Thursday, May 22, 2014

Revisiting the Wandy Rodriguez trade

Interesting news out of Pittsburgh today:

So let's cast our minds all the way back to 2012. From 2008-11, Wandy Rodriguez was 45-42 for the Astros with a 3.40 ERA/1.29 WHIP (3.71 FIP) with a 2.74 K:BB ratio. He was good. Too good - and too expensive - for a team in full-fledged rebuild. He made 21 starts for the 2012 Astros and was 7-9 with a 3.79 ERA/1.27 WHIP (3.81 FIP) on July 24, 2012 when the Astros sent him to Pittsburgh for Robbie Grossman, Rudy Owens, and Colton Cain.

As a Pirate, Wandy made 12 starts (one appearance in relief, throwing the 18th and 19th innings and getting the win at St. Louis), and did for the Pirates what he did for the Astros: 6.0 K/9, 3.72 ERA/1.27 WHIP. In 2013, Wandy only made 12 starts - but still went 6-4 with a 3.59 ERA that outperformed his 4.42 FIP. His season was cut short by tightness in his pitching elbow in June. He was on the verge of returning for September when an MRI showed no structural damage, but tendinitis in his elbow. Gerrit Cole was promoted when Wandy went down, so that worked out pretty well for the Pirates.

Wandy opened the 2014 season as Pittsburgh's SP3. In his first four starts (20IP), though, he allowed 26H/17ER, 16K:6BB, and seven homers allowed - a 7.65 ERA on a .306 BABIP - and went on the DL with right knee inflammation. In his first start back from the DL, May 15, he was better - 4H/2ER, 4K:1BB, but two more homers allowed in 5IP. But last night in a 9-8 win over Baltimore, Wandy gave up 7H/6R (1ER), 0K:1BB and committed the error that led to five unearned runs.

23-year old Colton Cain has thrown 17.2IP in his first go at Double-A, allowing 23H/9ER, 14K:6BB (4.58 ERA/1.64 WHIP). He's a year and a half younger than the average Double-A pitcher. In 2013 he combined for a 3.88 ERA/1.40 WHIP between Quad Cities and Lancaster.

26-year old Rudy Owens missed almost all of 2013 with a foot injury, and in his first real go at Triple-A (in the Astros' system, anyway) has allowed 51H/28ER, 32K:8BB in 41.2IP for OKC.

24-year old Robbie Grossman is one of those players we still don't really know about. In 101 games at OKC between 2013 and 2014 Grossman has a .281/.386/.377 slash line, with 94K:64BB in 447 PAs. Of course Grossman's Major-League career is a tale of two Grossmans. Overall Grossman has 343 PAs in Houston, hitting .246/.317/.361 between 2013 and 2014.

The first Grossman hit .198/.310/.243 until the end of May, when he was mercifully sent down. When he came back on July 28 until he was shut down on September 3, Grossman was on a tear: .322/.351/.466. He opened 2014 with hopes that the Second Grossman was the Real Grossman. Instead, though, he lasted 14 games (55 PAs), hitting .125/.236/.313, and was mercifully sent down again.

We don't know that Grossman will ever put it together in Houston. The clock is ticking on Owens, and he's starting to fall out of the conversation, what with Foltynewicz, Buchanan, etc., enjoying success at Triple-A. Cain is obviously the farthest away, and has had limited success (his numbers are skewed by a rough second outing - in his last four outings, he has thrown 11IP, 12H/4ER, 7K:5BB), but he was put on the 7-Day DL on May 18.

So who won the trade? While Wandy helped the Pirates in 2013, it may be that his elbow injury impacted the Pirates' playoff run by clearing the way for Gerrit Cole. Ultimately time is on the Astros' side here in determining a "winner." Perhaps Wandy achieved what the Pirates were hoping for: Help the team get to the post-season, and he did...sort of. Was he a failure? No - the Astros paid about 40% of his salary, after all.