Everyone knows the Astros are pushing against the second level of the luxury cap, so any signings at best will be “bargain bin” type of signings. So we’ll continue looking through the bargain bin to see if there’s anyone who interests us. Today, that player is none other than Alex Wood.
Who is Alex Wood
Wood is a Left Handed starting pitcher who rocks the prototypical pitchers body coming in at 6’4, 215 lb. From an age perspective, Wood is hitting the market at 28 years old which would normally be right in the prime of a pitcher. So why is a 28 year old with a 3.40 ERA for his career in the middle of his prime in the bargain bin? The age old story of injuries. Last year, he missed most of the season were back spasms and didn’t exactly end the season with a ringing endorsement for a clean bill of health. But before we dig too much into his health, here was some notes on Wood back when he was MinorLeagueBall’s prospect of the day in 2013:
“As a starter he works in the low-90s, with slightly higher velocities when used in the bullpen as the Braves have done so far during his brief major league exposure, averaging right around 94. His out-pitch is an above-average changeup that’s devastating when his command is on, which it usually is. His slider is mediocre; it is better than it was two years ago, but the fastball/changeup combination will always be his mainstay.”
“His high-effort delivery is very unusual: It is deceptive and he repeats it well, but scouts worry that the recoil stresses his elbow, back, and legs. As noted, he’s already had Tommy John, and his ‘12 season ended a week early due to a strained back muscle”
Here is MLBTradeRumors thoughts on Wood:
“The 28-year-old flew under the radar to some degree from 2013-18, an 803 1/3-inning stretch in which he combined for a sterling 3.29 ERA/3.36 FIP with 8.27 K/9, 2.57 BB/9 and a 49.5 percent groundball rate with the Braves and Dodgers. Thanks to that run, the Reds acquired Wood last offseason with the expectation he’d give them front-line production. Instead, though, back problems limited the relatively soft-tossing Wood to seven starts and 35 2/3 frames of 5.80 ERA/6.38 FIP ball. Since then, there hasn’t been any reported interest on MLBTR’s pages in Wood, who has quickly gone from coveted starter to buy-low candidate.”
Unfortunately as you can see, even prior to the minor leagues his health was a question mark. Here is a list of some of Wood’s IL stints:
2016 - 60 Day DL - Soreness in Left Tricep
2017 - 10-day IL Left SC joint inflammation (x2),
2018 - 10 Day IL - Left Adductor tendonitis
2019 - 60 Day IL - Back Injury
The back injury is especially worrisome given his unusual delivery and the margin for error at his current velocity being rather low.
Alex Wood, 90mph Fastball (called strike) and 85mph Changeup (swinging K), Overlay. pic.twitter.com/b6fDcgQAPZ— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 15, 2018
Using only last year’s arsenal is somewhat unfair given the injury, but throughout his career this is the 3-pitch arsenal that Wood has featured. His spin rates were up basically across the board but still well below average. His velocities are down a few ticks from 2016-17 and I don’t know if it can be said for sure if it will return.
His arsenal does not fit the model that the Astros generally target and he doesn’t have any pitches that are clearly needing to be abandoned, but in fairness - Wood is not the reclamation project in needing to be made good - simply needing to be healthy to warrant his spot in a rotation.
What would it cost?
MLBTradeRumors is predicting a 1-year $8 Million dollar contract.
Wood is one of the more interesting candidates when you take an initial glance. His ERA would rank 18th of all pitchers who have thrown 600+ IP since 2013. The advanced stats don’t look like his results were a fluke with a 3.49 FIP, and 3.53 xFIP. So why don’t I have the warm and fuzzy feeling about signing him?
I mean the obvious answer is injuries. He’s a perpetual injury risk, but there’s more to it than that. Last year was the first time he wasn’t able to pitch well when he was throwing. His 5.80 ERA was not only ugly, but his 6.38 FIP doesn’t exactly scream that it was driven by poor luck. And despite his age not being at a time where decline is anticipated, you have to wonder if he’ll regain the “stuff” lost.
His arsenal has obviously been very effective throughout his career, but it also doesn’t align well with the preferred style of pitcher for Strom’s teachings. The Astros have found major success in high velocity / high spin FB and breaking pitch - none of which is Wood’s style. They’ve also been able to make significant improvements to pitchers by eliminating a bad pitch or focusing on a dominant one, neither of which seems to be a huge opportunity with Wood.
On the cost perspective, Wood is a bargain bin pitcher with a lot of upside, but $8 Million is not cheap either. If incentive laden similar to Rich Hill’s $3 Mil (that could end up costing around $12), it could be an attractive deal but that doesn’t seem to be the rumored cost.
I do like that Wood is a lefty and he does provide more upside than quite a few others on the market, but I’d have to say I’d be leaning towards passing at the listed cost.
What are your thoughts?
Should the Astros pursue Alex Wood?
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