We’ve spent the month of July examining which players might be on the move ahead of the trade deadline. Now, with less than two weeks until July 31 passes, we wanted to provide ordinal rankings of the players we deem to be the best pitchers who stand a realistic chance of being dealt. Remember: Beginning this season, there will be no August waiver-trade period. As such, we may be too high (or too low) on the chances of this or that team deciding to sell.
Also remember, these rankings are subjective and based on a variety of factors, including but not limited to: how the player has played this season and in the recent past, what their underlying measures and projection systems indicate about their true-talent level, and how scouts and analysts view their skills and tools — both now and heading forward.
With that stated, let’s get to the fireworks.
10. Kirby Yates
Hey, Kirby Yates is used to closing out games — why not our top 10 list? You can sub in Will Smith or Shane Greene or Ken Giles or whomever you want here instead. We prefer Yates because he’s been dominant since mastering a splitter. To put it another way: He’s thrown more than 600 over the past two seasons, and batters have recorded five extra-base hits off it. That’s all. He’s under control for an additional season and would make a quality add to any contender’s ‘pen.
9. Zack Wheeler
Zack Wheeler has a lot of innate qualities that teams value: a lively, hot fastball; a number of swing-and-miss secondaries; strike-throwing ability. What he doesn’t have, for right now anyway, is a clean bill of health. Wheeler will race against the clock to return from the injured list ahead of the deadline. Perhaps the Mets find a taker either way, but this is a storyline to watch.
8. Tanner Roark
Tanner Roark doesn’t have premium stuff. He does, nonetheless, have a track record of getting outs. Roark has thrown at least 180 innings with an ERA+ over 95 in each of the past three seasons. He’s well on his way to running that streak to four. If you’re looking for a front-of-the-rotation stud, look elsewhere. But if you want a solid, no-frills No. 4 starter? Then it would behoove you to see if the Reds are willing to trade one of their impending free agents.
7. Robbie Ray
Robbie Ray has one of the most effective sliders in baseball, a high-grade offering that opponents have batted .184 against on the season while missing on more than 40 percent of their swings. Unfortunately, he also has subpar command, leading to inflated walk and home-run rates. There’s a lot of volatility in his game as a result. With a year of team control remaining, any acquiring team could be hoping he’d be “on” for more of those starts than not.
6. Matthew Boyd
Anyone who bet on Matthew Boyd being one of the best starters available entering this season deserves a prize. Boyd has worked hard to improve his breaking ball and delivery, and his results to date (including a 6.33 strikeout-to-walk ratio) suggest that he’s been rewarded for his perseverance. He’s under team control through the 2022 season, so any team who buys in on the new Boyd could employ him until he’s old — or, at least, older and into his 30s.
5. Trevor Bauer
We think Trevor Bauer is more likely to be moved in the offseason, given Cleveland is very much alive in the playoff hunt and he’s an important part of their rotation. But Cleveland has placed him on the trading block before, so the righty with the 10.4 K/9 rate makes our list.
4. Mike Minor
With the Rangers sliding and the Giants surging, Mike Minor might end up being the best pitcher moved. He would’ve been a fair choice to start the All-Star Game, and his trade value is only helped by the additional year on his contract (at a pittance: less than $10 million). Minor has an above-average rising fastball and a quality changeup. He’s also done well to put his durability concerns behind him, having not required an IL stint since missing the 2015 and 2016 seasons.
No active player’s legacy is more tied up with their October performances than Madison Bumgarner — to the extent it’s easy to forget he won’t turn 30 until Aug. 1. Bumgarner may not throw hard, and he hasn’t made more than 25 starts in a season since 2016 (that’ll change this year), but he remains an above-average starter with excellent control (over his pitches, not his emotions) and a rare gravitas. His no-trade clause will help him pick his destination.
Take exception to Marcus Stroman’s height or outward displays of emotion if you’d like, but he’s working on his third 200-inning season in four tries and has a 118 ERA+ since the start of 2017. Sure, he doesn’t strike out a ton of batters. He does generate copious weak grounders, however, and tweaking his pitch mix could lead to more swing and misses. Of course, acquiring Stroman and just letting him do his thing for the next year-plus would be all right, too.
League sources have told CBS Sports that Noah Syndergaard is on the trading block. It doesn’t feel as though a deal is likely to occur before the deadline, but we think there’s enough of a chance to justify his inclusion on this list. Syndergaard is having an underwhelming season from a surface level, yet some of that can be blamed on the Mets’ defense, which is among the worst in baseball. Get him a change of scenery, complete with a better defense and an organization he’s less likely to clash with on a personal level, and we believe he’ll return to his ace status.