilly, Rodrigo Lopez, Jason Vargas, Chien-Ming Wang and Carlos Zambrano.
It’s largely Vargas’ presence that causes me to question the list. It’s very hard to believe no one would have put a claim in on a Mariners left-hander who has a 4.01 ERA this year, makes just $2.45 million this season and is under control through 2013. Vargas owed much of his success last year to Safeco, but he actually has a 3.88 ERA in 10 road starts this season. Common sense dictates that several teams would have put a claim in on him.
Capuano, Chen and Gorzelanny were also pretty claimable with their modest salaries and decent records this year. Capuano is 9-10 with a 4.51 ERA for the Mets, Chen is 7-5 with a 4.15 ERA for the Royals and Gorzelanny is 2-6 with a 4.50 ERA for the Nationals. Their salaries this year are $1.5 million, $2 million and $2.1 million, respectively, though Capuano and Chen do have incentives that would have increased a claiming team’s financial responsibilities.
The others did figure to slip through waivers. Zambrano was a given. Lilly, who is in the first year of a three-year, $33 million deal, is 7-12 with a 4.71 ERA. Both Zambrano and Lilly have no-trade protection anyway and thus couldn’t have been given away on waivers without their permission. Wang has allowed 12 runs — six earned — in 15 innings since returning from a two years off due to shoulder problems. Lopez is 3-3 with a 4.78 ERA while splitting time between the rotation and the pen for the Cubs.
According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Nationals infielder Danny Espinosa declined to attend the team’s annual Winterfest because of his dissatisfaction with management following their trade for outfielder Adam Eaton.
A source told Castillo that Espinosa’s unhappiness stemmed from a belief that the acquisition would jeopardize his starting role in 2017. With Eaton in center field, Trea Turner will likely return to his post at shortstop, leaving Espinosa out in the cold — or, as the case may be, on the bench. The move shouldn’t come as a big surprise to Espinosa, however, as Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo spoke to the possibility of trading the infielder or reassigning him to a utility role back in early November.
Offensively, the 29-year-old had a down year in 2016, slashing just .209/.306/.378 with 24 home runs in 601 PA. Defensively, he still profiles among the top shortstops in the National League, with eight DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and 8.3 Def (Defensive Runs Above Average) in his seventh year with the club.
Espinosa will reach free agency after the 2017 season.
The Red Sox might be trying to move the wrong pitcher, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Cafardo revealed that while the Sox have been trying to market right-hander Clay Buchholz, more teams would be interested in trades involving southpaw Drew Pomeranz.
The club appears reluctant to deal Pomeranz, especially because his price tag comes in at a cool $4.7 million to Buchholz’s $13.5 million in 2017. Those who have already expressed interest in the veteran hurlers, including the Twins, Mariners and Royals, also seem put off by Buchholz’s salary requirements as he enters his 32nd year.
Health could be another factor preventing teams from jumping to make trade offers, as Cafardo quotes an AL executive who believes the “medicals on both Pomeranz and Buchholz probably aren’t that great.” Neither pitcher suffered any major injuries during the 2016 season, though Pomeranz missed just over a week of play due to forearm soreness.
Pomeranz outperformed his fellow starter in 2016, pitching to a 3.32 ERA and career-best 9.8 K/9 through 170 2/3 innings with the Padres and Red Sox. He got off to an exceptionally strong start in San Diego, where his ERA dropped to 2.47 through the first half of the year before the Padres dealt him to Boston for minor league right-hander Anderson Espinoza. Buchholz, on the other hand, struggled with a 4.78 ERA and saw a decline in both his BB/9 and K/9 rates as he worked out a career-low 1.69 K/BB through 139 1/3 innings with the Sox.