25 July 2018

The Orioles Should Trade Gausman To The Rockies

It’s nearly the trade deadline, so of course there are rumors about the Rockies interest in trading for Kevin Gausman. The Rockies have had an interest for Kevin Gausman for a long time, at one point even requesting him for a trade for De La Rosa. However, at this point, there may be a real chance for a deal.  It’s safe to say that Gausman has failed to have the breakout season that Orioles fans were hoping to get from him, and the Orioles only control his rights for two more years. The Orioles need to ask themselves whether it makes sense to offer him an extension. If they don’t, his value is only going to decrease as time goes on. What would a potential trade to the Rockies look like?

Jon has suggested that Gausman is worth $40-50 million, almost as much as Machado was worth. If one thinks that Gausman will continue performing like a 3-4 starter then this valuation makes reasonable sense. It would make sense to value him at 5-6 WAR over his remaining 2+ years as an Orioles and presume he’ll cost roughly $20M. If you value a win at $10M, then we’re talking $30-40M but teams usually pay a premium for talent at the trade deadline. In addition, teams probably remember Jake Arrieta and may be willing to pay a slight premium to see if they can fix another Orioles pitcher with great talent who couldn’t figure it out in Baltimore.

The Rockies rotation has been atrocious. Kyle Freeland and Tyler Anderson have been solid for the Rockies, but have FIPs in the low 4 range. Jon Gray has had an excellent 3.05 FIP but also has a 5.44 ERA and was sent to the minors earlier this year. Their other starters have struggled. The Rockies could use at least two starting pitchers if they want to challenge for the playoffs and there aren’t very many available avenues for them to get it.

The Orioles could try to get prospects for Gausman. The Orioles wouldn’t be able to get the Rockies top prospect, but could reasonably hope to get one of their top prospects. It wouldn’t be terrible to build a deal around Lambert or Welker. But in this case, it makes sense for the Orioles to consider a challenge trade.

That’s why the Orioles should ask for Jon Gray. Jon Gray had what was thought to be a breakout 2017, but has had a tough 2018 season with an excellent FIP but a terrible ERA. If you believe the advanced statistics, then Jon Gray is probably an ace. If you believe your lying eyes, then he’s legitimately struggling.

According to TruMedia, Jon Gray boasts a tough fastball, curveball and slider repertoire that makes him tough against opposing batters and allows him to pick up strikeouts. The problem is that he has a bad case of Porcello-itis. Opposing batters have a .306 wOBA against him when the bases are empty, but a .386 wOBA when a runner is on base. It appears that opposing batters are more aggressive with men on base, and put more balls into play. Betrayed by a poor defense, opposing batters have an OPS of over 1 and a BABIP over .370 when they put the ball into play against him, regardless of whether men are on base or not. Like most pitchers, Gray would benefit from leaving Colorado.

It’s rumored that the Rockies are beginning to lose patience with him and are discussing moving him to the bullpen. If this is true, then it’s very reasonable that they’d be willing to part with Gray to get Gausman. The problem is that Gray is one of those players that’s hard to value. As a bullpen piece, he’s probably worth $10-$20M and the Os could ask for a C+ prospect in addition. If Gray is seen as a starter, then he could well be worth considerably more than Gausman. Like Gausman, Gray is another pitcher that hasn’t met his potential. Unlike Gausman, he’s shown more signs of being able to turn the corner. With a strong 2019, the Orioles could probably flip Gray to another team in return for elite talent or alternatively he’d be an interesting piece to offer an extension.

A Gausman for Gray trade would make sense in and of itself, but the teams could possibly expand a potential trade. The Rockies haven’t gotten much production from first base. Ian Desmond has been a failure on the Rockies. He has a decent bat for a middle infielder or center fielder, but the Rockies already have players blocking him at these positions. Instead, he plays first base, and he simply doesn’t have a good enough bat to be successful there. It turns out that signing a middle infielder/center fielder to play first base for an exorbitant amount of money isn’t a good strategy. Nor have the Rockies had much success with their top former prospect Ryan McMahon. McMahon has struggled in the majors, combining an inability to hit for power or average with a tendency of striking out frequently. With 3 yrs remaining on his deal after this one at $40M, plus another $9M on the books for the remainder of 2018, the Rockies should have interest in trading him elsewhere.

Yet, Ian Desmond was a decent center fielder for the Rangers in 2016, and his Statcast sprint speed of 27.8 ft/s suggests he is fast enough to play second base or center field. He’s a player that’s more valuable to another team than he is to the Rockies. And he isn’t so valuable that the Rockies would have much leverage in a trade. I mean, he has more value to another team than the Rockies, but with such a large contract he still likely has negative value. The Rockies would almost certainly have to give back another $30 million in value in order to include him in the trade.

On the other hand, Trumbo has proven to be a terrible DH, but has had a decent offensive 2018 season when playing either 1B or RF with a line of .309/.347/.559. Put him full time at 1B in Colorado, and they should have a pretty good bat. Trumbo is definitely a player that could benefit from a change of scenery.  When taking his contract into account, his value should probably be somewhere in the 0 to -$5M range.

Adding Trumbo and Desmond to the deal would mean that the Rockies would have to part with one of their better prospects. It’s questionable whether they would. A pitcher like Lambert or a hitter like Wilker would interest the Orioles, but it depends on how the Rockies view him. If they think of him as a top fifty prospect, as does Keith Law, then he’s not to be considered. On the other hand, if he’s a fringe top hundred prospect as ranked per MLB pipeline then perhaps he could be included. It also depends on how much value Gray still has. The thing is that the Rockies have a number of interesting 2B/SS/3B and pitching prospects and could afford to trade two or three in a deal. If the Orioles could get a package of Gray, Lambert, Hampson and Desmond in return for Gausman and Trumbo, then that would be a deal they'd have to take. 

If the Orioles do decide it’s time to trade Gausman, then the Rockies would definitely have some interesting pieces to trade in return. 


Pip said...

Thanks for the article. I have been wanting to try to send Trumbo to Colorado for two years. I hope the powers that be read this. And I’m glad to be reading you again, I hope you’re not jumping ship just yet.

Rob said...

I caught a Rockies game in Denver a couple of weeks ago and (extremely small sample size, I know), he looked completely lost at the plate. Killed a couple of offensive rallies. If I'm not mistaken he's hit most of his homers away from Denver, which seems counter-intuitive. Maybe he's a change-of-scenery guy too...

Matt Perez said...

Thanks PTCello. I've been busy with work lately.

Desmond has been better away than at home. Also has done better against lefties than righties. I think he's definitely a change-of-scenery guy.