The closer summer gets, the closer we get to trades actually happening. Two teams seeking reliable starting pitchers through this kind of move are the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Chicago White Sox. The Bucs are interested in Rich Hill of the Oakland Athletics, while the Chi Sox have their eyes on James Shields of the San Diego Padres.
It’s no surprise that Hill is a hot trade commodity. While the A’s (22-29) have struggled with their pitching this season, ranked in the bottom third of the league in most categories, Hill has been tremendous. The 36-year old is 8-3 through 11 starts, posting a 2.25 ERA in 64 innings. He’s doing a great job of striking out players (10.4 per nine innings) although his walk rate is probably too high at 3.4 per nine innings. His WHIP is at 1.125 and he’s 4th in WAR for pitchers with 2.2 so far this season.
The best part? He’s making just $6 million. With the A’s obviously looking for younger players and their playoff hopes looking bleak due to so many injuries, moving Hill is a priority. For the Pirates (28-21), rotation is a necessity. They’re only 18th in ERA (4.11) and are tied for 13th in quality starts. Gerrit Cole is the only player in their rotation with an ERA under 4.40. He’s the only one with a WAR above 0.2, which says a lot about their need. The Cubs aren’t an easy team to keep up with, and the Cardinals probably won’t be this mediocre/bad forever.
The White Sox, unlike the Pirates, need more immediate help. They’re fallen to third in the AL Central, losing 14 of their last 18 games. They’ve lost seven in a row, and even the terrific Chris Sale is no longer undefeated. Jose Quintana has been good too, but Mat Latos, Carlos Rodon, Miguel Gonzalez and Josh Danks aren’t cutting it. The problem is moving someone like Shields, as the White Sox aren’t that happy about adding a big contract.
Shields, 34, is making $21 million this season, in 2017 and in 2018. For the Padres to move him, which they’d love to do, they’re going to have to eat up a big portion of his salary. He could become a free agent in 2019, with a $16 million team option and a $2 million buyout. The White Sox have money after Adam LaRoche retired, but this kind of addition to the payroll?
Shields is only 2-6 this season, but he has a 3.06 ERA (on pace to be his best since 2011) and a 1.229 WHIP. He’s finding it more and more difficult to strikeout players, as his k/bb ratio has dropped to just 2.43. Still, considering how things have gone for the White Sox over the last three weeks, adding someone like him should be helpful. But the deal might be too difficult to pull off eventually, when you consider Chicago have already lost some young talent during the offseason when making other deals.