When the Pittsburgh Pirates acquired Wandy Rodriguez last year at the trade deadline, I wasn’t a fan of the move. For one, I really liked Robbie Grossman’s upside. I also didn’t think Rodriguez was the same pitcher he was a few years ago.
From 2008-2010, Rodriguez combined for a 3.36 ERA, along with an 8.4 K/9 and a 2.9 BB/9 ratio. Since then his strikeouts have dropped slowly, ending up about 2.0 K/9 lower than that three-year span. He has lowered his walks slightly in the process.
Rodriguez didn’t look as dominant, but if there’s one thing he’s showing, it’s that he still knows how to pitch. One concern I had with Rodriguez was that he was starting to get hit around in the two months before the trade. From June 1st until the trade he had a 5.40 ERA in 58.1 innings with the Astros, along with a 39:17 K/BB ratio. He started off rough after coming over to the Pirates, giving up a 5.47 ERA in 24.2 innings over his first four starts.
After the rough start, Rodriguez settled down. In his time with the Pirates, including this season, he has thrown 91 innings, combining for a 3.16 ERA. His strikeout rate is down to 6.0 K/9 in that time, but his walks are also down to 2.5/9. His start to the 2013 season has definitely improved those numbers — he had a 3.72 ERA in 75 innings last year. But even his 2012 numbers weren’t bad. At the time of the trade he looked to be trending downward, but he’s definitely turned that around. Even with the loss in strikeouts, he’s still a guy who can get results.
If you look at the other side of that trade, the Pirates haven’t really lost much.
Robbie Grossman: He currently has a .294/.446/.294 line in 51 at-bats in Triple-A. He’s doing what he does best — drawing walks — but all of his hits are singles. I still like Grossman, but with the addition and strong early play from Travis Snider, the Pirates might not miss him.
Rudy Owens: He has a 1.38 ERA in 13 innings in Triple-A, with a 6.9 K/9 and a 3.5 BB/9 ratio. The walks are uncharacteristic for Owens.
Colton Cain: He moved back to low-A, after spending the 2012 season in high-A. So far he has an 8.18 ERA in 11 innings, with a 6.5 K/9 and a 1.6 BB/9 ratio.
Perhaps the kicker for the trade is what happens after the 2013 season. Because Rodriguez was traded, his 2014 option turns into a player option. If he accepts, he would be making $13 M in 2014 (and the Astros would be paying $5.5 M of that money). If he declines, the Pirates would have to pay his $2.5 M buyout. That creates two scenarios:
1. Rodriguez accepts and the Pirates get him for one more year, while only paying him $7.5 M.
2. Rodriguez turns down $13 M and hits the free agent market. The Pirates could safely give him a qualifying offer for compensation, since he would have already turned down that amount for one season. This year the qualifying offer was $13.3 M. If Rodriguez turned the offer down and signed with another team, the Pirates would get a first round pick. If he continues pitching the way he has this year, or even in his total time with the Pirates, it wouldn’t be hard seeing him fetching a pick.
So not only has Rodriguez performed better than expected despite the declining strikeout numbers and the poor results in his final months with Houston, but the other side of the trade doesn’t look strong, and the Pirates will probably improve on their end of the deal in 2014.
Links and Notes
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