One in a series of articles previewing the upcoming trade deadline. Previous entries:
Next, we're going to take a look at a pitcher with a similar contract situation but with what should be a much different price tag.
Wandy Rodriguez is the last holdover from Houston's National League champions squad; since his rookie season in 2005, he's been a decent to very good pitcher for a declining and then a rebuilding club. He's been a durable pitcher, not missing a start in going on four seasons. His stuff has never been impressive (fastball in the high 80s, good curve, mediocre changeup), but until recently he's kept up a good strikeout rate. But his strikeouts are down this year, so even though he's still been effective, that's going to be a concern to whoever has him, whether that be the Astros or the club they trade him to.
It seems like Rodriguez has been rumored to be dealt for 2-3 years now, and with the Astros in full rebuild mode, and it seeming less and less likely that they'll contend next year, it seems logical that they'd look to move him. In addition to his declining peripherals, his salary is going up; he's making $10M this year and is guaranteed $13M next year, still (barely) within the range of a decent starter's salary on the open market, but it's not exactly an enticing contract to take on. While Garza will probably be making $11-13M next year in arbitration, there's a possibility that he' could be one of the 10-15 best starting pitchers in MLB in 2013. That just isn't going to happen with Rodriguez.
In addition, there's a 2014 team option worth $13M or a $2.5M buyout, which can become guaranteed if certain performance milestones are reached. There's also a nice little poison pill built into the deal; if he's traded, that 2014 option becomes a player option. So a team dealing for him has to take into account that possibility that they may be on the hook for $13M in 2014 whether he's still an effective pitcher or not.
As with Garza and Dempster, Rodriguez would immediately become one of the Indians' best pitchers; Josh Tomlin would most likely be the one to move aside for him.
RHP Corey Kluber and LHP Elvis Araujo
I just don't see the bidding get too high on Rodriguez. He's a mid-rotation guy, not an ace, and his contract is going to scare away a lot of clubs, even the big spenders unless the Astros are willing to pick up a portion of both his 2012 and 2013 salary. If not, I think the above package of Kluber (major-league ready starter) and Araujo (high-upside but several years away) would get a deal done. But I see a lot of risk for a club that doesn't have much payroll space to begin with.