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Lessons from the Wandy Rodriguez Experience

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SOUTH HILLS – The Pirates’ front office ran out of patience with Wandy Rodriguez yesterday, designating him for assignment. Even though his velocity wasn’t that far off his career average, even though his curveball appeared to have the same break and spin rate as it had before he left a start June 5 last season in Atlanta with elbow pain, Rodriguez was never again the same pitcher. This had more to do with command and fastball plane, I suspect.

Anyways, after Rodriguez’s posted sixth highest ERA among pitchers with 20+ innings pitched this season, the Pirates and Astros will eat the remaining dollars on his $14 million contract.

Rodriguez is the second-highest-paid Pirate. The Pirates only committed more dollars to Russell Martin - if you include the $5.5 million the Astros are paying of Rodriguez’s contract. This is a blow for a small-market team, considering its limited resources. The Pirates will pay Rodriguez more dollars ($7.5 million) than Andrew McCutchen ($7.48) in 2014.

Rodriguez accounted for 10.4 percent of the team’s payroll. Think about how that could have been better used this offseason? (But also give the Pirates credit for realizing a sunk cost).

And if you want to take it a step further Marin and Rodriguez account for nearly 25 percent of the team’s 25-man payroll and have produce a combine -0.2 WAR. Small-market teams need their best players healthy and productive. #investinyouth

I’m guessing Neal Huntington and company won’t want to make a mistake again. And they will try to learn from the Rodriguez experience.

wandy

That’s the last we saw of Wandy. He did not speak to the media after being DFA’d

There are a couple of things about Rodriguez that interest me:

*One is the Pirates were willing to trade a couple young assets, and seven-figure bonus babies, in Robbie Grossman and Colton Cain for a 33-year-old pitcher in Rodriguez in 2012. Even though the Pirates were competitive in the first-half of 2012, that trade seemed to go against their philosophy of protecting their top investments in amateur talent and playing the long game.  Rodriguez threw nearly 1,300 career innings before joining the Pirates. Rodriguez threw just 164 innings over parts of three seasons as a Pirate.

*The second part of the fallout that interests me from the Rodriguez Experience is this: the Pirates invested in a pitcher who is listed at 5-foot-10 and is maybe 5-foot-8. Another Pirate philosophy is a preference for tall, prototype pitchers – from drafting Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, Nick Kingham and Tyler Glasnow – to signing Francisco Liriano and Jason Grilli and trading for A.J. Burnett.

Rodriguez was an outlier to that philosophy and he broke down.

So I wonder if the Rodriguez will not only dissuade the Pirates from targeting 30-something starters via free agency or trade going forward but if they will also stay clear of undersized arms. In general targeting bigger pitchers is probably a prudent idea, but becoming a prisoner to stereotypes can also cause you to miss on the next Tim Lincecum or the next Dustin Pedroia.

There’s something to be learned from every experience, and I’m guessing the Pirates will never again commit such dollars to a 30-something, 5-foot-8 pitcher with more 1,300 innings on his odometer.

Pitching is hard to find at reasonable prices. It’s another reminder of how important it is for the Pirates to draft and develop their own.

- TS

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Comments

  1. MJS says:

    Travis,

    Good work as always. Now that they made the decision with Wandy do you think this regime will finally start giving some of there younger options a chance to succeed. There rotation now with Cole, Morton, Cumpton, Liriano, Volquez is better but still needs more consistency. But with Liriano and Volquez free agents next year they need to take the same approach with these two as with Wandy. If the performance is not there then go with a Casey Sandler, Jeff Locke or even Vance Worley. The Pirates need to start focusing on younger talent instead of blocking them, the Cardinals have always given young starting pitching a chance. And the Pirates have alot of options that they need to see moving forward what they have. Because as your article explains they can not keep dumping money in older players they have to start trusting younger/cheaper options to see if they can succeed first.

  2. Travis Sawchik says:

    MJS,
    I think you’re going to see a much younger rotation in the coming years. Pirates have gone to these veterans in large part because of necessity to fill gaps in rotation and wait for the cavalry (Taillon, Kingham, Glasnow) to arrive

  3. BostonsCommon says:

    Pending 2015 Free Agent Starting Pitchers

    Justin Masterson (30)
    Josh Johnson (31) – $4MM club option
    Wei-Yin Chen (29)
    Chad Billingsley (30) – $14MM club option with a $3MM buyout
    Josh Beckett (35)
    Brandon Morrow (30) – $10MM club option with a $1MM buyout
    Roberto Hernandez (34)
    Jason Hammel (32)
    Jorge De La Rosa (34)

    The rotation is going to look younger for sure. But with Wandy, Liriano, Volquez, Martin, and Grilli all coming off the books, you’d hope that they would try to add.. After Cole and Morton, they’re all question marks.

  4. Steelkings says:

    Young has been done before:

    2006
    Duke
    Snell
    Maholm
    Gorzelanny
    Perez

    All under 25

  5. Ghost says:

    True enough.

  6. Ghost says:

    It’s important to always honestly assess where you’ve gone wrong, and the Bucs well should review their Wandy experience. But in the end, there might not be much to take away and they shouldn’t force a pat explanation upon a player who simply just didn’t work out. Sometimes, $#!+ just happens. But I sense Travis beat me to this, evidenced by the tongue-in-cheek “I’m guessing the Pirates will never again commit such dollars to a 30-something, 5-foot-8 pitcher with more 1,300 innings on his odometer.”

  7. Andrew says:

    Only Duke came with any pedigree. You need volume to beat the attrition rates.

  8. Andrew says:

    I think the process was fine, the Pirates used the deadline to add a longer term piece, knowing they would need pitching with few major league ready prospects. Owens and Cain were not highly rated and Grossman had been bypassed by other OFs and fallen out of the Pirates top 10. Wandy had been a mid-rotation stalwart for several year.

    The process was fine, the outcome not so much, such is sports.

    Definitely invest in youth, at the end of year we may be talking about how not giving $14.1 million to a 36 year old pitcher was prudent, or maybe not.

  9. Ghost says:

    Agreed. Process was fine.

  10. LeeFoo says:

    So you want us to sink even MORE money into either older pitchers, injured pitchers or underwhelming pitchers?

    Did Wandy not teach you anything?

  11. LeeFoo says:

    You can’t predict injuries or wearout rate.

    Which is why I hesitate to spend big bucks on free agents.

    Is Nutting cheap or wise? I think wise.

  12. LeeFoo says:

    Injuries took their toll on Wandy.

    He had a 3.72 ERA in 75 innings with the Pirates at the end of the 2012 season. He returned in 2013, putting up a 3.59 ERA in 62.2 innings, before his injury.

    For what we gave up, we got a good #3/#4 for 137.2 innings. I’d make that deal again. And I was a Grossman fan at the time.

  13. LeeFoo says:

    Btw. I just want to publicly thank Dejan for his fantastic narrative today. In case, you didn’t read his blog today………Truer words were never spoken:

    As a final thought from yesterday …

    People really, really hate facts that don’t fit their narrative. Funny, but if I wrote a piece that simply called all these people idiots for believing and parroting so much of that garbage — without bogging it down with numbers, just straight insults — it actually wouldn’t get anywhere near the reaction. But throw out real, verified information, and the blood boils in 0.6 seconds.

    What’s wonderful about the instant personal attacks — and I mean this — is that they’re instant validation that reasonable counters can’t be produced to the actual info. It’s a concession. It’s punting.

    And it’s also a powerful sign that, in fact, the people believing and parroting so much of that garbage really are, by and large, idiots.

    Seriously, read some of the comments here yesterday or the replies on Facebook or Twitter — one guy hilariously wrote that ‘facts aren’t as important as common sense’ — and you’re about ready for the big asteroid to send us all to that big forum in the sky.

    Point out that the Pirates’ payroll rank matches their revenue rank, and the idiots then want deficit spending. LIKE MARK CUBAN OR MARIO WOULD DO! Except that neither has or ever would!

    Ask how many owners in any sport are known to engage in deficit spending, and you’ll get a blank stare.

    Which is just about right.

  14. Greg says:

    Honestly isn’t this something that should have already been learned.
    It’s been said that a team that can’t evaluate talent is doomed.
    This song just continues to go round and round. Pretty sad really.

  15. RobertoForever says:

    All is well. Bucs are back with a winning streak, Ground Chuck finally got some run support.

    It was great to see Grilli back on the mound, even if Clint had not planned to use him. Probably a little amped up which could explain a little wildness. But take note, that he was in the game in a 1 run situation. I think there was some discussion a while back about the hollowness of our bullpen’s success because they were being handed 3 run leads and allowing 2 runs en route to a save. Although Justin Wilson did just that last night.

    By the way, anyone have any info on whether Hughes or Wilson are vulnerable when they come back on the field to pitch in a different inning then the one they entered the game? Not sure how to get to that info.

    I noticed that my favorite Pirate first baseman, Garrett Jones, contributed 2 HR’s to the record-setting 7 HR game in Marlins stadium. 3 HR’s ended up in the L-CF upper walkway, and Jonesy hit one into the upper deck in RF. I looked at his stats, since in 2013 I kept begging for Clint to use Jones everyday, even against LH-starters. I posited that in periods where the Pirates let him have an everyday role, and Garrett could come to the park with confidence and knowing the the skipper had confidence in Garrett in his role, that he performed to the level that any team would take. Sure enough, the Marlins are giving him everyday starts, including 14 games against LH-starters. Yes, his is hitting .176 against LH starting pitching with a sub .500 OPS. But he is hitting .313 vs RH starting pitching with 1.000 OPS. It was ironic last year that for the 2nd time in his career, Jones was blocked by Morneau. This time, he truly was blocked and was the better option. I wish The Legend the best (except when he faces Cole, Ground Chuck or Volquez, lol). I hope he is enjoying South Beach on his off days :)

  16. Greg says:

    You can throw all the stats you want out there leefoo but the bottom line is Houston wanted out from underneath all the bucks and found a team dumb enough to do it.
    It’s just another parade of mostly dumb moves that the bucs in a small market can’t continue to do.

  17. RobertoForever says:

    And Mr. Sawchik….Keep up the great work. Every chance I get (which lately is about once every 3 days, unfortunately), I love to open up my tablet and hit the top link on my favorites….Bucco Blog.

    You have been just what this Bucco fan needed in the coverage…a talented reporter who is interested in both SABR and old school approachs, as well as someone whose writing is unaffected by the losing years. Its a breath of fresh air and a real joy to read criticisms that are fair and deserved in one breath, but the ability to highlight strengths or great performances without it seeming like the writer is gritting their teeth as they write it.

    Hope I get a chance to have a beer (or a coffee) with you at a roundtable or a chance meeting on one of my trips to town. I’ll be following your twitter account tonight from my season ticket seats, so feel free to drop some knowledge mid-game if you have some. Please.

    Thanks again and keep up the great work.

  18. Dan Flanagan says:

    Let’s not fool ourselves…..Nutting is only in this for $$$$. If team isn’t in hunt by July 1 look
    for cleanout…Liraino….Martin…..Davis. Only recent truth article was Dejan’s on why
    they won’t bring up Polanco and others

  19. LeeFoo says:

    RF…agree.

  20. BostonsCommon says:

    I learned more from Burnett and Liriano than I did from Wandy.

    And to echo Travis, I wouldn’t expect to see anymore 5’8 soft tossers brought in.

  21. Lonely Libertarian says:

    RF,

    I share your admiration for GI – I wonder if our friend Travis will ever do a complete analysis of the decision to let him go. What it has cost the Pirates and how much better – or worse off they are for the decision.

    I thought the Bucs did Jones a disservice by asking him to bounce back and forth between first and RF – argued for two years to put him on first base and leave him there – platoon/rest him against at least the tough LHPs…

    I am still not sold on Ike Davis – want double digit HRs from the corners – at least…

    Glad he seems to have bounced back in Miami…

  22. Lonely Libertarian says:

    Lee & Andrew…

    The process was fine?

    You have got to be kidding…

    There is a good bit of data on wear out – age related declines – and the Wandy trade was made IN SPITE of that info…

    If Nutting was WISE – that trade never happens…

    I remember seeing a shot on TV of Wandy standing next to Cutch in 2012 – seemed to be a good 2″ inches shorter – and Cutch is listed at 5′ 10″.

    And he was 33 at the time – with a ton of innings – all that data would make a sane GM nervous. Remember this is the same team the tried to low ball the pitcher who did the most to get them to the playoffs for the first time in 20 years – why spend the kind of money they were committing too for a soft tossing midget.

    The sunk cost was/is on him…

    The fact that the prospects the Bucs sent to Houston did not develop does not offset the cost to the team of the trade – they COULD have been used in a different trade or trades for better assets.

  23. Lonely Libertarian says:

    How about a link to the piece you mention in this post – I am not sure why the fact that the revenue rank equals the payroll rank matters much – teams are bought and sold for their price appreciation – not their profitability on a year to year basis.

    And you accuse others of not using facts – what is the annual cash flow to Nutting from the Pirates – positive – negative?

    I am not asking for deficit spending – in fact I have argued that the policies and strategies that the Bucs are using will produce LESS profit than might have been with a more aggressive offseason and willingness to bite the bullet on Polanco and had him in the lineup mid April.

    June will be an interesting month to watch – last year the Bucs had 11 home dates and averaged 32,562 in attendance – this year they will have 13 dates and have sold a lot more season tickets – wonder if the can match that number…

  24. denny shiring says:

    the pirates owners are cheap. they will never and I mean never win a ws with those ass clowns

  25. LeeFoo says:

    I wouldn’t call it a parade of dumb moves, and Wandy filled a need. He was actually our only good pitcher down the stretch in 2012, if memory serves.

    I’ve seen better prospects go to teams for one month of a player/pitcher who bombs.

    I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree.

  26. LeeFoo says:

    ll….Dk writes for this paper…he’s hard to miss…. :) :)

  27. LeeFoo says:

    honestly, they knew what they were getting and before he got injured he pitched like a #3 pitcher.

    can we honestly say he was on the decline? he was younger than AJ and they said AJ was on the decline. How did AJ do? You just can’t make a blanket statement that we should’ve known he was gonna go downhill.

    I am not in agreement with Travis on some of his assertions. Who knew he would break down? But, before then, he was pitching quite nicely.

    No lesson to be learned that I can see….except to maybe get a prescient mystic on our staff.

  28. LeeFoo says:

    Glad to see a class act like GI has bounced back.

    He was horrible last year and there was no way of knowing he WOULD bounce back. He looked like he had peaked and was on the downside of his career.

    I have no problem with their decision.

    Capt Hindsight is always correct, tho.

  29. Timothy Mohr says:

    doesn’t everyone understand that at the time of the Wandy deal Neal H. was under extreme pressure to do something, the pirates losers for 20yrs were starting to fall apart again. It marked 2 yrs in a row now where they started out well did little at trade deadline then fell apart in aug and sept. Huntington was on the verge of losing his job, that is why he went totally against everything he preached, drafted, and spent the last 5 yrs building. He was looking for a quick fix that he could justify spending the money by getting him for more than 1 year. What he didn’t realize or didn’t care at the time was he option yr. the only way it would be optioned is if Wandy had a horrible 2013, which he did by getting hurt, but again there was going to be a chance Neal would not be here when that come to pass. the players sent to Houston were not going anywhere so the biggest loss is the 16-18M they spent on him these last couple of yrs could have been spent on other players

  30. LeeFoo says:

    and the tired ‘only in it for the money’ diatribe continues.

    I think he is in to win it, but he can’t spend foolishly.

    Pls read Dejan’s article and his response above that I posted.

  31. LeeFoo says:

    And now I know the frustration DK went thru after writing his article and followup. You just can’t change people’s minds, even with facts.

    Sigh….

    All I can say is “Follow another team”. That is NOT an insult, it is advice, because Bob N is NEVER gonna sell the team. You will be in misery for the rest of your life as a Pirate fan. I know it is probably in your blood, but, you’re gonna have to make the effort if you’re ever to be happy. I am not being snarky when I say that. I honestly mean it.

    I, on the other hand, think he is running a small market team like it should be run…like Tampa, etc. Therefore, I am NOT unhappy with him. And I know I’m not fooling myself, because I can see it in MLB club and the farm system. Whether we win a WS is hard to tell, because the playoffs are a crapshoot. The best teams rarely win. The hot ones do.

    Go Bucs!!!!!

  32. Sisyphus says:

    Mistake? What mistake did the Pirates make?

  33. Sisyphus says:

    Houston paid the bulk of the money that was still owed to Wandy. If they wanted to get out for under all the bucks, they failed miserably. Meanwhile, the Pirates got one of the better lefthanders in the the National League at less than 50 cents on the dollar. I’d make the same deal tomorrow if the opportunity presented itself.

  34. James says:

    I think Liriano might be back in 2015 if he is willing to sign for the right price.

  35. Andrew says:

    The Pirates’ front office has never heard of aging curves. Captian Hindsight hop in the Delorean and go and go warn them, that Rodriguez is 5’8″.

  36. Andrew says:

    Garret Jones was due around $5.3 million in arbitration, that is a lot for an all bat first baseman who needs a platoon partner, especially one projected to provide value closer to replacement level than 1.0 WAR.

    Jones was a valuable player during his time with the Pirates, the Gaby Sanchez platoon was a good idea but
    Jones was need in right because of poor performance there. The aging curve for left handed power hitters is not kind.

    Jones currently seems to be starving off that decline and solved off speed pitches which were his death knell last season, ISO against of .045. He is whiffing less against them and his ISO against off-speed pitches this season is .375, he won’t maintain that but if he can slug near his career norm he may remain productive. Do think the BABIP 60 point above his career number is sustainable. And any PAs against LHP by a career 53 wRC+ batter is a terrible idea.

  37. Andrew says:

    Lee, opinions on the Nutting ownership are equal to partisan political ideologies. They are just not malleable, all new information is filter through pre-exist bias in order to confirm that bias.

  38. Steelkings says:

    Yes Lee +++

    If McDonald hadnt pee’d the bed, the streak would have ended a year sooner.

  39. Steelkings says:

    Deficit spending happens every year at a ski resort after a warm winter.

    The point that both sides of the equation misses is that if any owner cannot financially compete enough to put a championship caliper team on the field every few cycles, the MLB needs to move that team out of that city.

    Or create a salary cap……

  40. kekkil says:

    amen to that. no more tall hats

  41. RobertoForever says:

    Lee,

    You missed my point. In 2013, they did not give Garrett a daily role that he would be comfortable in. That is when he thrives. Ergo, they didnt tap his potential at all.

    I do not believe the Pirates should have given Jones arbitration and 5+ million. But they made him no offer, and that was representative of their evaluation that Jones could not produce if allowed to play everyday, facing righties AND lefties.

    And thus, you cannot say Jones was terrible here in 2013 and rebounded in Miami in 2014. Rather, Jones was given an everyday job in Miami, and excelled, as I surmised that he would, if given an everyday role.

    And this is not Capt Hindsight, kind sir. I said the same thing last year, and in 2012. ;)

  42. RobertoForever says:

    Andrew,

  43. RobertoForever says:

    Andrew,

    What impact do you think that being given an everyday role, INCLUDING hitting against LH strating pitching, has played in his “resurgence”. Is it possible that Jones is the type of player that needs everyday reps, even bad ones against LHP, to achieve his potential.

    Kinda like my golf game. When I rarely play, its 110-120. When I play 2 or 3 times a week, the stick is under attack. Maybe like that?

  44. RobertoForever says:

    Dan, if the Pirates are “out of it” in July and those “cleanouts” don’t occur, will you come back and retract your inferences towards Nutting? Just wondering.

  45. Andrew says:

    That could certainly be true, I don’t know why he has improved against off-speed pitches this year. Not having to play OF might have helped. I still think it is not a good idea to put a player who has shown no ability to LHP in a position to fail.

    I don’t think Jones is this good or will maintain the 3.0 WAR pace, but he seems to have found a good situation and found away to be a productive player.

  46. LeeFoo says:

    Andrew…agree……….one guy compared it to a Lifeguard telling a man standing on a beach to be careful, that the ocean was deep. The man kept arguing “no it isn’t”.

    Whaddaya gonna do?

  47. dennis g says:

    The mistake they made was in accepting a contract with a small, possibly over worked slightly above average pitcher which gave them no way of getting out of paying $8.5 million in the third year, at the player’s option. That was a bad decision. I am sure they expected to be able to unload him on someone else but his injury made that impossible.

 
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