Wednesday, December 5, 2012

In Defense of the Lopez Deal

The Wilton Lopez deal has come under some scrutiny, questioning the return for the Astros closer. I am not a scout, and don't have a feel for how Alex White will do outside of Coors Field, but I do believe that these are the kinds of deals that the Astros have to make right now. If we have any trust in the Astros scouting and player development side, which I do, I think we have to accept that this deal has the potential to help.

The thing about relievers is they are the most fungible assets a team has. A shutdown closer is a luxury for any team, and an unnecessary one for a rebuilding team. If the Astros can turn their closer into a young starting pitcher with upside, even one with question marks, I believe they have to do it. And I don't have any doubts that White has upside. His numbers were awful last year, but he was only 23 in Coors Field. His peripherals, if not his results, were better on the road. He has consistently dominated in the minors, and was a top 50 prospect as recently as 2011. Will he pan out? I have no idea, but he is in no way a lost cause.

Looking at this another way, the Astros traded 70 innings for 150 -180 innings. That has value, even if the quality of the pitching is not equivalent. In 2011, Wilton Lopez was very good, pitching 71 innings with a 2.79 era. He accumulated .5 WAR. In 2012, Alex White was horrible, pitching 98 innings with a 5.51 era. He accumulated .5 WAR.  WAR is obviously not perfect, particularly when it comes to relievers, but it does demonstrate how much more valuable a starting pitcher is than a reliever. If we see even marginal improvement in White, combined with more innings, White can easily match the 1.4 WAR from Lopez's stellar 2012. (To put that in perspective, Bud Norris has 1.5 WAR last year. Can White match Norris' 2012? I sure hope so). None of this takes into account Lopez's health issues, which allegedly killed a previous deal, or the other Alex that came back in the deal.

At the end of the day, White might never live up to the high expectations he has had so recently, and this deal might be looked back on as an abject failure.  But I still think that this is a deal that has to be made.

11 comments:

Juvenile Court Clerk - Bryan Trostel said...

I agree. Having a good closer (if we can even call Lopez that, yet) is unnecessary right now. White is a young pitcher with upside, something you can never have enough of. Even if he turns out to be an average pitcher for 2-3 seasons it will be worth dealing Lopez, and that's not factoring in Wilton's elbow issues.

Keith Ashcraft said...

Is there any word on what that failed trade was and how it might have affected this one?

(Not Hank) Aaron said...

Keith, my understanding is that the Phillies were sending over Sebastian Valle, a Catcher and Tyler Cloyd, a pitcher, but balked at Lopez's elbow after the physical. I think Valle is a more highly regarded prospect now than White, but I'm not sure about that. I'd rather have White than Cloyd.

cardsjason said...

I like the point you made about the value of innings pitched. Along with the fact that a shut down closer doesnt really fit into the Astros scheme of things, it makes a lot of sense. Houston is going to need as many SP who can eat innings as possible. Now if they could only pitch well to boot.

Anonymous said...

JA Happ pitched a lot of innings.

cardsjason said...

The most innings Happ hasthrown in a season is just over 150 and that was only once.. Innings pitched is an important stat, especially when evaluating major league arms. It is silly to look at only one stat or only stats when judging any player. But his point is relevant.

Anonymous said...

where it depends also is on who we give up as the player to be named later.

cardsjason said...

I've read PTBNL or cash. I agree though. K Law tweeted that it was a great deal for houston. Guess we will see.

(Not Hank) Aaron said...

There is obviously a limit to the value of innings. Happ's numbers were never really good enough to provide any value. More innings of no value still equals no value. I'm assuming White can be better than Happ, but again, I don't really know.

Anonymous said...

I would contend that an inning eater (even one that statistically isn't very good) still has value on a rebuilding team. Players like Happ held a spot in the rotation and consistently went out and gave us 5 or 6 innings. Had he not been able to provide that for good chuncks of the season the Astros may have been forced into rushing the young arms and hurting their development.

I read a few articles last year about how the Orioles used their bullpen so that the less effective pitchers only pitched in those situations that they couldn't hurt the team (finishing out blowout losses to save other pitchers arms). There are 1458+ innings every season you need someone to pitch them for you.

Anonymous said...

"I think Valle is a more highly regarded prospect now than White, but I'm not sure about that."

You're right, but White is closer to being to major league ready(already being there). I'd compare Valle to Gillingham since they're both still prospects. Somebody asked John Sickels if he was going to do a writeup on White and he said White isn't a prospect any more(because he's advanced to the majors). In another post, Sickels said doesn't think White has the ace potential that he once thought he had but he could still be an effective major league #4/5 starter.

I'm pretty sure Valle is more highly regarded than Gillingham, but I'm not sure how White compares to Cloyd. Probably similar I'm guessing.