JAYS FROM THE COUCH LOOKS AT IF TRAVIS WOOD IS A GOOD FIT FOR THE BLUE JAYS BULLPEN NEXT SEASON
On Tuesday, Jon Morosi of MLB Network reported that the Blue Jays were showing interest in free agent relief pitcher Travis Wood.
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) December 19, 2016
The Blue Jays have been rumored to be in talks with left handed relievers since the departure of Brett Cecil, including two that Jays From The Couch have already covered, including Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan. (Read about Blevins here, and Logan here). Wood, a lefty, spent the past five seasons with the Chicago Cubs, the first three and half years as a starter, until this season when he switched full time to the bullpen. This past season, Wood appeared in 77 games, pitching 61 innings, posting a 2.95ERA. While those numbers may look nice on the broadcast when he runs out of the bullpen, when diving a bit deeper into his numbers some question marks arise.
Potentially Wood’s role on the Blue Jays would be a full replacement of Cecil, pitching in high leverage late innings primarily to get left handed hitters out. When things were really going well, Cecil was serving as the main 7th/8th inning reliever no matter the situation. Wood doesn’t have the same experience in high leverage situations, serving as mainly a long reliever, or pitching in the late innings of games, where the Cubs had a four or more run lead.
In his 61 innings this season, only 8.2 of them were considered “high leverage” and a majority of his innings, (37.2 of them) were considered low leverage. Looking through Wood’s average leverage index, which measures how much pressure is put on a pitcher in a certain situation, when he was used in high leverage situation, it was almost strictly for matchup purposes to face one lefty hitters. With six pitches in his repertoire (including fourseam fastball, cutter, slider, curveball, changeup), he isn’t exactly a flamethrower, averaging 90.4mph with his fastball. Against lefties, Wood pitched 32.1 innings, where lefties hit .128/.208/.239. He didn’t have the same success against righties, who hit .263/.344/.521, and a scary .362wOBA.
Looking at ERA for relievers can be a tricky game. His 2.95ERA would rank up there with some very good relief pitchers, but Wood definitely benefited from the defense of the Cubs, with a FIP of 4.54. There’s no doubt that the Blue Jays defense helped their pitchers last year, but the fences of Roger Centre might not be able to contain some of Wood’s balls in play.
Playing in the Rogers Centre might not be the best switch for Wood as the short decks in the AL East have proven troublesome for some fly ball pitchers. While pitchers like Marco Estrada have shown success, he is definitely a special case. Wood posted a 37.4 GB% last season which was a career high and all those fly balls lead to another career high 1.18 HR/9. Jason Grilli is a fly ball pitcher, but still possessed very good strike out stuff with the Blue Jays, making balls in play not much of an issue. As mentioned Wood’s velocity isn’t what makes him a good pitcher, his ability to make batters hit into weak contact is more his style, but that strikeout stuff is not as prevalent, making those home runs a potential problem.
As the long reliever who can get lefties out, close blow out games, maybe even make a spot start, sure Wood has a proven track record in that capacity . For the Blue Jays, Wood would be a good signing in the sense that he’s versatile in his role, and provides them with some much needed left handed relief. If the idea is to use him in more high leverage complete 7th or 8th innings, that’s new territory for Wood and a lot of money spent on a potential failed experiment. With a weak free agent market, relievers like Joaquin Benoit are making $7.5mil on the open market. The left handed relief market is ever more scarce. Mike Dunn who posted a similar WAR in fewer innings pitched last season was able to sign for 3 years $18 million!
With the demand being so high, Wood is set to make anywhere between $8-$12 million a season on a multi year deal. The Blue Jays will remain interested because Wood fills a big need in the bullpen, but there are definitely other teams very interested, who might be willing to pay him more, even using him primarily as a starting pitcher. The Blue Jays are desperate for lefties, and have money to spend right now, even though Wood isn’t really a sexy signing for how much he is going to get paid, he might be the best lefty left remaining on the market.
*FEATURED IMAGE CREDIT: Mike LaChance UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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