My first big trade of the year

Up until this point, I have only made a couple of small trades in my fantasy leagues. Last night, however, I finally made one that was of a little bit greater magnitude. I won’t be discussing every trade that I make throughout the year, but this one included a player that I wanted to make a note about anyway. This trade gives me a good opportunity to do so.

The trade

I receive: Johnny Cueto and Kerry Wood
I give: Dustin McGowan and Ryan Franklin

The player I wanted to talk about was Cueto. There was a good article by Dave Cameron over at FanGraphs earlier this month talking about Cueto and how he had struggled with runners on base. This was probably a little worrisome to some people considering that Cueto was a rookie pitcher trying to adjust to the big leagues. It wasn’t unfathomable that he was having difficulties when pitching from the stretch.

The good news is that Cueto has since been very good pitching from the stretch. Here are his numbers on the year:

Situation	IP 	K 	BB 	HR 
Bases Empty 	34.2	38	11	9
Runners On 	17	15	2	3

Cueto currently has a 5.75 ERA this year, but the fact that he is now pitching well out of the stretch leaves me with no doubts that his 61 percent Left On Base Percentage is simply bad luck. So is his 18 percent home run to fly ball ratio (HR/FB), for that matter. Once those regress, his numbers on the year should give you a pretty good idea where his ERA will be.

IP	K/9	BB/9	GB%	xFIP
51.2	9.23	2.26	36%	3.76

Great at striking guys out, very good control. The only problem is the low flyball rate combined with Great American Ballpark. Plenty of guys succeed despite low flyball rates (Aaron Harang, for one, who actually pitches in the same park as Cueto), though, and Cueto should be fine. Even if his HR/FB ends up being 12 or 12.5 percent, he should still be a very good pitcher.

This creates a perfect buying opportunity. A high ERA, from a rookie pitcher, who may or may not be perceived as having trouble pitching from the stretch, will lead plenty of owners to jump ship. Don’t be one of them. I will be buying Cueto wherever I can, and I think I did a pretty good job in this trade. Sure, he could regress, but I think it’s far more likely that he’ll continue to pitch well.

I like Dustin McGowan, but he hasn’t shown any improvement over last year (he’s actually been worse). Cueto’s numbers were there in the minors last year and are there in the majors this year. That I was able to swap Ryan Franklin for Kerry Wood only made it that much better, in my opinion.

Kerry Wood has sneakily been very good this year with, 8.3 strikeouts per nine innings, 1.7 walks per nine innings, and a 47 percent groundball rate. While he has blown three saves and has Carlos Marmol to worry about, I trust him far more than I trust Franklin. Franklin doesn’t have the skills to be a closer, has Jason Isringhausen to worry about when he comes back, and has guys like Russ Springer, Kyle McClellan, and Chris Perez to worry about right now (not to mention himself!). It’s really only a matter of time before either Izzy gets healthy and takes the job back or Franklin implodes and loses it himself.

Sure, Marmol is more talented than Kerry Wood, but Lou Piniella and the Cubs chose Wood for a reason. With him pitching well, it makes no sense to make a change now. Sure, he could start pitching poorly, catch some bad luck (which he has had a little of already), or get injured, but he still is a better percentage play than Franklin.

Concluding thoughts

If you guys have a different opinion on this trade, feel free to comment or send me an e-mail! Also, I’ve got some exciting things planned for this week, so be on the lookout!

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