We’re about two weeks from MLB’s trade deadline, which means the rumor mill is going to start picking up soon. In the last 24 hours, the Pirates have been connected to a pair of starting pitchers, which isn’t a big surprise, since starting pitching is their primary need.
Rob Biertempfel says this morning that the Pirates have talked with the Yankees about Nathan Eovaldi.
Source: #Pirates have talked with Yankees about possibility of acquiring RHP Nathan Eovaldi
— Rob Biertempfel (@RobBiertempfel) July 16, 2016
Eovaldi is struggling this year with the Yankees, putting up a 5.11 ERA, but only a 4.12 xFIP. The biggest reason for the difference is his home run rate, with a 20.4% HR/FB ratio, which is way p from his 7.8% last year, and 6-8% range in his career.
Eovaldi looks like your classic reclamation project. He can get strikeouts, with a career 6.6 K/9 that has been trending upward over the years. He’s in his age 26 season, so there isn’t reason to think he’s on the decline. He gets a lot of ground balls, with a rate of 50% or more the last two years. And the stuff is definitely there, with a fastball that averages 97.2 MPH this year, marking a career best for him. In fact, of 92 qualified starting pitchers this year, Eovaldi ranks second to Noah Syndergaard in average fastball velocity, finishing ahead of the likes of Jose Fernandez, Stephen Strasburg, and other hard throwers.
If the Pirates did acquire Eovaldi, it wouldn’t be a one year deal. He’s under contract for $5.6 M this year, and has one year of arbitration remaining. So if they fixed him like they did with J.A. Happ last year, they’d have him under control for the 2017 season.
The Pirates were also linked to Chris Archer last night, with Marc Topkin reporting that they were one of a few teams with high level scouts watching him pitch.
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) July 16, 2016
Archer is also having a bad season, with a 4.68 ERA in 117.1 innings. He does have a 3.78 xFIP, and once again, this is due to a high HR/FB rate at 17.4%, which is well above his 10-11% average throughout his career. His walks are up this year, but not too far over his career norm, and he’s striking out over a batter an inning.
I seriously doubt the Pirates would be able to land Archer. They definitely have the prospects to get it done, but the return would be massive. Drew Pomeranz just got a top 15 pitching prospect for three years of control of a guy who has just started to look like a reliable starting pitcher. Archer has previous success, and is better than Pomeranz. He also has a very team friendly deal, making $4.8 M in 2017, $6.2 M in 2018, $7.5 M in 2019, and then options of $9 M and $11 M in 2020 and 2021.
If we did a simple trade value to get an idea of how much Archer would be worth, we’d see just how high the price would be. He was a 5 WAR pitcher last year, and a 3 WAR pitcher the year before, and is on pace for about 2.5 WAR this year. Let’s put him at 4 WAR for the rest of his contract, which I feel would give him the proper boost in this seller’s market. That would give him a $110 M trade value. So what does that buy?
Here are the rankings from BA’s mid-season top 100, and their trade values.
6. Tyler Glasnow – $26.70 M
10. Austin Meadows – $42.20 M
38. Josh Bell – $18.12 M
51. Kevin Newman – $10.43 M
52. Mitch Keller – $7.93 M
72. Ke’Bryan Hayes – $10.43 M
The total of the top six prospects in the system, according to BA, would be worth $115.81 M. So you might be able to keep one of those last three, but you’re definitely giving up two, or all three of the top three prospects. I love Chris Archer, but I don’t think he’d be worth that.
As for Eovaldi, it’s difficult getting a read on his trade value. You don’t want to put him at a 3 WAR pitcher like he was the last two years, since he’s in the bullpen now and isn’t looked at as a guarantee to return to his previous level. But he’s also probably better than an 0.4 WAR, and you have to figure the seller’s market inflating the price.
If we figure a 2.0 WAR/year player from here going forward, he’d end up with a trade value of $9.6 M, assuming a $7.5 M salary in 2017. That’s a lot more reasonable. You’re still talking about a Grade B pitching prospect, plus a Grade C prospect. Biertempfel speculates that the Pirates might have to give up one of Chad Kuhl, Steven Brault, or Trevor Williams to get a deal done. That seems about right, with a smaller piece added in on top of that. The question is whether you’d want to make that move.
Do you deal prospects — who are question marks to produce this year, but might have long-term value — for a pitcher who is also a question mark to produce this year, but might have value in 2017, and maybe even this year if he turns it around quick enough? On the flip side, the Pirates don’t need all three of those starters in the future, so they could afford to deal one of them, and still have the other two for the long-term.