Monday, January 24, 2011

Speculation, Conjecture, Redundancy, and the 2011 Rotation

We've analyzed the free agent market for potential starting pitchers over and over. We've discussed most every name that has popped-up in trade rumors. We've looked into potential in-house candidates. What we haven't done is make reasonable assumptions about who might be available. The reasonable basis for this post is, in my mind, the fact that each of the following pitchers are potential free agents after this season (and may be dealt under the right circumstances), with the assumption being that those circumstances already exist or that a contingency may already be planned.

Chris Carpenter, Cardinals
2010 - 235.0 IP, 3.22 ERA, 3.69 FIP, 51.0% GB, 2.84 K/BB
The Cardinals are certainly contenders in a wide open NL Central, but they are certain to find themselves in a precarious position in 2012. In addition to Albert Pujols' impending free agency, Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina will get raises and Colby Rasmus may qualify for arbitration - and this coming without much coming off of the books. Carpenter remains a fine starting pitcher, but he is also expensive ($15 MM in 2011 and a $15 MM option for 2012), somewhat old, and injury-prone. I think he would be the most costly of the bunch, but he's also the very best.

Aaron Cook, Rockies
2010 - 127.2 IP, 5.08 ERA, 4.54 FIP, 58.1% GB, 1.19 K/BB
Cook may be the odd-man out of a crowded Rockies rotation - he's the nominal fifth starter on a team with two or three prospects close to the Majors. He struggled with injuries last season, but he maintained a fantastic groundball rate, which is a key to success in Yankee Stadium and the AL East. Where Carpenter would give the Yankees a formidable one-two punch, Cook would bolster the back-end of the rotation. I imagine he could be had for a reasonable package of middling prospects.

Joel Pineiro, Angels
2010 - 152.1 IP, 3.84 ERA, 3.84 FIP, 54.9% GB, 2.71 K/BB
I would be shocked if the Angels don't try to move either Pineiro or Scott Kazmir, considering the amount of payroll they added with Vernon Wells, and will add once Jered Weaver's contract situation is settled. I'm quite certain that the Angels would prefer to move Kazmir, but I'm equally certain that they'd have a hell of a time attempting to do so - he's owed $12 MM this season and hasn't been healthy or effective over the past two seasons. Pineiro shares injury concerns, but he's been very good over the past two seasons and has a reasonable salary. His combination of limiting walks and burning worms would work quite well for the Yankees - he's the middle ground between Carpenter and Cook, in terms of cost and quality.

Wandy Rodriguez, Astros
2010 - 195.0 IP, 3.60 ERA, 3.50 FIP, 47.9% GB, 2.62 K/BB
Rodriguez may be the likeliest of all the players listed to be dealt. He's likely to earn over $10 MM after arbitration in 2011, he's unlikely to stick with the Astros beyond this season, and he's a very desirable target for most any team - a durable lefty with above-average strikeout, walk, and groundball rates. As the Astros need a little bit of everything, the Yankees may be able to cobble together a strong package without touching the top-five or so prospects in the system.

C.J. Wilson, Rangers
2010 - 204.0 IP, 3.35 ERA, 3.56 FIP, 49.2% GB, 1.83 K/BB
While the Rangers have been linked to Halladay, Lee, and Greinke over the past two seasons, I'm not quite sure that they'll hold onto Wilson beyond this season. Hamilton and Cruz are slated to garner sizable raises in arbitration, Beltre will earn an average of $16 MM over the next five years, and several younger players will be arbitration-eligible next year. With Lewis, Harrison, Webb, Feldman, Holland, and Hunter under contract, Feliz interesting in moving back to the rotation, and Scheppers and Perez as fine prospects, Wilson may very well be expendable as the most expensive arm in the stable. From the Yankees' perspective, Wilson's a Wandy-lite - but he would be an upgrade over every starter but Sabathia.

In the end, I'm not quite sure what each team would expect as a return. The Yankees have valuable trade chips throughout the system, particularly in the pitching department - Phelps, Noesi, Warren, and Stoneburner are quite good, and each fall within the second-tier of Yankees prospects. The Cardinals, Angels, Astros, and Rangers could use a catcher, as well, so perhaps Austin Romine's value could be gauged. Otherwise, I'm not terribly certain where to begin.

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