First Pitch: It’s Time to Replace Wandy Rodriguez With Brandon Cumpton

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.

First, we go to Investopedia for a quick definition.

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.

**Prospect Watch: Nick Kingham and Jason Creasy Continue the Trend of Strong Pitching

**Prospect Report: Tyler Waldron sees success at all levels with new pitch

**Minor League Schedule: Tyler Glasnow’s Still Looking For a Big Strikeout Game This Year

**Prospect Highlights: Willy Garcia Triple, Long Homer From Chris McGuiness

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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  • Douglas Byrd

    The only thing that worries me about this is that there is then nobody to replace Edison Volquez

    • Ron Loreski

      Jeff Locke? Casey Sadler? Vance Worley? Stolmy Pimintel when he gets back?

    • Lee Young

      Doug…see my suggestion above.

  • mam995

    Hey Tim, I feel for ya man. I suffer from migraines too. Probably the result of the 18 car crashes (including a head on with a motorcycle) that I walked away from between age 20 to age 28. The list of things that trigger them has grown too. Things like milk, ice cream, msg, beer, cold air against my head and neck…etc. I take a cocktail of Advil, Tylenol, Aleve and aspirin…seems to do the trick. I overdose…it works. The late Pirates GM Syd Thrift once said in addressing the need to replace a non-productive player with an up and coming player, ” You don’t have to calculate the cost of the player that you’re replacing…only the cost of the player that you’re replacing him with” Ergo, Sunk Costs. It’s a little different than Fixed Costs (ie…light and gas). Actually, salaries are usually classified under Variable Costs. They are usually the first to cut when managing a bottom line. Sunk Costs are usually irretrievable. I just wonder if Bob Nutting sees these costs as the cost of doing business, rather than over exessive expenditures. Otherwise, Lucy’s (NH) got some splainin to do. What Nutting had better see is the potential loss in revenue, if the Pirates fall out of contention too soon. There will a lot of empty seats after Steelers training camp…and that will be a headache for the Pirates.

  • emjayinTN

    Tim: A terrible affliction because it is impossible to walk it off – sort of like a continuous toothache. Could it be allergy related? Medical Marijuana?

    Watch for the “injured shoulder” to lead to another trip to the DL for Wandy. The Pirates are not going to give him away for nothing, but he is not going to be in the Rotation from here on in unless something changes drastically. I agree Cumpton is more deserving, but they may go with Locke to replace a lefty with a lefty. Or, if Wandy does not agree to the DL or at least a trip to an elbow man, they may put him in the bullpen and use a long reliever and then swap them out as they are used up.

    • Lee Young

      I’m voting for the Medical Marijuana….not that I ever tried it, of course. I never inhaled, I don’t care WHAT she said.

  • bucsws2014

    Bucs staff has allowed 51 HRs, tying them for sixth most in MLB with AZ, Rockies, Cincy, Milwaukee and Yankees. The difference being that those other five teams all play home games in launching pads.

    Considering Wandy has given up 10 of those – almost 20% – in just six starts (26.2 IP), I’d say he’s more than a sunk cost, he’s a stunk cost.

    • http://@gwbicster gwbicster

      We’ve had an unusually high number of road games in hitters park so far this season. Hopefully that number will stablize once we start playing in pitchers’ parks. (And cut Wandy.)

    • stickyweb

      2014, I don’t believe who got the win was discretionary last night. Morris was the pitcher when the Pirates took the lead for good in the bottom of the 7th. The classic vulture, Morris gave up the run to tie the game then got the win when the Bucs scored the next run.

  • http://@gwbicster gwbicster

    Hope you feel better Tim. I suffer from occular migraines. Knock on wood, I haven’t had one in awhile. There’s not all that much known about migraines- it’s a field of science ripe for research.

    I hope they can talk Wandy into another DL stint. I think they have insurance that covers that, which reduces their costs. He’s clearly hurting the team now, and with our 19-26 record, we have no margin for error. If he retires he walks away from all that money, so that’s not going to happen. Unfortunately, I get the feeling that Clint is going to stick by him, at least for a couple more disasterous starts.

    I think Volquez has some redeeming factors- good stuff, a good arm. I’m all for giving him a little bit more rope, but Wandy’s toast.

    • emjayinTN

      Wandy has it all on the line right now and the best thing he can do is take some time to rehab by doing absolutely nothing until his arm feels well enough to pitch. Look at the guy – he needs to reinvent himself, and I think there has to be a knuckler in his future. Or, he is playing it out earning $13+ mil and heading to retirement at the conclusion of 2014. Regardless of what the Pirates do, I do not expect either he or Liriano to be in the Black and Gold much beyond June – or as Ike Davis says “the black and white”. I would not mind going into July with Cole, Morton, Locke, Cumpton, and flip a coin for #5. At 26th in the majors in SP ERA so far, can we do any worse?

    • emjayinTN

      gw: Great timing on the “Volquez has some redeeming factors” statement. Have we had a better pitched game in May? 6 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 4K/2W. We needed it badly. EVOL!!

  • moose7195

    Yeah the Wandy Rodriguez experiment should be over. It probably should’ve ended when he was first injured. They cannot afford to keep this man in a rotation that is struggling enough as it is.

    As for the headaches, have you ever thought of myotherapy? My grandfather tells me that nearly every headache can be helped with it. In short, it uses trigger points on your scalp to relieve the head pain. Its worked for me, and you can even do it to yourself

  • Lee Young

    I hope you feel better, Tim.

    If we don’t want to eat the $$$$ on WR……. Well, If Zach Duke can become a ‘feared’ LOOGY, so can Wandy.

    Move him to the pen/long relief. Bring up Cumpton. Send Hughes down. DFA Morris. Who cares if we have 3 lefties in the pen, as long as they can get righties out.

    As for Volquez, if he bombs again, just DFA him and eat the $5 mil. Bring up Sadler or Locke (preferably Jeff).

    • Lee Young

      Of course, once Grilli comes back, I have NO idea who to get rid of then.

    • leowalter

      +++++ Lee. Those are 5 plus suggestions. Morris was terrible,no command whatsoever.

  • Lee Young

    Tim…by any chance is Cumpton a Super Two player? Might that be a factor in HIS promotion, too?

    • Doug

      Look up what the definition of Super 2 is. Considering Cumpton has already pitched in the majors, no.

      • stickyweb

        Doug, Cumpton can still be a Super 2, even though he got some time in MLB last year. The determination is total days in MLB of players with more than 2 years but less than 3 years total service. So assuming he’s up all of 2015 and 2016, it matters whether his time last year and this year combines for over 122-128 days (exact # TBD)
        Lee I thought the same thing a couple days ago when reading a different article about bringing Cumpton up asap. If any of us were conspiracy theorists and thought Nutting is cheap, we’d think Cumpton being sent down so quickly (especially when Wandy hadn’t done much in rehab) might have an alterior motive. Thankfully none of us are.

        • Y2JGQ2

          I don’t think we are worried about cumpton being a super 2, just like we weren’t worried walker would be one. not a huge future salary owner

  • johndw28

    Sorry Tim, I hope you are able to find some relief from the headaches- miserable experience.

  • lonleylibertarian

    I wonder if this silliness is affecting the other players….
    `1. Trotting out incompetent pitchers when guys who have done all that they have been asked to do are sitting in Indy. Competitive players want to win – they may be friends – loyal to each other – but they KNOW when someone has lost it – and Wandy tossing up those 88 MPH batting practice softballs is clearly not a major league caliber pitcher.
    2. Keeping a talented player in the minors when they clearly need him in Pittsburgh for financial reasons is wrong – it will affect not only the ability to sign Polanco to an extension – but I would not sign a young player to the Pirates if I were his agent, if I had other options given how they have handled Polanco.

    I love Jay Hay – and he should start at least 4 games a week – spelling Pedro, Walker and Mercer – heck he might be a better option at SS than Mercer right now.

    It is time to go with players who earn their spot on the roster. I would hope the 60 day DL and an injury settlement with Wandy and the insurance company can be arranged – but if not – the WORSE thing one can do is to try and mitigate a sunk cost – it never works out well.

    • stickyweb

      C’mon lonely. The agent for your hypothetical young player would have to sign with a team in Japan to avoid all the teams that keep players down due to the Super 2 issue.
      And how have they “handled Polanco”? Let’s see: they signed him when no other team really wanted him; developed him in the Dominican Academy, then in the minors to the point where he’s one of the best prospects in baseball; then they’re going to promote him to play the position Roberto Clemente played. Yeah, no young player is gonna want a part of all that.

    • Y2JGQ2

      I know they never let josh play short stop, i’d be interested to see how he plays there. He is quick, and if he can play 3rd well, and he does…..he has the arm………..so why has he never gotten a shot

  • https://profiles.google.com/117072260031604417798 PikeBishop65

    if Wandy ever takes the mound again (even as mop up in the 4th inning of a 14-2 game) Bob Nutting is spitting in the face of every loyal fan of this franchise!

    • lonleylibertarian

      Too late – he has done that numerous times this season already…

      • Teacher_in_Tejas

        I am hoping that they gave him the one “professional courtesy” shot at righting the ship. He just had it!

  • lonleylibertarian

    And hope you get some relief Tim – I resisted the temptation to make a snide comment like “anyone who watches this team will get really bad headaches!” – feel better soon

  • Nuke Laloosh

    Hope you feel better Tim!

  • John

    Hope you feel better soon Tim, but I would suggest getting some small relief by stopping reading our comments, lol!

  • R Edwards

    i second that motion and also vote for bringing up Sadler, to replace Volquez – who we release outright along with Rodriguez.

  • piraddict

    Sorry to hear of the headaches Tim. Nothing worse than unmitigated pain. Have you been tested for allergies?

    I agree with your point entirely. The sooner the better.

    I have never been enthusiastic about Volquez. I’d rather see what Sadler or Locke could do.

    Liriano should be a sell at mid season if there is a buyer, especially for a SS prospect.

  • Pie Rat

    When I say keeping Rodriguez is like adding insult to injury that is what II’m saying. I’m not sure why teams feel just because a player has a substantial salary they have to play him, even when they have better options. If a player is hurting your chances of winning going forward why allow him to hurt your team twice. If the Pirates were to cut Rodriguez, he cleared waivers, and refused assignment to the minors, would he give up his salary?

    • smurph

      I assume that last question was a joke?

  • leadoff

    My headaches come from Hurdle. Wandy is done as a starting pitcher, no question about it, the only real question with him is what to do with him. Could he be a specialty left hander knowing he only has to get one guy out? The Brewers are carrying a pitcher with a 12+ERA just so they don’t have to give him back to the Pirates (Wang). The last time Wang pitched he came in with a Brewer 1 run deficit, left with a 6 run deficit and Lyle Overbay had to get the last out.
    IMO, to start winning the Pirates have to address problems, not hope they go away. Wandy and Morris are big problems, Morris has left 5 out of 7 inherits score, not to mention the run or two of his own that he tacks on and still my Idol Clint keeps bringing him in in high leverage situations, WoW.

    • pilbobuggins

      I’ve said that for quite awhile now, when you have pitchers pitching who should’nt be pitching, guys in the four spot in the lineup who should’nt be there ect. it is the fault of the manager. Two month are long enough for players to prove how good or bad they are, it’s time to start pulling weeds.

  • unfurious

    This just in: Wandy DFA’d according to 93.7 the Fan

  • BellSupplyCO

    Sorry to hear you are feeling so bad Tim. I assume the newer medications available for migraines are not helping. Hang in there.

  • Y2JGQ2

    Tim- I have a buddy who has suffered his whole life. he just found out its caused by him not getting enough oxygen in his sleep, kinda like sleep apnea. if you haven’t done a sleep study, think about giving it a shot