The Philadelphia Phillies are doing some intrastate trading with the Pittsburgh Pirates, today picking up lefty starter Tyler Anderson according to multiple reports. There are a number of implications here, all related to the starting pitching trade market. That’s of great interest to the Cubs, especially at this tier of pitcher, because of Zach Davies.
The reported deal:
Sources: Tyler Anderson traded to Phillies for Cristian Hernandez and Abrahan Gutierrez. It’s final.
— Jason Mackey (@JMackeyPG) July 27, 2021
Hernandez (not that Cristian Hernandez) is a fringe top 30 guy in the Phillies’ not-so-good system, and he’s currently putting up decent strikeout numbers at Low-A. Gutierrez, another prospect probably outside the top 30, is hitting very well at Low-A, especially for a catching prospect, though he’s already 21. Both are interesting guys that you’d happily take in your system, neither is going to immediately jump onto many system top 30 lists.
OK, so now the Davies implications.
The Phillies had never been attached to Davies in rumors, so Anderson going there could improve the Cubs’ options for moving Davies for value. It wouldn’t necessarily be a HUGE move in value/ability to complete a deal, but it’s non-zero if the Phillies weren’t in on Davies.
As a player comp for Zach Davies, there is some trickiness here, but also a lot of overlap. Davies, a 28-year-old righty, and Anderson, a 31-year-old lefty, each rely on a contact-heavy approach for about five innings per start, six tops. Davies has a longer track record of consistent usefulness, but the results this year are very similar. Anderson is generally going a bit deeper in starts, though both are on decent runs of giving useable starts lately (not great outings, but useable). Anderson is making just $2.5 million this year, whereas Davis is making $8.6 million. The Cubs could eat some salary to eradicate that difference, but it’s a difference for sure. Anderson’s FIP is definitely better this year, so if you’re betting on Davies ceasing to be able to keep managing his way out of sticky situations, you’d rather have Anderson. Of course, Anderson has had injury issues in the past, whereas Davies has not.
So, then, if this trade sets the market for Davies, you’re talking about maybe getting a couple interesting lottery tickets. That sounds roughly correct, though I wonder if Davies’ huge 2020 season and better career track record (and clean injury history and youth) give him a slight bump, assuming the Cubs eat a good bit of salary.
Even if Davies were to net a little bit more, it’s not going to be a massive return. We already knew that, but I suppose take this just as confirmation that no team is going to pay out the nose for a starting pitcher, even in a terribly thin market, just to add an arm to the back of the rotation.