One of the more enjoyable things to speculate about is which players the Yankees are going to acquire next. Call it typical Yankee fan conceit if you want, but I’m not sure that’s it. Fans of every team look forward to what’s next, whether it be a prospect on the horizon, a free agent signing or a trade. Speculating about trades is an enjoyable exercise – you get to investigate other teams, other players, you get to dig around their financial situation and try to find a good deal (see my Beat L.A. piece last week) or dig around player’s statistical profiles and see if you can spot inefficiencies or underappreciated guys.
This summer, many expect the Yankees to attempt to add a starting pitcher. There’s considerable uncertainty in the rotation right now – no one knows if or when Phil Hughes will be back, and no one knows how long Colon and Garcia can continue providing the team quality innings. Aside from picking at the carcass of the Dodgers, one team fans look to as a possible trade target is the Chicago White Sox. The White Sox have a wealth of starters: Jake Peavy, John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Mark Buehrle and Edwin Jackson. They also have Chris Sale, whom they use as a reliever, and Phil Humber, whom I’ve never imagined is much good but has managed to perform quite nicely so far.
In a column over at Baseball Prospectus yesterday, John Perrotto noted that the White Sox would listen to offers on Edwin Jackson. Jackson’s been passed around like a peace pipe over the course of his young career and is finally eligible for free agency after this season. Some fans wouldn’t mind seeing the Yankees take a stab at Jackson; some prefer Gavin Floyd; some prefer John Danks. I don’t know many who prefer Mark Buerhle, and personally I wouldn’t be happy at all to see him traded to the Yankees so I’ll simply avoid him for now. I also doubt the Yankees would be interested in Peavy or Humber. This leaves Floyd, Jackson and Danks. Who’s the preferable target?
Pros – Danks is a young lefty, only 26 years old. He has a decent strikeout rate (6.90 career K/9), a career FIP of 4.30 and xFIP of 4.00. He’s also 0-7 on the year. Why is this listed in as a Pro, you ask? Thank you for asking. Danks hasn’t pitched horribly on the year, although he hasn’t pitched as well as he has in the past, so more than likely the unsightly win-loss record isn’t really indicative of his true talent level or future expected performance. Which is to say that it’s possible that the White Sox are big fans of the W-L record as an evaluative tool, and it’s possible they’re undervaluing Danks. Another plus to Danks is his durability – he’s put up 600 innings over the past three years, so he appears to be a good bet to stay healthy and provide innings. Finally, he’s 6’6″, which I find cool.
Cons – His strikeout rate isn’t exactly elite – he’s failed to top 7 batters per nine innings the last 3 years in a row. His walk rate isn’t particularly sparkly either, so his K/BB ratio is somewhat middle of the road. He’s also not a giant groundball guy, contradicting an opinion I held about him for no good reason. In other words, the peripherals are good but not great, and he doesn’t keep the ball on the ground in a tremendous way.
Contract – Danks makes $6M in 2011, he’s eligible for arbitration again in 2012, and he becomes a free agent after the 2012 season. At the time of a potential trade you’re acquiring a year and a half of team control.
Pros – He’s put up a mid 7.5 K/9 three years running, and in each year he’s kept his walk rate below 3 batters per nine innings. He’s the owner of a 4.43 FIP lifetime, but has put together a 3.77, 3.46 and 3.44 FIP three years running. Quite simply, he’s a very solid mid-3 FIP pitcher with good control and above-average strikeout stuff. Better yet, we know that the Sox have been willing to listen on offers for Floyd as recently as November. It’s possible they don’t love him like they should.
Cons – He battled a hip injury in 2009 and a minor shoulder injury in 2010, although neither required him to spend time on the DL. He’s only topped 200 innings once in his career. And worst of all, he was a former member of the Philadelphia Phillies, a clear sign of moral weakness.
Contract – Floyd makes $5M in 2011, $7M in 2012, and has a club option for $9.5M in 2013. At the time of a potential trade the team is acquiring 1.5 years of control and a club option for another year.
Pros – He’s got a higher K rate than Floyd or Danks in 2010 and 2011, and he’s sporting a 3.24 FIP in 2011 following a 3.86 effort in 2010. He seems to be getting better, an entirely expected development considering he’s only 27 years old. He’s been around so long, and been traded to and from so many teams, that he likely feels older to most fans than he is. He also throws the ball very hard, consistently registering one of the fastest fastballs in baseball.
Cons – No one’s jumping up and down about that walk rate (~3.5 BB/9 at best), and while he’s sported a K rate over 7 per 9 the past two years, he has an average of 6.75 K/9 on his career.
Contract – Jackson makes $8.75M in 2011 and is a free agent after this season. He’d likely be the cheapest to acquire of all three.
It’s odd how similar these three pitchers are, to be frank. They all have career groundball rates around 43%, they all strike out 6 to 7 batters per nine innings, and they all have walk rates in the 2-3 batters per nine innings range. All things considered, Floyd probably ranks the most favorable trade target to me, despite my preconceived preference for Danks. Floyd’s really shown great control since 2009, and an acquiring team would get to keep him through 2012, provided he’s still healthy. Danks is still no slouch, and there’s probably a good case to be made that Danks will improve as he matures and gains more experience. A young, tall, durable lefty with good stuff isn’t anything to sneeze at. Yet, it would certainly be nice to see Danks improve his control. In Jackson there’s also an interesting question of projection – he has really good stuff, and he’s still young, despite spending a lot of time in the majors. Is he showing signs of maturation as a pitcher in the past two years? It would certainly seem that way, and as such Edwin Jackson wouldn’t be a bad target for the Yankees at all this summer.
All three of these pitchers would look nice in Yankee pinstripes this summer. It would be fantastic to see if Cashman could pull another Wilson Betemit deal with Kenny Williams and get an undervalued commodity with plenty of team control for low cost, but it’s extremely difficult to anticipate a move like that. For now I’ll continue to wish Jake Peavy well on his road to recovery and hope Ozzie Guillen has a fight with one of these three guys and runs them out of town all the way to the Bronx.