Wandy Rodriguez (51) days until Opening Day.
The Pirates acquired Wandy on July 24th, 2012, in exchange for prospects Robbie Grossman, Rudy Owens, and Colton Cain. He was one of the most consistent pitchers down the stretch, going 5-1 with a 2.86 ERA in his final nine games.
Three questions about number 51…
1. Can he stay healthy? Entering his age 34 season, Rodriguez is reaching the final stages of his career, having pitched 1381.2 innings since 2005. He threw 205.2 innings in 2012 and has been relatively durable. However, it’s a long season and the Pirates will be relying on Wandy to eat a lot of innings. The club can’t afford to lose him for an extended period of time, and they owe him $8 million regardless of what happens (Astros pick up $5 mil of his $13 mil contract).
2. Will his strikeout rates continue to decline? Rodriguez’s strikeouts per nine innings have steadily decreased over the past few seasons, peaking at 8.6 in 2008 and falling to 6.1 in 2012. It’s a true sign that he’s slowing down, but hopefully he still has enough left in the tank.
3. Will he still be a Pirate by summer’s end? This is a toss-up and greatly depends on various circumstances. However, Wandy has a $13 million option for 2014 with a $2.5 million buyout. Now, there are multiple things to consider about this deal. First, it could turn out to be a guaranteed option based on his performance. Also, it could be a player option with $5.5 mil being paid by Houston. Regardless, the Bucs may not want to pay Rodriguez in 2014. If they are struggling through July, they may ship him out at the deadline. Assuming he’s healthy and performing well, Wandy could be a helpful rental piece down the stretch.