With all the trade rumors circling through the majors I am incredibly surprised by the lack of interest in Tampa Bay Rays starter Jeff Niemann. The Rays seem to be in almost every other trade rumor but have made it pretty clear that James Shields is not going anywhere and they currently have a 6-man rotation going. So, why has no one inquired on Niemann?
Niemann currently has only 67.2 innings pitched on the season thanks to some time spent on the DL and he has a 3.86 ERA and 3.78 FIP in those innings with a 6.25 K/9 and a career best 2.13 BB/9. Sure, he is no Shields, but those numbers are not half bad especially given the division he plays in and the horrible start he had this year.
In four July starts he has a 1.32 ERA in 27.1 innings and 23 strikeouts against just 6 walks. What makes his July performance even more impressive is that he three of his four starts were against the St. Louis Cardinals, Boston Red Sox, and New York Yankees. In those three starts he has a 0.84 ERA in 21.1 innings with 19 strikeouts. He also had a start in June at Milwaukee and held the Brewers to zero runs in six innings. Niemann also has three years left of team control and should be at a reasonable cost in arbitration. Again, I ask, why has no one inquired on Niemann?
Maybe teams are weary of dealing with the Rays. Maybe teams are scared of Niemann’s medical records. Or maybe teams have inquired but the rumors just are not swirling. Either way, there are teams in need of pitching, especially pitching that is still under team control for 3+ years. Here are the teams that should be asking about Niemann’s availability:
The entire contending NL Central – Well, the Brewers do not really need him but the Reds, Cardinals, and Pirates all do. The Cardinals and Reds have starting pitching ERA that are below league average and the Pirates, while having a decent ERA, have a FIP that is below league average and indicate regression is on its way.
The Cardinals have Colby Rasmus sitting the bench lately and Tony LaRussa seems to have made it clear he will be playing Jon Jay over Rasmus. Rasmus may be a too much to give up for Niemann but the Rays have other pieces to include without jeopardizing their future. The Reds also have a lot of pieces and the same type of deal can be made if the Reds are willing to give up Yonder Alonso. The Pirates could expand the deal and ask for B.J. Upton but I do not see the trade chips there unless the Rays believe Pedro Alvarez could be a long term first base fix for them.
The Diamondbacks – The Arizona Diamondbacks have a below league average ERA and need some starting pitching help. They have guys like Brandon Allen who could be a good one-for-one trade swap that I believe the Rays would be interested in.
The Rangers – The Texas Rangers pitching staff has the 4th highest ERA in the AL and the highest FIP but that is largely due to the bullpen. I’m not sure if Chris Davis is enough for Niemann, and with Adrian Beltre going on the DL they may hold on to him, but it would be a good starting point for the Rangers. They also have a lot of minor league depth but I do believe the Rays are looking for a guy who can be 2012 MLB ready and the Rangers have other pressing needs.
The Indians – The Cleveland Indians, like the Pirates, would probably love to have Niemann and B.J. Upton. The only problem is that the Indians have the MLB ready pieces to trade the Rays but they are highly unlikely to pull the trigger and trade away Lonnie Chisenhall, Jason Kipnis, or Matt LaPorta even though the starters have a below league average ERA and they need Upton’s bat and defense.
The Tigers – The Detroit Tigers starting staff has an ERA almost 30 points below the league average. There is not way they would deal Jacob Turner and I do not see an immediate match for them to land Niemann but they could definitely use his services.
There are other teams that could use Niemann for this season and plan on having him for the next three years before he hits free agency in 2015 but these teams are the ones that need him now if they want to try and get into the postseason in 2011.
-Jonathan C. Mitchell can be found writing about the Tampa Bay Rays at DRaysBay and you can follow him on twitter at @FigureFilbert and follow MLBdirt at @MLBdirt
Filed under: Digging Deep - Analysis | Tagged: B.J. Upton, Boston Red Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Colby Rasmus, Detroit Tigers, James Shields, Jason Kipnis, Jeff Niemann, Jon Jay, Lonnie Chisenhall, Matt LaPorta, Milwaukee Brewers, New York Yankees, Pedro Alvarez, St. Louis Cardinals, Tampa Bay Rays, Texas Rangers, Trades, Yonder Alonso | 4 Comments »