Scouting The Trade Market: Wandy Rodriguez

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This is actually from the Yanks/Stros series in '08. (From Flickr user William Holtkamp via Creative Commons license.)

When the Yankees sought a pitcher to fill the spot reserved for Cliff Lee, Wandy Rodriguez’s name came up frequently. He’s a quality pitcher on a not-so-quality team, and he was just one year from free agency. While that might sound like a match on the surface, it misses a bigger point. With an already thin starting staff, Houston wasn’t about to give up its best pitcher before the season even started. Come trade deadline, though, he could become available.

Houston threw a wrench in the plan by signing Rodriguez to a three-year, $34 million contract with a $13 million fourth-year option. That doesn’t preclude them from trading him, since it’s a market value contract (and maybe a bit below market). But it does change the proposition, from acquiring a rental to acquiring an arm for the next few years. He’s someone who can help in that time, though. So far this year he has a 3.21 ERA and 3.94 FIP (3.48 xFIP) through 13 starts and 84 innings.

The Pros

  • From 2008 through 2010 he was the Astros best pitcher, posting an 8.4 K/9, 2.93 BB/9, and 0.85 HR/9, good for a 3.36 ERA and 3.55 FIP. That amounted to 10.2 WAR, best on the team by a full win.
  • His fielding-independent performance has remained pretty consistent through his peak years, peaking at 3.62 and bottoming out at 3.50. He has also kept his ERA reasonably in line with the number, so it does appear that he is as good as his peripherals indicate.
  • Since 2008 he ranks 16th in IP, 13th in ERA, 15th in FIP, 11th in xFIP, and 17th in WAR among NL pitchers with more than 350 IP. In other words, he’s a solid No. 2 – No. 3 pitcher.
  • He eats lefties for breakfast, striking them out more, walking them less, and keeping the ball in the park more often. That’ll play well at the Stadium.

The Cons

  • He has a clause in his contract that turns the $13 million option into a player one if he’s traded. Put in a different context, that means the Yankees would be trading for a rental and then signing him to a three-year, $36 million contract — while giving up the players that reflect that they’re getting him for all those years.
  • He’s a late bloomer and is actually 32 this season. That means the Yankees would have him for his age-33 through his age-35 seasons. It’s not the worst proposition, but it’s always dicey dealing with pitchers at that age.
  • He’s been remarkably poor during interleague play during his career, with a lower strikeout rate and higher walk rate than his career numbers. This carries over to his good years, as he’s been horrible during the last three years of interleague play.
  • He pitches quite a bit better at home than on the road, though that seems a bit odd, considering how hitter-friendly Minute Maid Park is, especially for righties. I’m not sure if that’s a big consideration in acquiring him, but it does stand out.

Left-handed pitching is clearly a priority for the Yankees, and Rodriguez fits that need well. He’s not just someone who throws with his left hand, but rather a high-strikeout, low-walk guy who can keep fellow lefties in check while handling righties just fine. In that way he appears to be a good target for the Yankees. But the cons list takes away a lot of his value. The Yankees would be making a significant commitment to him, and unless they’ve scouted him extensively, as they would a potential free agent signing, they might be disinclined to make a deal. The contract itself isn’t bad, and it would give the Yankees another lefty in the rotation for a few years. But it’s still a hefty commitment for a deadline deal.

If Rodriguez had not signed the extension, I would have thought a trade possible, or even likely. But the contract, especially the player option clause, complicates matters. There’s still an outside chance, but the more complexities you add to a trade the less likely it becomes. We might hear the Yankees inquiring on Rodriguez, but I’d have to put the chances of an actual trade at less than one percent.

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  • 28 this year

    You almost wonder what the Astros were thinking signing him to an extension with the trade clause of the player option. If the Astros had any intention of trading him, they just took away a lot of his value because he costs more so teams are hesistent.

    • Clay Bellinger

      What were the Astros thinking when they hired Ed Wade as GM and how has he retained that job for 4 years? He’s brutal.

    • Ted Nelson

      Yeah, it probably means that they were thinking they had little intention of trading him unless a team was desperate.

    • FIPster Doofus

      The Astros don’t think.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        The Astros don’t think.

        After looking at the uniforms they’ve worn throughout the years, I’m inclined to agree with you.

  • CC’s third leg

    Now this is what i would like to see

  • Brandon

    I wouldn’t mind having him either. Only problem is that Hughes is looking good today and will be back in a week or so. So that leaves us with CC, AJ, Colon, Nova, Hughes, and Garcia. Hughes will be a starter when he comes back, so who gets put in the pen? No one really deserves that demotion, but my guess is either Nova or Colon. So I really don’t know where Rodriguez or any other starter would fit in.

    • Sayid J

      I doubt Colon gets the demotion. I’d guess Garcia or Nova.

    • FIPster Doofus

      Colon has pitched like an ace this year. Zero chance he’d get demoted.

    • Brandon

      Garcia outta the bullpen would be ugly. Nova is probably the best bet, that way Noesi can go back to AAA and continue his developent as a starter

  • http://none Favrest

    If he costs nothing, he’s upgrade over Gordon. However, I’m always weary of most NL guys. No Cubs or Pirates in the AL East.
    You have to be ready for every start. A 3.21 era is like 4.50 in our division.

    • Ted Nelson

      He’s not going to cost nothing…

    • Cris Pengiuci

      I doubt the difference in ERA between NL Central and AL East is 1.25+. Perhaps 0.75? Even that’s pushing it I think. If he can keep his ERA under 4.00 for the season in the AL East and the cost is acceptable, he’d replace a couple of guys currently on the staff, not even counting Gordon.

  • Adam B

    I think Wandy fits, but The Astros value him as a 1, Yankees a 3. I don’t think he’s worth the cost in prospects if it would have to take a 1 or 2 type value in prospects

  • John Kruk’s belly

    Meh, I’d rather have Clayton Kershaw or Felix Hernandez.

    • Cris Pengiuci

      Wouldn’t we all. That’s not happening.

      The bigger question is, if Wandy and Liriano are both available, which would you prefer? Guess it comes down to cost.

      • boogie down

        Want to see how Liriano bounces back from his poor start the last time out; he’s been doing pretty well since the start of May, so, with presumed cost being taken into consideration, I think I’d prefer him.

        • Cris Pengiuci

          I’d lean that way as well, but Wandy doesn’t appear to be too bad an option either. The change of league worries me, especially with his poor interleague performance to date.

          • boogie down

            Agreed that Wandy’s a good option, but my guess is that the cost to acquire him will be greater simply because of the extension he and the Astros agreed to. Dream scenario would be to acquire Liriano for below-market value b/c of his roller coaster season to date, then have Rothschild transform him into the Liriano we saw last year.

            • Cris Pengiuci

              +1

            • Ted Nelson

              roller coaster season = roller coaster career

    • Sayid J

      Lol.

      • John Kruk’s belly

        Yes, it’s called sarcasm.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          You should have said, “Meh, I’d rather have Clayton Kershaw or AND Felix Hernandez.”

          Oversell your sarcasm to avoid confusion.

          • http://johnsterling.blogspot.com/ Xstar7

            I’d prefer if the Yankees had a rotation of CC, King Felix, Tim Lincecum, Stephen Strasburg, and a clone of Bob Gibson.

            • John Kruk’s belly

              That’s not even sarcastic. That’s straight up ludicrous.

            • Cris Pengiuci

              Tim McCarver loves this.

            • 28 this year

              still not better than the Red Sox. Ur gonna have to try harder. Dice-K is better than Lincecum, have you seen his gyroball?

          • John Kruk’s belly

            I see. I’ll get it right next time.

  • Andrew Brotherton

    I’d go for Liriano. Much better chance of giving us a solid return on an investment.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      I’ve got a feeling Liriano’s prospect pricetag will be lower than Wandy’s, as well.

      The Astros are generally loath to trade away players (even in the midst of losing seasons) and Wandy’s under contract to them at reasonable rates. The Twins are much more willing to wheel and deal, especially with players nearing free agency like Liriano is, and Liriano’s style doesn’t jibe with their organizational mandate of limiting walks and pitching to induce bad contact.

      • CP

        Liriano’s style doesn’t jibe with their organizational mandate of limiting walks and pitching to induce bad contact.

        You know who does jibe with an organizational philosophy of pitching to contact? Ivan Nova.

    • whozat

      Much higher chance of giving 0 ROI too. That shoulder injury is deeply concerning.

      • CP

        Sure, but he’s pitched very well since coming back. And it doesn’t seem as serious as Hughes’ shoulder injury.

    • John Kruk’s belly

      When did we last trade with the Twins anyways?

      • bobtaco

        Has there been one since Chuck Knoblauch?

        • Jorge

          Can’t think of one.

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

          That was the last significant one. Three minor deals since (for PTBNLs): Chris Basak, Juan Padilla, and Jesse Orosco (!).

        • steve (different one)

          Come on guys, surely you remember the blockbuster deal of Jesse Orosco for Juan Padilla??

    • Ted Nelson

      All depends on what the investment is… Liriano’s got some serious, serious red flags. I don’t know if I trade either Betances or Banuelos for him straight up to be honest. Neither of those two is a sure thing… but neither is Liriano.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        I don’t think anyone here who has advocated for acquiring Liriano intends to use Betances or Banuelos for him. We’re talking strictly the Nova/Noesi/Phelps/Warren/Mitchell stratosphere, no greater.

        Betances, Banuelos, Montero, and probably even Romine, Sanchez, Murphy and Heathcott would all be off-limits in a potential Liriano trade.

        We know he’s risky, and thus we’re interested in him only if the price is extremely right.

  • infernoscurse

    Wandy is a girls name there for i dont want no puss girl named pitcher on my team

  • Jorge

    I agree he’d cost too much……except it Theo were to trade for him. Then it’d be Darnell McDonald and a box of donuts.

    • http://johnsterling.blogspot.com/ Xstar7

      Theo could get Wandy for David Ortiz’s jock strap.

      • http://johnsterling.blogspot.com/ Xstar7

        nightmare fuel

  • Cuso

    I’ve been waiting for this article.

    Not that I actually “want” to see them go after someone…..but this is the only one that makes a little bit of sense.

  • Dismortologist

    I understand Nova has a few shortcomings… lack of a true swing & miss pitch, change-up, yada yada… but am I the only one who believes he has the potential to be significantly better than a league average starter? he’s a rookie doing fairly well in the AL East. Maybe its me?

    • .zip file

      No, your not the only one. I think he’s doing exactly what the Yankees need him to do. I also think he’s progressing very well, learning as he goes and will only get better. Will he throw some clunkers along the way? Yes, no doubt he will. But I think he is already a decent #4 starter, with a shot at being a #3 at some point. I just don’t get the desire to add some other team’s pitcher (a team that is worse than the Yankees) that would probably be a #3 on the Yankees at the cost of a Nova or a Noesi. And before any one says the Yankees have Banuelos or Betances in the minors, remember, neither one has ever pitched above AA. We don’t know how successful they will be, or if they will even get to the Majors. I’m not prepared to trade Nova or Noesi until the B’s are closer to the Majors.

  • David, Jr.

    Mark Buehrle is who we want. I know, not many strikeouts. I know, $15M.

  • Patrick

    I think you all are undervaluing Wandy in the comments. This is the gut that’s 2nd in the MLB in ERA over the last calendar year. To call him a #3 starter at best simply doesn’t do him justice.