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Yankees, Nationals Scouting Carlos Silva

Carlos Silva has drawn attention this spring for his dugout brawl with teammate Aramis Ramirez. According to Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago, he is gaining interest for what he does on the field as well. Levine names the Washington Nationals and the New York Yankees as teams who have scouted the Cubs’ right-hander this spring.

Both Washington and New York have questions at the back end of their rotations. The Nationals have durability concerns in John Lannan and Jordan Zimmerman while the Yankees are sorting through non-roster invitees like Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia. In either case, it’s hard to see Silva as much of an upgrade, especially considering he is on the books for nearly $12 million – although Seattle is picking up part of the tab.

In his first season for the Cubs, Silva posted above-average metrics across the board. His 4.22 ERA was decent and his fielding independent marks were even better (3.75 FIP/3.90 xFIP). The hefty right-hander has always been stingy with walks (1.73 career BB/9), but also failed to do much in the way of strikeouts (4.73 career K/9). Last season, he continued to limit the free passes with another sub-2.0 BB/9 while increasing his K/9 to a somewhat respectable 6.37.

Looking at luck factors like BABIP, HR/FB rate, and LOB%, Silva remained relatively neutral despite some fluctuation between home and road games. His marks in each category mentioned were slightly better than career averages, but nothing that would scream fluke. Perhaps the most interesting piece of batted ball data was his ability to keep a relatively normal 10.4% HR/FB rate (10.9% career) in Wrigley field after coming over from the pitcher-friendly Safeco Field.

Going back to his improved strikeout rate, Silva finally decided that throwing his below-average fastball three-quarters of the time might not be a good idea. He lowered his fastball usage to around 53% while increasing the frequency of his slider and change-up, especially the latter.

Silva has always thrown a changeup, but never quite like he did last season. In 2010, he threw the off-speed pitch 31% of the time. Historically, it has been a below-average offering for him; his changeup, however, rated among the better ones in the game last season, earning a wCH of 9.0 – 7th best among National Leaguers (min. 110 innings).

Despite the nifty 3.75 FIP, Silva barely passed the 2 WAR threshold because of durability issues. He made just 21 starts for Chicago and averaged fewer than 5.5 innings per start. Once upon a time, Silva was rather durable –averaging 193 innings per year from 2004-2007, but since signing a four-year contract before the 2008 season, the Bolivar native has thrown just 296 innings over the past three seasons. Looking ahead, most projection systems have him tossing between 110-135 innings in 2011.

With over 1,200 innings of major league experience, potential suitors are not going to learn anything new about Silva based on 25-30 innings this spring. More likely, they are checking his mechanics and looking around for medical records than they are his stuff. That said, Silva has not been effective this spring which doesn’t help his value.

Looking at it from Cubs’ perspective, shedding Silva’s 2011 salary is probably more important than worrying about his replacement. Whether it be someone like Braden Looper or a younger arm like James Russell, the Cubs are not likely to lose much in terms of on-field talent if they can find a suitor for Silva.

For the teams scouting him, it would not make much sense for a team like the Nationals to add an oft-injured, league average starter to a team with 75-80 win talent and young arms with more upside. As far as the Yankees go, Silva is no better option than Bartolo Colon or Ivan Nova, especially when you consider similar injury concerns as Colon and the lower salaries of the current Yankees battling for a spot.