When people talk about the starting pitchers that will be available for trade over the next month, the same names always come up – Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, Ben Sheets, and Jake Westbrook lead most of the discussions. I would like to throw another name into the mix, however, and suggest that the best value purchase for a team looking to add a middle of the rotation starter for a few months might be Kevin Millwood.
Yes, the same Kevin Millwood who currently owns a 5.12 ERA for the Orioles and is due about $5 million for the rest of 2010. Due to the money he’s owed, the runs he has allowed and the generally average stuff he throws, Millwood is not going to be highly sought after. But he has pitched pretty well this year, and is quite reminiscent of a pitcher in a similar position a year ago: Carl Pavano.
Like Millwood, teams weren’t beating down the door for Pavano a year ago, despite a good walk rate and solid strikeout rate. Pavano’s BABIP was .330 when the Indians finally traded him to the Twins, albeit with a 5.34 ERA standing beside a solid 3.94 xFIP. Because of the disparity, Pavano was able to sneak through waivers and be traded after the July 31st deadline, and the Twins merely surrendered a PTBNL to get him. Pavano then pitched well for the Twins down the stretch and in the post-season, and has continued his success for the Twins in 2010.
Millwood’s xFIP currently stands at 4.17, a number inflated a bit from the division in which he plays. Four of his starts have come against the Yankees and Red Sox, and in those games, he has walked 16 and struck out 18. In his other 11 starts, he has walked 13 and struck out 60. Yes, those games still count, but if he pitched in a less demanding division, his over all numbers would be quite a bit better, and he would be attracting more attention.
Unless Millwood really turns it on over the next month, he’s unlikely to command much of a return from the team that acquires him. Don’t be surprised if his results magically improve once he flees Baltimore- the BABIP and HR/FB numbers are bound to regress, and getting him away from the AL East can only help.
For a team that doesn’t want to pay a premium price to acquire pitching help, Millwood may be the best bet.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.