So-so Central teams could offer trade deadline’s supply of arms

Both Central divisions could wind up with a half dozen or more outstanding trade candidates to boost all the teams’ rotations, which have been depleted by injury. Or not.

True contending teams are keeping tabs on several so-so AL and NL Central teams with hopes they become deadline sellers. But as things stand, while all 10 Central teams are playing like also-rans or worse, most remain candidates to steal a playoff spot by winning a weak division.

This appears like an all-time sellers’ market, with few great players available since scarcely any teams look completely out of it (and those that do have no veteran stars to deal; we’re looking at you, Athletics). One thing, however, that can save things for buyers would be if struggling Central teams were to start taking bids. Though there are no world-beaters and maybe no bona fide World Series contenders among them, some Central teams contain excellent starters who could aid contenders.

With most contending teams enduring one or more injuries to their rotations — pitching injuries are up slightly, but it seems worse than that — some Central teams could get a ton for viable (or better) starters. Of course, with six teams making the playoffs, several of those seemingly pedestrian clubs may stand pat, or even do the reverse and try adding pieces.

While we wait to see how it shakes out, here are starters on AL and NL Central Division teams everyone is eyeing.

1. Dylan Cease, White Sox

The White Sox may not end up sellers, but Dylan Cease would make for a tantalizing return,.

He would be the holy grail of the deadline, but he’s thought a long shot to go, and that’s even if the South Siders do sell. Despite their brutal beginning, they are talented, and rival teams view them as reluctant sellers since the famed 1997 White Flag trade. But beyond having the most valuable individual pitcher, they also have the most pitchers.

2. Corbin Burnes, Brewers

It’s being speculated he’ll be traded a year after the Brewers dealt star closer Josh Hader, especially now that Wade Miley has joined Brandon Woodruff and Eric Lauer on the injured list. But Brewers-connected folks suggest they doubt a sale of a star will be repeated, considering the extreme negative reaction to the Hader trade, not only among fans, but also in their clubhouse (the negativity was so extreme owner Mark Attanasio told folks he’s going to become more involved).

3. Shane Bieber, Guardians

Cleveland was a preseason favorite, but has struggled to score runs, so its ace, Bieber, may become very coveted. As one hopeful rival said, suggesting the Guardians may sell, they are “very clinical and rational.”

4. Eduardo Rodriguez, Tigers

He’s pitching great (2.19 ERA), but E-Rod has an opt-out in his five-year, $77 million deal after 2023, and if Detroit can’t extend him, he’ll almost certainly use it. The opt-out lessens his value since he’s only going to remain a half season, barring injury.

Tigers starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez (57) delivers a pitch
Eduardo Rodriguez’s value may take a hit due to his opt-out clause.
USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

5. Lucas Giolito, White Sox

He’ll be a free agent after the season, so if the White Sox do sell, he’ll surely go. Lance Lynn, who has an $18 million team option for 2024, is another White Sox trade candidate, as is Mike Clevinger, assuming he’s sound.

6. Jordan Montgomery, Cardinals

Most figure the slow-starting Cardinals will stay in it and probably win it. “They have the two monsters [Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt] and the kid [Nolan Gorman] is killing it” one rival said. If they continue to confound, however, Montgomery is a free-agent-to-be, and though they’ve expressed interest in keeping him, there’s no evidence they are negotiating. Wouldn’t it be something if he were traded back to the Yankees?

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