Yankees Trade Target: Starting Pitcher Matt Shoemaker


The Angels are reportedly willing to listen on starting pitcher Matt Shoemaker, who has pitched like an ace the past two months. Should the Yankees pounce on the erratic righthander?

Over the past two months, Los Angeles Angels pitcher Matt Shoemaker has arguably been the best starter in the American League. In that time, the 29-year-old righthander has a 3.07 ERA and 2.84 FIP in 73.1 innings pitched, and accumulatated 2.1 wins above replacement.

During that stretch, Shoemaker compares very favorably with speculated Yankees trade target Chris Sale, for whom the Chicago White Sox are reportedly asking five top prospects in return. Sale has a 4.33 ERA and 4.71 FIP in 60.1 innings during June and July.

Is Shoemaker a better pitcher than Sale going forward? Almost certainly not. But the difference in what it would cost to acquire them may make Shoemaker the better value as a trade candidate for the Yankees.

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The Angels are not traditional sellers (although they should be) because they have a veteran club and are presumably planning to make a run in 2017. However, their GM Billy Eppler recently indicated to reporters that he’s at least “willing to listen” to offers on starting pitchers Hector Santiago and Matt Shoemaker before the August 1st trade deadline.

The reason for this is simple. Although Matt Shoemaker comes with four years of control, he is 29, has been inconsistent throughout his career, and, given the crazy amount of current demand for starting pitching, his value may never be higher.

The reason the Yankees may want to go through with this deal anyway is if they believe Shoemaker may be able to maintain something close to his recent success over the next few years. If he does, he will be a complete steal.

You only have to look back to last season to see the worst case scenario with Shoemaker, however. He was barely above replacement level over 135.1 IP in 2015, with a 4.46 ERA and 4.59 FIP. He was devastated by the longball (1.50 HR/9), which doesn’t bode well for a move to Yankee Stadium.

On the other hand, there is a concrete explanation for Shoemaker’s excellent run. He’s increasingly relied on one of the best split-fingered fastballs in the game this year, throwing it 35.7% of the time this season according to FanGraphs, versus 22.2% in 2015.

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That percentage has been even higher during his last 13 starts (41.2% splitters) and he has a 9.51 K/9 and 2.38 FIP in that time.

I had recently speculated that a Brett Gardner for Matt Shoemaker swap might be a good starting point for both sides, but Gardner’s struggles and Shoemaker’s success probably means the Yankees would need to kick in an additional piece or two.

The Angels farm system is completely barren, so one of the Yankees glut of young outfielders in the upper-minors would be particularly attractive to slot in next to Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun. Los Angeles could take their pick of Ben Gamel, Jake Cave, Dustin Fowler, and Billy McKinney to go along with Gardner.

Maybe toss in another prospect or two from the top 30 to seal the deal? Shoemaker seems a pretty good bet to be at least a cheap mid-rotation option through 2020, and there is a non-zero chance you are getting a Cy Young award contender for a year or two.

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This isn’t the first time Shoemaker has been good remember. He was the AL Rookie of the Year runner up in 2014, pitching to a 3.04 ERA and 3.26 FIP in 136 innings. It’s very possible that the 2015 bad-Shoemaker is the outlier. It seems like a gamble worth taking for the Yankees.