First Pitch: The Short and Long Term Impact of Wandy Rodriguez’s Injury

Wandy Rodriguez will be out for three more weeks.  Photo Credit: David Hague

Wandy Rodriguez will be out for three more weeks. Photo Credit: David Hague

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.

**2013 Pittsburgh Pirates Draft Pick Signing Tracker.

Prospects

**Prospect Notebook: First Looks At Barnes and Heredia Highlight Weekend Power Series.

**Prospect Watch: Bell Picks Up Two Doubles; Sanchez Continues Triple-A Hitting.

**Minor League Schedule: Taillon and Glasnow Set For Tonight.

**Top Performers: Some New Faces at the Top of the Pitching Leaderboard.

**Top Performers: Lambo is the Top Hitter in the System and IL Player of the Week.

**Pirates Officially Sign Third Round Pick JaCoby Jones.

**Pirates Linked to a Few International Players on The Eve of the Signing Period.

**Minor Moves: Sadler to the DL, Rojas Activated From the DL.

Pirates

**Pirates Playoff Odds Over 90 Percent with MLB’s Best Record.

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/nate.rose2 Nate Rose

    I feel like the Pirates do now need to trade for a pitcher, but that said, it doesn’t have to be someone that will slot into the rotation to take Wandy’s place. They could make a minor deal for some more depth options at AAA that they’d be more confident going forward with than Andy Oliver or Kris Johnson.

    Dave Bush is hanging out in the Blue Jays organization and is a reasonable depth option. May also be able to get Carlos Carrasco from Cleveland, Jair Jurrjens from Baltimore, Omar Poveda from the Braves, Andrew Albers from the Twins…hell, might even get Ross Ohlendorf back to Pittsburgh from the Nationals. None of those players are exciting, but they’re competent options to stick in AAA in case we need them.

  • https://profiles.google.com/115522615427589477970 Mike C.

    Can you elaborate what it means to be “Stretched Out” since it’s mentioned here often how it would be impossible for Gomez to transition from the BP to a SP role in a short time.
    How and why is this so important, and how much time does a pitcher need to be Stretched Out? is 5 days not enough?

    a Starting Pitcher seems the least of our needs compared to a righty bat for RF and to a lesser extent 1B/3B. our #1 – #4 seem good enough. I’d take Morton at #5 compared to most #5s on other teams.

    • emjayinTN

      Mike: Bullpen pitchers are used for 1, 2, or 3 innings at the most. Their arms get used to throwing only about 15-30 pitches an outing, and then recuperate faster to be ready in a day or two for another relief stint. Therefore, to get their arms ready to be a SP and go at least 5 innings, they have to be “stretched out”, meaning you increase the number of innings and pitches thrown each outing so that over 2-3 weeks you can take them from 2 innings to 5 or 6 innings, and you have to be very careful that you are not stressing the arm.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jeremy.j.stein.3 Jeremy J Stein

      I’m actually confused too. So Gomez can’t be the long relief/ swing man / spot starter?
      .
      So if he isn’t the long relief spot starter, who is? Jeff Karstens? Brad Lincoln? Tim Wakefield?

      • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

        Gomez could be a spot starter and make one start. But if you’re talking about taking him from a 1-2 inning reliever, or even a 2-3 inning reliever, and making him a regular starter, you’re going to blow up the bullpen. He’s probably only going to be able to go 4 innings at first, then eventually 5, and probably not more than that for a month.

        • emjayinTN

          Another thing to consider is that the Pirate starters are probably averaging close to 6 innings per start. With 7 BP guys including an 8th inning specialist and a Closer, how many innings are left?.

        • http://www.facebook.com/jeremy.j.stein.3 Jeremy J Stein

          Most of his starts have been 4 to 5 innings. The lone exception was the 7 innings against Detroit. In theory if he were to become a 1-2 inning reliever for say a month, they could always have him throw an innings worth extra in the Pen so he’s getting 3 innings, then if needed for a spot start he could go 4 or 5.
          .
          In the end I think you’re right Tim and adding another Starting pitcher at the Trade deadline might be a good move (without giving up any top prospects). Just a back of the rotation guy able to eat up some innings.
          .
          Starting depth will be a key to second half success.

  • blackmax

    Regarding the Pirates’ need for a starter, to what extent should we be considering how the Cards and Reds will be upgrading their rosters at the end of this month? If the Cardinals get Carpenter back and if the Reds add another starter so that Cingrani can go back to the pen, do the Pirates need to think about countering such moves? Or should the Pirates make their personnel decisions without regard to their main competitors?

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      I’ve never understood the whole “this other team upgraded and now we have to respond with our own move” approach. It’s not like you play that team every single game for the final two months. And it shouldn’t matter how good those teams are. The only thing that should matter is how good your team is. The needs of the Pirates shouldn’t be impacted at all by what other teams add.

      • smurph

        Agree 100%.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ronald.heberle Ronald Heberle

    Well, I am not sure they do need someone, They have Charlie Morton back and he was missing the first two months. I guess with McDonald being shut down at this point and Wandy its a bigger issue. I have two questions though. What is the deal with McPherson and Irwin, i haven’t heard in a while. Not sure Irwin will be back at all this year, but what about McPherson. Also what is the latest status on Karstens, will he be back this year or no. If he is able to Return when healthy he is as good if not better then all the trade options.

    • smurph

      Mc Pherson is unlikely to pitch the rest of the year and would certainly not be ready for the majors at any point this season. With McDonald, Karstens and Wandy all questionable at this point, it may become necessary to grab a SP, though not at this point.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ron.loreski Ron Loreski

    I don’t understand why you’re calling Francisco Liriano a depth option. He was never signed for depth.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      He was basically a depth guy because of his injury. He wasn’t in the Opening Day rotation, and wasn’t set to come back until mid-May at the earliest. At the start of the year when we talked about depth, he was a guy mentioned that could step in if an injury happened.

      The difference between Liriano and a guy like Brandon Cumpton is that they would have had to try harder to find a spot for Liriano if no injury came up and everyone was performing well. That didn’t happen, of course.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ronald.heberle Ronald Heberle

    One other name to throw in the mix. Might be an emergency starter but, I would add Stolmy Pimentel to that mix as well. He is on the 40 man and out of options after this year. So for one start to see what you have he is available too.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      If Pimentel had more starts in Triple-A, then maybe. I’m not sure I would trust him over Kris Johnson. Pimentel was hit pretty hard his last start.

    • http://www.facebook.com/ron.loreski Ron Loreski

      How is Pimentel out of options when he hasn’t accumulated any service time yet?

      • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

        Options and service time are two different things. Options count how many years a player has been sent to the minors once he’s on the 40-man roster.

  • OldTimeBucsFan

    For additional pitching help, I’d like the Pirates to rely on the minor leaguers as much as possible. Mazzaro’s 5-inning relief stint on Sunday might make him a candidate as well. My top potential minor league help include Cumpton, Taillon, and Pimentel. (Yes, I know Taillon is widely perceived as not ready, but I think he could be surprisingly effective even at this point.) Risky, but no more risky than relying on a marginal pitcher acquired at the deadline. Our biggest need is RF; I’d love that to be Stanton, but if it is going to take Taillon and Tony Sanchez as well as other top-rated prospects, I’d go with someone else.

  • IC Bob

    what is not discussed here is if the injury to Wandy is worse then expected then the Bucs are on the hock for 7.5 million for a guy who probably would never pitch again for them. At this point their is no win win situation it looks like a definite win lose situation right now with the Bucs really losing big if his injury is as bad as it now appears. As for needing more depth I would wait until we absolutely need to make a move. Trades in August happen all the time. As long as we are willing to take on some salary late we can get a a good pitcher through waivers. No need to bring in a starter who rots in the bullpen and becomes a malcontent.

    • steelpro

      I don’t think this is a ligament issue. If it was it would not benefit anyone to try avoid surgery for all the reasons you stated. If he had Tommy John he could get back in the middle of next season to establish some value for his next contract negotiations. The Bucs could at least have some reasonable expectation that he might contribute the latter half of 2014. So I don’t think the PRP injections are a hail mary to avoid Tommy John surgery. I think it is tendonitis and the PRP will help resolve it quicker.

  • leadoff

    I think the “stretched out” for pitchers is overrated by the Pirates. Mazzaro was a starter, he had no problem pitching 5 innings, that is only one inning short of most of their starters and he could have gone another inning, something all too many times their starters struggle to do. Gomez was a starter, the Pirates are smart, they take starters and convert them, but they still have starter arms and heads, they still know how to pace themselves if the situation requires it.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      Mazzaro did that once. It was also a situation where they had an off-day the next day. And it’s not like Mazzaro will be available tonight or tomorrow after that outing. He also couldn’t have gone another inning, or he would have gone another inning.

      If you’re talking about a spot start of an extended relief appearance like this, then that’s one thing. If you’re talking about a guy going down with an injury, and moving a guy from the bullpen to the rotation, that’s another. That pitcher isn’t going to be able to go more than 4-5 innings, which means you’re going to put a ton of work on your bullpen.

      • leadoff

        I should have said it depends on the pitcher, Mazzaro and Gomez are starting pitchers by trade. I am saying if Mazzaro went on a five day plan after that game, he could pitch another 5 or 6 innings in five days, maybe not 7-9, but 5 or 6, for sure. How it affects the bullpen is not the issue I am talking about, “stretched out” is the issue.

        • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

          Mazzaro was extremely efficient in those five innings. He only threw 44 pitches. So even though he threw five innings, I don’t think they could count on five innings minimum the next time out. They would probably put him on a 4 inning/50-60 pitch limit.

          • TNBucs

            True, but Sunday gave them the chance to start the process of converting him back to being a starter. I’d only take the next step if Cumpton struggles tonight. But we seem to have more relief options in AAA than starter options and Mazzaro is the most logical choice from the current pen.

            On the other hand, I’d kind of hate to mess with the Mazzaro, Morris, Watson, and Wilson quartet that has been so successful.

            • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

              They don’t need a long-term starter right now. They have five starters, just none who can pitch today.