The sentiment in this is going to be wildly unpopular for two reasons: 1. Because of the trade that just happened, sending Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to Oakland; and 2. Because Travis Wood is a fan favorite…but the Cubs need to seriously consider trading Travis Wood before the deadline this year.
Now that most of you are good and mad, let me explain why. The first is that, Travis Wood is probably as good as he is going to ever be right now. The numbers may not appear to support that on the surface, as his ERA and WHIP are both higher than last year. Taking a deeper look, though, shows that Travis Wood is very much the same pitcher he was last year, save for a BB% that has jumped from 8.0 last year to 9.7 this year and a BABIP that was in the .250 range the last two years pushing up to .306 this year. Interestingly enough with those numbers, his line drive rate is a career low (20.7%) and his ground ball rate is a career high (37.2%) after being a notorious fly ball pitcher to this point in his career. In short, there seems to be a degree of bad luck, with balls not hit hard, just hit in the right spot, and driving in an higher number of runs…which, in fairness, have been put on because Travis Wood has to work the edges of the zone out of necessity. More simply put, Wood’s value may have decreased slightly from last year, but scouts who have seen him and any front office that values analytics can see that the performance is not drastically different than it was last season.
The next best reason to trade Wood is his contract status…meaning, he’s cost-controlled for the next two seasons. That brings some value in itself, much for the same reason Jeff Samardzija‘s contract status had value. For the Cubs, though, Wood’s control comes in direct conflict with the timeline they have for making a serious run at contention. He will be approaching free agency at the exact time the Cubs expect to make that step. A fair (and possibly generous) evaluation of Travis Wood is to say that he is a pretty good 3rd or 4th starter in a contending team’s rotation. There is value in that to contending teams, but for a team that is out of it in 2014, Wood is just another guy to give the ball every fifth day.
Lastly, and most importantly, the return for Travis Wood has a chance to have a prolonged impact when the Cubs are contending. The Cubs got Jake Arrieta in return for Scott Feldman, who was on a more expensive, short-term deal at the time the trade was made. Travis Wood would come cheaper, for a longer period of time, and with a better track record than Scott Feldman went to Baltimore with. Arrieta is not yet arbitration eligible, so he is under control through 2017 and has shown the potential to have a greater impact on a winning rotation than Travis Wood can. And you don’t have to take my word for it…
The point here is that if Scott Feldman brought that back, it is worth measuring the market for Travis Wood and determining what the potential return is. And make no mistake, the Cubs would not move him if the return was not a premium. Would he return a player like Addison Russell? Of course not. But he should fetch a strong amount of value because the Cubs have no incentive to make a move if he doesn’t.
The reality of moving Travis Wood this summer would be tough for some, but in the short term, would be nearly meaningless, either for better or for worse. The Cubs are going to have some struggles in August and September whether Wood is pitching or not. And there are enough arms in Iowa to mitigate the loss. This week, we’ll see Tsuyoshi Wada and Kyle Hendricks pitch in Cincinnati. Dallas Beeler is also a viable option to fill spots in the rotation, as are Chris Rusin and the newly acquired Dan Straily. That would leave the Cubs with Jake Arrieta, Edwin Jackson, and a combination Hendricks, Wada, Beeler, Rusin and Straily to fill the final three slots. A fourth in that group could claim a bullpen slot if James Russell, Wesley Wright, or Carlos Villanueva is moved at some point.
Teams like the Mariners, Orioles, and Blue Jays have some incentive to try to go for it right now. Travis Wood has value to those teams…especially because we all know the Red Sox, Yankees, and Rangers are not going to suck forever. In a world where deadlines spur action, some team in need of one more pitcher may be willing to offer up a bounty for a cost-controlled pitcher who has shown the ability to get people out. It only makes sense that the Cubs make it known that Travis Wood is available for the right price…because right now, Travis Wood is more valuable as a trade commodity than a pitcher for the Chicago Cubs.