Unlike last summer, there won't be a lack of decent starters on the block; someof them might surprise you
THE SUMMER marketfor starting pitchers could be considerably spiced up by the suddenavailability of one or two stars in their walk years. The Brewers' Ben Sheetsand even the Indians' C.C. Sabathia—once extreme long shots to be moved, giventheir teams' high expectations—are candidates to be dealt if their flounderingclubs don't turn things around by midsummer.
Even if those twoaces aren't traded, the consensus among baseball executives is that this year'sgroup of available arms won't be nearly as dreadful as last summer's, when KyleLohse and Joel Pineiro were the two best starters moved. The following is SI'slist of the best hurlers who could change addresses:
1. Sabathia andPaul Byrd, Indians.
After a terrible start (0--3, 13.50 ERA), Sabathia has looked like his old selfin his last four outings (1.20 ERA, 33 strikeouts in 30 innings). The27-year-old lefty would undoubtedly be the top attraction at the tradingdeadline, and one G.M. says confidently, "If Cleveland continues like this[23--27 at week's end], he'll be out there."
2. Sheets andJeff Suppan, Brewers.
With the Cubs looking like the class of the NL Central (we're not buying theCardinals' and Astros' success just yet), the Brewers would consider tradingSheets, the superb but fragile 29-year-old ace, if they slip much further.Locking up Sheets—who hasn't pitched 157 innings in a season since '04—to along-term deal is risky. Suppan's postseason success could be appealing to acontender, but the $33 million left on his contract is not.
3. Joe Blantonand Rich Harden, A's.
The Reds showed interest this winter in Blanton. (They thought enough of him tooffer top prospect Homer Bailey in return.) Harden can be as dominant as anypitcher, but his injury history makes Sheets look like an iron man.
4. A.J. Burnett,Blue Jays.
When healthy, he's outstanding. Toronto desperately needs offense, and withfour solid to excellent starters (Roy Halladay, Dustin McGowan, Shawn Marcumand Jesse Litsch), they could afford to shed the 31-year-old righty, who canopt out of his contract at season's end.
5. Freddy Garcia,free agent.
Talented and clutch, he's coming off a shoulder injury but has begun throwingoff a mound again and is aiming for a July return. The Yankees, Mets, Red Sox,Braves, Astros, Rangers, Royals, Mariners and Padres have all inquired aboutthe services of the 31-year-old righty.
6. VicentePadilla, Rangers.
Texas looked to deal Padilla a year ago, when he was awful. Back on track now(6--2, 3.33 ERA), the righty, 30, could bring more in return this year.
7. Greg Madduxand Randy Wolf, Padres.
Maddux has a no-trade clause, but with the Padres sinking in the West, histhree previous teams—the Dodgers, Cubs and Braves—could be interested. Wolf's asolid, tough lefthander and could return to Philly or Los Angeles, where hespent an injury-plagued '07.
8. BronsonArroyo, Reds.
Cincinnati's former ace has slipped to the No. 4 starter in an improvedrotation. However, he's durable and is striking out nearly a batter perinning.
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THE BAIT Sabathia, Sheets (15) and Blanton (55) could all move if their teams fade.
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OTTO GREULE JR./GETTY IMAGES
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