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:
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|
It looks even better over the past four seasons:
|Pitcher||xFIP vs L||xFIP vs R|
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.