The Houston Astros are willing to trade anything. Carlos Lee, Brett Myers, carton after carton of delicious Minute Maid Juice -- anything. To emphasize just how willing to deal they are, they just traded their closer, who wasn't going to be a free agent until after the 2016 season. They found an offer they liked, and they traded a young and cheap pitcher. That's a team willing to listen.
There are other players who are more obvious candidates to be traded. Carlos Lee could be on your team, folks. He had an 18.1 UZR/150 according to FanGraphs. Say, if you've got a hole in center field, why not think outside the box?
And there's Wandy Rodriguez, who just keeps motoring along with solid season after solid season. He's on the trade market again, and he's under contract for the next two years at $23 million, with a $13 million option that becomes a player option if he's traded. If he were on the free-agent market, he would get something close to that, if not more. Consider that Mark Buehrle received four years and $58 million -- Wandy isn't quite as good or reliable, but if the difference is one fewer year and $22 million extra to spend, I take Wandy every time.
One of my favorite things in life is to cherry-pick statistics, so here's a list of pitchers who have thrown 175 innings with an ERA under 4.00 for each of the last three years:
That's some mighty fine company. Of course, if you increase the parameters to 200 innings, you'll note that Wandy has done that just once in his career, and it was three years ago. And just going by ERA ignores the fact that Minute Maid Park has been a pretty neutral park over the past few years; his ERA+ is 110 over the last two years, which is good, but certainly not elite. It's also worth noting that for a pitcher who's turning 33 next month, he's exhibiting some scary trends:
It's not like he's in danger of turning into Barry Zito overnight -- which is exactly what Barry Zito did -- but a Wandy Rodriguez without strikeout stuff and plus control isn't the most exciting pitcher in the world. He might be worth the money he makes, but he certainly wouldn't be worth the money and the prospects.
Which brings us to what the Astros would want. Here's an educated guess: I have no idea. The Rockies traded Huston Street for Nick Schmidt -- a 26-year-old A-ball pitcher with no real history of minor-league success. They made the deal because the Padres were willing to take on Street's entire $7.5 million contract and stretch their total payroll to $7.5 million. Are the Astros so desperate to unload Wandy's future commitment that they're willing to take something similar, or are they looking for at least one good prospect?
I'd guess the latter, which might make a deal difficult. The worst case scenario, though, wouldn't be for the Astros to hold onto Wandy until the trade deadline. Assuming he doesn't implode, he should still be a hot commodity for at least the next year.
When the next tier of free agents sign -- Roy Oswalt, Hiroki Kuroda, and Edwin Jackson -- look for interest in Wandy to pick up again. I could see the Nationals getting him. I could see the Yankees and Red Sox fighting over him. Just about any team willing to squeeze an extra $13 million into their yearly budget should be interested in him.
He isn't exactly a bargain, but he's still pretty danged good. And we're about at the point of the offseason where teams start to fight over table scraps, much less pretty danged good.