A day after dealing the reliable Adam Warren in exchange for Starlin Castro, the Yankees parted with another reliever. This time, Justin Wilson is on the move. The return? Luis Cessa and Chad Green, two mid-level pitching prospects. We will evaluate these right-handed hurlers and then attempt to determine the winner of this trade.
23 year old RHSP
Cessa, dealt from the Mets to the Tigers in the Yoenis Cespedes trade, was the Tigers 6th best prospect according to the guys over at MLB.com. The 23 year old pitched lights-out for the Mets Double-A affiliate in the first half of 2015, posting a sparkling 2.56 ERA and walking just 2.0 batters per nine. He struggled following a promotion to Triple-A Las Vegas (8.51 ERA in 5 starts) and continued to flounder at the Triple-A level after being dealt to the Tigers despite switching leagues. Cessa’s best pitch is his fastball, sitting between 92 and 95 mph regularly, but can reach back for 97 mph when he needs it. The Cordoba, Mexico native has good command of the pitch, routinely spotting corners and changing eye levels to put batters away.
Like many young pitchers, though, Cessa’s secondary offerings lag behind his heater. He has trouble commanding his change-up, which he throws between 81 and 84 mph with downward movement. He maintains his arm speed consistently and mixes the change in well to keep batters off balance, but he has a tendency to leave it up in the zone when he fails to turn it over. He was able to get away with this at the lower levels, but clearly that was not the case in Triple-A, especially when your home park in the Pacific Coast League is in Vegas. He shows a slider sitting around 87 mph that flashes average potential. When he has a feel for it, the slide piece can be a strikeout pitch. Our Tigers affiliate here on SB Nation, Bless You Boys, reported that Cessa loses his stuff after about 65 pitches. Adding that concern to a mediocre arsenal leads me to project Cessa as a bullpen guy in the major leagues.
He will provide much-needed Triple-A starting pitching depth for the Yankees, but its highly unlikely he starts a game in the Bronx. Unless his change-up takes a major step forward, his slider becomes more consistent, and he improves his stamina, Cessa seems destined for the ‘pen where his fastball could add another tick or two which would put it in plus to double plus territory.
24 year old RHSP
I have to admit, I am even less optimistic about Green. Like Cessa, his fastball peaks in the mid-90s, but unlike Cessa, he has trouble commanding his heater within the zone. Both his slider and change-up are below average offerings and while he only walked 2.6 batters per nine last year, he lacks command of his off-speed stuff within the zone. Considering Green’s motion has little deception and he lacks command of all three pitches, it is not hard to understand how the 24-year-old gave up 170 hits in 148.2 innings last year.
Listed at 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, the right hander has the build of a workhorse starter, but doesn't quite have the stuff for it. A move to the pen may be necessary to prolong his career. I would be surprised if Green’s impact on the Yankees extended much further than minor league depth. But if he can improve at least one of his off-speed pitches and learn how to spot his fastball, Green could become a serviceable arm in the Yankees bullpen.
Overall Trade Analysis
I watched more than half of the Yankees games last year and I must say, despite the good numbers, Justin Wilson didn't really stand out as a must-keep player. His secondary pitches are inconsistent and his fastball, which he throws at an impressive 95 mph, has little movement. Still, I have trouble rationalizing this trade from a Yankees perspective after taking a deeper look at the prospects involved. Wilson has three more years of team control remaining and his 2016 salary is projected at a reasonable $1.6M.
Cessa and Green both profile as bullpen candidates due to their age, wavering minor league success, and inconsistent off-speed pitches. I think Cessa has a better chance of prevailing as a starter than Green. He knows how to pitch and has good-enough stuff, if he can be more consistent. Green, on the other hand, is likely to move to the pen soon and may not even make the majors in that capacity. If the Yankees can develop Cessa’s secondary offerings and keep him out of the pen, they easily win this trade.
If not, and it seems more than likely that Cessa will have to move to the bullpen eventually, the Yankees are essentially trading Justin Wilson for the chance at a future right handed version of Justin Wilson which is a significantly less-valuable commodity. Take into account that the Yankees flipped Francisco Cervelli for Wilson at this point last year, and this trade looks even worse. Thus I have to chalk up this deal as a win for the Tigers, at least for the moment. Now we turn to you: who do you think won the Justin Wilson trade and why?