It’s no secret the New York Yankees covet left-hand pitching and are willing to pay top dollar in order to procure their services. If you need evidence, look no further than CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee. In Sabathia’s case he signed a five-year, $122M through 2016, with a vesting option for 2017. As for Lee, Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman basically offered the Mariners a king’s ransom of Jesus Montero, David Adams, and Zach McAllister back in 2010, but they instead went the Texas Rangers offer of Justin Smoak, Blake Beavan, Matthew Lawson and Josh Lueke.
You’re probably asking yourself, what does this have to do with Wandy Rodriguez? Well, you can probably expect the Yankees to make a decent push for the lefty up until the non-waiver trade deadline. According to Jon Paul Morosi, the team has already sent representatives to scout his starts. It’s not the first time they’ve sent scouts out to Houston to have a look at him and probably won’t be the last time either, unless of course, they acquire him.
Rodriguez is age 33 and is currently smack dab in the middle of a three-year, $34M contract with a $13M club option, which becomes a player option if traded, for 2014. With that information let’s dive into some stats and see if he’s a fit for the 2012 Yankees, shall we?
The Astros ace is currently pitching to a 3.29 ERA. However, looks could be deceiving as he holds a 4.03 xFIP, which tells us he’s basically an average pitcher this year all told. That doesn’t bode well considering he pitches in the NL Central, and like Hiroki Kuroda‘s migration to New York, he could suffer some growing pains pitching in the AL East. Meanwhile, he owns a .282 BABIP, which has fueled his shiny ERA. This will regress toward the mean as the season rolls on and with it inflate his ERA.
He’s a career 7.54 K/9, 3.14 BB/9, 1.03 HR/9 pitcher. Two of those numbers should immediately jump out at you. First, he’s giving up more than three walks per game over his career and couple that with his propensity of giving up the home run, is a recipe for disaster. This year those numbers (5.74/2.07/1.13) are a mixed bag. While he’s walking fewer batters, he’s also striking out hitters at a worse clip and giving up the long ball a shade more. It’s exactly what the Yankees pitchers are having trouble with this season.
There’s no better way to determine how a new pitcher will fit in with a new ballclub than compare them with somebody in the current rotation. I nominate Phil Hughes, who has been up and down all season long. Both pitchers are the strikeout/flyball-type who feature a good fastball and a nasty curve (at times). Since Hughes spent time as a reliever, I’m only going to use data from his time in the starting rotation.
As you can see from the table, Rodriguez has fared better than Hughes in nearly every statistical category. Sure, this might be an unfair analysis considering this takes in account Rodriguez’s prime years (age 28-32), while Hughes numbers are from his age 21-26 years. However, we can see some similarities and reasons the Yankees should think twice about going after Wandy Rodriguez.
First, all his peripherals are trending in the wrong direction, with exception to his walk rate. As the Yankees fanbase surely knows, the Stadium is a launching pad and it’s likely that his home run rate will rise if he donned the pinstripes. While he’s not Phil Hughes-bad in regards to HRs allowed, he’s definitely going to give up his fair share and then some while pitching in the Bronx.
Furthermore, he’s only pitched 95 innings this season, but his strikeout rate is down by more than two per nine innings. That means he’s relying more on the players behind him to make outs for him. Considering his BABIP (.282), he’s due for some regression, as pointed out above.
The age and contract compared to production might price Rodriguez out of the $187M budget for 2014, as he’ll be age 35 and can exercise a $13M player option. That’s pretty expensive for his caliber, even if the Astros pitch in some money to move him. While his numbers look shiny, we have to remember he compiled those while pitching in the National League and in a ballpark slightly slanted in the pitcher’s favor, both of which will work against him in the Bronx.
To me, he’s too similar to who the Yankees already have on the roster and therefore doesn’t add anything other than just another lefty in the rotation, which has merit considering Yankee Stadium’s dimensions. However, I don’t think that justifies giving up on Hughes or Ivan Nova (one would be bounced from the rotation) and compromising the 2014 budget. Trading for him would likely close the door on a potential run at a more complete (and younger) pitcher in Cole Hamels in free agency this offseason.
Thanks to FanGraphs for the statistics