No, this isn't more Todd Helton rumor-monguering (although the failed Red Sox negotiations have successfully made fodder for speculation by national sportswriters) but rather, taking a cue from a comment by malakian in yesterday's Matt Herges thread, a speculation into the market for sub-prime bottom of the rotation pitchers Josh Fogg and Byung-Hyun Kim.
With four slots in the rotation seemingly decided pending a decent Spring by Jason Hirsh (profiled today by Tracy Ringolsby at the Rocky Mountain News) we figure at least one of the pair will be moved along this Spring. The question is "where?" Unfortunately, the answer to that question for Kim and Fogg almost has to be "wait and see." There are several reasons for this.
First, I have to say the optimal market for fifth starters isn't as easy to predict as it is for top or mid-rotation types and it develops very late. As the announcement of Kris Benson's rotator cuff surgery yesterday showed, injuries can force new teams into the market for pitchers quickly. Spring Training typically reveals a multitude of similar arm problems. While Benson's season ending surgery forced the Orioles to sign Steve Trachsel, the ripple effect should eventually find an opening at Kim and Fogg's level. Florida is a team that might have a more direct need of a fifth starter due to injury, Anibal Sanchez and Josh Johnson enter camp with questions about the health of their arms. While the Marlins have a lot of young minor league depth at pitcher, there's no guarantee that it will be ready to step in to fill two slots in the rotation in 2007.
This brings up another reason to wait. Several teams besides the Rockies -the Mets, Cardinals, Giants, and Twins among them- are expecting, or hoping for, rookies to be ready to step into the rotation in 2007. Maybe the success of Justin Verlander, Francisco Liriano, Jered Weaver and the Marlins' crew last season led to this confidence, but history suggests that several of these rookie pitchers will flop. Spring Training should reveal a couple rookies that are unready, boosting the market more.
Importantly, there's also a question of a couple of remaining free agents who are more or less on a par with the production Fogg and Kim gave last season. If a team could expect the same production from Mark Redman with a minor league invite that it could in a trade for Fogg, then giving up prospects or cash doesn't make any sense.
This said, the possible field is still very wide. The Phillies, Dodgers, Cubs, Brewers, Indians, White Sox, Tigers and Yankees seem to be the teams we can take out of the equation as they all have six starters who are probably as good or better than Fogg is, and Kim's still too much of a wild card to merit these teams' attention. After that, there are 21 teams with varying degrees of depth/injury issues in their rotations that given the right circumstances, could come calling this Spring.
I think a bigger issue concerns what the Rockies can expect back when a trade does happen. Even though we can expect the team that we'll make a deal with to have little leverage, the Rockies might have even less given their roster glut. Due to many teams feeling -rightly or not- that their in house opitons could do as well, some will be hesitant to pull the trigger.
Last season, the only March trade involving a team unloading a spare starter was the Bronson Arroyo for Wily Mo Pena deal between the Reds and Red Sox. Obviously neither Fogg nor Kim could expect to get as high a return. A more troubling parallel could be made with Fogg to the 2005 Kaz Ishii for Jason Phillips trade between the Mets and Dodgers. Kim could expect to draw more attention then this, but what will . Our best hope seems to be to acquire a once promising but stalled and/or blocked talent in the hopes he can revive his career with the Rockies or a bench player.
Historically, minor league outfielders seem to figure prominently in these trades as do catchers. The March trades I've looked at of bottom of the rotation starters for minor league pitching don't seem to typically fare well for the team giving up the MLB talent, so I'd try and avoid taking on another club's failed mound projects.