Yovani Gallardo’s Obvious Fit, and Even More Obvious Fit

Let’s check in on the latest in Yovani Gallardo rumors:

It took a while for any Gallardo talks to surface, but when they did, it was the Orioles, Rockies, and Astros at the forefront. Everyone agreed: those three were the lead suitors.

But the thought of a non-contending Rockies team forfeiting a draft pick for a pitcher entering his age-30 season seemed a bit peculiar, and then GM Jeff Bridich came out and said the talks were “overblown,” so people scratched the Rockies off the list. The Astros went and signed Doug Fister, and people scratched the Astros off the list. So on January 28, just the Orioles were left. On February 4, just the Orioles were left. And on February 7… just the Orioles were left.

It’s been nearly two weeks now, and the Orioles still seem to be the only obvious fit for Gallardo. On the surface, it makes plenty of sense. Last year’s Orioles had a middling rotation, and then they lost their best starter in Wei-Yin Chen and have only added a depth piece in Odrisamer Despaigne to replace him. Our depth charts currently have Baltimore projected for the second-worst rotation in baseball. It lacks much in the way of upside, it lacks much in the way of durability, it lacks any real depth, and those are just about all the ways a rotation can lack. The Orioles plan to contend; the American League is wide-open and they wouldn’t have committed $198 million to free agents Chris Davis, Darren O’Day and Hyun-soo Kim if they didn’t view themselves as contenders. But it’s hard to imagine a team with this rotation competing.

Gallardo isn’t young — no free agent ever is — but he isn’t yet old, and for each of the last seven years, he’s been an above-league-average pitcher by at least one measure of WAR. He’s never failed to throw fewer than 180 innings in a season, and last year’s transition to the American League went better than expected; he’s coming off a career-best season, by RA9-WAR. Gallardo’s got his warts, of course. He gave back the velocity that he picked up in 2014. He saw his strikeout rate drop for the umpteenth consecutive year, though the most recent drop was to be expected, given the move to the AL, and he’s somewhat mitigated the loss in whiffs by getting more ground balls than ever and giving up fewer home runs.

The big issue that’s holding back Gallardo’s market, though, is the draft pick compensation. Baltimore’s 14th overall pick falls just outside the protected top-10, making it a steep price to pay, especially for a team with an unremarkable farm system that’s likely closer to rebuilding than other AL clubs in the hunt. If he were to sign, it’s entirely possible the Orioles could recoup that pick by tendering a qualifying offer to Gallardo when his contract were up, but that hinges on a number of non-guaranteed variables.

It’s easy to see why the Orioles are hesitant to give up their pick for Gallardo, no matter how badly they may need an upgrade to the rotation. But what if there was another contending team that actually needed a rotation upgrade even more? And what if that same team could hold sign Gallardo and hold onto not only its first round pick, but its second round pick and its third round pick as well?

What I’m wondering is: why haven’t we heard Gallardo linked to the White Sox?

The White Sox, like the Orioles, view themselves as a contender. All the money they committed last offseason to Melky Cabrera, Adam LaRoche, David Robertson, and Jeff Samardzija was the start, and they’ve since fast-tracked Carlos Rodon to the majors and traded youth for win-now upgrades in Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie. The White Sox, like the Orioles, have a shaky rotation, just in a different and far more promising way. The front end of Chicago’s rotation is the kind of thing you expect on a legitimate playoff contender. Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, and Rodon can go toe-to-toe with nearly any trio of pitchers in baseball — only the Nationals, Indians, Mets and Dodgers have a higher projected WAR from their top three starters.

But after the top three, things get ugly. John Danks, in the final year of his exorbitant contract, is cemented in the rotation, and he’s been one of baseball’s worst pitchers. Erik Johnson is currently penciled in as the No. 5, and while his former prospect status combined with last year’s shiny ERA may be reasons for optimism, his peripherals are still downright frightening, and he needs to make major strides with his command.

Danks and Johnson could both be replacement-level starters, and they’re currently expected to make 40% of Chicago’s starts. Never mind that, on average, teams end up needing 32 starts per year by pitchers outside their Opening Day rotation, and need 10 different starters per year. The White Sox already had little in the way of starting pitching depth, and it thinned out even more after the trade of Frankie Montas. Chris Beck is the only depth piece with any upside, and he’s recovering from elbow surgery. If something happens to a White Sox starter, they’d be forced to turn to the likes of Jacob Turner or Scott Carroll.

Put it all together, and the numbers for the White Sox look like this:

  • Projected WAR from top three SP: 12.6 (fifth)
  • Projected WAR from back-end & depth: 1.9 (last)
  • Percentage of WAR from top three SP: 87% (most)

You could make the argument that no team in baseball needs a solid, mid-rotation innings-eater more than the White Sox. No team is relying on their top three starters more than Chicago. They’ve got an elite front of the rotation, but perhaps the worst depth in baseball behind them.

And what’s more: they could sign Gallardo, and still keep their first-, second- and third-round picks. Chicago’s first-round selection is protected, at No. 10, and they also received a compensation pick at No. 28 when the Giants signed Samardzija. Of course, they’d still be losing a pick they otherwise have, but it’s not like the White Sox would suddenly have an empty draft if they went out and signed Gallardo. They’d still have a top-10 selection plus the rest of a team’s normal draft picks, and the fact that they’ve been tied to Dexter Fowler shows that they’re not totally averse to parting with the 28th pick.

They’ve been tied to Fowler because they badly need an outfielder, too, but I’d argue the rotation is where an upgrade is more dire. There’s only one safe, durable pitcher left on the market, and durable and safe is all the White Sox need. Gallardo isn’t as powerful as he once was, but he’s coming off the most effective season of his career, and he’s a monumental upgrade over what the White Sox currently have at the back of their rotation. Plus, their protected first round pick coupled with the supplemental choice they received from San Francisco gives them relatively little to lose. Everything adds up, except for the part where we haven’t heard a single rumor linking Gallardo to Chicago. Though, there is this: the most recent rumor suggests a new team or two has entered the fray.



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August used to cover the Indians for MLB and ohio.com, but now he's here and thinks writing these in the third person is weird. So you can reach me on Twitter @AugustFG_ or e-mail at august.fagerstrom@fangraphs.com.


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Jonah Pride
Member
Jonah Pride
3 months 15 days ago

The Sox have 4 holes to fill (Corner OF, corner OF/dh, SS, 5th starter). If they can fill any of them they can be a favorite for the Central.

Luy
Member
Luy
3 months 15 days ago

But the thought of a non-contending Rockies team forfeiting a draft pick for a pitcher entering his age-30 season seemed PERFECTLY CONSISTENT WITH THEIR MOVES OVER THE PAST FEW OFFSEASONS.

Couldn’t resist fixing that.

Seamaholic
Member
Seamaholic
3 months 15 days ago

When have the Rockies done anything like that? I don’t believe they’ve EVER signed a FA with a qualifying offer.

Pale Hose
Member
Pale Hose
3 months 15 days ago

The Rockies are the front office everyone is making fun of. They could trade Ben Paulsen’s right shoelace for Mike Trout and it will still get LOLRockies jokes.

Luy
Member
Luy
3 months 15 days ago

@Pale Hose

Do you really think signing Gallardo makes sense for the Rockies?
Do you think the Parra signing and subsequent Dickerson-for-reliever trade was a smart move?

I’m not mocking the Rockies FO to be cool. (I smoke if I want to look cool.) They have made and continue to make moves that make no sense…and frankly don’t even have internal logic. 1 of every 3 moves seems to contradict the other 2.

So go ahead an laugh at us sheeple. Perhaps one day we’ll have the moral courage, like you, to stand up to the masses who think winning less than 65 games 3 of the last 5 years, and less than 75 all 5…means a team is poorly constructed. What could we be thinking?

Luy
Member
Luy
3 months 15 days ago

I think you’re taking my comment too literally.

No they have not signed a QO-tagged FA before. But they sure have made a lot of head scratching moves that scream “win now” despite being very, very low on the win curve.

Trading Tulo, and keeping an equally expensive and worse Reyes.
Signing Parra, and trading a cheaper and likely better Dickerson.
Trading Dickerson instead of Blackmon or Cargo, who are under many fewer years of team control and much older.
Signing Mark Reynolds.
etc.

Cidron
Member
Cidron
3 months 15 days ago

Why should the Orioles add to their middling rotation? The Royals had a middling rotation along with an outstanding ‘pen and won it all. Orioles also have quite a good ‘pen to go with that iffy rotation. They are merely following the current model for building a championship.

HappyFunBall
Member
HappyFunBall
3 months 15 days ago

Of course the O’s are projected to have the second worst rotation in all of baseball. That’s not “middling”, it’s “bad”.

Jason B
Member
Jason B
3 months 15 days ago

Yeah, this…this is poor logic. “Why improve our team, a vaguely similar approach worked for that one team that one time!”

chaokang
Member
chaokang
3 months 15 days ago

They are not following the model, they have been doing it for quite some time already.

The 93-win 2012 Orioles had a rotation of Hammel, Chen, Tillman, pre-awesome Arrieta, and Gonzalez, which combined for 8.7 fWAR

The 85-win 2013 Orioles had a rotation of Hammel, Chen, Tillman, Gonzalez, and Feldman, which combined for 6.9 fWAR

The 96-win 2014 Orioles had a rotation of Tillman, Chen, Jimenez, Norris, and Gonzalez, which combined for 7.3 fWAR

The 2016 Orioles rotation of Tillman, Jimenez, Gonzalez, Gausman, and Worley/Wright projects at a fWAR of 6.8

Meanwhi, from 2012 to 2015 they had the 2nd best bullpen and 5th best defense according to fWAR and UZR.

output gap
Member
Member
output gap
3 months 15 days ago

The White Sox could benefit from signing all three of the remaining QO free agents. Reinsdorf is too cheap for that, though. The pecking order is probably:

1) Fowler
2) Desmond
3) Gallardo

MikeS
Member
MikeS
3 months 14 days ago

The “Reinsdorf is cheap” narrative REALLY needs to die. It is tired and lazy.

Reinsdorf has lots of flaws, but he has shown time and again that he will spend money if his baseball people think it is a good idea. The White Sox are usually in the top third of the league in payrolls and have been out of the top half once in the last 12 years.

vivalajeter
Member
vivalajeter
3 months 15 days ago

I’m not sure I agree with the way you’re valuing the draft pick loss. On the one hand, yeah, they wouldn’t be losing their 2nd round pick. But on the other hand, they’d be losing an even more valuable pick. Maybe it’s easier to give up a pick when you have plenty of others, but in a vacuum they’re worse off than a team that would need to give up their 2nd rounder.

It’s the opposite situation of a team signing multiple Free Agents. People have said “the team has already lost their 2nd round pick by signing Player X, so they may as well sign Players Y and Z because they’d only lose their 3rd/4th round picks”. That’s better than signing just one free agent a year, and consistently losing a higher pick.

I’m not sure the best way to look at it. Do you look at the value of the pick itself, or do you take into account the other picks a team has?

troybruno
Member
Member
troybruno
3 months 15 days ago

Agreed. The #28 pick is worth the #28 pick, regardless of what else you have… To use an extreme example, I am sure the Angels were happy with their multiple 1st round picks in the 2009 draft.

jdbolick
Member
Member
3 months 15 days ago

Please send him to the White Sox. As an Orioles fan, I would rather have the 14th pick than Gallardo for the league minimum. He’s simply not going to move the needle much for the team this season, and his recent skills decline has been so sharp that it’s easy to imagine him becoming a complete liability soon.

Im with Busey
Member
Im with Busey
3 months 15 days ago

As a Ranger fan, I can confirm. It’s hard watching him out there and there is no light at the end of the tunnel. He can rarely get out of the 5th inning and he has completely lost the ability induce whiffs. The team that signs this guy is going to regret it almost immediately.

Nats Fan
Member
Nats Fan
3 months 15 days ago

At first glance the Angels need him as much as anyone. They have offense thanks to Trout and Pujols. They have defense as good as anyone thanks to Simmons. 23.5 Offensive WAR is pretty good. They are pretty low on pitcher WAR, because outside of Richards they have little else. Sure Weaver and CJ Wilson were good or even great a few years ago, but lately? UGH! Actually, they have several holes they could use plugging in cheapish midtier free agents. Add SP Gallardo, Clippard as closer, Fowler in LF, Desmond at 2b, and Pedro Alvarez as 1b/DH and the Angels would become a damn good team!

Jonah Pride
Member
Jonah Pride
3 months 15 days ago

The Sox again are trying to play with one foot in the present and one foot in the future. Latos is fine, better than Johnson in my opinion, but my fear is losing the 28th pick will scare them off Desmond and Fowler as well. Jackson is likely an improvement, but it may be a good year to go all in and take a shot.

Paul22
Member
Paul22
3 months 15 days ago

Gallardos best bet at this point might be sitting out 2 months and waiting for the draft pick compensation to not be an issue. I think this is less an issue for a pitcher than a hitter. Latos has set the market at a crazy low price and he did not even cost a pick, and is younger and a better pitcher, but with character issues and injury concerns.

Come June, most teams will have lost 1-2 SP’ers or have had 1-2 disappointments in their rotation and the market could be robust, perhaps even a multi-year deal could be on the table

UncleChuck
Member
UncleChuck
3 months 15 days ago

One correction: I believe you meant to say that he has never failed to throw 180 innings in a season or that he has never thrown fewer than 180 innings in a season, and not that he has “never failed to throw fewer than 180 innings in a season.”

MikeS
Member
MikeS
3 months 14 days ago

I take issue with a couple of points. First, the White Sox are, historically, one of the healthiest teams in the league. Especially when it comes to pitching. Maybe this isn’t truly a repeatable skill, but somehow the White Sox seem to keep pitchers healthy. They used a total of 9 SP last year, and five of them accounted for 148 starts, that includes Rodon’s 23 and he started the year at AAA. So depth is less of an issue.

Second, I think you underestimate John Danks. He is not great, no. But he put up 1.8 WAR last year on his own. Most teams would kill for a fifth starter that pitches 177 innings and is reliable enough to throw him out every fifth day. Maybe that was an aberration, but it’s not like he did anything special and he was still nearly league average. Or maybe he just finally learned to pitch after a surgery no other pitcher has ever had.

So I agree they need another starter because Samardzjia is gone, but it may not be as dire as you make it out to be.

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