HOUSTON TX - JULY 26: Wandy Rodriguez #51 of the Pittsburgh Pirates speaks with the media as he returns to Houston as a Pittsburgh Pirate at Minute Maid Park on July 26, 2012 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
David Coleman of Crawfish Boxes, SB Nation's Houston Astros blog, answers questions about newly-acquired Pirates pitcher Wandy Rodriguez.
The Bucs got Rodriguez and will receive up to $17.7 million from the Astros to pay his salary, assuming Rodriguez picks up his player option for the 2014 season. In return, they gave up prospects Colton Cain, Robbie Grossman and Rudy Owens.
Rodriguez could be a staple of the Pirates' rotation for the next couple of years. He brings a 7-9 record, 3.79 ERA, and 89 strikeouts against 32 walks to the table, but those numbers don't tell the whole story. For some deeper perspective on Rodriguez and the trade that brought him to the Pirates, SB Nation Pittsburgh chatted with David Coleman of SB Nation's Astros blog, Crawfish Boxes.
AB: Could you give us a quick scouting report on Wandy Rodriguez?
DC: The shortest possible scouting report is that Wandy is a soft-tossing lefty with a serious curve. He's never had a ton of velocity and took a while to develop as a prospect. However, his curve is what made him special. After the 2009 season, Roy Oswalt called Wandy's curve the best in baseball. If you go by the linear weights on FanGraphs, it probably was close to that, too.
However, it's never been that good since. He has trouble getting a feel for it from time to time as he's aged, so his numbers haven't been as good as they were that season.
But, in recent years, he's managed to work a two-seam fastball into his repertoire, so his ground ball rate has gone up some. That's important, because he pitches to contact more often than not these days.
AB: What kind of pitcher has Rodriguez been in the past? How does that compare to this season?
DC: At his peak, Wandy was maybe the second-best pitcher on this staff. He's still been the best guy in recent years, but hasn't been that No. 2-quality guy in a couple of seasons. His strikeout rate has declined. With it, so has the expectation that he can go out and shut a team down for seven innings. Now? You know he'll keep you in the game, unless his curve isn't working, and then things could get ugly.
AB: What do you think the Pirates can expect from Rodriguez moving forward?
DC: He's definitely aging, so I'd expect the kind of performance like a No. 3 starter going forward. His strikeout rate probably won't stay as low as it is right now, but his ground ball rate probably won't stay as high either.
When he was in Houston, there were two different Wandys that could show up. We called them Home Wandy and Road Wandy, because his home/road splits were so pronounced. So, there's that delightful bit of fun too, as you struggle early in a start to figure out which one will show up.
AB: What did you think of the return from the trade?
It was a pretty fair trade. As a sabermetrics guy, I really like Robbie Grossman for his on-base skills. Houston doesn't have many guys in the system like that. As for the two pitchers, it tracks with GM Jeff Luhnow's style of gathering a ton of them and hoping one or two will hit. If Houston had traded Wandy three years ago, they might have gotten more for him, but this may have been their best return on a trade since the Hunter Pence deal.
AB: How do you feel about the Astros paying part of Rodriguez's contract the next three years?
DC: It was inevitable. He was paid a lot of money, but was probably fairly paid (at least in the early years of this deal). So, Houston basically picked up some of the cost to get his yearly number down to a more reasonable area for a pitcher his age on the free agent market. That allowed them to get a better return in the trade, which helped build up Houston's depth in the farm system.
AB: Do you have any insight about what kind of clubhouse guy Rodriguez is?
DC: It's interesting. I've never gotten the sense that he's one of the most vocal clubhouse guys or leader types, but he has talked with younger guys. I think part of that may be his comfort level with English as a second language. One of the most fascinating exchanges I saw in the clubhouse this year was a postgame interview with him after one of his starts. The usual scrum of reporters gathered around his locker and he looked to the Houston PR guy, asking for a translator. The PR guy told him to just try to do his best and he did, but it's really interesting that a guy who's been in the league for as long as Wandy still would want a translator.
Other than that, he's been a pretty low-key guy who his teammates obviously respect in his time in Houston. I don't doubt that he'll fit right in with the Pirates and be a great addition chemistry-wise.
AB: Any nickname suggestions?
DC: His first name has always worked as pretty easy shorthand, so we've never really given him a nickname on the site. However, the Magic Wand-y pun has been made plenty of times.