The non-waiver trade deadline is just 21 days away and, having already considered the pieces we might trade away, it is time to think about who we might acquire, since the team is still very much in contention right now. Yesterday I looked at possible position player targets, today I'll look at pitching.
The trade market for pitchers is pretty robust, and turning our attention there, the Indians have been middle of the pack: 6.4 fWAR from starting pitchers ranks 17th in baseball; 1.1 WAR from relievers ranks 18th. Neither is awful, but both could use an upgrade.
The prize of the pitching market is clearly David Price, but if Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel cost top prospect Addison Russell and additional talent, it is safe to say conversations on Price for the Indians would start with Francisco Lindor, and I don't think we want to do that.
Cliff Lee is expensive, and signed for a couple more years. When healthy, he's a stud. His cost should be lower than Price's, particularly if the Phillies don't pick up any salary in a deal, but we are still probably talking about a top prospect (maybe Frazier?) as a starting point. Plus, the Indians would almost certainly need Philadelphia to pick up a good chunk of the ~$63 million he's owed between now and the end of 2016.
Another former Indian, Bartolo Colon, is (after a slow start to the year) somehow back to making good start after good start. Since the middle of May he's averaged more than 7 innings a game, with an ERA of 2.66 and 44 strikeouts compared to only 12 walks. He's owed another ~$4 million this season, plus $11M for 2015. His trade cost should not be too high and while he is not the game-changer Price or Lee would be, he'd solidify the rotation.
Other potential targets (all of whom would have a lower cost) include Colorado's Jorge de la Rosa, Washington's Ross Detwiler, and Boston's Felix Doubront.
Among relievers, my preferred choice would be San Diego closer Huston Street. His injury history will keep his price down, but his performance this year has been great. The Padres say they don't plan to move him, but he's worth investigating. If Texas closer Joakim Soria is available, I would love to get him into our pen, especially since he has another year on his deal. If we need a lefty, James Russell and former Indian Tony Sipp could be on the market, as well.
Looking at the market, and knowing the Indians aren't likely to give up either of their top two prospects or take on eight figures of additional salary, I think the most likely move is for some relief help, and/or maybe a back-of-the-rotation type starter.