02 June 2014

Should the Orioles Trade a Top Prospect for Samardzija?

There is a rumor that the Orioles are interested in upgrading their pitching staff by trading for Jeff Samardzija. Jeff is having a career season so far. Before Sunday's start he had a 1.68 ERA with a lot of help from a high strand rate of 79.7%, a favorable BABIP of .267 and an HR/FB rate of 5.2%. Samardzija historically allows a low percentage of fly balls. This year only 27.6% balls in play have been flyballs. That’s perfect for a stadium like Camden Yards.

Adding a pitcher makes sense for the Orioles because their rotation is ranked #9 in innings per start, #12 in ERA, #11 in xFIP and worst in the league in WAR. Bud Norris boasts the best ERA with an unimpressive 4.04 while Wei-Yin Chen is the only starter with an FIP or xFIP below 4. For a team with playoff aspirations this simply isn’t going to work.

It has also been rumored that the Cubs want at least one and possibly two of the following prospects: Gausman, Bundy, Harvey or Rodriguez. It makes sense that the Cubs would want a lot for Samardzija because last year they were able to trade Garza for C.J Edwards, Mike Olt, Russ Grimm and Neil Ramirez. Edwards was ranked #28 by Baseball America this year and is a promising pitching prospect. Grimm and Ramirez are promising reliever prospects and Olt is currently the Cubs third baseman. Despite the Rangers GM stating that he regretted the trade and thought it could come back to haunt him the Cubs probably feel that if they were able to get that much for half a season of Garza then they should get more for a season and a half of Jeff.

In order for the Orioles to know how much they should be willing to trade for Jeff it would be helpful to know the value of their two top prospects.

Bundy and Gausman were ranked #15 and #20 respectively by Baseball America in 2014. Harvey is doing well in LoA and has a chance to be at the range in 2015. From 2007 to 2013 there have been 40 pitching prospects ranked at one point between 10 and 25. Of those forty prospects all but eight have played in the majors. Archie Bradley, Jameson Taillon and Kyle Zimmer are three of those eight prospects and were ranked by Baseball America in 2014 and therefore don't belong in the sample.  One of the forty prospects, Nick Adenhart, was pitching well for the Angels when he was killed by a drunk driver early in his career and therefore will be taken out of the sample. That leaves 36 pitching prospects of which 31 made it to the majors. Here’s a list of the 31 prospects that played in the majors as well as Jeff.

Name Year Ranked Excess Wins
Kyle Drabek 2010 -0.373
Jacob Turner 2012 -0.34
Tyler Skaggs 2012 -0.245
Casey Kelly 2010 -0.176
Trevor Bauer 2013 -0.145
Dylan Bundy 2012 -0.076
Taijuan Walker 2013 0.432
Zack Wheeler 2013 0.532
Andrew Miller 2007 0.955
Martin Perez 2010 1.854
Jake McGee 2008 2.226
Gerrit Cole 2012 2.432
Shelby Miller 2011 2.454
Michael Pineda 2011 3.142
Chris Tillman 2009 3.471
Brian Matusz 2009 3.681
Aroldis Chapman 2010 3.836
Jeremy Hellickson 2010 4.026
Jeff Samardzija 2009 4.029
Matt Moore 2011 4.21
Neftali Feliz 2009 4.221
Wade Davis 2008 4.779
Mike Pelfrey 2007 5.216
Trevor Cahill 2009 5.515
Rick Porcello 2008 10.357
Chris Sale 2011 11.274
Matt Garza 2007 12.684
Madison Bumgarner 2010 12.996
David Price 2008 15.997
Tim Lincecum 2007 17.16
Yovani Gallardo 2007 17.299
Clayton Kershaw 2007 25.535

The excess wins stat converts players’ fWAR into dollars by using the retrospect value of a win for each year as developed by Lew Pollis. Then I subtract his salary from the value of his production and reconvert it back into wins. I use wins instead of dollars because a win in 2013 is more valuable than a win in 2009.

Clayton Kershaw, Tim Lincecum, Yovani Gallardo, David Price, Madison Bumgarner, Chris Sale, Matt Garza and Rick Porcello have each produced over ten wins in excess value. Note that Rick Porcello, Madison Bumgarner and Chris Sale had less than six years of service time entering this season. Porcello and Garza haven’t been as good as the rest of the group but they’ve all been at least solid. It is likely that all of these pitchers will be more valuable than Jeff. Other pitchers like Trevor Cahill and Mike Pelfrey have been mediocre. They’ve had a few good years in their careers with a few mediocre years. 

Gerrit Cole, Shelby Miller and Martin Perez haven’t had much experience as starters but they’ve each shown TOR potential. We won’t know whether they’ll become TORs for another few years but so far they’ve been good to great. Likewise, it’s too early to judge Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson, Chris Tillman, Tyler Skaggs, Michael Pineda and Zack Wheeler but they all seem to have a chance to be average starters. Michael Pineda had an excellent rookie year in 2011 but was injured for all of 2012 and 2013 and has had injury issues in 2014. He will be arbitration eligible in 2015. Arlodis Chapman is one of the best closers in the majors while Neftali Feliz was good for a few years before becoming arbitration eligible. Wade Davis struggled as a starter but has been amazing as a reliever and is probably one of the best relievers in the majors. Andrew Miller and Jake McGee are solid relievers while Brian Matusz put together one strong season as a starter and a few decent ones as a reliever. This is disappointing but they are helping their team.

Dylan Bundy and Taijuan Walker have both been injured. Each of them has plenty of time to come back and have a solid major league career. It is worth noting that Michael Pineda, Martin Perez, Matt Moore and Jeremy Hellickson are also currently injured. Trevor Bauer and Jacob Turner have been unimpressive so far but have spent limited time in the majors.

It appears that Casey Kelly and Kyle Drabek are going to be busts. Adam Miller, Danny Hultzen, John Lamb, Mike Montgomery and Tyler Matzek are the five prospects that haven't made it to the majors and are no longer rated by Baseball America. Adam Miller and John Lamb have been disappointing and may never make it to the majors. Mike Montgomery and Tyler Matzek have struggled in the past but have shown some promise in AAA and may still make it to the majors. Danny Hultzen suffered a severe shoulder injury and it is questionable whether he will ever pitch again. I wouldn't be stunned if Danny Hultzen, Mike Montgomery or Tyler Matzek ended up being successful in the majors in some role but at the moment they look like busts.

Out of the 36 prospects ranked between 10-25 from 2007-2013 there have been 8 stars, 3 potential stars, 2 average starters, 3 excellent relievers, 3 solid relievers, 10 unknowns and 7 busts. That probably means that one-third will become stars, one-third will be either average starting pitchers or good relievers and the other third will either be decent relievers or busts. For every Casey Kelly or Kyle Drabek there is a Clayton Kershaw and David Price.

If I were a Cubs fan I would want better prospects in a Samardzija trade then the ones they received in the Garza trade. But after looking at the value of a Baseball America pitcher ranked between 10 and 25 from 2007 to 2013 I wouldn’t be willing to trade one of Gausman or Bundy for Jeff. Many of these prospects ended up being considerably better than Jeff at a considerably lower price. Even if Gausman or Bundy don't end up being better it is likely that they will be worth more due to their minimum salaries and the six years of service time. 


Berdj J. Rassam said...

Samardzija is an elite pitcher and the Orioles would be wise to try and pick him up. Worse case scenario, he is #2 or #3 in the starting rotation of most teams.

Matt Perez said...

Elite starters are guys like Sale, Price and Kershaw. Samardzija isn't close to that tier. But we both know that elite starters aren't #2 or 3 guys.

Of the eight really successful pitchers in that list, I would say that the only ones that Samardzija is equal to are Garza and Porcello.

A third of the prospects on that list are going to be better then Samardzija straight up and another third are going to better then him when taking service time into account.

Anonymous said...

Don't give up a big prospect for him. He's definitely not elite.

Steve B. said...

The problem is that this analysis does not take into account a huge part of the equation and that is WHEN does a prospect become that good and at that point what about the status of the rest of the team. I believe that the O's window of opportunity is this year and next. In 2016 it is likely that our roster will be way different. It may be good, it may be even better than now, but the likelihood is that it will not be as strong as now. That leads me to think that they should go for it.

Matt Perez said...

A large number of the successful pitchers were successful either in their first or second year.

I'd argue that if you're looking at the first two years then Bundy and Gausman's value should be even higher. After all, the eight stars were pretty successful in one of the first two years. Pineda, Cole, Perez, Miller, Hellickson, Moore, Chapman and Feliz were good right away. Cahill had a strong second year. Matusz had a strong first year.

But this post wasn't asking whether the Orioles should trade a top prospect but whether they should be so for Samardzija. The Os should either try to get a better player in return for Gausman or Bundy or should get secondary pieces.

Anonymous said...

The real question:
Do you want to in the WS his year?
If so, o get the obols you need onomit.


Anonymous said...

Samardzija has a 4.60 ERA prior to this year. He might be worth a shot but not at the haul the Cubs are expecting. See what he's worth in 2 years at age 31. Don't get hyped.

Anonymous said...

Big time Pirate fan here Samazjia definitely is a #1 he always had the stuff but was a thrower now he is a pitcher & this yr Ive noticed hes constantly goin 7innings & dude is built like a horse with low mileage on his arm this is his 3rd yr starting thats it so if u O's dont wanna give up 1 of Bundy or Gausman for him ur nuts and we will take him id gladly give up Glasnow,Bell & 1 other nice prospect dude wil be an ACE for next 5yrs his stuff is amazing

Matt Perez said...

Glasnow, Bell and another prospect aren't as valuable as a top twenty-five pitching prospect like Gausman or Bundy. Gausman and Bundy are in the same category as Taillon before he got hurt.

Of the Orioles top four pitching prospects, Glasnow is closer in value to Hunter Harvey and is easily more valuable than Eduardo Rodriguez. Both Harvey and Glasnow are young promising pitchers in the lower levels of the minors.

Of course, the Cubs would probably want one of Polanco or Cole or Taillon and Glasnow in a deal after what they got for Garza. Still make the trade?