A few days ago commenter Stunna asked me to comment on the idea of the Yankees trading for either Wandy Rodriguez or Hiroki Kuroda, who — given that neither player’s team is playoff-bound as well as the fact that both teams have ownership issues — have probably been two of the most bandied about names attached to the Bombers as potential trade targets.
As you’d expect, both TYA and River Ave. Blues have already explored the idea of Kuroda, and RAB looked at Wandy last winter before the Astros extended him, so be sure to check those pieces out as well.
Since his 2008 breakout season (3.54 ERA/3.62 FIP/3.70 xFIP, 8.58 K/9, 2.88 BB/9), Wandy’s been one of the top 20 starters in the National League, with a cumulative fWAR that ranks him 13th in the league between 2008 and 2010. This season he’s only 41st in fWAR, but that’s primarily due to the fact that he missed a couple of weeks with a small elbow issue. The numbers, as usual, are very good: though his K/9 is trending in the wrong direction, it’s still good enough at 7.38, he’s currently boasting the lowest BB/9 of his career (2.42), and his BABIP (.308) and GB% (44.8%) are right in line with his career rates. He’s also currently carrying what would be the lowest ERA of his career (2.88), though his FIP (3.74) is inflated due to an undesirable home run rate (1.04). xFIP sees him as a 3.48 ERA pitcher going forward, which would profile pretty nicely in the #3 slot in the Yankee rotation. Oh, and as a bonus, he’s left-handed.
As far as stuff goes, Wandy’s the type of soft-tossing lefty (avg. fastball 88.9mph) that seems to stifle the Yankees so often, and backs it up with a slow curveball (75.9mph) and changeup. The curve is his bread-and-butter; in 2009 it was the most valuable wCB in the NL, ahead of even Adam Wainwright‘s, and it’s been worth 50.6 runs above average during his career.
Of course, the usual caveats apply — by moving to the American League, presumably we’d have to penalize Wandy. According to this 2007 NY times article, pitchers moving from the NL to the AL between 2000-2005 saw their ERAs increase by an average of 0.70; however, the current diminished run environment would certainly make that number lower. Without getting too fancy, let’s say that a pitcher moving from the NL to the AL now would experience an ERA increase of 0.50, which is a number I’ve seen bandied about previously. So if we assume Wandy’s more of a 4.00 ERA pitcher in the AL, the gap between what he and what Burnett will give you has certainly shrunk. There’s also the matter of having Wandy on the books for two more seasons after this (plus 2014 club option) — although he’s only due $25.5 million in guaranteed money — and it may not make sense for the team to carry him through his age 34 season.
Kuroda is literally one slot behind Wandy among the top 20 NL pitchers in fWAR from 2008-2010, and is having a very similar season (3.07/3.76/3.49), with a decent K/9 (6.98) backed up by a strong BB/9 and fair GB% (44.7%). Like Wandy, Kuroda’s also been victimized by the home run ball a fair amount, and regressing his home run rate to league average gives us a 3.49 ERA pitcher going forward, a.k.a. exactly what Wandy is expected to do.
Kuroda throws harder than Wandy (91.7mph avg. fastball velocity), and boasts a slider that was a top 10 pitch in the NL last season, curve and splitter.
Kuroda would likely cost less in a trade, given his impending free-agent status, although I’m not sure it would take that much to pry Wandy away from Houston. Rodriguez is good, but he’s definitely a second-tier starter who’s also on the wrong side of 30. Plugging Wandy’s Oliver-projected WARs for the remainder of this season and 2012 and 2013 into the Trade Value Calculator gives us a net value of $14.9 million. Going by Victor Wang’s Prospect Trade Value research, this would be roughly equivalent to a top 10 pitching prospect. Unfortunately for the Astros, the Yankees aren’t going to be trading Manny Banuelos for a 32-year-old starter. Maybe Nova + one of the Yankees’ lesser pitching prospects could get a deal done, but given Nova’s youth, team control, and the possibility that he may still grow into a better pitcher than he currently is may make a potential trade futile.
In working on this post I was hoping to spy another name on a non-contender that might make sense in a deal, but there aren’t many names that scream massive upgrade to me. As many have noted, there’s essentially no chance the Yankees will be able to impart an ace at the trade deadline, and it’s not clear whether any of the #2/#3-type starters that might be available will even represent an upgrade over what the team has in-house.
Of course, there’s also the question of whether the Yankees even need to trade for a starter, given that the rotation will of course be receiving in-house upgrades with the impending returns of both Bartolo Colon and Phil Hughes. However, we all know you can never have too much pitching, and for as great as Bart has been, there are no guarantees that he’ll continue to pitch like a #2 starter. As for Phil, he’s even more of an unknown quantity at this point. Maybe he comes back and reverts to first-two-months-of-2010 form, or maybe he continues to function as a living, breathing punching bag.
That being said, even if both come back and pitch as well as they’re capable of doing, I don’t see any harm in importing a #2/#3-type starter like Wandy or Kuroda for the stretch run, provided that either can be had at a non-prohibitive cost. Let’s put it this way: If Colon comes back and continues to pitch like he’d been pitching, and the playoffs started today, the Yankee postseason rotation would be something like Sabathia/Colon/Burnett/Garcia or Hughes. How much better would you feel about the Yankees’ chances if they are able to slate Wandy or Kuroda in between Sabathia and Colon or Colon and Burnett?
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