Scouting The Trade Market: Michael Wuertz

The offense at three intervals
Boone Logan's Ineffective Slider
Ugly hat is ugly. (Photo Credit: Flickr user ztil301 via Creative Commons license)

Injuries have really done a number of the Yankees’ bullpen of late, taking away both Joba Chamberlain and Rafael Soriano for a while, though there’s some hope that Soriano will be able to start throwing this week. Some of the minor league reinforcements like Amaury Sanit (hah), Tim Norton, and Mark Prior are also on the disabled list, so the well is starting to run dry. Even if Soriano comes back relatively soon, the Yankees will still have to go outside the organization for help anyway. They’ve lost that much depth.

One team that could be a trade match is the Athletics, who are sinking like a stone after losing a dozen of their last 13 games and firing their manager. They have a full five man rotation on the disabled list, as Brett Anderson recently joined Dallas Braden, Brandon McCarthy, Rich Harden, and Tyson Ross on the shelf. Bigger names like Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes are sure to be mentioned, but perhaps the best fit is slider specialist Michael Wuertz. Let’s break it down…

The Pros

  • Wuertz is death on right-handers thanks to one of the game’s best sliders. He’s holding same side batters to a .103/.167/.205 batting line this year and .192/.258/.306 with 32.7% strikeouts since the start of 2009.  Batters have missed with 13.4% of their swings against him this season, which is insanely high but actually down from 15.4% last year and 17.9% two years ago.
  • Although his calling card is his ability to shut down righties, Wuertz is also more than serviceable against lefties. They’re hitting .242/.353/.345 off him this year and .212/.291/.389 since the start of 2009. His slider is so good that he uses it against lefties as well, which is not something you usually see.
  • He has experience in a variety of roles, including middle relief work and setup man duties, plus he even spent some time as Oakland’s closer when Andrew Bailey got hurt last year. For what it’s worth, he’s also pitched in the postseason (with the Cubs back in 2007). I don’t put much stock in that, but it doesn’t hurt.
  • Wuertz’s contract contains a club option for next year, so it would not necessarily be a rental. He currently projects as a Type-B free agent, so the Yankees could get a draft pick should they let him walk.

The Cons

  • As great as that slider is, Wuertz uses it 51.5% of the time, a very high rate. Slider usage that extreme usually leads to elbow trouble, with Brad Lidge, Justin Speier, and Manny Corpas being recent and notable examples.
  • Sure enough, Wuertz has dealt with some injuries over the last two years. He missed all of April with shoulder tendinitis last season, then missed a few weeks with an oblique strain this April. Thumb issues also shelved him for some time last September (no DL trip because of expanded rosters though).
  • His strikeout rate is trending downward, though it’s still more than respectable at 7.91 K/9. It’s just not as good as 9.08 batters he struck out per nine innings last year, or the 11.67 he struck out per nine in 2009.
  • The club option proves for some nice flexibility, but it’s not exactly cheap. Wuertz is making $2.8M this season (about $467,000 per month, pro-rated) and the option will pay him $3.25M next year ($250,000 buyout). The Yankees can obviously afford it, but that’s pricey by middle reliever standards.

It’s tough to come up a player similar to Wuertz that’s been traded in recent years just to get an idea of the likely cost, plus we can’t forget that Billy Beane always seems to ask for the moon. The Twins gave up a C-level prospect to get Jon Rauch from the Diamondbacks two years ago, but that was part of a waiver trade a month after the deadline. Kyle Farnsworth was traded to the Braves along with Rick Ankiel last year, so that doesn’t help us either. Matt Capps had the Proven Closer™ tag last year, so that doesn’t work either. Anyway, Wuertz makes some sense for the Yankees just because he’s a veteran arm with a standout pitch and experience in high-leverage spots. He’s really not all that different from Joba when you think about it.

The offense at three intervals
Boone Logan's Ineffective Slider
  • Gonzo

    Do the old rule of not making a trade with Billy Beane still apply?

  • Cy Pettitte

    Gio and Wuertz for ???

    • David, Jr.

      That is a ballbuster. It is why the Cashmans of the world make huge $$$$, to make decisions like that. They don’t need a catcher, so throw that out. Doesn’t seem like a match. They have lots of pitching, which is our strongest area in prospects to trade. Can’t see it.

    • MannyGeee

      Laird/ Adams/ Nunez/ Romine/ Maxwell/ JoVa/ Dickerson…

      pu pu platter, mix n match, hell throw in CoCo and take them all.

      • Drew

        I’ve always liked Coco. I’d definitely hop on that train if it ever came to the Boogie down.

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        Beane: Hello?
        Cashman: Billy, what’s up?
        Beane: What’s up?
        Cashman: I’ll get right to it, here’s the offer. You can pick any or all of Laird/ Adams/Nunez/Romine/Maxwell/JoVa/Dickerson in exchange for Michael Wuertz and Gio Gonz–
        –alez– hello? Hello? Billy?

        … aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand, SCENE!

  • HyShai

    EDIT: Slider usage that extreme usually leads to elbow trouble, with JOBA CHAMBERLAIN, Brad Lidge, Justin Speier, and Manny Corpas being recent and notable examples.

    • CP

      Joba doesn’t really fit in that group:

      JOBA CHAMBERLAIN – 24.9% career slider %, 28.9% this season and only season over 30% was 2007.

      Brad Lidge – 44% career slider %, over 50% every year since 2008

      Justin Speier – 37% career slider %, over 40% every year since 2006

      Manny Corpas – 33% career slider %, has increased every year of his career to 40% in 2010

  • Pat D

    I still think he’s one of the best options out there.

    Personally I’d trade for him, provided we don’t give up much more than a B- prospect, and I wouldn’t touch that option next year no matter how well he might pitch.

    • MannyGeee

      if history serves as any guide, we will decline the option and give him a 3 yr contract. just in time for Marte to let him borrow his splint.

      • Pat D

        Yea, I’m not advocating that.

  • Dick Whitman

    I’d rather Brad Ziegler.

  • pat

    The fact that he’s Type-B leads me to believe Beane will want something good in return.

  • Drew

    I do like Wuertz, but like you said Billy Beane seems to always ask for a lot when it comes to trades. I don’t know anything about his relationship with Cashman, but, I’m sure he is not looking to do the Yankees any favors. That being said, I think the Yankees should go out and get Matt Thorton. Kenny Williams has delt with the Yankees before, and after the slow start to the season, he has rebounded nicely and would fit in great in the bullpen. Thornton just got a 2 year deal at the beginning of the season He will get $5.5 million in 2012 and 2013. His 2014 option would be worth $6 million with a $1 million team buyout option. It’s expensive for a middle reliever but his upside is worth the risk.

    • MannyGeee

      yikes, that is a huge number in middle relief for this year as well as next. but screw it its not our money

  • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

    They have a full five man rotation on the disabled list, as Brett Anderson recently joined Dallas Braden, Brandon McCarthy, Rich Harden, and Tyson Ross on the shelf.

    Ouch, babe. That’s rough.

    • Drew

      Its not like any of those guys are ever healthy anyways. The only guy of that list i’d want in the Yankees rotation is Andreson, and even then. meh

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        You wouldn’t want Dallas Braden as a Yankee? He’s always seemed like an even-keeled, mild-mannered understated gentleman-scholar who doesn’t take himself too seriously and respects the game too much to ever engage in silly histrionics or catfights.

        There’s a man’s man right there.

        • JohnnyC

          “There’s a man’s man right there.”

          He’s 40 years old?

        • Drew

          GET OFF MY MOUND! Doesn’t seem too even-kelled to me, even if it is just one incident. Also when you’re grandmother is getting involved, it is never pretty.

          Eh, I know he had a no hitter, but I’m not totally convinced. Yeah he’s young but that’s really it.

          • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

            Should I have laid it on even thicker?

            • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

              /sarcmeter broken :(

            • Drew

              Yeah, Half read your post….


  • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

    Seriously, that hat is an abomination. No team should be forced to wear a color not in their normal color scheme just for some holiday hijinks.

    I get that it’s merchandizing to make a quick buck, but I can’t imagine Red/White/Blue American flag A’s hats are selling like hotcakes. If my whole sporting wardrobe is A’s green/white/yellow, I’m never ever ever going to buy that crap.

    • Drew

      I’ve been saying this for years, it should just be the teams cap, regular colors but just the American flag in the logo for all the teams. (Canadian flag for Toronto) I guess the caps would stop selling after a while but Jesus the hats they are wearing look ridiculous.

  • Russelling

    Wait, Mark Prior is hurt??

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      He has an abdominal hernia. Probably got it in a tragic golden shower incident.

  • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

    He’s really not all that different from Joba when you think about it.

    soooo…he’s a starting pitcher?

  • Hendo

    Here’s the trade call Sabean in San Fran and say Posada for Ramon Ramirez and Lopez baby!

  • Lucas Apostoleris

    Minor nitpick: “Batters have missed with 13.4% of their swings against him this season” is incorrect; the 13.4% is Wuertz’s whiffs per pitch, not per swing. 13.4% on a per swing rate is extremely low (Ivan Nova territory).

    • Voice of Reason

      Nova wishes.

      Bears mentioning that Wuertz’s K rate is abnormally low considering where his contact and swinging strike %s are, so I’d expect him to get substantially more punch outs from here on out. Still, pass. He has all the makings of a guy whose arm would explode as soon as he arrives in the Bronx…which is to say he’s a relief pitcher.