Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Pitching Rumblings in the NL Central

Unless you've spent the last 24 hours under a rock, deployed under water, or in a Montana log cabin with your wife or mistress (or both - goodie for you?), you're aware that CC Sabathia was traded from Cleveland to Milwaukee yesterday. CC (note the new punctuation, per his comments at the Brewers' introductory press conference yesterday) is scheduled to start TONIGHT for Milwaukee against the Rockies.

It is fair to say this shifts the balance of power in the Central. I must agree with Larry Borowsky, the Cardinals' playoff hopes took a severe hit when this deal was consummated. Assuming Ben Sheets can stay healthy for the rest of the season (which is a big assumption, as he hasn't made 30 starts in a season since 2004), the Brewers have a knockout 1-2 punch at the front of their rotation. Not even the Cubs can match Sheets/Sabathia.

So now that the Brewers have thrown down the gauntlet, what are the rest of the National League teams fighting for the Wild Card to do?

The answer is not much. Assuming that the sellers will be teams out of the running at the trade deadline, here are your potential trade partners this month: Toronto, Kansas City, Cleveland, Seattle, Washington, Pittsburgh, Houston, San Diego, Colorado, and possibly Baltimore, Texas, New York Mets, Cincinnati, and the Giants.

These teams are in the bottom half of the league for a reason.

Let's break it down even further:

Teams that can pitch but can't hit: Toronto
Teams that can hit but can't pitch: Texas, Colorado, Houston, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Pittsburgh
Teams that basically suck all around the course: KC, Cleveland, Seattle, Washington, San Diego, Mets, Giants

The most popular names floating around in the internets as possible trade bait are AJ Burnett (TOR), and Randy Wolf (SD). One of the more intriguing names to surface in the last 24 hours is Rich Harden of the A's. Rich is exactly like Ben Sheets - a legit #1 when healthy, but rarely healthy. It is rumored the Cubs are interested in Harden. I don't know enough about their organizational depth to say whether they have the prospects Billy Beane would demand in return for Harden's rental, but I'm sure the Cubs understand they need to do something - they can't go into October with Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, and the 3 stooges in their rotation.

There are other good pitchers on the above listed teams - Cliff Lee (CLE), Cook (COL), Roy Oswalt (HOU), Zack Grienke (KC), and so on - but I can't see any of them becoming available as trade bait at the deadline. Most of them are young starters or the faces of their respective franchises, and would be political suicide for the teams to move them.

So it appears the Cardinals will need to rest their hopes on the rehabilitating arms of Wainwright (who starts playing catch this week) and Chris Carpenter (who is throwing off the mound again) vice making a splash in the trade market for a starter.

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