Scouting The Trade Market: Derek Lowe

The RAB Radio Show: May 31, 2011
How much longer for Nova?

Three offseasons ago, everyone knew that the Yankees were going to make a major run at CC Sabathia. The rest of their starting pitching plans were a little unclear, but it seemed like a safe bet that they were going to pursue another free agent starter. They ultimately landed A.J. Burnett, but the other candidate was the sinkerballing Derek Lowe, who ended up with the Braves.

Atlanta has the most pitching depth in baseball, even after trading Rodrigo Lopez to the Cubs last week. Aside from their five Opening Day starters (Lowe, Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens, and the currently DL’ed Brandon Beachy), they also had top prospects Mike Minor and Julio Teheran in Triple-A and the lesser known but still effect Todd Redmond. The Braves are very much in contention and maintain that they have no interest in trading Lowe, but everyone has a price. Let’s start with the cons…

The Cons

  • It’s hard to believe, but Lowe will turn 38 on June 1st. And with that age comes with a loss of velocity, as his famed sinker now sits more 86-89 than 89-91 like it did a few years ago.
  • Lowe would be more than just a second half rental. He’s under contract next season for the decidedly not team friendly price of $15M. He makes the same amount this year, so he’ll cost about $2.5M per month the rest of the way. That is no bargain.
  • It’s been more than six years since Lowe pitched in the American League or in a hitter’s ballpark.
  • Lowe’s recent DUI case was thrown out, but it’s still an unnecessary distraction and an obvious character flaw.

The Pros

  • Despite his age and declining velocity, Lowe is still really effective. His 55.8% ground ball rate this year is his worst since the data started being recorded in 2002, but it’s still a top ten mark in all of baseball.
  • Lowe is one of the most durable pitchers in the game, throwing at least 190 innings in each of the last six years and in eight of the last nine. In the one off year, he still made it to the mound for 182.2 IP.
  • Lowe’s strikeout rate has actually been going up over the last few years, and right now it sits at 7.79 K/9 with 9.2% swings and misses. Both of those are career highs as a starter. Those whiffs are the result of an increased using of his sharp slider, which is often mistaken for a cutter. He’s also throwing his changeup more than ever as well.
  • I don’t put too much stock in postseason track record, but it can’t be a bad thing that Lowe owns a 3.30 ERA in 76.1 playoffs innings since becoming a full-time starter in 2002. He’s also pitched in the World Series, for what it’s worth.

One thing to keep in mind: all those ground balls are great because dinky little seeing eye singles are better than the extra base hits that tend to result from fly balls, but the Yankees have a pretty poor defensively infield. Aside from Mark Teixeira, everyone is below-average now that Robinson Cano seemingly forgot how to use his glove.

Lowe’s contract is far from ideal, but you’d have to think the Braves would be willing to eat some of it to move him. They simply won’t get anything of value back if they don’t. Part of the problem is that Atlanta doesn’t have any obvious needs. Jason Heyward is out with a shoulder issue, but when he’s healthy their outfield is pretty much set (Heyward, Nate McLouth, and Martin Prado). None of their four infielders (Freddie Freeman, Dan Uggla, Alex Gonzalez, and Chipper Jones) are going anywhere, and neither is catcher Brian McCann. They have pitching as well. Of course these things have a way of changing and quickly, but right now there’s no obvious trade match between these two clubs even though Lowe’s appears to be one of the better trade candidates out there.

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The RAB Radio Show: May 31, 2011
How much longer for Nova?
  • Josh

    arod has a positive uzr and fld rating this year, though.

    • CMP

      That really surprized me as did David Wright, who is 2nd to last in UZR/150.

      Small sample size rearing its ugly face again I guess.

      • http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com bexarama

        To be honest, SSS caveat, but watching A-Rod this year, the positive UZR rating doesn’t surprise me at all. He’s been very good out there, maybe the best I’ve seen him look at third base.

        The eye test can fool you, and it’s not like UZR is perfect either, but A-Rod being a positive defender by the metrics this year seems right at this point.

        But re: groundballs, and this is what I really wanted to say: Wang was really good when the Yankees had absolutely abhorrent defense. Jeter, Cano, and A-Rod were all way worse than they are now and Giambi, God love him, is obviously no Teixeira. I don’t really like Lowe, though, but I’ve heard this concern about groundballers and the Yankees and it didn’t seem to hurt Wang (hrr).

        • FIPster Doofus

          I totally agree about A-Rod. He really has looked good at third this year, and it’s nice that the stats are backing that up.

  • CMP

    I’d take Lowe tomorrow if it didn’t involve trading Banuelos, Betances or Montero.

    • Clay Bellinger

      It surely won’t cost one of them.

      • Cuso

        Don’t be so sure.

        It is clearly the year of the buyer’s market. Which is why I’d be hesitant to trade for anyone that wasn’t as close to a sure thing as possible.

        • http://deleted Total Dominication

          He can be very sure. Considering the contract, the Yankees need not give more than a B-prospect, if anything.

          • Cuso

            You’re kidding yourself.

            I’m not speaking to what Lowe is actually “WORTH”.

            I’m speaking to what the YANKEES would have to give up because they’re the YANKEES.

            Look no further than last year’s Lee – Montero – Smoak fiasco.

            AGAIN. “Don’t be so sure.”

            B prospect? Get real.

            • Clay Bellinger

              How is the Lee trade comparable?

              Any of those three prospects is better than the prospect (Vizcaino) given up in the Javy Vazquez trade, while Vazquez was a significantly better than Lowe at the time if the trade.

            • http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com bexarama

              idk, Lowe isn’t Lee. I don’t think a non-prospect would do but there was a good argument for Lee as the best pitcher in baseball when that trade happened. Not really the case with Lowe right now.

            • Cecala

              I could see a package around Phelps, Nova, or Noesi.

    • OldstartersgetthumbsupfromMike

      Why would trading for Lowe invovle any of those three? Those 3 are top prospects and Lowe isn’t a top flight pitcher.

  • Soam

    Even if Atlanta eats some of his salary, no thanks.

  • http://yankeeanalysts.com Matt Imbrogno

    Atlanta would have to eat a looooooooot of next year to make any deal worth it.

    • CMP

      Would you rather have Atlanta eat a LOOOOT of salary and ask for a type A prospect or only eat a little and ask for a B prospect?

      • http://yankeeanalysts.com Matt Imbrogno

        I’d rather not trade for him, actually.

        • CMP

          Don’t you think he passes the “Are you better than Ivan Nova or their in house alternatives” test?

          • http://yankeeanalysts.com Matt Imbrogno

            He’s definitely better than Nova, but I’d rather trade for someone who has an expiring contract.

          • http://yankeeanalysts.com Matt Imbrogno

            But, depending on the cost of course, I wouldn’t be angry or upset with a trade for Lowe.

            • OldstartersgetthumbsupfromMike

              One could make the argument that Lowe isn’t a big enough upgrade over Nova to justify trading anyone for him.

              Nova isn’t pitching great but he is 24 yrs old. He has 2 fewer starts so far than Lowe and has given up 2 less earned runs and 2 less HR’s. Lowe does pitch more innings and K’s more but not a such a clip that he should be traded for high level prospects and not at the money he is making for next year.

    • Mister Delaware

      Although when is the last time salary has precluded us from making a trade / signing we needed to make? I’d be willing so long as the talent cost was zero or next to zero (like the Wood/Berkman trades). Given the 2012 pitching market and the lack of in house definites, having him for another year isn’t a huge deal to me.

  • Across the pond

    “one of the most durable pitchers in the game”

    The last time that was used as a pro for a pitcher, it was for Javy.

    Once bitten…

    • Cecala

      Feliciano as well

      • He’brew Beer Rules My Ass

        And Nick Johnson.

  • Cuso

    The Yankees are better off not trading for Lowe.

    There are too many teams in all of the pennant races in need of a guy like Lowe. They would end up overpaying (in terms or prospects) to land a 38 year-old-on-the-decline pitcher that is not “someone that Atlanta needs to dump,” but rather “a luxury that they would consider trading for a juicy return.”

    The Yankees would not get Lowe from Atlanta without including either Bentances or Banuelos.

    If that’s the case, why bother?

    • http://twitter.com/steveh_MandAura Steve H

      I think they could easily get him without including Betances or Banuelos.

      • Cuso

        Yeah, for some reason everyone thinks that.

        What all those people are not grasping is that if Lowe were to become available, 15 teams would be lined up with prospects to trade.

        You think the Yanks are gonna get away with a couple of B’s and eating the rest of the contract for Lowe?

        No way. No way, no how.

        • Clay Bellinger

          “You think the Yanks are gonna get away with a couple of B’s and eating the rest of the contract for Lowe?”

          Do you think anyone else would be willing to eat the rest of that contract? No way, no how.

        • JobaWockeeZ

          15 teams? That’s laughable considering he’s making 15 million dollars. You’re completely ignoring the salary dump from this.

          • OldstartersgetthumbsupfromMike

            Why would any team want that salary? Not too many teams wanted Lowe when he was a free agent, so why would they want him now when he isn’t all that good?

            There are better options out there for the Yanks to consider when the time is right but right now the Yanks starters are pitching fine. IF Nova stays in the rotation and pitches to his current line the Yanks would be fine with that since it is still significantly better than the production they received from Vasquez and Burnett last year.

        • CP

          The same thing could have been said back when the Yankees traded a bunch of nothing for Abreu and Liddle.

          Trades never cost as much (or as little) as people think.

          • CMP

            are you calling CJ Henry a nothing?

            I’ll have you know he averaged 13 points per game for Southern Nazarene University as starting PG.

            • Clay Bellinger

              haha, not bad.

        • David, Jr.

          Who are these teams that would be lined up to give him $15M per year for the remainder of this year and for next year? There might not be any.

  • nycsportzfan

    I would rather either Gavin Floyd, Hiroki Kuroda, Shawn Marcum, Kevin Corriea, Aaron Harang..

    • David, Jr.

      Mark Buehrle. Big brass ones. Left handed. Exactly what we need.

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

        Fly ball pitchers that can’t strike anyone out don’t mix well with the AL East.

        • David, Jr.

          You are right, but he is a high character guy that can find ways to get it done.

          • whozat

            So Mike says “the results that he has gotten and the pitches that he throws indicate he is unlikely to be successful,” and you counter with “yeah, but no…he’ll be good, because I’ve projected strong moral character onto him because his team has won a lot while he’s pitched in a non-flashy way.”

        • http://yankeeanalysts.com Matt Imbrogno

          Mike, you can’t deny the veteran presents he would bring to the team.

          • He’brew Beer Rules My Ass

            Is this a joke?

    • V

      Marcum’s not available. Harang’s a flyballer (no thank you for Yankee Stadium). I like Bedard, but he’s also too much of a flyballer for my liking.

      • http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com bexarama

        the second they traded for Bedard his arm would fall off, plus Seattle probably would want Banuelos for him

    • http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com bexarama

      Floyd – Maybe. There’s been a lot of talk of White Sox starters. I feel like it would be expensive.

      Kuroda – yes. But the Dodgers have this annoying tendency to act like they’re still in it even when they’re not.

      Marcum – not happening with the Brewers’ whole all-in-this-year thing.

      Correia and Harang – I can’t see them doing well in the AL at this point.

      • JobaWockeeZ

        Floyd since his White Sox days is essentially Andy Pettitte 2.0

        • http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com bexarama

          TRADE FOR HIM IMMEDIATELY

          This was what you were expecting, right? ;P

    • Reggie C.

      Wandy Rodriguez … contract ext be damned.

  • http://bleacherreport.com/users/486240-arad-markowitz Mantle28

    I say go for it. As long as you dont give up Montero, Banuelos, etc.

  • DoIHear28

    Andy Pettite over Lowe. Don’t have to give up any prospects. Andy must be getting bored by now.

    • CMP

      He’s been with his wife day in and day out for like 8 months straight right now.

      The time may be right to break him out of jail.

  • Joe

    Any interest in Jake Peavy?

  • Cecala

    Back in January, we suggested four different pitchers the Yankees should target in a trade. The idea was that the Yankees farm system had a spectacular year in 2010, and thus, the front office should use that success as leverage in a trade for a starting pitcher. The four pitchers we recommended were Chad Billingsley (LAD), Justin Masterson (CLE), Jason Hammell (COL), and Bud Norris (HOU).

    A trade never happened, and all four pitchers are having solid years. However, one of those pitchers appears more acquirable than ever and we recommend the Yankees empty the tank to get him. That pitcher is Chad Billingsley.

    Since our January article, the 26-year old Billingsley signed a 3-year, $35 million deal (plus a team option), covering his remaining arbitration year and two (possibly three) years of free agency.

    — Side note: It’s kinda funny when a General Manager cites signing a pitcher because of his win-loss record (follow the link above). —

    Also, since we wrote our article, the Dodgers have started the 2011 campaign at 24-30 with a -39 run differential. Lord Pythagoras actually says they should be 2 games worse at 22-32. So basically, the Dodgers stink.

    Off the field, we know the story of the Dodgers. The organization has been taken over by Major League Baseball due to Frank McCourt’s financial mismanagement, and only a few days ago, there was worry that the once-iconic franchise wouldn’t be able to make its May 31st payroll.

    When taking all of this into account, it sounds like the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the Dodgers’ misery. Not only do they have very little hope of being competitive this season, but they also could use some monetary relief. Why not free them of $35 million in financial obligations and provide them with young, cheap talent? It makes too much sense.

    We’d package anyone but Montero.

    NoMaas proposed that the other day, I am just curios on other opinions.

    • http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com bexarama

      If Billingsley really was available, I’d jump all over that. Just not sure he is, even with the Dodgers’ issues.

    • Mike HC

      This is questionably on topic, but I will leave that decision to Mike.

      I like the idea of trading for Billingsley. There will probably be a lot of competition out there for him though, so the price may end up being too steep.

      • Mike HC

        After reading all the comments, I guess these trade target articles are more of a free for all.

        • http://www.facebook.com/cecala Joseph Cecala

          Yeah i figured it was about trading for a starting pitcher even though its not Lowe its semi on topic.

  • OldstartersgetthumbsupfromMike

    I am still a little confused as to why a 38 yr old pitcher who isn’t good and is making $15/mill this year and next would be targeted as a potential trade option for the Yanks. Also when was the last time the Yanks traded for an NL pitcher and that guy came over and was better than he was in the NL? These NL pitchers come over and almost routinely get shelled.

  • Wil Nieves Number 1 Fan

    Has anybody ever noticed that two of the worst character flaws, alcoholism and being a Red Sox fan, go hand in hand?

    • He’brew Beer Rules My Ass

      Wrong thread.

  • robby d

    I actually wouldn’t trading for lowe if we dont have to give up a type a prospect. i rather have him signed next yar so that the yanks dont have to overpay for wilson or jackson. and then the following year we could possibly go after Cain,Marcum,Hamels,Sanchez, or Weaver.I know for a fact yankees will go after one of jackson and wilson and overpay and then it will add up to another overpaid and bad contract for the yanks. I think lowe would be a perfect stop gap until the 2013 free agency.