Sunday, March 17, 2013
Niemann to STL, Philly?
By Jason A. Churchill
When considering the Tampa Bay Rays' chances in the American League East, pitching leads the charge.
David Price is the defending Cy Young Award winner, backed up by youngsters Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore and Alex Cobb. Veteran Jeff Niemann figures into the plan, too, although maybe not in the way one might have expected entering spring training.
While two of the club's top prospects, Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi are waiting in the wings, Roberto Hernandez -- formerly known as Fausto Carmona -- has a shot to break camp as one of the five starters, Marc Topkin wrote.
In fact, Topkin reports that Hernandez, who made just three starts in the majors in 2012, could win the fifth starter's job over Niemann, who could be more valuable to the Rays as a trade chip as we get closer to the start of the regular season. While Niemann has been effective in his career, the right-hander also has a lengthy injury history -- he made just eight starts himself a year ago -- so a team that thrives on consistency and stability like Tampa could look to cash in on Niemann sooner than later.
Already, there's been word from ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney that the Colorado Rockies have checked on him. The return wouldn't be great, but the Rays could benefit not only by getting help or depth elsewhere but also by clearing away some of the excess, especially if the club realizes by the end of camp that one of Hernandez, Archer or Odorizzi can handle starting every five days.
Among the clubs that may be out searching for a starter like Niemann include the St. Louis Cardinals, who have shown interest in Astros starters Lucas Harrell and Bud Norris, according to our old buddy Peter Gammons.
The Phillies, I have been told by multiple sources, have interest in adding another starting pitcher for depth purposes and Niemann could fit the mold.