Wandy Rodriguez is as wanted by the Astros as additional marijuana legislation is desired in Eugene, Oregon.
From the way things have gone in the past year it seems like the second after Wandy Rodriguez signed his three-year, $34 million contract with the Astros the team called the entire AL East to find out who wanted to give up a B-level prospect in exchange for Rodriguez and his new salary. A year earlier the Mariners signed Chone Figgins to a four-year, $36 million deal they’d regret almost immediately also. It makes sense for the two teams to include the two in a swap.
At the beginning of November I looked at some potential landing spots for Figgins, but didn’t include Rodriguez. It seemed at the time like the Astros would be able to trade Rodriguez for something of value, but recent reports indicate that interest in Rodriguez may not be high, if it exists at all.
For the Mariners acquiring a guy who has had a better-than-average xFIP makes sense given the vacancy created by the trade of Michael Pineda. Though Rodriguez will be 33 next year, he’s pitched more than 190 innings in each of the past three years, and has averaged no less than 7.78 K/9 since 2007.
Considering that, it’s probable that the Astros may require the Mariners to pick up some of Figgins’ salary. The Yankees attempted to trade for Rodriguez at last year’s deadline, but were rebuffed when they asked the Astros to pay $17 million of Rodriguez’s then $38 million remaining salary. Figgins remaining guarantees are $17 million.
Though Astros may require additional compensation for Figgins, they may be willing to swap Rodriguez for a reduced cost they’ll incur taking on Figgins contract, and potential cash. Figgins is guaranteed $17 million over the next two years, while Rodriguez is guaranteed $25.5 million (which includes the buyout tied to his team option in 2014). $8.5 million are no small potatoes to the Astros, who have struggled in past years, and who recently changed ownership. Figgins may be able to fill a few holes for the Astros for the next year or two, as they’ve traded their two best defensive outfields (Michael Bourn, Hunter Pence), are shopping their worst defensive outfielder (Carlos Lee), and have traded their MLB second baseman (Jeff Keppinger) while starting a 26 year old rookie (Chris Johnson) for most of their games at third base last year.
It’s not to say that the Astros are one Chone Figgins away from competing. No team can be even philosophically one negative-value player away from competing. I mean, c’mon. But if they value money above marginal production gain, which in their position may make some sense, Figgins may simply act as a place holder to delay the service time clock for a prospect like George Springer. And if Figgins wasn’t enough, it probably wouldn’t take any kind of top prospect to bridge the gap (Mike Carp or Johermyn Chavez for example).
For the Mariners, it would be the equivalent of signing Rodriguez to a two-year, $8.5 million (ish) contract, as they’re doesn’t seem to be a significant drop off between Kyle Seager and Figgins. Better yet, it would be backloaded, so the Mariners would be able to enjoy Rodriguez services this year for only a $1 million difference. And of course, as a lefty in Safeco Field, Rodriguez figures to benefit from the spacious confines that dampen right-handed power. He’s no Jason Vargas though. Vargas has pitched close to 500 innings with the Mariners. In no season has he topped six K/9, and has never topped 37 percent groundballs.
By contrast, Rodriguez has a groundball percentage that has been at-or-better than 45 percent for the past three years, and though he averages about a half-walk more per nine innings than Vargas, he’s been basically a run better than Vargas in terms of xFIP for the past three years.
By no means is Rodriguez an ace. However, he’s an upgrade over what the Mariners presently have, and if he’s acquired in a trade that involves Chone Figgins, much of his cost would be supplemented by the loss of some of Figgins’ salary. At the end of his contract Rodriguez may not be a Type A free agent—though he presently ranks as one according to projections—but he’d figure to add considerable present-day value to the Mariners, and could be a valuable piece of trade bait at either of the next two trade deadlines.
Considering the compensation presumably needed to sign Edwin Jackson, Rodriguez may be the best possible rotation value available.
Would you trade Chone Figgins and a prospect for Wandy Rodriguez?