Astros, Red Sox Good Fit To Wave The Magic Wand(y)

The Red Sox seem keen on moving Daniel Bard to the rotation, a move that — despite his lackluster results as a Minor League starter — seems like a good decision. But, since Daisuke Matsuzaka will be unable to take the ball at the season’s outset, the Sox are still in need of a fifth starter. In house candidates such as Alfredo Aceves, Felix Doubront, Andrew Miller and Kyle Weiland abound, but since they all project as below-average options, rumors of external candidates continue to percolate, particularly via the trade market. One new(er) name is Wandy Rodriguez.

Now, to be sure, Rodriguez’s isn’t the first name that has popped up in the Nation’s rumor mill this Hot Stove season. Names like John Danks, Gavin Floyd and Gio Gonzalez have been prominent as well. But no rumor has really grown legs, partly because the Sox were busy finding a manager, and partly because the White Sox and A’s are looking for Major League ready talent, something which Boston’s farm system is not currently overflowing with. But the Astros, who are now smack dab in the middle of their rebuild mode, don’t necessarily need Major League ready prospects — they need to continue stocking all levels of their system. Another consideration is money — the Astros would prefer to not eat any of Rodriguez’s contract, something that teams have balked at. But they shouldn’t.

Despite his down 2011 season, Rodriguez compares favorably to the other three most bandied about names over the past four seasons:

Pitcher xFIP- Rnk WAR Rnk WAR/150 IP
Wandy Rodriguez 89 t-22 11.8 35 2.43
Gavin Floyd 92 t-35 14.9 21 2.86
John Danks 94 t-44 15.6 18 3.01
Gio Gonzalez 95 t-49 7.3 71 2.05

First, this isn’t wholly fair to Gonzalez, since he has only had two full years in the Majors, but I also think that’s sort of the point here — he doesn’t have the same track record. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but when your team wants a king’s ransom in return, it helps if the pitcher you are set to acquire is a sure thing, and Gonzalez — with his exorbitant walk rate — is far from a sure thing.

Rodriguez hasn’t translated his performance into wins as frequently as have Danks and Floyd, but on a rate basis, he is just as good, if not better, than they have been. That didn’t change this season, as Rodriguez’s 3.72 xFIP just edged out the other three (Looking to the free-agent market, it also narrowly edged Edwin Jackson and was much better than Mark Buehrle and Roy Oswalt).

It’s not just overall where Rodriguez is better — he has been much more formidable against left-handed hitters without giving away said advantage against righties. Here are the career splits for the group:

Pitcher xFIP vs L xFIP vs R
Rodriguez 3.43 4.07
Gonzalez 3.72 4.05
Danks 4.20 4.09
Floyd 4.22 4.04

It looks even better over the past four seasons:

Pitcher xFIP vs L xFIP vs R
Rodriguez 2.92 3.82
Gonzalez 3.72 4.05
Danks 4.08 3.97
Floyd 4.00 3.79

Rodriguez’s 2.92 mark against lefties is the third-best mark among starters in that timeframe (min. 100 IP) — only Clayton Kershaw and Jorge De La Rosa have been better. Rodriguez is no slouch against righties either, as he ranks 24th overall (min. 350 IP), coming in just behind Floyd at 21st place.

So to recap, Rodriguez is just as good, if not better than the three pitchers prominently mentioned to be available on the trade market. But, since the Astros are at a different point in their team cycle, they might not require as much of a bounty for Rodriguez — especially if someone eats his whole salary. Rodriguez’s season strikeout numbers also may be a contributing factor to his lower price tag, but while his K/9 was down in the first half of this past season, it recovered in the second half to be more in line with the numbers he had posted from 2008-2010.

The Red Sox are thin on prospects who are close to the Majors, but still have a good bundle of talent lower on the farm. The Astros have done a decent job of starting to rebuild the farm, but they need to keep stocking. The Astros are unlikely to be ready for serious competition by the time Rodriguez’s contract is up, and if they are able to net a couple of prospects in need of some more seasoning without eating too much of his contract, that’s a big win for them. Similarly, if the Red Sox can acquire a starter without having to give up pieces they may need for 2012 or 2013 — as would likely be the case in any Danks, Floyd or Gonzalez acquisition — that would make life a lot easier on them. They could just as easily still go the free agency route, but bargains haven’t exactly been easy to come by on the market. A Rodriguez to Boston deal makes sense for both teams.




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Paul Swydan is the managing editor of The Hardball Times, a writer and editor for FanGraphs and a writer for the Boston Globe. Follow him on Twitter @Swydan.


20 Responses to “Astros, Red Sox Good Fit To Wave The Magic Wand(y)”

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  1. Earl Sweatshirt says:

    I was under the assumption that Wandy wasn’t a realistic target because the previous Astros GM thought he still had significant value despite his contract. If the Astros eat money, I could see them getting a legit prospect, but with that contract he isn’t worth much. The only problem with Wandy for the Red Sox is his high AAV, but perhaps they could find another Bill Hall loophole to offset the lux tax hit.

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    • Yirmiyahu says:

      I saw Wandy as a trade target for the Sox in August and earlier this offseason for the specific reason that his contract meant he’d cost little in prospects. A team like the Sox should be exercising its financial muscles by trading an overpaid pitcher a short-term deal. You get to keep the top prospects and avoid the risk of a long-term free agent contract.

      But now that the Sox are supposedly going to pinch pennies this offseason, I’m not sure they’d be interested in him.

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      • OremLK says:

        Wandy isn’t overpaid, though. If anything, he’s slightly underpaid. I don’t think he has a ton of surplus value over his contract, but there’s a bit there.

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  2. jda says:

    To be fair, Alfredo Aceves is NOT a “below-average option” according to ZiPS, which is what the author maintains. A 117 ERA+ looks pretty spiffy to me. Even if it dropped a tiny bit after re-projecting with 30 GS instead of only 5 GS and all those relief outings, he’d still probably get ZiPped around a 110 ERA+.

    Whether Aceves is a palatable real-life option may be a different story, but the author ought to be more careful about his stated claims.

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    • Eminor3rd says:

      Good point, but I think that even Dan Szymborski would admit that given Aceves’ relatively small sample as a starter, the projections are probably less reliable, at least to some significant degree

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    • Yirmiyahu says:

      As a starting pitcher, Aceves has a career 4.94 FIP, a 5.58 xFIP, and a 5.41 SIERA.

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    • DavidCEisen says:

      If you believe Aceves will have a .269 BABIP you’re crazy. The +ERA is a pointless prediction given the small sample size and his previous role as a relief pitcher. Maybe if he remains a relief pitcher he can maintain such a low rate, but not as a starter.

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      • jda says:

        If you reread, you’ll note that I’m not saying he is or isn’t a good option, merely stating that ZiPS’ opinion about him isn’t what the author is stating. I even gave my generic disclaimer at the end of my post where I pointed out that “real life” may not align very well with Aceves’ projection.

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      • DavidCEisen says:

        The author clearly was using FIP not ERA. Using ERA projections are in general not that worthwhile and particularly in this case not worthwhile. There is no reason to use ERA+ when FIP+ is available, unless you think there is a justifable reason to argue Aceves will have a lower than average BABIP.

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      • jda says:

        DavidCEisen – that’s actually a good point that I hadn’t considered, re: the author’s assertion’s.

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      • Yirmiyahu says:

        Even if you’re looking at Aceves’ ERA projection and accepting it as gospel, it’s still below-average. League average for a reliever was 3.69 last year.

        And you can’t say that his projected 3.76 ERA would be the same if he was moved to the rotation full time. You should, on average, add a run on for that transition, which would once again render his ERA below-average. http://www.insidethebook.com/ee/index.php/site/comments/starter_v_relief_1953_2008

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  3. Worry says:

    Jair Jurrjens?

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  4. Mike Hotchkiss says:

    Get Gio Gonzalez!

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  5. JB Knox says:

    I hate the fact that the Sox keep mentioning the luxury tax. They could easily afford to go $10-20 million over and pay the $5 million hit at 40% for two starters. Moving Bard and Aceves to the rotation isn’t smart baseball in my opinion. You’re coming off a season when lack of rotation depth killed you in the latter part of the season and you’re risking moving a long-relief guy who excels in that role (if it ain’t broke don’t fix it) and another unproven starter in Bard? Now you’re gonna go spend what $9-10 million on Madson to replace him. Makes no sense. If SP’s are deemed more valuable, why would you make these moves. Then you factor in the stretching these guys out so they can last 6-7 innings and you’ll really be missing out on Aceves tru worth.

    Good article though. You beat me to it as I was working the numbers for a similar post on my site.

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    • bcp33bosox says:

      Sorry, but don’t buy the “ain’t broke don’t fix it…” Ellsbury played a bunch of corner OF in 2007 when he was coming up and was red hot, so under the “rule” you state he should have never been switched to CF, do I understand you correctly? Youk was an GG at 1B, but we shouldn’t have brought in Gonzo? An upgrade is an upgrade and 150 IP has more value that 60-70 IP… If Bard can be successful as a SP, he should be given the chance. Why wouldn’t a reliever who shows signs of having a 3rd pitch, be explored to possibly starting… ? Sorry but I cannot agree with your philospophy. I hope you undersatnd…

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      • JB Knox says:

        Well, actually Ellsbury was a natural CF all along, but was forced to play corner OF due to positional depth at CF at the time, but he was def a CF in the minors. Youkilis was a 3B from the beginning. Moving from first to 3rd is an easier move than any other positional change I can think of in baseball. Not to mention he was a plus fielder all around. I can understand your argument for Gonzo, but if your stating that Aceves is a Gonzo like talent as a #4 starter, well that doesn’t make much sense. My point is this, who is going to replace Aceves as the long relief guy? I think it is easier to find a #5 starter than it is to find a long relief pitcher with the skills that Aceves brings to the table. Now the Sox are circling the wagon wheels trying to figure out what to do. They have to make 4-5 moves to fill one spot. They move Bard and Aceves to the rotation, which in turn has forced a trade for Melancon now, costing us some IF depth by trading Lowrie and then making another move by signing Punto. Now we may have to trade more prospects to fill the closers role on an injury risk, such as Bailey. Couldn’t we have just bit the $5 million luxury tax bullet and signed a couple of free-agents and left Bard in the bullpen?

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  6. Buddy Munson says:

    Only two things scare me about Rodriguez. One, the 2014 team option becomes a player option if traded. Second, in Interleague play, he’s 8-10 with a 5.25 ERA/1.419 WHIP in 22 starts. He is an option. However, Joe Saunders was not tendered today, so he can be had for just $$ and not give up anything.

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  7. pft says:

    Red Sox will go after Darvas and Aceves will start as well. Bard will be in the pen, the talk of him starting is a bluff to make folks think they won’t be bidding on Darvas.

    They won’t go over the luxury tax and Wandy’s 11.5 AAV contract puts them close to it if Papi gets 15 million and Ellsbury gets close to 8 million in arbitration.. Red Sox have plenty of money which is why they will be able to post 50+ million for Darvas, but they are against going over the luxury tax threshold since it acts as a cap that fans support.

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  8. Sophist says:

    The White Sox just traded their closer, who was locked up under very favorable terms, for a prospect that looks like he won’t be ready until 2013. When some of the dust settles on the free agent market, Ken Williams will probably be willing to move guys like Danks or Floyd for someone who’s not major-league ready. In fact, if they move Thornton and Quentin in addition to one of these starters, their payroll will be all the way down below $90mm, providing a little space to add on with a few one year contracts (eliminating need to get major-league ready talent for each of Quention, Thornton, Danks/Floyd).

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  9. Eric says:

    So..this wasn’t about masturbation. Huh…

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