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Jeff Locke as a trade candidate

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

As we've discussed here before, the Pirates face a potential dilemma at the end of Spring Training if all their starters are healthy. Francisco Liriano, A.J. Burnett and Gerrit Cole will clearly be in the big-league rotation, and Charlie Morton will too, if he's ready to go in time. That leaves Vance Worley and Jeff Locke, both of whom are out of options, for one spot.

Moving one of them to the bullpen is a possibility, but as David pointed out on the last podcast, their value to the Pirates will decrease if they're in the bullpen. If Jeff Locke has been spent the past month relieving, he can't start and pitch six innings in a pinch the way he'd be able to if he were in the minors starting. And the Pirates have plenty of interesting relief options anyway.

That means the Pirates could part ways with Worley or Locke, and the only way to do that is with a trade. They're both too valuable to lose on waivers. A trade involving Worley is one possibility, but he was so good last season that it's hard to see the Bucs moving him, even if some regression is likely this year. Locke would probably make more sense as a spring trade candidate -- he's a known quantity, and he should have value for a team that needs innings for whatever reason, either because its current collection of starters is inadequate or because someone got hurt in March. The fact that Locke has four years of team control remaining is a plus, too.

The Pirates likely can't get a top prospect for Locke, but they should be able to get a useful player. As I mentioned on the podcast, one scenario might be for the Bucs to seek another starting pitcher who isn't as well established as Locke but who has at least one option remaining.

This is pure speculation, but here are some teams who could potentially have interest, keeping in mind that spring injuries could create more trade partners than just these.

-P- The Diamondbacks are heading into the season with a rotation that might include Josh Collmenter, Jeremy Hellickson, Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster and Vidal Nuno. That's not good, and if they fear they're taking on too much risk, Locke might be a good solution. Webster has an option left, which would make him a reasonable fit for the Pirates in a trade, although the Pirates might not feel he's good enough and Snakes GM Dave Stewart might be disinclined to part with one of the "power arms" he spoke highly of when he acquired Webster and De La Rosa from Boston during the offseason.

-P- The Braves are currently considering Wandy Rodriguez and Eric Stults as fifth starter candidates, so ... yeah.

-P- The Phillies have Jerome Williams in their fourth spot and David Buchanan and Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez competing to be their No. 5. If Gonzalez doesn't wow them in camp, trading Buchanan for Locke would be reasonable for both sides -- Buchanan is a ground-ball pitcher who would probably work well with the Pirates and has options. He projects to be worse than Locke, which is why the trade would make sense for Philadelphia. I'm not sure that's the way Philadelphia would see it, though, since the Phillies' statistical database is actually just a stack of trading cards, and Buchanan had a 3.75 ERA last year.

-P- The Rangers' top candidates for their fifth starter job are Ross Detwiler and Nick Tepesch. Locke would be an upgrade on either one.

-P- Chris Sale's recent injury could lead to the White Sox looking for help. They won't want to rush Carlos Rodon, and the back-end options they're considering -- Hector Noesi, Scott Carroll, Bad Penny, Chris Beck -- don't inspire confidence. It's hard to see a team that's trying to compete starting a season with John Danks, Noesi and Scott Carroll in its rotation. Locke could be useful to the White Sox even after Sale returns.