« RotoAuthority League Update: Quarter Pole Update | Main | Stock Watch: New Stats and Other Shiny Objects »

RotoAuthority Unscripted: Time for a Kershaw Trade

I got a trade offer in the RotoAuthority Silver League and it got me thinking. Hopefully, writing here about said thinking won't ruin my chances of making a trade, but if it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen. The analysis must come first!

See, I was offered Clayton Kershaw, and whenever you're offered Clayton Kershaw you have to think about it.

My first thought was to be disappointed that this wasn't in the MLBTR staff league, 'cause I'm sitting in dead last in most of the pitching categories in that one. My second through however many thoughts were about how cool it would be to have Kershaw on my team.

Then I started to feel sad about the guys I'd give away: Giancarlo Stanton--I believed in you and you've returned 43 RBI for me, almost twice what the next best player on my team has. Scott Kazmir--I believed in you too and you've given me five delightful wins, a truly beautiful 2.39 ERA and 1.03 WHIP. And Greg Holland--I...okay, we all thought Holland would be good, and sure enough he's the only non-terrible reliever on my team.

The initial offer also included a couple guys that I'm probably supposed to be hoping will bounce back or regress to their peripheral stats in Allen Craig and Zach McAllister. (This article isn't about them, though, so I won't tell you I'm not optimistic about Craig and more or less apathetic about McAllister.) Okay, so I'm not clicking "Accept" on the initial offer, but overall, yeah, I'm intrigued with the thought of dealing my best hitter for baseball's best pitcher.

But should I be?

When was the last time you saw Clayton Kershaw sporting a 4.43 ERA? I'm not a Dodger fan, so I don't mind...but it's pretty weird to see, I'll tell you that.

Now, most of that comes from his most recent start, an epic tagging for over 100 runs (actually seven) in less than two innings. Or something bad like that. Manager Don Mattingly reassures us that there's nothing physically wrong with the Dodger ace, and he's probably in a position to know that and tell the truth about it. Right?

When you see any pitcher give up a disaster start like that come so quickly after escaping the DL, you can think one of two things about it:

a) He's fine. Just had to shake off the rust and it didn't happen to go well this time. He'll be okay.

b) Ouch. He's gonna be right back on the DL soon; either that or he'll be pitching bad and through pain for a few weeks.

The manager's taking choice a), and since I sent back a trade offer of Stanton for Kershaw straight-up, I guess I'll give away the ending by admitting that I am too.

But only kind of, obviously. If I were 100% sure that Kershaw was perfectly healthy, I'd have sent back the offer with a somewhat useful throw-in, because Kershaw is definitely a first-round, better-than-everybody-else-in-the-world pitcher, while Stanton's teammates will surely help him regress to the realm of the mortally awesome in terms of Runs and RBI. (Yeah, I don't think he's going to end the year with double David Ortiz's RBI, I just don't.)

So is now the time to trade Clayton Kershaw, or the time to trade for him? (Feel free to expand the thought to a more generally helpful analogy about all such elite pitchers who perform horrifically right after returning from the DL.)

Obviously, it has to be something of a case-by-case situation, but we can look at this case and see if anything applies generally.

One thing it's always good to do is check on a pitcher's velocity, as Fangraphs has done here, in which Kershaw is noted to have lost about two miles per hour on his fastball (in his few starts before the May 2 article), and examined to see what kind of decline might be expected if that reduced velocity is more or less permanent. Good news: that analysis suggests that Kershaw has been equally great in games pitched at what looks like his current velocity as he has when throwing harder. Bad news: a similar velocity drop coincided with Ubaldo Jimenez's precipitous decline, so we can't just assume all pitchers will be fine if they lose a couple miles on their fastball.

It's also worth looking into how a disaster start happens: according to the LA Times, it looks like Kershaw didn't have any control over his curveball during the second inning, in which he served up three triples. So that's bad, but it doesn't send up so many red flags that I'm running scared to rescind my trade offer for Kershaw. Unfortunately, I'm not enough of a scout or a pitching coach to know what to do with such data. Any elucidating ideas are more than welcome in the comments....

Right now, I think it's a good time to target receiving Kershaw in a trade, and I'm inclined to think that's usually the case in a situation like this one. Let him get a really good game in, and his price will go very close to full market value in a hurry. There aren't many times when baseball's best pitcher is likely to come at a discount, and this is one of them.

That said, now is a good time to deal Kershaw away, too.

What?

Yeah. There is some real risk involved in having a pitcher who gets brutally tagged right after coming off the DL, and trading that risk away isn't a terrible idea. Especially when your opponent/trade partner thinks they're getting a good deal. See, the thing about making a trade at this time, is that everyone knows Kershaw has to come at a discount, but that also allows the human mind to persuade itself that it is getting a good deal. It's like going to a store and seeing that everything is on sale: before you even start trying to remember what that stuff cost yesterday, your brain is already processing the idea that you're getting a bargain.

Just because you (probably) can't sell Kershaw for his highest-possible free market value doesn't mean you can't get what you want for him. And getting what you want in a trade makes it a win. We've reached the point of the season where your team situation and your place in the standings of each category is nonrandom. If you're getting killed in the power categories but still doing well in pitching, why not trade Kershaw for Stanton? No, they didn't get drafted in the same round, but who cares about that now? If you've got needs to fill, have Kershaw on your roster, and somehow aren't depending on him to carry your pitching staff, his trade value is still plenty high enough to help your team out in multiple categories.

Right now, it will be easier to get a good deal done than at other times, just because Kershaw will already be on other owners' trade radar. They may be hoping to lowball you, but once they're as intrigued by the chance to get Kershaw as I am, they might just bite on a fair offer. Right after a start like this is a great time to trade for Kershaw, yes...but it's also the right time to trade him away.


Full Story |  Comments (0) | Categories: Injuries | Starters | Trading


Site Map     Contact     About     Advertise     Privacy Policy     MLB Trade Rumors     Rss Feed