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Not The Weekly Mailbag: Two Trade Targets

By Andy Singer


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Chad Kuhl and Martin Perez.  Chad Kuhl Photo Courtesy of Christopher Horner, Tribune-Review.  Martin Perez Photo Courtesy of Billie Weiss, Getty Images.
Chad Kuhl and Martin Perez.  Chad Kuhl Photo Courtesy of Christopher Horner, Tribune-Review.  Martin Perez Photo Courtesy of Billie Weiss, Getty Images.


Chad Kuhl and Martin Perez. Chad Kuhl Photo Courtesy of Christopher Horner, Tribune-Review. Martin Perez Photo Courtesy of Billie Weiss, Getty Images.


Despite the fact that the Yankees have only played 27 games, the trade deadline for the 2020 season looms large in just a few days. Assuming all goes according to plan, the Yankees will barely get through half of their games prior to the trade deadline. That’s obviously a very small sample size to evaluate both in terms of options inside and outside the organization. Add in the fact that scouts haven’t been allowed in MLB ballparks this year, teams are working with tighter budgets, and a short season with expanded playoffs, and it’s very easy to see why many teams may decide to sit out the trade deadline in 2020. Expanded playoffs in particular makes it hard for teams to make trades because so few teams are truly “out of it.” Thus, the market is far smaller than in a typical year.

However, there is little question in my mind but that the Yankees need to make a deal to bolster the rotation. As large a proponent as I’ve been of using tandem starters in at least one spot in the rotation with Clarke Schmidt filling another slot, that’s still not enough on a championship staff. There has been a lot of speculation in recent days that Cleveland might be willing to listen on Mike Clevinger, but I don’t buy it. Clevinger, judged on talent alone, would fetch a huge haul, but numerous character concerns would force Cleveland to sell low, and I just don’t see that happening, particularly given the fact that they’re right there in the playoff hunt. There is no silver bullet available on the trade market to cure what ails the Yankee rotation in 2020.

With that in mind, I have 2 realistic trade targets in mind for the Yankees. They are not flashy, but they are solid starters playing for teams who are very clearly in the midst of a rebuild. Let’s get at it:

Martin Perez

I know, he plays for the Red Sox. The Yankees and Sox almost never make deals with one another, but this is one of the rare situations where the two rivals match-up on a trade. Boston made it clear that they were rebuilding when they traded Mookie Betts in the offseason, and this year has been an absolute dumpster fire, particularly in the rotation. The truth is that the Red Sox need young talent everywhere, something the Yankees have in spades. Despite their well-documented struggles on the mound this season, one bright spot has been Martin Perez.

For most of his career, Perez has been just another guy, a depth arm. That changed last season following a very defined change: Perez added a cutter. See his year-over-year pitch usage below:


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Courtesy of Baseball Savant (Click to Enlarge)
Courtesy of Baseball Savant (Click to Enlarge)


Courtesy of Baseball Savant (Click to Enlarge)


Perez added the cutter and immediately made it his primary offering, pairing it with a change-up, boosting his curveball usage, and drastically cutting his sinker and 4-seam usage. Almost overnight, Perez became the king of soft contact, placing him firmly in the top 8% of all pitchers during that time span. In 2019, Perez allowed an average exit velocity of just 86.2 MPH, and he’s been even better in 2020, allowing an average exit velocity of just 84.8 MPH. Perez doesn’t throw hard, as the cutter comes in just a tick below 89 MPH while his 4-seamer lives in the low-90s, but his command is impeccable. Check out how Perez has located his cutter in 2020:


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Martin Perez 2020 Cutter Location Map, Courtesy of Baseball Savant (Click to Enlarge)
Martin Perez 2020 Cutter Location Map, Courtesy of Baseball Savant (Click to Enlarge)


Martin Perez 2020 Cutter Location Map, Courtesy of Baseball Savant (Click to Enlarge)


That’s insanely good command. He has no problem busting hitters either inside with the cutter, or starting it on the outside edge and breaking it just outside of the strike zone. Perez was excellent in 2019 prior to petering out over the last month of the season, and he has been excellent so far in 2020, accumulating 1.1 bWAR and 3.45 ERA through 31.1 innings pitched. Perez isn’t flashy, and he isn’t a velocity/spin rate freak like the Yankees normally covet, but he would be a welcome addition to the staff this year.

Perez is one of the Red Sox’s top trade chips this year, though he also should not be terribly expensive relative to some of the pie-in-the-sky options we’ve discussed in recent weeks. Perez has a $6.25 million team option for next season, with a $500K buyout, so he also comes with the option of cheap control. We also have to consider the fact that the Yankees likely have to sweeten the deal some in order for the Red Sox to bite, given the rivalry. With an abundance of not-quite-ready arms, the Yankees can afford to deal one or two. The old saying “my trade proposal sucks” applies here, but I wouldn’t hesitate to offer Miguel Yajure and Mike King to acquire Martin Perez for this year and next. It’s an overpay, but not by a ton, and I wouldn’t mind daring the Red Sox to say no.

Chad Kuhl

Kuhl missed 1.5 seasons following an elbow injury that required Tommy John in 2018. He’s pitched well for the Pirates in 2020, striking out a batter per inning over 19.1 innings. The peripherals aren’t great: batters square the ball up at alarming rates against Kuhl, placing him in the bottom 5% of the league in barrels, and he is a fly ball-heavy pitcher, which scares me at Yankee Stadium pitching against a potent American League.

However, Kuhl does come with some positives. He has been tough to hit this year, allowing just 5.7 H/9. He also matches the Yankees’ velocity/spin rate mold, with a very low-spin sinker (desirable for the pitch) and a high-spin slider and curve. More to the point, Kuhl locates these pitches relatively well. Here are his pitch maps for the sinker and slider:


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Chad Kuhl Sinker and Slider Pitch Maps, Courtesy of Baseball Savant (Click to Enlarge)
Chad Kuhl Sinker and Slider Pitch Maps, Courtesy of Baseball Savant (Click to Enlarge)


Chad Kuhl Sinker and Slider Pitch Maps, Courtesy of Baseball Savant (Click to Enlarge)


Kuhl pounds both the slider and sinker low in the zone effectively, so I think he has a chance to be effective for the Yankees in 2020. Kuhl is coming off of major surgery, but he still has 2 years of team control remaining following the 2020 season. I think the Pirates, in the midst of a rebuild, might be willing to take their chances on one of the Yankees’ young middle infielders and a young pitcher. I would offer one of Thairo Estrada or Tyler Wade and someone like Alexander Vizcaino (a young pitcher with good stuff, but volatile due to the fact that he hasn’t advanced beyond the low minors).

Conclusion

It’s a tough year for trades, but I think these are two realistic options for the Yankees. Neither Perez nor Kuhl are exciting, but they would add much-needed depth to the rotation. Let’s cross our fingers the Yankees do something at the trade deadline.

In the meantime, send in your Mailbag questions to SSTNReadermail@gmail.com. As we have enough questions, I’ll run a Mailbag column to answer the questions that you want answers to. See you next week!

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