by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
After a relatively quiet start to the Winter Meetings things got churning a little bit yesterday, with a slew of pitchers on the move. While there was some late night bullpen movement (Jeurys Familia to the Mets, Joe Kelly to the Dodgers), the early part of the day was dominated by the starters. Let’s take a look at who made some moves and what their upside is:
Charlie Morton to Tampa Bay
The team that started the opener trend made a fairly large investment in a starter, giving Morton a 2 year, $30 million contract. Clearly they aren’t going to pay that much money not to utilize him as a true starter, joining Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow at the top of the Rays’ rotation.
Since joining Houston in 2017 Morton has emerged as a strong fantasy option as he’s shown all of the skills we look for from a pitcher:
- 2017 – 10.00 K/9, 3.07 BB/9, 51.8% GB%
- 2018 – 10.83 K/9, 3.45 BB/9, 47.4% GB%
Obviously moving to the AL East is going to be a negative, though he has the skills to continue to produce, though a 79.6% strand rate does indicate a little bit of a regression is possible. He’s been throwing harder (averaged 95.0 and 95.7 mph on his fourseam fastball) and that certainly has helped his curveball evolve into a dominant pitch (19.70% Whiff%, .135 BAA).
While the locale isn’t ideal and there’s always a bit of an injury risk, he should continue to be a viable Top 40ish starter.
Tanner Roark to Cincinnati
There had been rumblings that the Nationals were willing to move Roark, though doing so for a rookie relief pitcher was a little bit of a surprise. That said the addition of Patrick Corbin allowed them the flexibility to cut bait and look to get younger (and potentially less costly). When you start looking at the numbers, the reasoning becomes even more clear.
Roark has posted ERA of 4.34 or worse in three of the past four seasons. Never a big strikeout pitcher (7.05 career K/9), he’s also struggled with home runs over the past two seasons (1.14 and 1.20 HR/9). Does putting those numbers in Cincinnati give much hope?
He isn’t a pitcher that features a sinker, so it’s not a surprise that the groundball rate fell. He has always done a good job of limiting the hard contact (28.7% Hard% in ’18) and you can argue that there was a little bit of poor luck (.296 BABIP, 72.8% strand rate), but is that enough? Without the strikeouts, it being highly likely that his control takes a step backwards (2.50 BB/9 in ’18) and the potential home run issues, Roark isn’t a pitcher worth investing in.
Lance Lynn to Texas
The Rangers’ are searching for pitching, and that led them to sign Lynn to a 3-year, $30 million contract. After settling on a one-year contract last year, in order to prove his value, Lynn posted a 4.77 ERA over 156.2 IP split between time with the Twins and Yankees. While it obviously was disappointing he actually showed an improved strikeout rate (9.25 K/9), saw his control improve after landing in New York (2.32 BB/9 over 54.1 IP) and was generating more groundballs (49.7%).
While the Hard% did increase (35.4%), that doesn’t justify a .336 BABIP. At the same time just look at his pitch usage from last season:
- Fourseam – 44.81%
- Sinker – 32.63%
- Cutter – 11.33%
- Curveball – 9.12%
- Changeup – 2.11%
So he threw a fastball variation all but 11.23% of the time. It will be interesting to see if the Rangers help him alter the approach, but time will tell. While there is some potential, given what he had done while a member of the Cardinals, the risk seems to outweigh the potential reward.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball
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