Wandy Rodriguez has received a few setbacks in the past week. He had some tightness in his forearm, and was shut down. Today he received Platelet Rich Plasma injections, which will put him out for three weeks. Even when he starts back up, you’re looking at a few weeks of rehab starts, which means the Pirates might not see him until the middle of August. I wanted to take a look at the short-term and long-term impacts that these setbacks will bring.
The Short-Term: Do the Pirates Need to Trade For a Pitcher?
Pitching hasn’t been a problem this year. The only problem involving pitching has been that the Pirates have seen too many injuries. So far they’ve been able to manage those injuries thanks to a lot of depth. That depth could be running low, and the rotation isn’t in a favorable situation with both A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez out.
At this point, Burnett looks to return before Rodriguez, and before the trade deadline. A rotation with Burnett looks pretty good. The Pirates would add Burnett to a group that includes Francisco Liriano, Jeff Locke, Gerrit Cole, and Charlie Morton. All of those guys are performing well this year, with the last two guys having limited playing time. The problem would be a lack of depth. As we’ve seen in the first half of the season, you’re not going to make it with just five starters. Jeanmar Gomez could be an option, but he’s not going to be stretched out if you send him to the bullpen. Brandon Cumpton is also an option in Triple-A. Then there’s guys like Kris Johnson and Andy Oliver, but those are more emergency options.
Without Rodriguez, the depth in the second half doesn’t look as good as the depth in the first half. That’s probably because three of the depth options in the first half (Liriano, Morton, and Cole) are now in the rotation full-time. That could impact the need for the Pirates to trade for a starting pitcher. The need for a starter wouldn’t be as big as the need for a right fielder, but it would still exist. How the Pirates fill that role would depend on when Rodriguez returned. If he was set to return in early August, there would be no need to trade for a starter, since he would essentially be the trade deadline addition (again). If he was out for longer than that, then you might want to consider a move, as you can’t just rely on five starters.
The Long-Term: Will Wandy Rodriguez Return Next Year?
Wandy Rodriguez has a $13 M option for the 2014 season, which became a player option when he was traded last year. If Rodriguez decides to stay, he earns $13 M next year. If he decides to go, he gets a $2.5 M buyout and is eligible for free agency.
Back in May I wrote about how the situation is win-win for the Pirates, and would probably land the Pirates a draft pick if Rodriguez continued pitching the way he had been pitching this year. With the injury, it seems less likely that he’d turn down $13 M, mostly because it would be less likely that he’d get a big deal coming off an injury.
It’s still a win-win situation. The Astros would be on the hook for $5.5 M next year, meaning the Pirates would be getting Rodriguez at a discounted price of $7.5 M if he returned. If Rodriguez decided to test the market, the Pirates would be in a good position to get a compensation pick. They’d have to make him a qualifying offer, but if it reached that point, he would have already turned down that amount for one year. However, the injury will probably make it less likely that he gets a Kyle Lohse type 3 year/$30 M deal. At this point the most likely scenario seems to be Rodriguez returning on the player option, with the Pirates only being responsible for $7.5 M of that total.
Links and Notes
**Check out the newest episode of the Pirates Prospects Podcast: P3 Episode 11: Second Half Sleepers and When Can Tony Sanchez Help? The next episode will go up tomorrow, featuring a few minor league reports from Altoona and West Virginia.
**If you missed it earlier this week, be sure to check out Pirates Roundtable – Episode 1. This week we had Pat Lackey (WHYGAVS), Brian McElhinny (Raise the Jolly Roger), Jim Rosati (North Side Notch), Cory Weibel (Three Rivers Burgh Blog), plus our own James Santelli and Tom Bragg.