Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Wandy Rodriguez should be a Washington National

The trade deadline has come and passed, and the Nats made only a few moves, landing Jonny Gomes while moving Jason Marquis and Jerry Hairston. At the same time, the Astros sold off most of their stars, moving Michael Bourn to the Braves and Hunter Pence to the Phillies while holding onto lefty starter Wandy Rodriguez. Wandy was thought to be very available due to the years and dollars left on his contract (3 years at $36 million), with one GM going so far as to tell SI's Jon Heyman that "Nobody's going to touch Wandy" due to his contract, despite the fact that he has ERA's of 3.54, 3.02, 3.60 and 3.47 in the past 4 seasons in a fairly neutral park to both hitters and pitchers. It appears that Wandy's trade value is very low, but his value to a team like the Washington Nationals would be high.

Argument 1: Rodriguez is a great pitcher with few risks over his contract length.
The former is the easiest argument to make; for the past four seasons, Rodriguez is (as of August 2, 2011) 41-38 with a 3.38 ERA in 660 IP. Over that time, Wandy's peripheral stats have been solid as well, with a 1.279 WHIP, 8.6 H/9, 0.9 HR/9, 2.9 BB/9 and 8.3 K/9. His FIP's over the last 4 years have been 3.62, 3.54, 3.50 and 3.89 while his xFIP's have been 3.70, 3.57, 3.55 and 3.52. In other words, Wandy is an above-average pitcher no matter which way you look at it.

While he is 32 years old now (and would be 35 at the end of his contract), he has a relatively low amount of wear and tear on his arm, only surpassing 200 innings once in his career. His injury history is fairly brief and low-risk (short DL stint for fluid in his elbow in 5/2011, missed one Spring Training start in 3/2011 due to mild shoulder tendinitis, missed 6 weeks in 2008 due to a groin strain). The only extended amount of time he's recently missed was for the groin pull, and he has started at least 26 games every season since 2003.

Argument 2: The Nationals have the ability to add his salary without much, if any, assistance from the Astros.
Rodriguez makes $10 million in 2012, $13 million in 2013 and has a $13 million club option for 2014 that becomes a player option if traded, so essentially he comes at the price of 3 years, $36 million (plus a little more than $2 million left on his $7 mil contract this season). Money is an issue for many teams under tight budgets, but the Nationals are not one of those teams.

The Nationals, according to Cot's Baseball Contracts, have $44.596 million in salary commitments next season to the following players: Werth, Zimmerman, Laroche, Strasburg, Maya, Harper and Burnett. The Nationals will have to give Lannan, Gorzelanny, Morse, Flores, Slaten, Clippard and Zimmermann arbitration raises and replace or re-sign the likes of Pudge, Gomes, Ankiel, Coffey, Livo, Wang, Cora and Nix, but we're still talking about commitments in the $60-65 million range next season with a starting lineup set at all positions but CF (LaRoche at 1B and Morse at LF is more likely than not to happen, like it or not, due to LaRoche's contract) and a rotation starting with Strasburg, Zimmermann, Lannan and Gorzelanny (plus any pending FA starters the Nats retain, Maya, Detwiler, Peacock, etc.). The 2012 free agent market is pretty mediocre in general, and while the Nats could make a run at studs like Pujols, Fielder, Reyes and Rollins who could take over positions in need, they could also stick with Morse at 1B and Desmond at SS (not necessarily should, but could).

The 2013 free agent market has plenty of high-end talent (Hamilton, Kemp, Greinke, Cain, Bourn, Upton, Ethier, Hamels, etc.) and even more players under club options (McCann, Stephen Drew, Wright, Youkilis, Granderson, Haren, Ervin Santana, Shields, Soria, Street, etc). The Nats will have to start thinking about the final year of Ryan Zimmerman's contract, but the only player who is controllable now that won't be by then is Doug Slaten. The Nats will have to give out some more raises, but will hold options on LaRoche and Burnett. Jayson Werth's contract is awful, but the Nats haven't given out any other long-term contracts outside of Zimmerman, giving them an incredible amount of short-term flexibility.

2014 is the year to wonder about, as the Nats will start having to worry about players like Strasburg, Harper, Storen, Clippard, Desmond, Zimmermann and Espinosa hitting arbitration (or later stages thereof). Still, if the Nats give out standard back-loaded contracts, they will have no major problem fitting in Wandy's $13 million salary here.

And for what it's worth, what are the chances the Nats can sign a comparable pitcher on the free agent market to a 3 year, $36 million deal? The contract is short enough that even if he busts it won't be a complete albatross.

Argument 3: The Astros want to shed his salary, and could either let him go for nothing on a waiver claim or for cheap if a team is willing to pick up his whole salary.

The only person that knows for sure is Ed Wade, the GM of the Astros, But given the fact that multiple outlets have reported no team will claim Rodriguez and that he could be available on the cheap, bloggers like me get to write fun posts like this in speculation that the Nats won't have to give up star prospects for him. Wandy will hit waivers at sometime this month, and the Nationals will around the Cubs, Padres, Dodgers, Rockies, Reds, Marlins and Mets in the waiver order, giving them a solid shot at landing him if they want him.

Marc Carig of the Star-Ledger (NJ) wrote on Saturday about the feasibility of a Rodriguez trade to the Yankees, noting that "according to the person with knowledge, if the clubs can agree on cash considerations, the Astros may be willing to part with Rodriguez without asking for top-end prospects which the Yankees have tried to protect."

Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweeted on July 26, "AL exec: said: #Astros asked big return on Wandy Rodriguez few weeks back, 'will take little at deadline to get rid of most of his contract'"

I figure the Astros would ask for 2 solid prospects, potentially targeting the likes of Sammy Solis, Tom Milone, Steve Lombardozzi, Eury Perez and Destin Hood. I doubt the Nats would give up any 2 of those players, but I could see them pairing one with a recent draft pick like Rick Hague (a Houston-area native, no less).

If you want another perspective on the Nats trying to acquire Wandy, check out Steve Shoup's article over at FanSpeak.


  1. Good read Sean, and thanks for the shout out! Good job breaking down the contracts and the budget situation.

  2. Thanks to you too, Steve! Had I known you were writing about the topic, I probably would have skipped it, but I didn't find out until I reloaded Wandy's B-R page and your link was up. Nice job!