A’s Roster Shuffling Compared to Angels’ Acquisition of Zach Greinke.

I'm kind of a big deal to this team

Perhaps the biggest trade deadline deal to be consummated was the Angels' trade for Zach Greinke for SS prospect Jean Segura and two other prospects. Despite their seeming embarrassment of starting rotation riches, the Angels do have some issues the needed to address. Dan Haren has a nagging back injury, and his velocity is markedly decreased this year. Ervin Santana has been oddly inconsistent (I guess he hasn't faced the A's enough to prop up his numbers), and Garrett Richards is a 5th starter.

According to FanGraph's Dave Cameron, depending on who Greinke ends up replacing in the rotation, the Angels will get a 10-15 run improvement during the regular season. He uses ZiPS Rest of Season (RoS) projections to find that Greinke's expected ERA over his final 9 (or so) Angels starts to be 3.28, compared to Santana's 4.83 or Richards' 5.79.

The A's, by comparison, did not make any splashy moves at the non-waiver trade deadline. Indeed, their biggest moves involved the catching position. On July 28th, the A's sent Fautino de los Santos to the Brewers for backup catcher George Kotteras. Even bigger than that, however, was Kurt Suzuki's unexpected one-way trip to Washington, DC, as he was shipped off for now-AA catching prospect David Freitas.

Combine those moves with some injury replacements and promotions, and the A's will also have a somewhat re-tooled roster come the next 4 days. To recap, Dan Straily was recalled on Friday to face the Blue Jays, which demoted Travis Blackley to the bullpen. Pat Neshek, claimed off of the scrap heap from the Orioles, was plugged into the bullen as well, allowing Evan Scribner and Jim MIller to be demoted to AAA. In addition, Brandon McCarthy made a 6IP rehab start Saturday in Sacramento, and is seemingly ready to rejoin the rotation. This is actually perfect timing, as AJ Griffin has shoulder stiffness in his last start, and has been placed on the 15-day DL, so McCarthy will likely replace him directly. Finally, Cliff Pennington is due to rejoin at the team at any time, likely demoting one of Adam Rosales or Eric Sogard.


So, let's try to quantify some of these moves using ZiPS RoS and a few assumptions (after the jump):

For the catching shuffle, ZiPS RoS tells me Suzuki might be an 0.7 WAR catcher over his final 43 (or so) games after being essentially replacement level for his first 77 starts. It also tells me Derek Norris, now elevated to the starting role, will be worth 0.2 more wins over his final 25 or so starts, and George Kotteras will be worth about the same. Now, while I'd love to use those ZiPS projections straight up, it does seem pretty unlikely that over his final two months in Washington, Suzuki will put up 0.7 WAR. There are 77 starts of replacement level catching to tell us differently, and I frankly don't see how Suzuki will hit any better in the National League. So, let's say Suzuki is actually 0.0 WAR. Now, we can say that the switch to the Norris + Kotteras catching combination is worth 4 runs or so over the last two months.

The pitching combinations are a little harder to decipher given the range of roster possibilities. To me, the most likely scenario involves McCarthy making a start Friday, and Griffin rehabbing then returning to the AAA rotation. Going back to ZiPS, then, they have McCarthy having a 3.73 ERA over his final 7 starts. Unfortunately, however, ZiPS did not make projections for Griffin going into the season. He does, however, have a 3.64 FIP we can use to make a back-of-envelope prediction that replacing Griffin with McCarthy is probably a wash (McCarthy's FIP is 3.71).

Dan Straily figures to be in the rotation to the remainder of the season, and directly replaced Travis Blackley. Neither have ZiPS RoS projections, so let's go back to their FIPs: Blackley's FIP is 3.09 and after one start, Straily's FIP is 1.91. Obviously, Straily will not maintain such awesome numbers, so let's say (generously) that he maintains a 2.50 FIP over his final 10 starts, pitching an average of 6 innings per start. When you multiply it out, it turns out that the difference between Straily and Blackley might be 4 runs over the remainder of the season.

Finally, Blackley doesn't disappear but his innings are decreased and moved to the bullpen, where he joins Pat Neshek as an upgrade over Evan Scribner and Jim Miller. For the latter two, their ZiPS RoS show a 3.55 and 4.23 FIP respectively over 35 (15 + 20) combined innings. For ease, let's just call their FIPs the same. For Neshek, his ZiPS RoS show a 5.81 FIP, over 11 IP but with the A's in 3.1 IP so far, his FIP is 1.42. Taking the midpoint of those (3.62) seems fair, and we can give him Scribner's 15 IP for the remainder of the season. The calculation here yields a wash. Doing the same for Blackley, however, and giving him Miller's 20 IP, reveals a 2.6 run difference.

So, adding up the run additions yields around a 10-11 run upgrade (with some pretty big error bars). Still, in all likelihood, less than the Angels' upgrade to Greinke, but potentially closer than some might have thought.

Obviously, there are a whole lot of limitations and some assumptions here. For one, on the Angels side, Haren's back could continue to be balky, and that might cause more innings to be given to the Santana/Richards combo. On the A's side, it's some of the same injury story plus some decisions to make about the younger pitchers in the rotation. Yoenis Cespedes' wrists continue to be a cause for concern. Jarrod Parker, last night's decent start notwithstanding, has struggled as of late and the A's may want to just limit his innings anyway. Tom Milone has proven to be mortal at home, and could have AJ Griffin knocking at his door once he returns from his shoulder issue. Of course, it could also be Brett Anderson replacing Milone, as Anderson continues to make progress on his way back from Tommy John Surgery. Finally, there are still 3+ weeks in order to swing another waiver wire deal for someone like Steven Drew or Jimmy Rollins.

In either case, it promises to be a shootout to get to one of the two wild card play-in spots, if not also the division. Now, if the A's could only score some runs...

Join me for the gamethread tonight, as the A's face their arch nemesis C.J. Wilson and the rest of the Angels. Hey, C.J. - how's the mound feeling? Here's hoping Chris Carter takes him out to the second deck.

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