We still have about a week to go before the non-waiver trade deadline, but already deals are being made. Yesterday, both Jaime Garcia and Trevor Cahill were shipped off of their non-contending teams to the American League. Let’s see how the league, park, and team switches could affect their values.
Park Factors were retrieved from StatCorner and I combined the righty/lefty factors using a 60%/40% split.
I highlighted in yellow the park that was more beneficial for Garcia in that metric. Unfortunately for Garcia owners, the park switch appears to be a clear negative. This year, the Braves new ballpark has suppressed run scoring, reduced strikeouts less significantly than Target Field, increased singles less than Target Field, and suppressed homers. The only positive change is the friendlier walk rate.
Of course, this move puts another dent in Garcia’s value with the league switch as he will no longer have the luxury of facing the pitcher, meaning all else being equal, his strikeout rate is going to decline. That’s an ominous thought considering Garcia’s is already sitting at a career low, though he hasn’t lost his ability to induce swings and misses.
Perhaps most important for Garcia is his new team’s infield defense. He owns the seventh highest ground ball rate among qualified starters, so he requires strong defenders on the infield to gobble up all those balls in play. Overall, the Twins have trotted out a stronger defensive unit than the Braves. In the infield, each position is nearing a neutral UZR/150, with one exception — third base. After the Braves acquired Matt Adams to replace the injured Freddie Freeman, he caught fire and it was impossible to remove him from the lineup upon Freeman’s return. So now Freeman is attempting to work as the every day third baseman, but UZR/150 suggests that he has been a disaster as the hot corner. If you’re curious, 84.1 innings in and Freeman has racked up an astounding -89.3 UZR/150! It would have been difficult to find a defense that wouldn’t represent on upgrade on the infield when Freeman is the third baseman. So that’s a plus for Garcia.
From an offensive support standpoint, there shouldn’t be a whole lot of difference as both teams ranked in or near the bottom third in their respective leagues in offense. Overall, the park and league switches are too much for the improved defense to overcome, so Garcia’s value definitely takes a hit. It’s not like he held much value to begin with, but even in AL-Only leagues, I would be hesitant to place an aggressive bid here.
I love pitchers in Kansas City. Elite defense combined with a pitcher friendly home park is a great pair. However, I’m rather shocked to see the difference in the runs factor. Heck, it’s not even the difference that surprises me, it’s that Kauffman Stadium has actually inflated run scoring this year?! Who knew?
Petco Park has also marginally increased strikeouts, while Kauffman has reduced them significantly, which is a negative for Cahill. The big difference comes from the home run park factor, as we all know that Kauffman is one of the league’s most difficult places to hit a long ball. But here’s the thing — Cahill induces tons of grounders like Garcia, so he’s not going to benefit all that much from a park that holds in fly balls better. Only 26% of his balls in play have been flies to begin with! An extreme fly baller would enjoy greater benefits from the park.
Liek Garcia, Cahill also relies on a strong infield defense. We know the Royals always have an elite outfield unit, but how has their infield performed, especially compared to the Padres? Overall, the Royals have posted the fourth highest UZR/150 in baseball, versus the third lowest for the Padres. That’s quite the swing! The Padres infield has been a revolving door, but the Royals have been just a mediocre group, with Alcides Escobar the only man who has posted a meaningfully positive UZR/150. Still, it probably represents a slight upgrade, and when including the outfielders, it’s clear this is a sizable win.
We have the usual NL to AL caveats on strikeout rate, but so far the defensive support clearly helps Cahill, while the park is a question mark. Luckily, he should receive ever so slightly better offensive support as he leaves the lowest scoring team in baseball. I say ever so slightly because the Royals aren’t much of an offensive juggernaut themselves.
Overall, this is a bit of a tougher call to make than Garcia. Cahill’s strikeout rate is at an all-time high thanks to a career low rate of fastballs thrown and three secondary offerings with exceptional SwStk% marks. That’s likely to come down in the American League, but with strong defense and a home park that could reduce his mid-teen HR/FB rate, the move here appears neutral to slightly positive.
Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.