On a personal note, I’ve had a string of migraine/tension headaches for almost two weeks straight. This is something I’ve dealt with my entire life, and I’ve never gotten an answer from doctors as to why it happens. Some of you might know this, especially the kind people who have shared their similar stories and helpful tips on Twitter in the past (those are always appreciated). Overall, this problem kind of sucks, but it makes me very appreciative that I’ve got a job where I can work from home and set my own schedule, and totally sleep through the casual deadline of getting this article up around midnight to 1 AM.
Tonight I feel like I have a golf ball lodged in the base of my neck, directly next to my spine. Unfortunately, that’s no exaggeration. As a result, I’m taking a different approach with this article. I’ve written about tonight’s topic several times in the past few weeks. If you want the normal analysis, all of those articles still apply. Tonight I did something different, in large part because it was much easier to write and I kind of needed that. Also, I felt like this casual approach might be a more entertaining and knowledgable read than repeating the usual breakdown style of seriousness and structure. Hopefully it makes sense and works out.
Sunk Cost: A cost that has already been incurred and thus cannot be recovered. A sunk cost differs from other, future costs that a business may face, such as inventory costs or R&D expenses, because it has already happened. Sunk costs are independent of any event that may occur in the future.
The explanation of Sunk Cost, by Investopedia: When making business or investment decisions, individuals and organizations typically look at the future costs that they may incur, by following a certain strategy. A company that has spent $5 million building a factory that is not yet complete, has to consider the $5 million sunk, since it cannot get the money back. It must decide whether continuing construction to complete the project will help the company regain the sunk cost, or whether it should walk away from the incomplete project.
Pittsburgh Pirates Sunk Cost Example For This Particular Article: Wandy Rodriguez, being paid $13.5 M in 2014 ($5.5 M paid by the Houston Astros).
Why Rodriguez is an example of Sunk Cost: MLB has guaranteed contracts, which means that the Pirates are locked in to paying Rodriguez the $8 M that he is owed this year. They have essentially already paid the $8 M.
The chances of the Pirates regaining value with Rodriguez: He has a 6.75 ERA on the season, and his 7.36 FIP doesn’t offer a sign that things will be improving. His two rehab appearances in Double-A led to a 10.38 ERA. His velocity has been down for most of the year. It was up a bit in his last start, but in tonight’s start it was sitting at 88-89 MPH, topping out at 90. The lowered velocity also suggest that Rodriguez won’t be returning to his former self. The one bright spot, if you can call it that, is the xFIP at 4.41. That’s about what you’d expect from an average fourth starter, or a really good fifth starter. It assumes that Rodriguez will see his HR/FB ratio normalize down to 10%.
The alternative: Brandon Cumpton has a 1.35 ERA in 40 innings at the Triple-A level this year. He has a career 2.70 ERA in 43.1 innings in the majors, although his xFIP suggests he’ll be a run lower, which is still good. He has a 4.26 ERA in two outings this year, one of which saw three runs allowed after a poor play in right field that would have ended the inning. The scouting report on him says that he has the upside to be a number four starter in the majors, which would be more value than the Pirates are currently getting from Rodriguez. Or it would be the same value, or slightly better than what Rodriguez could put up in his best case scenario from above (xFIP).
Comparison From a Value Perspective: Rodriguez had been worth -$3.6 M this year, prior to tonight’s outing. That will probably go down after lasting only 1.2 innings. Cumpton was close to a replacement level player in his starts. Even if Cumpton is only a replacement level player, that would have given the Pirates an extra $3.6 M in value through almost the first two months of the season. If that pace continues, then Cumpton would bring about $10.8 M more in value over the course of a season. It might be unfair to assume Rodriguez will continue at a -$3.6 M per two month pace. But Cumpton also doesn’t seem like a replacement level guy. So assuming at least $1-1.5 M per month in extra value from Cumpton wouldn’t be far-fetched.
Overall Analysis: Brandon Cumpton should replace Wandy Rodriguez. Rodriguez is struggling, both from a numbers standpoint, and a stuff standpoint. Cumpton is doing well, and hasn’t shown any reason why he doesn’t deserve a shot in the majors. The $8 M owed to Rodriguez is gone, and he’s currently costing more than that when you consider that he’s producing negative value compared to what someone like Cumpton could provide. The cost to bring Cumpton up would be a pro-rated $507,000. My estimate is that he’d be worth about $7 M more value than Rodriguez the rest of the year, after you deduct the extra money paid to Cumpton. The worst case is that Cumpton doesn’t work out, and is just as bad as Rodriguez, which doesn’t change the situation for the Pirates. The potential benefit is that Cumpton does work out, and the Pirates either put themselves in better position to contend this year (unlikely at this point) or settle on Cumpton as a fixture in the rotation for future years (more likely, especially with three open spots next year).
Quick Summary, aka, How I could have saved a lot of words: Wandy Rodriguez has shown no reason why he should be in the rotation going forward, and that’s obvious to anyone watching. Brandon Cumpton has gotten the job done at every level, including his brief appearances in the majors, and now is the perfect time to see what he can do with a long look as a major league starter.
Links and Notes: The other stuff we wrote on the site today. List to follow.