Yankees shouldn’t go after Rays starter Jake Odorizzi

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 26: Jordan Montgomery
CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 26: Jordan Montgomery /
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This season has had no lack of rumors of the Yankees trying to trade for starting pitchers. First, it was Gerrit Cole. Then it was the Yankees using creative finances to reel in Yu Darvish.

Now, the latest rumor is for the Yankees to trade for the Rays’ righty Jake Odorizzi.

While Odorizzi’s name penciled in as the fifth starter does look better than Jordan Montgomery on paper, that doesn’t make this the smarter move. Yes, it’s true that you can never have enough pitching, however, adding Odorizzi may be more of a subtraction than addition.

Adding Odorizzi means sending Montgomery down to Triple-A. For a team trying to win the World Series, the Yankees should try to put out their best starting rotation when the season starts. Plugging in Odorizzi most likely doesn’t do that.

For a trade to be worth sending Montgomery down to minors, there has to be a definite upgrade. While a pitcher like Darvish or Michael Fulmer, who they had also been rumored to acquire from the Tigers, would be good enough to warrant sending Montgomery down to Scranton, with Odorizzi this isn’t the case.

While some see Odorizzi as a known commodity with last year being a fluke, it is easier to make the case the other way around.

Odorizzi, a fly ball pitcher, was hurt badly by the launch angle revolution

Odorizzi has had a FB% of above 40% his entire career with a 47.3% last year. For comparison, Masahiro Tanaka, who had been walloped by the home run plague had a 32.6% FB% rate.

However, Odorizzi’s ERA remained slightly lower because of the Rays’ excellent outfield. With Steven Souza and Kevin Kiermeirer patrolling the outfield, many potential doubles were brought back.

Furthermore, Odorizzi played at Tropicana Field. This pitcher-friendly park was rated 25th least hitter-friendly by ESPN. A move from the domed Tropicana to the shoebox known as Yankee Stadium likely also increases his ERA.

Odorizzi’s season wasn’t unlucky; as a matter of fact, he should have been hit harder

Often when a pitcher goes through a rough season, one might look at his FIP and xFIP to determine if the pitcher was just experiencing bad luck.

FIP and xFIP look at the pitcher without taking into account the team’s defense and seemingly unlucky plays. FIP does this by looking only at the results that the pitcher alone can control; it only takes into account home runs, walks, HBP, and strikeouts. xFIP looks at launch angles and exit velocities generated by the opposing batters to determine what the expected outcome of his pitches should be.

When these numbers are lower than the pitcher’s actual ERA, one could conclude that lousy luck and defense could be at fault for an inflated ERA.

Conversely, if the FIP and or xFIP is higher, one might conclude that the pitcher was getting lucky and could be expected to regress. The fact that both Odorizzi’s FIP and xFIP were over five indicate that not only did Odorizzi have a lousy season, he also should have had results that were even worse.

Jordan Montgomery is likely a better pitcher than Odorizzi

Montogomery, on the other hand, had a FIP very close to his ERA. Furthermore, Montgomery gave up far fewer home runs than Odorizzi. Montgomery’s 3.88 ERA last year was the best among all 2017 rookies with more than 125 innings pitched.

His 144 strikeouts were second-best. This was all without his best pitch, his changeup. With his changeup back in his arsenal this year, Montgomery can have an even better season than he did last year.

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Montgomery’s 3.0 WAR led all AL rookies. Odorizzi, on the other hand, wasn’t even above replacement. If the Yankees want to gamble on past performance, Odorizzi’s 2016 WAR of 3.0 would be equal to Montgomery’s.

This does not take into account the cost of acquiring Odorizzi. To pry Odorizzi out of the Rays’ hands, the Yankees would have to part with multiple prospects who could be better used getting a higher quality pitcher at the trade deadline.

So if an injury does come up what should the Yankees do?

When it comes to starting pitching, it is rare to get through the season injury free. If the Yankees were to pry Odorizzi from the Rays, their backup plan would be Jordan Montgomery. That would be a situation that any team would envy.

However, the answer to Yankees’ problem would be in the form of prospects. The Yankees have two significant prospects nearing the big leagues.

Chance Adams for example, could make a very suitable replacement. After blowing away batters at every stop in the minors, the last stop for Adams would be the majors. If an extended injury occurs, this could open the door for Adams to have a shot to contribute.

Another prime prospect who has a shot is Justus Sheffield. After blowing away scouts in the Arizona Fall League, Sheffield can get a chance this summer if an injury occurs. Alternatively, the Yankees can take the same route they did last year.

Trading for a starter at the deadline reduces the risk of trading for a player who then gets injured during the season.

While trading for a topnotch starting pitcher would certainly put the Yankees over the top, Odorizzi isn’t the player who does that

Instead of upgrading what is already a great rotation, Odorizzi would lose the Yanks prospects and hurt their rotation. Adding a less than mediocre righty to replace the lefty who was compared to Andy Pettitte in his rookie season might not be the way to send the Yankees to the World Series.

Next: Should the Yankees sign Tim Lincecum

However, if the Yanks stick with their youth movement mentality, they could achieve great success with their current team.