First Pitch: Did the Pirates Make a Mistake With the Wandy Rodriguez Trade?

After the Wandy Rodriguez trade was made, I wrote about how I wasn’t a fan of the deal. It wasn’t that I thought Rodriguez was a bad player. I think he can be a good pitcher for the Pirates down the stretch, and for the next few years. I didn’t like the deal for two reasons.

First, I didn’t like that the Pirates gave up Robbie Grossman to get Rodriguez. I can live with dealing Rudy Owens or Colton Cain away, but Grossman was putting up the same numbers in Double-A that he put up in Bradenton last year. The Pirates currently have one established outfielder in the majors, and Grossman looks like a guy who is a year away from getting a shot, in a best case scenario.

A bigger reason why I didn’t like the deal was that I felt Wandy Rodriguez was no longer the pitcher that people think of when they hear his name. He’s no longer the high strikeout left-hander who puts up nearly a strikeout an inning, with a decent walk rate. He’s lost about two strikeouts per nine innings the last few years, increased his ground ball ratio, and dropped a walk per nine innings. That’s still a very good pitcher, but one that’s easier to obtain.

I was thinking about that tonight. Rodriguez gave up three runs in seven innings, striking out four. It wasn’t a horrible start, but he had two really bad pitches that cost him — a hanging breaking ball to Chris Heisey, and a home run to Mat Latos. But that’s not why I was thinking about how a pitcher like the current version of Rodriguez is easier to obtain.

Down in Triple-A, Jeff Locke had a dominant start. He pitched 7.1 shutout innings, giving up three hits and two walks, while striking out ten. He did this against a Scranton/Wilkes-Barre team that ranks third in the international league in OPS. And this isn’t new for Locke. On the season he has a 2.66 ERA in 125 innings, with a 113:38 K/BB ratio. He throws 88-92 MPH with his fastball, usually sitting toward the top of that range. He throws a big breaking curveball, and he’s added a ton of control to his pitches this year with a new turn to his delivery.

Locke is major league ready right now. He wouldn’t have cost any prospects. He would be making the league minimum next year, rather than taking up $8 M in payroll with the Pirates projected to spend $63 M before any off-season additions. And there’s a good chance that he can be just as good as Rodriguez is right now.

The knock against Locke is his lack of experience. You don’t know what you’re going to get, which isn’t a situation you want to put yourself in during a playoff race. But what’s the price of adding an established player? It seems that three prospects, $8 M in payroll in 2013, and a potential $7.5 M in 2014, is a lot to spend when you’ve got a guy in Triple-A who looks like he could be just as good.

The Pirates are expected to use a spot starter over the next 20 games, giving their rotation a break. Jeff Locke should be that spot starter. It would give them a chance to see what Locke can do in the majors. It’s too late to give him that shot this year and avoid adding Rodriguez. But giving him a spot start and a chance in the majors this year could add some comfort for next year, when the projected Opening Day rotation looks to be one man short, and could definitely use Locke in the mix.

Links and Notes

**The Pirates lost to the Reds 3-0.

**Pirates Notebook: Game One Against Reds Ends in Emotion From McCutchen; Pirates Shuffle Rotation.

**Prospect Watch: A Good Night For Pitchers With Locke and Kingham Leading the Way.

**Locke Wins Pitching Duel, Strikes Out 10.

**Ryan Hafner Struggling With His Control This Year.

**Minor League Schedule: 8/4/12.

  • After arguing about this all morn, I have beaten to death that I only liked the Snider deal. So as someone said below, the trades have been made, so it is time I got over it.

    Let’s GO BUCS!

  • yepperbobknepper
    August 4, 2012 11:16 am

    I think the Wandy trade should be analyzed after every inning he pitches. Two games is too large of a sample size.

    • lol

      • Ben Hohlfelder
        August 4, 2012 2:06 pm

        i think that nh slightly overvalued wandy due to his years of control…am i more comfortable with wandy than locke this year? yes but the years of control may be less meaningful, especially if wandys (age 33) velocity and k rate continue to drop. While the 8mil salary is an issue, the salary issues should and can be dealt with in the offseason by declining barajas option and hopefully trading hanrahan for a bat

  • Also, with Polanco and Bell, Grossman would probably been another stopgap like Pressley. And why was Ludwick written off as a BIG bust after only 112 AB last year? He wanted to resign with us, I thought. I honest to goodness, wanted us to resign him last winter…..just sayin’ — talking about track records.

  • I thought Wandy pitched pretty well. In any case, what is the point of revisiting the trade after two starts? Let’s see where Wandy, Locke and Grossman are at around this time next year – we’ll have a much better idea of whether the Pirates made a good move or not then.

    • This wasn’t so much about Wandy as it was about Locke. I thought Wandy pitched well. It just so happened that his outing came on the same night as Jeff Locke’s latest dominant outing.

      • At some point, either next year or later this year, Wandy and Locke will be in the Pirates rotation, so it’s not like it’s an either/or situation with those two guys.

        The real question is what does Grossman become, and we won’t know that for another couple years at least.

        And again, revisiting the deal after every start by Wandy or Locke oesn’t seem very analytical. Step back a bit, give the players some time to put up some statistiically meaningful performances, then reevaluate.

  • Dave Parker's Unfiltered Camel
    August 4, 2012 9:39 am

    Locke instead of Wandy for a team in a pennant race? No. If Locke fails the team is screwed. No wait! They could try Rudy Owens! If he fails? How many starts do you give these AAA pitchers before you pull the plug? How much time do yu have to mess around with it? If you have to pull the plug what is your option? You’re not gonna see a good starter pass thru waivers. The trade for Wandy did two things. 1. It gave the Pirates a solid left handed starter to stabilize the rotation. He’s been consistently good and it’s highly unlikely that that will change. 2. He gives the team a needed starter for next year and possibly 2014. they need him to go with AJ, JMac, Karstens and possibly Locke next year.

    • Do you think Locke, Owens or even KC could pitch better than the 5.45 ERA Wandy has put up the last 2 months or so? I do. So does Tim.

      • Dave Parker's Unfiltered Camel
        August 4, 2012 10:08 am

        By that logic, you’re probably ready to send JMac to the minors. After all, he has an 8.71 era over the last month. Would the players you mentioned pitch better than that 5.45 era? I don’t know. I know that Wandy did last night and he’s been better over his last two starts.

        • JMac ain’t 33 yrs old.

          I hope Wandy does well AND proves me wrong. I AM a Bucco fan. I just think that last night was as good as he’s gonna get. And the Reds had their 3 best hitters OUT of the lineup.

          I’d still rather have Grossman than Rodriguez.


    • This is a big reason why I’ve been saying for the last few months that they should have removed Correia and called up one of the Indianapolis left-handers.

      • Everyone is neglecting the fact that we can’t HIT! The Cutch/Alvarez powerslump rollercoaster drives me nuts. Could have used a resurgence last night. Please, prove me wrong tonight, guys…

        • I think we fall somewhere in between our HR bashing ways and our April/May funk.

          Alvarez is streaky….he’ll start bombing again soon.

      • This is easily the most trigger-happy and emotional I’ve ever seen you write. You waited a whole two starts to criticize Wandy when you know better than all of us that it takes years to truly determine if a trade was appropriate.
        We thought we won the Bay trade two weeks after it happened and wanted to crucify Neal initially for the McClouth trade.

        Unless…. this is a blatant attempt to stir the populous and draw attention to the website; then Bravo, you’ve succeeded.

        • First of all, emotions have nothing to do with it. I felt that after Locke had another great start last night, the topic was relevant.

          Second, it’s not like Wandy only has two starts. I don’t start evaluating a player once he joins the Pirates. His two starts did nothing to change my opinion of him. I think he’s a good pitcher, but I also think that the pitcher he is now is much cheaper to acquire. And that’s what I pointed out in this article.

  • Tim….my sentiments exactly! It is a VERY unpopular opinion tho. I’ve been getting ‘down arrows’ when I mention that….lol

    I thought Grossman had the potential to be a Lenny Dysktra type.

    I didn’t want Wandy BEFORE the trade. He had a 5,45 ERA since mid-May. Yes, he was pitching in a bandbox, but his HOME ERA was 1 run better.

    Dumb Deal, imho!

  • Locke has every opportunity to crack the 2013 rotation and stay there. The chances 1 of J-Mac, Karstens, Wandy, and Burnett getting injured for an extended period of time are really high. He has certainly earned it and would be pitching for the Pirates right now if not for the fact they’re fighting for a playoff spot.

  • Wandy went 7 and gave up only 3 runs (really 2) to one of the best teams in baseball…in a tiny ballpark. Locke carved up a lineup of garbage. Zach Cozart would hit 3rd for Scranton. This doesn’t prove anything.

    Next year’s rotation will have Locke AND Wandy…. as well as Burnett, J-Mac and Karstens.

    • Wandy pitched against a team that wasn’t exactly murderers row last night. Votto, Bruce and Phillips were out.

      And he still gave up 3 runs!

      Weren’t we getting that production from KC? How did we upgrade?

      • Wow, if you need to be told how Wandy is better than Correia its a lost cause.

        I liked Grossman more than most, but Wandy is a very godo addition to this rotation. Tim claiming Locke is just as good is a huge stretch overvaluing our prospects. At any rate Locke will likely be the #5 next year.

        • John…Wandy USED to be better than KC ‘hands down’. Now, they are the same pitcher. What part of “5.45 ERA since May” don’t you understand? He is nothing more than a 5th starter type.

          I don’t MIND having Wandy, but not at the price of Grossman.



          • I would still take Wandy over Correia. They’re not the same pitcher. Wandy gets twice as many strikeouts, which is really important.

          • cocktailsfor2
            August 4, 2012 10:28 am

            …if you’re going to use ERA as your basis of argument, you’ll find yourself pretty lonely around P2

            • I hate being lonely….:) 🙂



            • Btw, I read all the articles about KC supposedly will regress. Now KC wasn’t great, but a) he WASN’T regressing (pretty good last outing) and b) if anything Bedard should’ve been sent to the ‘pen.

              I am not a fan of KC, Bedard OR Wandy. Would’ve loved to have seen Locke up here. And even if I agree that Wandy is the better of those pitchers, the upgrade wasn’t enough to trade Grossman.

              Hopefully, as I’ve stated above, I will be proven wrong and Wandy will dazzle us down the stretch.

              I just don’t see it.


              • Oh, good! It’s the latest edition of Drama Queen Theater!

              • cocktailsfor2
                August 4, 2012 10:55 am

                I didn’t say KC was crappy. I AM saying Wandy is better than KC.

              • Funny thing about Correia is that I would have replaced him all season due to the lack of strikeouts. But in the last month he’s put up decent strikeout rates (6.3 K/9 in July before being removed from the rotation, 7.9 K/9 after the break). He also said he made an adjustment to focus more on strikeouts.

                A big reason I liked him when he came to the Pirates was that he could strike people out (6.7 K/9 in 2009/2010 as a full time starter). I would have been less inclined to call for him to be removed from the rotation if he was striking out guys like he was in those three starts after the break.

                • The much maligned Mark Malone, er ah Kevin Correia. Just starting to pitch well and he’s yanked from the rotation.

                  🙂 🙂

        • It’s not overvaluing Locke at all. Is it possible that you’re just undervaluing him?

  • Wandy went 7 and gave up only 3 runs (really 2) to one of the best teams in baseball…in a tiny ballpark. Locke carved up a lineup of garbage. Zach Cozart would hit 3rd for Scranton. This doesn’t prove anything.

    Next year’s rotation will have Locke AND Wandy…. as well as Burnett, J-Mac and Karstens.