9 pitchers who could be dealt

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Outside the industry-wide waiting game for Shohei Ohtani’s decision, maybe the biggest storyline this winter is the absurd depth of starting pitching available via free agency and trade. In an otherwise slow start to the hot stove season, we have already seen some movement in this part of the market. 

Aaron Nola re-signing with the Phillies for $172 million might not have come as a massive surprise, but it still took one of the biggest names off the board. It also kept things status quo — no shocking new threads have been unveiled just yet.

They’re coming, though. 

And fortunately for the teams that have already missed out on Nola or will soon come up short on the likes of Blake Snell or Yoshinobu Yamamoto, there are a considerable number of high-end starting pitchers reportedly also on the trade market. In turn, the sequencing of such transactions will be fascinating to watch. Do teams with arms to trade wait for the free-agent pitchers to come off the board? Or do they jump at the first strong offer they receive regardless of the ever-evolving market? 

With the excitement of the annual winter meetings — baseball’s most popular venue for wheeling and dealing — just a week away, let’s take a closer look at the top starting pitchers that could be traded this winter.  

*Projected arbitration salary per MLB Trade Rumors

1. Tyler Glasnow, Tampa Bay Rays

2024 age: 30
Team control through: 2024
2024 salary: $25M
2023 stats: 120 IP, 3.53 ERA (118 ERA+), 2.91 FIP, 1.08 WHIP, 3.2 fWAR

Why he could be traded: The Rays have shown us time and time again that once they believe they can replicate or backfill a player’s production with a cheaper alternative, they won’t hesitate to move on. So it goes, it’s now Glasnow’s turn to get shipped out, and he has been widely reported as the top-end starting pitcher most likely to get dealt this winter. 

Why a team should want to trade for him: Since establishing himself in the Rays’ rotation in 2019, Glasnow has been one of the toughest pitchers for big-league hitters to handle. The supersized Cillian Murphy lookalike combines elite extension (how far he gets down the mound before releasing the ball) with an overpowering high-90s heater and two different wicked breaking balls that have proven so effective that learning a changeup has never been necessary for Glasnow (at least so far). 

Coming back from Tommy John surgery, Glasnow never quite looked fully restored to his peak powers in 2023, often struggling with command and appearing a bit more hittable than usual. And yet, Glasnow’s 2.91 FIP ranked third among 127 starting pitchers with at least 100 innings pitched. With a fully healthy spring training on deck for 2024, Glasnow’s high-powered attack should appeal to a ton of teams looking to upgrade their rotation this winter. 

Which teams should be interested: Glasnow’s guaranteed $25 million salary for 2024 might limit his market somewhat, but the Rays shouldn’t struggle too hard to find a match considering the high number of teams communicating a willingness to commit payroll to starting pitching. If they miss out on their preferred free-agent targets, the Cardinals and Cubs each look like great landing spots for Glasnow. I could also see the Rangers pursuing a high-end arm as a short-term solution like Glasnow instead of committing to a high-priced free agent for the long haul.

2. Corbin Burnes, Milwaukee Brewers

2024 age: 29
Team control through: 2024
2024 salary: $15.1M*
2023 stats: 193.2 IP, 3.39 ERA (127 ERA+), 3.81 FIP, 1.07 WHIP, 3.4 fWAR

Why he could be traded: The Brewers might not be fully rebuilding, but 2024 is certainly looking like something of a transition year based on their early moves this winter and ample reporting regarding their willingness, if not intentions, to move some of their more expensive players. As such, Burnes has emerged as a popular trade candidate entering his final year of arbitration. Like the Rays with Glasnow, the Brewers could view a potential haul for Burnes as more beneficial to both their short- and long-term competitive windows than holding onto the pitcher into the season. 

Why a team should want to trade for him: An All-Star each of the past three seasons, Burnes has proven both durable and dominant over significant stretches since his NL Cy Young campaign in 2021. There are some red flags in Burnes’ profile. His surface numbers this past season were undeniably helped by a .244 BABIP against, which was by far the lowest of any qualified starting pitcher. His walk rate has also been trending in the wrong direction while the whiff rate was more good than great in 2023. 

Still, most in the industry would consider Burnes a true No. 1, meaning Milwaukee will be fetching a serious return in a trade to the same level if not even higher than what Tampa Bay wants for Glasnow considering the difference in salary. 

Which teams should be interested: It’s hard to imagine Milwaukee dealing Burnes in division to a team like the Cubs who just swiped their skipper, despite how much I’m sure Craig Counsell would love a reunion of the sort. Even the Cardinals or Reds would seem unlikely, regardless of how much Burnes could help both of those rotations. The Dodgers have been a rumored landing spot dating back to last winter, and that certainly tracks; a deal built around infield prospect Michael Busch and an arm or two could work nicely.

3. Dylan Cease, Chicago White Sox

2024 age: 28
Team control through: 2025
2024 salary: $8.8M*
2023 stats: 177 IP, 4.58 ERA (97 ERA+), 3.72 FIP, 1.42 WHIP, 3.7 fWAR

Why he could be traded: General manager Chris Getz has made it quite clear since taking the reins that no player is untouchable in trade talks. With just two years of team control remaining. Unlike with the Rays and Brewers, the White Sox are in full rebuilding mode, meaning they don’t necessarily need to weigh the value of hanging onto Cease to help win in the first half versus dealing him for long-term help right now. At the same time, it’s possible Chicago could fetch similar value for Cease at next year’s trade deadline if it can’t find a worthwhile deal to strike this winter. 

Why a team should want to trade for him: Teams that are interested in Snell would almost certainly find similar appeal in Cease, who is probably Snell’s closest parallel across the entire starting pitching landscape. Both arms attack with an array of absurdly nasty pitches that have proven incredibly effective even when rarely deployed in the strike zone. Snell just won the NL Cy Young while leading his league in walks; Cease led the AL in free passes in 2022 before finishing second in the AL race. 

Cease’s 2023 was obviously much worse than Snell’s as far as run prevention, but a lot of that can be attributed to a combination of bad luck and even worse defense behind him. The righty has also been impressively durable since joining Chicago’s rotation full-time, having not missed a start in any of the past four seasons. The prospect cost would be significant, but there might be even more untapped upside in an arm like Cease with the right organization, and that could make the heavy price well worth paying. 

Which teams should be interested: The Orioles have by far the most prospect ammunition to go after a guy like Cease (or anyone, for that matter); it’s just a matter of how much they value him. If they are looking for Cy Young upside and don’t want to pay Cy Young prices, Cease is the obvious target for the Birds. 

The Reds check a lot of the same boxes as Baltimore, though their best trade chips are already at the big-league level and thus less likely to move. As for other teams with the high-end prospect depth to swing a Cease swap, the Rangers, Dodgers and Red Sox all fit well. 

4. Shane Bieber, Cleveland Guardians

2024 age: 29
Team control through: 2024
2024 salary: $12.2M*
2023 stats: 128 IP, 3.80 ERA (110 ERA+), 3.87 FIP, 1.23 WHIP, 2.1 fWAR

Why he could be traded: Like in Tampa Bay, Cleveland has historically moved off its expensive players before letting them reach free agency, and Bieber is a year away from the open market while being projected to be the club’s second-highest paid player behind José Ramírez. It would be something of an unfulfilling end to Bieber’s celebrated tenure in Cleveland, but the next wave of young arms (Tanner Bibee, Logan Allen, Gavin Williams) looks primed to shine in the Guardians’ rotation, so they might not miss him as much as you’d expect. 

Why a team should want to trade for him: Though he did ultimately return for two September starts, Bieber’s missed time due to elbow inflammation in the second half of 2023 will likely impact his trade value. Interested teams could view it as a blip and perhaps even an explanation for an otherwise middling campaign; others might view it as a concerning precursor to diminished durability. A healthy Bieber still exhibits one of the best finesse-based profiles of any starter. He effectively commands and mixes four pitches to coax a high rate of ground balls and pitch deep into games. 

At the same time, a fascinating free-agent case for Bieber looms next year should his peripherals and underlying metrics (career-low 20.1% strikeout-rate; career-high .334 xwOBA allowed in 2023) continue to trend in the wrong direction. An acquiring team will be seeking a version of Bieber resembling 2022 more than 2023.

Which teams should be interested: They don’t have an ultra-deep farm to deal from, but I could see the Giants pursuing Bieber as an excellent alternative in the unfortunate scenario that they once again whiff at the top of the free-agent market. 

5. Paul Blackburn, Oakland Athletics

2024 age: 30
Team control through: 2025
2024 salary: $3.2M*
2023 stats: 103.2 IP, 4.43 ERA (92 ERA+), 3.96 FIP, 1.54 WHIP, 1.5 fWAR

Why he could be traded: Blackburn represents one of the few veterans left on the Oakland roster worth cashing in for potential future assets via trade. And hey, he’s made more All-Star teams (1) than Glasnow and Cease combined (0)! 

Why a team should want to trade for him: OK, fine, the All-Star nod was certainly circumstantial at best, but Blackburn is an excellent target for teams seeking an arm they can confidently plug into the back-end of their rotation and not sweat about it. Rather than blow opponents away with velocity, Blackburn relies on a variety of quality secondary pitches — sliders, curveballs, changeups — to keep hitters off-balance and get whiffs when he needs them. 

You might not want him starting an actual playoff game, but Blackburn is the kind of pitcher who can help teams stay afloat over the grueling six-month season in order to secure a postseason spot. 

Which teams should be interested: Teams intrigued by Blackburn will likely be ones who feel good about their first 2-3 arms but need some certainty beyond that. The Diamondbacks and Twins come to mind as clubs that might not want to play in the tippy-top of the starting pitching market (in free agency or trade) but could really use a cost-effective starter with reasonable upside to soak up innings.  

6. Logan Gilbert, Seattle Mariners

2024 age: 27
Team control through: 2027
2024 salary: $4.9M*
2023 stats: 190.2 IP, 3.73 ERA (108 ERA+), 3.85 FIP, 1.08 WHIP, 3.2 fWAR

Why he could be traded: As one of very few teams with enviable depth of young starting pitching, Seattle has the opportunity to pursue offensive upgrades on the trade market using this relative surplus of arms. That said, the caliber of upgrade will be dependent on who they are willing to part with. I don’t think Gilbert is the most likely Mariner hurler to be moved this winter, but he represents the middle ground between a likely untouchable in George Kirby and the group of promising rookies in Bryan Woo and Bryce Miller (and Emerson Hancock to a much lesser extent) who the organization might view as more expendable in the right deal. 

Why a team should want to trade for him: In an era where ultra-reliable workhorses are becoming increasingly rare, Gilbert looks like one of the best bets to devour innings at an elite rate of any mid-20s arm in the league. In that sense, he’s tracking a lot like Nola, who obviously just signed for a healthy chunk of change. 

Miller and Woo each showed flashes of brilliance while also enduring some big-league reality checks as rookies. I’d guess Woo currently harbors more trade value than Miller considering what he’s demonstrated thus far, but you could make a strong argument for each of them moving forward. 

Which teams should be interested: It’s difficult to identify a trade where parting with Gilbert would be a worthwhile maneuver. Gilbert’s future and multiple years of team control might even be too heavy a price to pay for Juan Soto, who’d surely bolt in free agency after just one year. As such, any Gilbert trade would likely need to land Seattle a talented young bat with a similarly bright outlook to impact the team for years to come. The Cardinals stand out as a team with several such players (Lars Nootbaar, Nolan Gorman, Brendan Donovan). 

Miller or Woo might appeal to an even wider swath of teams looking for pitchers with even lower mileage than Gilbert but similarly high ceilings. The Orioles lines up well with Seattle for many of the same reasons as St. Louis; they need high-end pitching badly and arguably have even more upper-level bats than they know what to do with. 

7. Alek Manoah, Toronto Blue Jays

2024 age: 26
Team control through: 2027
2024 salary: Pre-arbitration
2023 stats: 87.1 IP, 5.87 ERA (72 ERA+), 6.01 FIP, 1.74 WHIP, -0.4 fWAR

Why he could be traded: It’d be tough to fathom a more wayward season than what Manoah endured in 2023, a shocking departure from the path he seemed to be squarely on after finishing third in the AL Cy Young race in 2022. As a result, reports suggest the Blue Jays are at least willing to entertain offers for Manoah this winter, which is certainly not something that would’ve been on the table a year ago. It’d indisputably be selling low on the right-hander, but if an interested club still views Manoah as a potential frontline arm and is willing to pay the prospect price for it, Toronto does boast enough rotation depth to withstand dealing away an arm like Manoah if the return is right. 

Why a team should want to trade for him: Even if they don’t believe Manoah can recapture the ace-level performance of 2022, I’m sure plenty of teams would be willing to bet that 2023’s mess of a year was an outlier in the grand scheme of Manoah’s career. The underlying metrics suggest the ERA may never sink to 2.24 again, but a durable mid-rotation version of Manoah would still carry real value for the Jays or another team interested in acquiring him. There are clearly mechanical issues to work on and perhaps the relationship with his current club needs mending, which opens up a classic case for change of scenery for a talented pitcher still under team control for four more seasons. 

Which teams should be interested: There’s still risk associated with spending real prospect capital on a player like Manoah, even considering the upside in play. A team that is trading for Manoah probably shouldn’t be acquiring only Manoah to address their rotation needs, so we’re probably looking at teams willing to add multiple starters this winter, like the Dodgers and Cardinals, or perhaps the Giants.

8. Ryan Pepiot, Los Angeles Dodgers

2024 age: 26
Team control through: 2028
2024 salary: Pre-arbitration
2023 stats: 42 IP, 2.14 ERA (204 ERA+), 4.18 FIP, 0.76 WHIP, 0.4 fWAR

Why he could be traded: If the Dodgers are to make a big splash on the trade market this winter, it would seem logical that such a deal would include at least one of the bevy of young arms that either recently reached the big leagues (Pepiot, Michael Grove, Emmet Sheehan, Michael Grove, Gavin Stone, Kyle Hurt) or are expected to in 2024 (Nick Frasso, Landon Knack, River Ryan) — let’s assume Bobby Miller is virtually untouchable. Again, like the Mariners with Gilbert, Pepiot might not be the most likely name to get shipped out, but he’s representative of an area of depth the Dodgers could trade from, especially if they also add a starter or two in free agency. 

Why a team should want to trade for him: Of all the 26-and-under hurlers that have already broken through for the Dodgers at the big league level, Pepiot has performed the best. That doesn’t mean he necessarily carries more trade value than Miller or a prospect like Frasso, but he does come with some level of certainty, having posted a 2.76 ERA in 78.1 big-league innings. He pounds the zone with a mid-90s four-seamer and a changeup that has some of the nastiest movement of any cambio in the game.

Which teams should be interested: The trade values of all these mid-20s Dodgers arms listed above surely varies wildly across the industry, so it’s awfully difficult to forecast which one could emerge as a potential headliner in any upcoming trade. That said, if we assume L.A. is going after some of the other names on this list, I’ll mention the Rays and Brewers as realistic trade partners that could be interested in someone like Pepiot or one of his peers. 

9. Clarke Schmidt, New York Yankees

2024 age: 28
Team control through: 2027
2024 salary: $2.6M*
2023 stats: 159 IP, 4.64 ERA (93 ERA+), 4.42 FIP, 1.35 WHIP, 1.8 fWAR

Why he could be traded: With a fairly clean bill of health and four remaining years of team control, Schmidt represents a potentially attractive trade chip for the Yankees in the scenario that they add multiple high-end starters this winter and are counting on far healthier versions of Carlos Rodón and Nestor Cortes in 2024. Those are big ifs, of course. 

Why a team should want to trade for him: In an otherwise disastrous year for the Yankees/ rotation outside of Cy Young winner Gerrit Cole, Schmidt was wholly dependable across 32 starts. He throws strikes and can spin the hell out of the baseball, registering in the 95th percentile or above in average spin rates for both his fastball and his best pitch, an excellent curveball. 

Which teams should be interested: With just one full season as a big-league starter under his belt, Schmidt could still unlock further potential with the right tweaks. If I’m the Padres and I’m dealing Soto to the Yankees, Schmidt looks to me like an obvious piece to ask for as part of the return. Schmidt shouldn’t be headlining such a deal, but he looks like an excellent candidate to excel further under pitching coach Ruben Niebla and bring some long-term stability to a shallow rotation.

Jordan Shusterman is half of @CespedesBBQ and a baseball writer for FOX Sports. He has covered baseball for his entire adult life, most notably for MLB.com, DAZN and The Ringer. He’s a Mariners fan living in the Eastern Time Zone, which means he loves a good 10 p.m. first pitch. You can follow him on Twitter @j_shusterman_. 

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