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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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