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Starting Pitcher Trade Options

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The Toronto Blue Jays starting pitching in 2015 has been a major weak point, that's something almost every fan will agree on. What not every fan will agree on, however, is if a trade should be made to try to "fix" the team's weak point and make a run for the playoffs, or if the team should stand pat and keep all of its major prospects.

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Following a 2012 season with a terrible 73-89 record, Alex Anthopoulos was somehow overcome with confidence, and decided to make a run at the playoffs in the 2013-2015 period. Not only did he trade prospects for the back-loaded contracts of Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle, but he also traded Noah Syndergaard and Travis d'Arnaud for R.A. Dickey, who had one year left on his contract (but was quickly extended for two more years). As we all know, the one year of Dickey the Jays took away from the Mets, the Blue Jays improved their record by exactly one game, to 74-88.

Since the much maligned Dickey and Mathis trades, Anthopoulos has kept trying to make a run at the playoffs, adding Josh Donaldson and Russell Martin to bolster the offense. But still the Blue Jays are only looking like an average team, 6.5 games behind the New York Yankees for the AL East lead, but only 3 games behind the Minnesota Twins for the second AL wild card spot. One would have to say it's looking likely that Anthopoulos, growing increasingly desperate for a playoff appearance, will add a starting pitcher before the July 31 trade deadline.

Since there are plenty of options for the Blue Jays to target, here's an overview, sorted by career xFIP- (as starting pitcher only):

Name career ERA- career xFIP- 2015 xFIP-
Hisashi Iwakuma 82 81 89
David Price 80 83 82
Cole Hamels 81 84 84
James Shields 91 87 88
Dan Haren 94 88 121
Tyson Ross 97 89 82
Jeff Samardzija 99 91 99
Yovani Gallardo 92 92 108
Mat Latos 91 94 95
Mike Fiers 97 94 103
Andrew Cashner 91 95 98
Jon Niese
104 96
107
Mike Leake 99 98 96
Ian Kennedy 103 102 102

Did anyone expect Hisashi Iwakuma to be at the top of that list? As a starter, he's given up only 82% of the runs an average starter (someone like Mike Leake) would give up. David Price has only been marginally better, but has the longer track record and the premium velocity that Iwakuma lacks. Iwakuma and Mike Fiers (under contract through 2019, by the way) both sport high-80s fastballs from the right side, and would add even more soft-tossers to the collection of Buehrle, Estrada and Dickey. Both Iwakuma and Fiers are home run prone, something that would seem to be a bad fit for the Rogers Centre, but that hasn't stopped Anthopoulos from targeting flyball pitchers before, as evidenced by the acquisition of J.A. Happ and Marco Estrada. Ian Kennedy also has home run problems, and less upside, but probably wouldn't cost much either.

Going for Dan Haren looks like a really bad idea, as the pitcher has a history of underperforming his xFIP and is sporting a career worst xFIP at the moment, to go along with a fastball that now struggles to reach even 87 mph. Similarly, Gallardo, Samardzija and Niese look like they're not trending in the right direction. Leake would be a simple, if unspectacular potential upgrade, assuming his consistency would carry over to Canada.

The more appealing targets would be Cole Hamels if Anthopoulos is "going big" again, but at 22.5 million per year for at least three more years, he's also not a very budget-friendly option. I personally find the most intriguing options to be Padres pitchers Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner. Tyson Ross is under team control until 2017, and has put up very impressive groundball and strikeout numbers in his most recent seasons, although walks remain a bit of a problem. As a sinker/slider guy, he has troubles getting lefties out but absolutely destroys righties. Andrew Cashner is under control for one year less, and is having quite a down year (111 ERA-) despite his xFIP remaining steady and his fastball velocity having risen slightly. Cashner could be a decent buy-low candidate if the Padres have soure on him, although injuries remain a concern with Cashner.

If you felt immense pressure to make a trade, would you trade a highly rated prospect for a rental like Price, would you go cheap to try and rent Iwakuma, or perhaps look for long-term help in Ross or Cashner? Discuss!