“That’s Amore!” National League Central: You Have to Beat the Best to be the Best!

CarlosAfter 12 weeks, the Cubs sit 2.5 games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates, and 11.5 games behind the division leading St. Louis Cardinals. This past weekend, the Cubs lost three straight games to the Cardinals causing them to miss out on shortening the gap in the NL Central. For the season, the Cubs are 2-7 against their division foes. They’ve had their share of trouble scoring runs while allowing St. Louis to plaster the scoreboard with crooked numbers. With the resurgence of Carlos Martinez, it won’t be easy to score against St. Louis’ dominating pitching staff.

Moving forward, the Cubs need to acquire pitching if they want to limit the number of runs they allow. They’ve played in many one or two run ball games, this trend can’t continue as the season progresses. I’m not a fan of the Cubs moving any hitting talent to obtain pitching, but some changes need to be made if they want to compete for a Wild Card spot this season. I want to take a look at potential starting pitchers they could acquire by the July 31 trade deadline, or wait until free agency over the winter.

Cole Hamels

Trade Scenario: Unlikely

ColeIt’s no secret that Hamels will be on the move within a month. It’ll cost an organization a handful of top prospects. Will Hamels be worth depleting your coveted prospects? Hamels is 31-years-old with a career record of 113-89 and ERA of 3.27. He’s 5-6 on the season, but is playing with the worst Phillies team he’s ever been apart of. Ruben Amaro is vying for his job after Andy MacPhail takes over as Phillies president. In a perfect world Amaro would stay put, but MacPhail will want to bring in a young GM that is ready for his first shot at piecing together an organization in shambles. Amaro will be looking for nothing short of a gold mine for Hamels. The Cubs have the talent in their minor league system, but I’m not sure how much they want to spare for a pitcher that is owed $23.5mil through 2018 with a $20mil team option, $24mil vesting option (400 IP in 2017-18, including 200 IP in 2018), and $6mil buyout. That’s a lot of money to pay a pitcher, and a deal for a contract like this means you want to win immediately. I still feel the Cubs are two to three years away from reaching the World Series. The Phillies need all the help they can get and will more than likely want a combination of Starlin Castro, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora, or Javier Baez. There’s no way the Cubs will move any two, but could potentially land Hamels for Baez, minor league pitcher C.J. Edwards, and another lower-end prospect. It’s a deal that I’m sure would open the ears of Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein, but the $23.5mil a year contract isn’t something they want to take on.

Johnny Cueto

Trade Scenario: Possible

Free Agent Signing: More Possible

CuetoCueto will be dealt with the fear of getting no return if he leaves via free agency. Cueto would step in as the number one and make an immediate impact. He’s familiar with the division, but it’s unlikely the Reds would move Cueto to a division rival. Cueto’s contract is for $10mil and ends after this season. The Cubs could get him for half of the$10mil, but I wouldn’t make the deal unless he agrees to sign an extension beforehand. The Reds asking price would be a bit lower than Phillies’, but at the same time it could be just as high if they are dealing with their division foe. Cueto is two years younger (29) than Hamels and has been able to consistently shoulder a season’s workload throughout his career. What would Cueto cost? The Reds need pitching and C.J. Edwards is a pitcher that could be packaged with another player. The Cubs recently drafted Ian Happ which could make Albert Almora available. I’d highly consider moving Almora and Edwards if I could land an extension-signing Cueto. The Cubs could risk waiting until free agency to sign Cueto over the winter. Johnny looks like he can eat and there’s no reason why Cueto wouldn’t want to spend the next five or six years dining on Chicago deep dish pizza.

David Price

Trade Scenario: None

Free Agent Signing: Highly Possible

Seattle Mariners v Detroit TigersIt’s been speculated that Chicago could be a landing spot for the highly coveted lefty. He’s due for a pay raise and should manage anywhere from $20-$25mil a year. He’s a year younger than Jon Lester who received a 6 year/$155mil contract with the Cubs. If Price signs and Lester figures it out, the Cubs could have the best lefty-lefty starting combination in baseball. Money will be a main factor, but the Cubs are in desperate need of pieces behind Lester, Arrieta, and Hammel. I wouldn’t mind a 3.16 career ERA pitcher joining that rotation. It would instantly make them contenders in a season or two. I don’t see Price being moved by the deadline and the Cubs won’t want to move any top prospects for a potential free agent. However, the Tigers were able to steal him from Tampa and the Tigers would possibly take something rather than losing him this winter.

Jordan Zimmermann

Trade Scenario: None

Free Agent Signing: Possible (Becomes more possible if Price signs elsewhere)

MLB: Spring Training-Detroit Tigers at Washington NationalsZimmermann is another pitcher just under 30 who will be available this winter. He should be in the market anywhere from $18-$20mil per season. I saw the Scherzer signing as insurance just in case Washington can’t reach an extension with Zimmermann. The Nationals are contending now and are primed for a deep push in the playoffs. If they win the World Series, I think it makes it easier to see Zimmermann sign elsewhere. After Price and Cueto, Zimmermann would be third on the Cubs short list.

Aaron Harang

Trade Scenario: Possible

Free Agent Signing: Highly Possible

If Hamels is a no go then Harang could be another option. The 37 year-old veteran has pitched admirably on a horrible team. He’s 4-10 but owns a 3.56 ERA with a [72:26] K:BB and 1.149 WHIP. I know he’s not the most appealing addition, but he could fill a void if the Cubs are in contention for a Wild Card spot. He could be obtained for cheap, as he’s owed only $2.5mil out of the $5mil he’s owed in the final year of his contract. Even if he’s not acquired at the deadline, he’s another option for next season. He’s cheap, a veteran, and could have a similar effect to what John Lackey had for the Red Sox in 2013.

Noah Syndergaard or Zack Wheeler

Trade Scenario: Highly Unlikely

It’s no secret that the Mets have pitching and the Cubs have shortstops. The Mets are currently 2.5 games behind the Nationals for first place in the NL East, and I find it hard to believe they would be selling at the deadline. However, they have a big need for a shortstop and Starlin Castro could bring back either Syndergaard or Wheeler. Many would be hesitant to acquire Wheeler who is recovering from Tommy John, but the Cubs made out well when they acquired Ryan Dempster via free agency while he was recovering from Tommy John surgery in 2004. Mets GM Sandy Alderson likes to win deals, but if they are desperate for a shortstop it could lead to a one for one trade in Starlin Castro for either Noah Syndergaard (22 years-old) or Zack Wheeler (25 years-old). Both pitchers are young and still owed less than $1mil apiece. I know the Cubs are in no hurry to move Castro, and I wouldn’t be either. They would like to obtain a young, top-tier starter, and Syndergaard and Wheeler fit the bill.


Week 12 Fantasy Studs

Brandon Phillips, 2B, CIN – Phillips has had a solid season hitting .287 with five home runs and 30 RBI. Last week, Phillips hit .320 with two home runs and drove in four runs. He’s past the years of hitting close to 20 home runs a season, but could give a team a boost if the Reds are sellers at the trade deadline.

Adam Lind, 1B, MIL – Lind has been a great acquisition for the Brewers. On the season, he’s hitting .291/11/39. Week 12 saw Lind keep producing hitting .455 with 1 HR and 5 RBI. He lead the club with 10 hits over the week. Lind is another player that could be on the move at the trade deadline. He brings a power bat from the left-hand side and could be acquired for a fair price.

Jody Mercer, SS, PIT – Just when I was ready to write Mercer off, he comes up big in Week 12. He had four extra base hits to go along with five runs batted in and a .423 average. He’s not someone I’d suggest going after, but monitor him as he could get hot in the second half of the season.

ScruggsXavier Scruggs, 1B, STL – Scruggs is the perfect example of what the Cardinals have in their minor league system. Almost written off as a career minor leaguer, Scruggs has made the most of his call up with the Cardinals. This past week he hit .636 going 7-11 with five RBI and one stolen base. He’s another player to watch as he could get more nods at first if Reynolds strikes out often.

Michael Lorenzen, SP, CIN – The rookie continues to perform consistently and sports a 3-2 record to go along with a 3.38 ERA. He’s great for spot starts, but be weary of his [39:33] K:BB.

Seth Maness, RP, STL – He’s had a solid year coming out of the bullpen. He’s only walked 1.7% of the batters he’s faced.  Last week, he pitched four games (3.1 IP) of scoreless ball striking out four batters with zero walks.

MartinezCarlos Martinez, SP, STL – Martinez had control issues early in the season, but has been absolutely spectacular since. He was 2-0 last week with 15 strikeouts to only four walks. In the past month Martinez is 5-1 with a 1.80 ERA and a [44:15] K:BB. He’s having a career year and if you stuck with him, you’re being rewarded.

Favorite Matchups Week 13

Carlos Martinez: [vs. SD] Read the above info on  him being a must start moving forward. The Padres have underachieved and the Cardinals keep rolling. Expect Martinez to quiet San Diego’s bats and for St. Louis to continue their massive lead in the NL Central.

Johnny Cueto: [vs. MIN] Cueto is likely to be moved and gets to audition against an American League team. There are many AL teams that could use Cueto’s services, but there are always questions when it comes to NL pitchers moving to the AL.

Gerrit Cole: [vs. CLE] He’s been great (11-3) this season and he’s facing an underachieving Indians team. I look forward to the at-bats against Jason Kipnis (Lou Landers’ favorite player). Kipnis has been a premier hitter and I want to see how he handles a pitcher who is having success wherever he pitches, against whomever he faces. Cole has pitched well on the road with a 6-1 record to go with a 1.71 ERA and [55:16] K:BB.

Michael Wacha: [vs. SD] Wacha (10-3) could get a Padres lineup that is suffering from a hangover after being shutdown by Carlos Martinez. Wacha has had six straight games with five strikeouts or better.

NL Standings

Through Week 12

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