Now that the 2016 regular season is over it is time to take a look at the American League starting staffs and see how the teams acquired their starting pitchers. In this case I am only going to look at pitchers that started 10 or more games for their teams. Several of the pitchers appear on more than one team.
This past season there were 95 pitchers in the American League that started 10 games or more games for their teams. The wild card winning Baltimore Orioles and the worst team in baseball Minnesota Twins each had eight pitchers with at least 10 starts, on the other end of the spectrum the wild card winning Toronto Blue Jays and the 69 win Oakland A’s each had only five starters with 10 or more starts.
The 95 pitchers that had 10 or more starts were acquired by their team in one of five ways, being drafted, signed as an amateur free agent, acquired in a trade, signed as a Free Agent (FA), or being acquired on waivers. Here is how the acquisitions breakdown:
- Trade – 40 – (42.11%)
- Drafted – 26 – (27.37%)
- Free Agents – 21 – (22.11%)
- Amateur Free Agents – 7 – (7.37%)
- Waivers – 1 – (1.05%)
The 40 players acquired in trades surprised me, I did not expect that number to be as high as it is, a good number of these players were traded at a fairly young age, before they came into their own as big league starters.
The draft produced only 27.37% of the starting pitches listed here which seems very low for the value that teams seem to put on getting pitching in the draft. The only AL team that had no pitchers selected via the draft with 10 or more starts in 2016 were the New York Yankees which isn’t exactly breaking news, on the flip side, the Baltimore Orioles had four pitchers they drafted start 10 or more games this season. Ten of the 26 drafted pitchers listed here are lefties. Here is a breakdown of the rounds that these 26 pitchers were selected.
- Round 1 – 17 or 65%
- Round 3 – 2
- Round 4 – 1
- Round 5 – 1
- Round 7 – 1
- Round 8 – 1
- Round 10 – 1
- Round 19 – 1
- Round 25 – 1
Free Agent starting pitchers on this list as noted earlier made up slightly over 22% of the starting staffs and when the season ended the numbers show that these FA pitchers that made 10 or more starts had only 14.46% of the American Leagues total wins.
Texas Rangers (95-67) – Martin Perez signed as amateur free agent in 2007, Cole Hamels acquired in 2015 trade, A.J. Griffin signed as a FA in 2015, Derek Holland drafted in 25th round in 2006, Colby Lewis drafted in round one in 1999, Yu Darvish signed as FA from Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan Pacific League in 2012. WAR for these six pitchers is 13.3
Cleveland Indians (94-67) – Corey Kluber acquired in 2010 trade, Trevor Bauer acquired in 2012 trade, Josh Tomlin drafted in 19th round 2006, Carlos Carrasco acquired in 2009 trade, Danny Salazar signed as an amateur free agent in 2006, Mike Clevinger acquired in a 2014 trade. WAR for these six pitchers is 17.8
Boston Red Sox (93-69) – David Price signed as FA in 2015, Rick Porcello acquired in 2014 trade, Steven Wright acquired in 2012 trade, Clay Buchholz drafted in first round 2005, Eduardo Rodriguez acquired in 2014 trade, Drew Pomeranz acquired in 2016 trade. WAR for these six pitchers is 11.4
Toronto Blue Jays (89-73) – Marcus Stroman drafted in round one of 2012, J.A. Happ acquired in 2012 trade, Aaron Sanchez drafted in first round in 2010, Marco Estrada acquired in 2014 trade, R.A. Dickey acquired in 2012 trade. WAR for these five pitchers is 14.4
Baltimore Orioles (89-73) – Kevin Gausman drafted in first round 2012, Chris Tillman acquired in 2008 trade, Ubaldo Jimenez acquired in 2011 trade, Yovani Gallardo signed as a FA in 2016, Dylan Bundy drafted in round one of 2011, Tyler Wilson drafted in 10th round 2011, Mike Wright drafted in round three 2011, Wade Miley acquired in 2016 trade. WAR for these eight pitchers is 10.1
Detroit Tigers (86-75) – Justin Verlander drafted in first round 2004, Michael Fulmer acquired in 2015 trade, Anibal Sanchez acquired in 2012 trade, Mike Pelfrey signed as FA in 2015, Jordan Zimmerman signed as FA in 2015, Matt Boyd acquired in 2015 trade, Daniel Norris acquired in 2015 trade. WAR for these seven pitchers is 13.1
Seattle Mariners (86-76) – Hisashi Iwakuma signed as FA in 2012, Felix Hernandez signed as amateur free agent in 2002, Taijuan Walker drafted in round one 2010, James Paxton drafted in fourth round in 2010, Wade Miley acquired in a 2015 trade, Nate Karns acquired in 2015 trade, Ariel Miranda acquired in 2016 trade. WAR for these seven pitchers is 7.1
Houston Astros (84-78) – Collin McHugh acquired on waiver in 2013, Doug Fister signed as FA in 2016, Mike Fiers acquired in trade in 2015, Dallas Keuchel drafted in seventh round in 2009, Lance McCullers drafted in first round in 2012, Joseph Musgrove acquired in 2012 trade. WAR for these six pitchers is 4.2
New York Yankees (84-78) – Michael Pineda acquired in 2012 trade, Masahiro Tanaka signed as FA in 2014, CC Sabathia signed as FA in 2008, Nathan Eovaldi was acquired in 2014 trade, Ivan Nova signed as amateur fee agent in 2004, Luis Severino signed as amateur free agent in 2011. WAR for these six pitchers is 11.1
Kansas City Royals (81-81) – Edinson Volquez signed as FA in 2014, Ian Kennedy signed as FA in 2016, Yordano Ventura signed as an amateur free agent in 2008, Danny Duffy drafted in third round 2007, Dillon Gee signed as FA in 2015, Chris Young signed as FA in 2015. WAR for these six pitchers is 9.0
Chicago White Sox (78-84) – Chris Sale drafted in first round 2010, Jose Quintana signed as FA in 2011, Carlos Rodon drafted in first round in 2014, Miguel Gonzalez signed as FA in 2016, James Shields acquired in 2016 trade, Mat Latos signed as FA in 2016. WAR for these six pitchers is 12.0
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (74-88) – Jered Weaver drafted in round one 2004, Matt Shoemaker signed as amateur free agent in 2008, Hector Santiago acquired in 2013 trade, Jhoulys Chacin acquired in 2016 trade, Nick Tropeano acquired in trade in 2014, Ricky Nolasco acquired in 2016 trade, Tyler Skaggs drafted in round one 2009. WAR for these six pitchers is 5.5
Oakland A’s (69-93) – Kendall Graveman acquired in 2014 trade, Sean Manaea acquired in a trade in 2015, Sonny Gray drafted in first round in 2011, Rich Hill signed as a FA in 2015, Daniel Mengden acquired in a trade in 2015. WAR for these five pitchers is 7.5
Tampa Bay Rays (68-94) – Chris Archer acquired in 2011 trade, Jake Odorizzi acquired in 2012 trade, Drew Smyly acquired in 2014 trade, Matt Moore drafted in eighth round of 2007, Matt Andriese acquired in 2014 trade, Blake Snell drafted in round one of 2011. WAR for these six pitchers is 7.9
Minnesota Twins (59-103) – Ervin Santana signed as FA in 2014, Tyler Duffey drafted in fifth round 2012, Kyle Gibson drafted in first round 2009, Ricky Nolasco signed as FA in 2013, Jose Berrios drafted in first round 2012, Tommy Milone acquired in 2012 trade, Hector Santiago acquired in a 2016 trade, Phil Hughes signed as a FA in 2013. WAR for these eight pitchers is 0.9
So what is the best way to acquire starting pitching? Looking at just a slice of time (2016) it appears that the best way might be via the trade. Trades aren’t easy in today’s baseball due for a number of reasons but the trade route might be the way to go. Of course you have to be in a position to give up something to get something but if you can find the right trading partner both teams will benefit. In trades you can go several ways, you can go after the proven starter that it probably older and has a higher salary attached or you can go after the young guy that hasn’t yet developed a proven track record but has shown your organization that the risk trading for this player is warranted.
The prevailing opinion is that the draft is the best way to acquire players for your organization and that might be true for position players but with pitching I think it is different. I took a look at our home town Twins record at drafting starting pitching, since 2000 the Twins have drafted 17 pitchers in round 1 (including supplementary and compensation picks) and here is what they have to show for their efforts.
- 2012 – Jose Berrios has 14 starts
- 2009 – Kyle Gibson has 98 starts
- 2005 – Matt Garza has 262 starts (traded in 2007)
- 2004 – Glen Perkins has 44 starts with the last one in 2010
- 2003 – Scott Baker had 172 starts
I am not saying that Gibson and Berrios are wasted picks because they might yet prove to be reliable big league pitchers but as each year goes by the chances get slimmer and slimmer. Maybe the Twins are a bad example to use here because they have been historically bad at drafting pitching. To me it seems like drafting a pitcher in round one has a higher risk attached to it then drafting a position player so why not focus on drafting high value position players in round one and draft your pitchers later? If you look at any teams draft history you will see all of them finding quality starting pitchers drafted after round one. You can then trade some of these position players that show promise for pitchers that are more proven. Having said all this, AL starting pitchers drafted in round one won just 14.46% of their teams total games in 2016.
How about the FA route? Open your wallet and pay the big bucks for a stud pitcher sounds good but seldom pans out in the long run. To me signing FA’s is just like playing in the stock market and chasing a hot stock. By the time you realize the player is a winner the price has gone through the moon and you will probably have to pay the player mucho bucks on a long-term deal when his age starts to catch up with him and his value is dropping.
Signing amateur free agents is also an option but here you might even be signing younger players then you would in a draft and the price is high and the longer you have a pitcher the greater the risk of a serious injury.
Bottom line at this look at the 2016 American League starting pitchers is that there is no one method to acquire starting pitching and it is really a crap shoot. I’m certainly not smart enough to give you an answer but then again I’m not sure that anyone is. Maybe finding quality starting pitching is just a roll of the dice and it just comes down to luck.