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Contracts for Buehrle and Wilson Bode Well for Wandy Trade Options

Unlike recent years, the 2011 Winter Meetings have been interesting and action packed. The Marlins and Angels have made the biggest splashes, throwing around money like Pacman Jones in a gentleman's establishment. Of particular interest to the Astros are the signings of Albert Pujols (really??) and C.J. Wilson by the Angels.

The Pujols contract ensures that the Astros' biggest recurring hemmhroid will not disappear for at least a decade. It also puts the Angels back in the drivers' seat of the AL West for the next few years. The upside for the Astros is only that rumors have the Angels possibly non-tendering their slugging 1B Kendrys Morales. While it is doubtful that Morales will actually be non-tendered, if it happens, the Astros should aggressively bid on the young slugger.

Of more immediate import to the Astros, C.J. Wilson will now serve as the Angels' third or fourth starter, depending on how one values the erratic but impressive Ervin Santana. The move definitely weakens the position of the Texas Rangers, by moving their best starter to a division rival, making the division slightly less top-heavy.

Regardless, it is the contract itself that should mean something to the Astros, as well as the contract of Mark Buehrle, recently signed by the Marlins.

Wilson's contract is for five-years, $77.50 million (AAV=$15.5 million). Buehrle's is for five years, $58 million (AAV=$11 million).

Remember how Astros fans (author included) verbally slaughtered former GM Ed Wade for extending Wandy Rodriguez, who has three years and $36 million left on his deal? All of a sudden, Rodriguez has a comparatively favorable contract, a list of suitors who missed out on Wilson and Buehrle, is in some ways a better pitcher than both, is left-handed, and the Astros have incentive to move him.

The Astros are publicly shopping Wandy Rodriguez, and this may be our first glimpse at new GM Jeff Lunhow's trading savvy. The market has spoken, and a soft-tossing 33-year old left hander has been deemed worth as much money as Wandy. A 31-year-old converted reliever with only two seasons starting in the major leagues has been proclaimed worth almost twice as much as the money remaining on Wandy's contract.

The statistics paint Wandy as a similar pitcher to Wilson over the past three years, and a superior pitcher to Buehrle. Below are some rate stats for all three pitchers, with a simple Roto-style ranking for comparison purposes. I found two different calculations for FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), so I used them both.

Wilson 3.09 1 1.23 1 7.52 1 0.52 1 3.58 3 8.28 1 2.31 2 4.14 3 3.31 1 14 1
Buehrle 3.91 3 1.32 3 9.87 3 0.93 2 1.99 1 4.48 3 2.25 3 3.70 1 4.21 3 22 3
Wandy 3.36 2 1.28 2 8.48 2 0.94 3 3.04 2 8.17 2 2.69 1 3.96 2 3.76 2 18 2

As shown, Wandy Rodriguez has a strong case for being the best value per dollar among all three of these starters. He holds the best SO/BB rate, and only comes in third on home run rate.

Other factors that will make Wandy comparatively attractive to potential trade partners include:

  • At an AAV of $12MM/season, he is already a better value than Buehrle, and with less years remaining on his contract (less risk!) than both Wilson and Buehrle.
  • The Astros might be willing to pay some of Rodriguez' salary in return for better minor league prospects, giving their trade partner a top-notch starter at a bargain cost.
  • Wandy is a lefty, and those guys are hard to find. So are Wilson and Buehrle, but there just aren't a ton of dependable lefty starters, especially with the kind of strikeout numbers Wandy puts together.
  • Rodriguez has demonstrated relative good health over the last few seasons, while many experts have expressed concern that Wilson, a a converted reliever, may not hold up long-term to a 200-inning workload.
  • Rodriguez' contract ends in his Age 35 season, giving the new club a few years to determine if an extension might be in the cards. If Rodriguez arm holds up, there's no reason that he can't be a solid option for his new team for years to come, but that team will not have to commit to a long-term relationship right away.

Sources indicate that other teams interested in Wilson were the Marlins (duh), Rangers (double duh), Nationals, Cubs, and Red Sox. Each of those teams should be able to put a package together to pry Wandy from the Astros under favorable conditions for both teams. Other suitors mentioned for Wandy include the Yankees, Reds, and Rockies. Of all of those clubs, only the Cubs would be draining their farm system to make an offer (so one can probably count them out of the running considering their own need to rebuild). On each of these suitors, Wandy would be a top-of-rotation starter, in most cases slotting in as the #2.

Astros fans can speculate all day about what packages could be offered for Wandy, an exercise that is as fun as it is pointless, so please post in the comments what you would think is a reasonable offer for him including financial compensation. The most important thing is that the Astros are in as good a position as they've ever been in to make a trade in their favor, which would have a big impact on how quickly the club can return to contender status.

Edit: 1:22 PM As somebody pointed out below, Buehrle's contract is actually for four years, not five. The original source I got that number from was wrong. But I don't feel like changing the article. :)