The Pittsburgh Pirates are planning for a playoff run, and they've made a move to correspond with those plans, acquiring starter Wandy Rodriguez from the Houston Astros for prospects Robbie Grossman, Rudy Owens, and Colton Cain. The Pirates will also get money to cover Rodriguez's contract.
As the lone veteran remaining on the Astros' pitching staff, Rodriguez was expected to be dealt before next Tuesday's trade deadline, and it came sooner rather than later. The 33-year old has a 3.79 ERA in 130 2/3 innings this year for the Astros, and has struck out 89 while walking 32. It's useful to note that Rodriguez's strikeout rate has decreased in each of the last four years, but this year's 2.20 walk rate is a career low as well, leading to a 2.78 strikeout to walk ratio that is better than each of the last two seasons. Rodriguez has also pitched to contact more this year, allowing a 50.7% groundball rate that is far and away the best mark of his career, more than 5% better than his career mark.
At the very least for the Pirates, Rodriguez will be a solid replacement for Kevin Correia in the rotation. In 102 1/3 innings, Correia has struck out just 46 batters, and has a 4.31 ERA. Moving Rodriguez into a quartet that includes James McDonald, AJ Burnett, Erik Bedard, and a rejuvenated Jeff Karstens suddenly gives Pittsburgh one of the best rotations in the league.The only thing is that three of the five pitchers in Pittsburgh's rotation are over 30, with Karstens hitting that age in September. I guess they'll be easing their young pitchers lke Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon in then, instead of throwing them into the fire.
Houston's return didn't include any of Pittsburgh's elite prospects, like Taillon, Cole, Josh Bell, or Starling Marte, but they got good value for Rodriguez. Grossman ranked as the team's eighth best prospect coming into the year, and possesses fantastic plate discipline. He walked 104 times for high-A Bradenton last year, and has 58 in 94 games for AA Altoona this year, while adding seven homers and a .778 OPS. The 22-year old was a sixth round pick in 2008, and was Pittsburgh's minor league player of the year last season. The 21-year old Cain was Pittsburgh's 13th best prospect coming into the year, and he had a 4.20 ERA in 75 innings for Bradenton, striking out 51 while walking 25. He was an eighth round pick in 2009, and has been described as "fearless" in the way he attacks the strike zone. Finally, there's Owens, the closest to the majors of the three. He ranked as Pittsburgh's 16th best prospect coming intot he year, and the 24-year old has taken a huge step forward in his second year at AAA Indianapolis. Owens has a 3.14 ERA in 117 1/3 innings, and has struck out 85 while walking 25. Owens could probably go right to the majors for the Astros, but he's not much more than a back-end starter.
All in all, the deal looks solid for both teams. The Pirates got another veteran arm to fill out their rotation while not giving up any of their top pitchers or coveted middle infielder Alen Hanson, and the Astros continued to add depth for their farm system. I really can't find fault with either side, though the Pirates may have given up too much for a player as old as Rodriguez.
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