As I wrote a couple of days ago Jordan Walden was activated from the DL today. The man sent to Gwinnett however wasn’t David Hale but Alex Wood. This on the heels of a post by Braves beat writer David O’Brien suggesting that the Braves will trade a starter for relief help. In today’s post about Wood, O’Brien says that the Braves said he wasn’t going just to provide a roster spot for Walden but also to be stretched out as a starter once more.
Wood is scheduled to throw 60 pitches in his first start, then 75 and 90 in his next two. He could be ready to come up at any point after that or even before if the Braves have an injury or opening in the rotation.
The rational provided in O’Brien’s earlier post was that Gavin Floyd would be the man traded because he’s owed the most money. That fits the Braves recent strategies and Floyd is likely better trade bait than Aaron Harang simply because he’s younger and started the season later, so he is less likely to fade. There are lots of potential left handed veterans who might be available from clubs not in contention; the Cubs, Astros, Rays, Diamondbacks and Rangers come to mind. Without going into a long evaluation of each here’s what a glance at their respective rosters reveals.
Contending teams aren’t going to give up a valuable piece so any daydreams of getting someone like Javy Lopez should be quelled right now. Here’s a look at those not contending and know they won’t be.
The Astros have a couple of lefties in their pen, Darin Downs and Tony Sipp. Downs is 29 years old and in his third major league season. He’s appeared in 15 games but thrown just 13 1/3 innings. He’s pitching to a 1.32 ERA / 0.878 WHIP while striking out 11 and walking two without allowing a home run. His left right splits for this season are below.
Downs had parts of two seasons with the Tigers prior to heading to being claimed off waivers from Detroit. As a tiger he posted a 4.34 ERA / 1.321 WHIP 56 IP over 47 games.
The 30 year old Sipp came up in the Indians organization and spent 4 years in Cleveland before moving to Arizona as part of the Trevor Bauer trade. The DBacks let him go after last season and he signed with the Padres before spring training. The Padres released him May 1 and the Astros signed him that day. So far this year he’s thrown 13 1/3 innings in 13 games posting a 2.70 ERA / 0.675 WHIP allowing 2 home runs while striking out 19 and walking 2. His right left splits are below.
In spite of the good run the Astros are on it’s likely these guys are available. What is in question is whether they have a need for Floyd.
The Cubbies are rebuilding – still – and have two lefties in the pen, James Russell and Wesley Wright. Russell was born and raised a Cub and for the last four seasons has been a stalwart in their pen. Over that times he’s pitched to a 3.87 ERA / 1.307 WHIP in 252 2/3 innings. This season he sits at a 3.00 ERA / 1.333 WHIP in 15 innings over 23 games. This year he has R/L split as you can see below.
His career numbers don’t show that but they aren’t exactly eye watering and he isn’t a strikeout pitcher making him less than a top priority.
Wright (29) was drafted by the Dodgers in 2003 then taken from them in the 2007 Rule 5 draft. In August last year the Rays purchased his contract from the Astros then released him in December. He signed with the Cubs later that month. This year he’s appeared in 22 games throwing 19 innings at a 2.84 ERA /1.158 WHIP striking out 15 and walking 6. Wright has a horrible R/L split this year.
His career numbers are better but not worthy of an investment.
We saw both of the D’Backs lefty specialists this weekend. Joe Thatcher and Oliver Perez. Both are 32 years old and qualify as journeymen. Thatcher is a mostly a LOOGY throwing only 17 2/3 innings in his 28 appearances while posting a 3.06 ERA / 1.358 WHIP striking out 19 and walking 3. His splits look like this.
Perez salvaged a career that looked over his future by becoming a lefty specialist after his career as a starter spiraled down the toilet. As a reliever he’s been pretty good pitching to a 3.16 ERA / 1.367 WHIP in 82.2 innings over 94 appearances as a Mariner. This season he’s come out of the pen 28 times for 24 IP posting a 2.63 ERA / 1.125 WHIP striking out 23 and walking 8. Perez has a huge reverse split this season and that’s generally been true his whole career.
The Rangers won’t admit it but they’re done; too many injuries to key players and pitchers. The name that jumps out at me from the Rangers pen is Neil Cotts. The 34 year old lefty is a journeyman as well and had a great season in Texas last year; this year not so much. He’s pitching to a 3.96 ERA and a 1.440 WHIP in 25 innings over 29 games. His splits this year are equally bad. and it appears he’s past his best.
The Rangers do have other lefties but their numbers are worse than Cotts’.
I think the Rays are done, their rotation save Price is injured and he isn’t as sharp as he once was. Their lineup is beat up as well and not scoring. The lefty to covet in their pen is Jake McGee. McGee is 27 and a home grown Ray who is arbitration eligible for the first time next season. His 2011 season saw his ERA climb to 4.50 and his WHIP sit at 1.500. He appeared to fix that in 2012 when he posted a 1.95 / 0.795 line in 71 appearances. In 2013 his ERA climbed back to 4.02 but his WHIP stabilized at 1.181. This year he’s back to the low ERA (1.59) and WHIP (0.776) mix. He consistently strikes out more than a man an inning and doesn’t walk many. Since he joined the Rays in Tampa his only season below 10.5K/9 was 2011 when it sat at 8.7. He has a reverse split as well but considering how many he strikes out it isn’t an issue.
McGee costs the Rays nothing, is under team control for three more years and has been effective for them in the pen. The Rays will trade if they see it as a net gain but I don’t see how Floyd alone does that for them
The thing that strikes me about all of these options and there may be more – Cleveland for example – Floyd’s value relative to the return is questionable. You might get a journeyman for him – the DBacks and Rangers are desperate for starting pitching – and dump the salary but is that an improvement or a salary dump? But what if it’s not just Floyd?
The best option would be to put together a package including Floyd and and others to address more than one issue. For example, could we package Tyler Pastornichy with Floyd and another prospect/player for McGee and Ben Zobrist? Zobrist is a good hitter who can play almost anywhere. The idea that the Braves will go get Martin Prado back is a fantasy but Zobrist will be available and does what Prado did better. He is 34 but we don’t need him to play every day and he makes us better. That kind of deal makes a lot of sense which of course means it isn’t likely to happen.
That’s A Wrap
The idea of trading a starting pitcher straight up for a lefty specialist just doesn’t make sense. If they could make a package deal for solid reliever and an impact player like Zobrist it would not only strengthen the pen but also give Fredi Gonzalez a greater chance of success. The team is struggling and the roster needs to be adjusted;but recent contracts leave little room for maneuver. Putting together a trade of a prospect and a current 25 man player or two is the only way to accomplish that. Unless of course you know another way
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