After trading their second lefty out of the pen, Justin Wilson, to the Yankees in November for Francisco Cervelli, the Pirates have been on the lookout to replace Wilson's spot. Neal Huntington and Co. filled that need by trading for LHP Antonio Bastardo from Philadelphia in exchange for AA starting left handed pitcher Joely Rodriguez. The Phillies look like they are trying to rebuild with this trade along with the Jimmy Rollins deal, acquiring prospects. Here's a more in-depth look at what the Phillies are receiving in Rodriguez.
The Pirates snagged Rodriguez as an international free agent in 2009 as a 17 year old out of the Dominican Republic, signing for $55,000. He spent four years in the rookie and short season leagues while being one to three years younger than league average, and made his full season debut in 2013 with Low A West Virginia as a 21 year old. The 6'1 200 pound southpaw broke through with an excellent season, splitting time between Low A and A+ Bradenton. His first 14 starts spanned 72.2 innings, posting a 2.72 ERA, 3.62 FIP, and 1.36 WHIP with 57 strike outs (18.5%), 20 walks (6.5%), and an opponents triple slash of .280/.336/.411 despite a .336 BABIP and 68.8% strand rate. Rodriguez surrendered four homers and 79 hits before being promoted in mid June to Bradenton. For the Marauders, Rodriguez threw 67.1 more innings in 12 starts with a 2.67 ERA, 3.55 FIP, and 1.22 WHIP. He struck out 44 batters (16.2%) and walked 19 (7%) and held Florida State League hitters to a .251/.304/.351 line with four homers and a .289 BABIP. For the entire year he tossed 140 innings with 101 punch outs (17.4%), 39 free passes (6.7%), eight home runs allowed, and a 2.70 ERA, 3.59 FIP, and 1.29 WHIP. He generated ground balls 52.4% of the time with a 2.12 GO:FO ratio. Left handed hitters only managed a .212/.290/.281 triple slash against him with 13 walks to 44 strike outs in 162 plate appearances. Righties handled him much easier though, hitting .287/.333/.421 off him with all eight of the dingers he gave up.
The Pirates front office challenged Joely with a promotion to AA Altoona of the Eastern League for the 2014 season. He responded with 21 starts and nine relief appearances, struggling with a 4.84 ERA, 4.22 FIP, and 1.45 WHIP over 134 innings of work. He only struck out 73 (12.7%) while walking 43 (7.5%) and allowing 151 hits and 10 long balls. Eastern League hitters tagged him with a .289/.343/.398 line and .315 BABIP with a 63.5% strand rate. He was once again better against same sided hitters, limiting them to a .691 OPS and .270/.322/.369 line over 152 plate appearances while right handed hitters were better (.296/.350/.408 in 422 PA's). Once again the portsider generated an excellent ground ball rate of 53% and a GO:FO ratio of 1.68. Rodriguez spent a month in the bullpen towards the end of the year but came back to make three starts to finish it off. After the season he was sent to the Arizona Fall League where he made seven more starts, throwing 22.2 innings with impressive numbers despite the short sample size. He posted a 2.38 ERA and 2.84 FIP while striking out nearly a batter an inning (22) and allowing just six free passes. A .397 BABIP translated to 27 hits allowed, but he didn't allow any balls to leave the yard.
The fastball ranges from the low to mid 90's with more movement and natural sink and cut in the lower registers though it tends to flatten out up in the zone. He also features a nondescript slider and change up in the low 80's that backed up to being from average pitches to a tick below average. He shows good control though and a willingness to pitch to contact and generate ground balls. Rodriguez is a defense oriented pitcher with 7.6% more balls being put in play than the Eastern League average, and has been consistently above average keeping balls from exiting the yard. He's been quite durable the past two years, throwing at least 130 innings each year and could wind up as a fifth starter if he can start missing more bats. Worst case scenario his ability to hit the mid 90's with his fastball from the left side, ground ball tendencies, and platoon splits could put him in the bullpen as a swing man or middle reliever.
He was quite anonymous entering ’13 but had a solid A-ball season and was placed on the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. Rodriguez is a ground ball pitcher working with a low-90s sinker, a slider, and a changeup. His strikeout rate isn’t great and we’ll have to see how he holds up in Double-A, but there’s a chance he can be a useful fifth starter or (more probably) a reliever. His platoon splits are rather sharp and he might wind up as a LOOGY in the long run. Grade C.
Antonio Bastardo will be entering his age 29 season with four durable years of service under his belt. He's flip flopped good and average seasons (146 ERA+ in 2011, 94 ERA+ in 2012, 163 ERA+ in 2013, and 95 ERA+ in 2014) with 2015 lining up to be an excellent one if you believe in those kind of trends (I don't, but hey, whatever flies your kite). He's been worth anywhere from 0.5 to 0.9 fWAR in any given season with a career 3.72 ERA but 3.33 FIP with a 1.21 WHIP, 11.3 K/9 (29.7%), 4.3 BB/9 (11.5%), and just 6.6 H/9 and an opponents batting average of .197. In 2014 he showed a slight reverse platoon split being able to limit left handed hitters to a .175/.302/.338 line while right handed hitters only hit .195/.291/.309. For his career lefties have only posted a .621 OPS and 2.7 strike outs for each walk.
The Pirates filled a need in their bullpen by dealing away a potential back end starter who is a few years away from making an impact. Being in win-now mode certainly motivated this deal which looks to benefit the Pirates in the long run. Pittsburgh will control Bastardo's rights for one more season as he enters his third year of arbitration after earning $2M in 2014. MLB Trade Rumors projects Bastardo to make $2.8M in his final year of arbitration eligibility. What may seem like a minor move in the grand scheme of things, having a dependable second lefty in the bullpen is a weapon, and when used properly by the manager, can help tremendously in a high pressure game.