The Arizona Diamondbacks announced the demotion of former-closer Addison Reed yesterday. With a 5.92 ERA and 1.81 strikeouts-to-walks ratio over 24.1 innings this season, the move was hardly surprising.
Reed, acquired in December 2013 from the Chicago White Sox for top prospect Matt Davidson, saved 32 games for the Diamondbacks in 2014. But the disparity between his 4.25 ERA and 3.26 xFIP created a contentious “tale of two pitchers” storyline.
Seemingly, the 26-year-old’s 2014 ERA was more indicative of his actual abilities.
Yet, despite the ugly surface statistics in 2015, several of Reed’s peripherals expose a potential bargain for a willing organization. So perhaps the New York Mets could pounce, and swap embattled starter Jon Niese for Reed.
At first glance, Reed’s 5.92 ERA makes it difficult to find incentive for the Mets to pull the trigger on such a deal. But Reed could prove to just be a “needs a change of scenery” candidate — and even emerge as a better trade chip down the road, too.
Fielder Independent Pitching has been the kindest metric to Reed, generating a 3.89 FIP versus his 4.71 xFIP (and 5.92 ERA). The right-hander has also recorded career-bests in groundball (43.2 percent) and HR/FB (6.1 percent) rates. And with a BABIP 57 points greater than his career rate, perhaps the 10.4 percent spike in groundballs hasn’t done him enough favors.
In addition, Reed’s velocity (an average of 92.6 miles-per-hour fastball) hasn’t dipped from 2014 – so it’s unlikely any of his shortcomings are due to unreported injuries.
Like Reed, Niese’s peripherals this season indicate he’s pitched slightly better than he’s been given credit for. The southpaw’s 3.76 xFIP (versus a 4.21 ERA) and 56.0 percent ground-ball rate would benefit a team like the Diamondbacks, whose rotation has been worth just 3.4 fWAR this season. But Niese also doesn’t miss many bats (6.43 strikeouts-per-nine rate) and his worrisome 17.5 percent HR/FB ratio is the 6th worst rate in the majors.
For outsiders, it’s difficult to gauge Niese’s trade value as: he’s never been traded, has a recent history of serious, non-surgical shoulder injuries, and hasn’t been performing particularly well this season. And even though the Mets’ greatest need is a bat, it doesn’t appear as though any team is willing to trade the type of help their front office covets.
From a pure salary perspective, the Mets would be getting the better end of the deal. Reed earns $4.875 million this season – and has two years of arbitration remaining. Essentially, if he continues to falter, the Mets could simply non-tender him at year’s end. But then again, if he finds his groove, the Mets could have themselves a young, experienced closer below open-market value.
By comparison, Niese is owed almost $14 million through 2016, which includes buyouts in 2017 and 2018.
Even though the Mets should have facilitated a Niese trade prior to the season, it’s fair to assume any return would have fallen short of Reed’s offseason value. For that reason alone, a Niese-for-Reed swap is justified.
Statistics (games through June 22, 2015) and salaries sourced from FanGraphs and Cot’s, respectively.