Tuesday Rockpile: Examining pitchers on the trade market

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

What's out there for the Rockies in terms of starting pitching if Juan Nicasio and Jeff Francis are unable to find their form?

Jhoulys Chacin was pitching like an ace before landing on the disabled list, but was erratic on Sunday in his return to action. Jorge De La Rosa has been a mixed bag, while Juan Nicasio and Jeff Francis have gone off the rails since delivering solid starts in their first games of the season.

The fact that it can even be argued that Jon Garland might be the team's most consistent starter probably isn't a good thing. But, could there be help on the way?

The Colorado Rockies could be in the position to acquire a starting pitcher at or before the trade deadline if the team is able to stay in contention over the course of the next 40 to 50 games, depending on whether or not early-season revenue allows an increase in payroll. That is according to Ken Rosenthal, who recently spoke with an unnamed Rockies official. Of course, snow and generally bad weather have kept fans from attending home games in droves, but as the weather picks up, so too should the attendance, especially if the Rockies keep winning.

I guess the first thing that should be tackled is: Do the Rockies really need help? As hard as it would be due to his history with the Rockies, the team could cut Francis if he continues to under-perform. However, he leads the rotation in K/9 and is posting the best groundball numbers of his career, so he has probably earned himself a bit longer leash than a lot of people think he should have. Nicasio, on the other hand, has an option remaining and could be sent to Triple-A -- a level in which he's never pitched -- to work on developing secondary pitches and improving his poor 1.33 K/BB ratio. If one or both of those pitchers are removed from the starting rotation, Colorado has Tyler Chatwood and Drew Pomeranz waiting in the wings. Both pitchers have mostly performed well this season -- especially Chatwood, who has been dominant in the minors and was quite serviceable in two big league starts in place of Chacin.

If the team feels Pomeranz needs more seasoning in the minors, which is entirely possible, they might take a gander at the trade market -- one that could include Matt Garza, Scott Feldman, Ricky Nolasco, Edinson Volquez, David Price and others, according to MLB Trade Rumors. The reality of acquiring those pitchers varies by name and situation, but for the sake of humoring myself and the faithful readers of Purple Row, let's examine some of these guys, while also including Pomeranz, Chatwood and the Rockies' newest acquisition, Roy Oswalt:

Player Team ERA K/9 BB/9 GB/FB
Matt Garza * CHC 3.91 8.3 2.8 0.94
Scott Feldman CHC 2.70 6.6 3.4 1.12
Ricky Nolasco MIA 4.14 5.4 2.2 0.74
Edinson Volquez SD 5.50 5.0 3.8 0.85
David Price TB 6.25 8.1 2.4 1.12
Kevin Slowey MIA 1.81 7.3 1.6 0.52
Carlos Villanueva CHC 2.85 7.2 2.4 0.96
Jake Peavy CHW 3.38 11.0 1.7 0.65
Tommy Hanson LAA 4.18 5.5 2.9 0.67
Bud Norris HOU 3.89 7.1 3.9 0.56
Lucas Harrell HOU 5.03 6.2 4.6 1.43
Jon Niese
NYM
4.66 4.9 4.7 1.19
Drew Pomeranz +
COL 3.51 10.8 3.2 1.52
Tyler Chatwood + COL 1.84 10.4 2.5 2.25
Roy Oswalt * COL 5.80 9.0 1.7 0.82

* 2012 stats
+ MiLB stats

Price is on the list because he is technically affordable (he's in the middle of a one-year, $10.1 million deal and remains in the arbitration stage), but the Rockies probably don't have the prospect package -- whether the team would actually part with them or otherwise -- that Tampa Bay would be looking for, so let's eliminate him. Jake Peavy's contract includes a player option for 2015 and he currently makes $14.5 million per year, which is likely well out of Colorado's price range, so he's off the list as well.

Tommy Hanson and Lucas Harrell have pitched themselves into being non-tender candidates, so the Rockies would be ill-advised to attempt to trade for either of those players. That leaves the three players already controlled by Colorado, plus the three Cubs, two Marlins, Volquez, Norris and Niese.

Volquez and Niese have struggled with command this season, and the former is not a groundball pitcher, so he's out. Garza hasn't pitched in 2013 and at a salary of more than $10 million, is too much of a risk. He's gone.

Feldman, Nolasco, Slowey, Villanueva, Norris and Niese remain, along with the Rockies' internal options. Norris' strikeouts are down, walks are up and he's traditionally a flyball pitcher. He's only 24 and thus would be an intriguing investment, but the Astros may want too much for him for that reason. Bye bye, Bud.

The Rockies already had Slowey before trading him during the offseason before he ever appeared in any sort of game with the team. Would they want to give up something to reacquire him? And, how concerning would his flyball tendencies be in Denver? My guess is that, since he is the very definition of a pitch-to-contact guy, he would be hurt more than helped by Colorado's expansive outfield. Slowey is a pretty interesting arm, but he'll be brushed aside in this case.

Niese's 2013 numbers are bad, but he's historically posted acceptable K/BB numbers. However, he's only induced more grounders than flyballs once in his career prior to this season, so his now-questionable command might be too risky. Niese and his new nose can stay in New York for now.

Feldman, Nolasco and Villanueva are left. Would any of these guys outperform Chatwood or Pomeranz (or Oswalt, if he proves he can still pitch)? My guess is no, although I do believe Villanueva, who was never handled right by Milwaukee or Toronto, has the ability to be a good back-end guy and would be more than acceptable as a mid-rotation starter on a lesser staff.

Not many people are fans of teams holding steady, but lately, it seems like high-profile trades simply don't work out. Colorado may be better off looking for opportunities to make sure its bullpen and offense remain strong, whether that means acquiring depth in lower-profile transactions or looking at internal options to fill potential holes.

What do you guys think?

Off-topic

Links

Todd Helton will have to pay a fine and serve a year on probation as a result of his offseason DUI arrest and ensuing guilty plea.

GTFO, Chipper.

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