To be clear, I have no inside information on what a major league team would want in return for its players in a trade. I, like you, assume based on reports that the Yankees want to add a front-line starting pitcher and that there are teams who are floating the idea of trading their front-line starters.
Combine this with the recent signing of Patrick Corbin by the Nationals, and the Yankees trading for a pitcher may (may) be the better option than the free agent route. As I’ve written here before, I like both Nathan Eovaldi and J.A. Happ, but for a team looking to win everything in 2019, they shouldn’t be the only options.
So allow me to throw this against the wall, and you tell me if it sticks:
Below are two pitchers whose names I’ll withhold for now, who we can presume would be available in a trade. I’m leaving the names out for now, because I want to make a point later (in my usual circuitous manner)…
Below is a comparison of pitchers “A” and “B”. I can confidently write that pitcher “A” would cost more in prospects and current players in a trade than pitcher “B” would. The numbers below are from the last five seasons, 2014-2018:
Again, I (and most MLB front offices) am of the mind that a pitcher can control strikeouts, walks and keeping the ball in the park – everything else is affected by randomness beyond the pitcher’s control. K%-BB% and xFIP grade pitchers pretty well to that end. But I looked at other numbers as well and the trend is the same: Pitcher “A” may be a tick better than pitcher “B”. To establish clearly that he requires you to really pick the fly shit out of pepper.
“What about other variables?” you ask…
Again, very similar.
- They’re both just over thirty years old, pitcher “A” is 10 months older.
- Pitcher “A” will make $13 million next year then has a team friendly team option. Pitcher “B” will make $8 million next season and also has a team friendly team option after that.
- Both pitchers’ fastball velocity has dropped for five consecutive seasons. This may be due to age but also could be a result of them emphasizing command and longevity as well.
However: Pitcher “A”’s K%-BB% and xFIP both regressed from 2017 to 2018. Both of those numbers improved for pitcher “B” from ’17 to ’18.
Curious how they compare to the rest of the AL pitchers?
Chris Sale is the only AL pitcher to have better K%-BB% and xFIP numbers than pitchers “A” and “B” over the last five seasons, which should tell you two things:
One, Chris Sale is way better than people give him credit for. He isn’t one of the best pitchers in the American League over the past five seasons, he’s the best and it isn’t close.
Secondly, pitchers “A” and “B” may very well be the 2nd and 3rd best pitchers in the American League. So either way, you’ll have an ace.
Pitcher “A” is Corey Kluber. Pitcher “B” is Carlos Carrasco.
Because we’re only dealing with the Indians, as opposed to multiple teams with varying needs, it’ll be easier to establish what it would take to get either Kluber or Carrasco. And again, because the BBWAA has bestowed two Cy Young awards on Kluber, we can safely assume he would cost far more in prospects and active players than would Carrasco.
So why not make a move on Carrasco? Clearly similar pitchers, and you’d give up less to get him.
On the above-referenced mention of the best AL pitchers over the past 5 seasons, Masahiro Tanaka is probably somewhere between 5 and 10. And if he’s your fourth best starter, you have a rotation with which one could win a World Series.