Whether they are buyers or sellers come August 1, the New York Yankees dealing Ivan Nova could be a move worth making.
This is not saying the Yankees are willing to “sell” Nova or have to be “sellers” in order to pull this off. Nova comes off the books following this year’s World Series and is slated to become a free agent so I’m sure New York will decide against bringing him back to the Bronx.
Since his breakout year in which he went 16-4 with an earned run average of 3.70 featuring a WHIP of 1.331 in 2011, Nova has been a mere shadow of his “Super” self.
From 2012 to last night’s dismal start against the Colorado Rockies, Nova has 34 wins compared to 32 losses but has maintained a subpar ERA of 4.64 while giving up 1.3 home runs per game.
After starting the season as the Yankees’ long man and moving to the rotation in the wake of Luis Severino’s triceps injury, Nova dazzled by managing a 1.65 ERA while holding the opposition to a .233/.258/.417 slash line and was extremely effective in getting batters out without the strikeout.
Opponents batting average on balls put in play was a lowly .224 while he won his first three starts back in the Yankees’ rotation. It has now, however, gone completely south for the righty, as he is working his way out of the starting rotation.
Since May 30, opponents own a .976 OPS against Nova while the 29-year has maintained a 7.46 ERA and has given up eight home runs in five starts. The last two losing decisions have come against the Colorado Rockies that tattooed him for six runs (five earned) on eight hits including two home runs in four innings of work in last night’s loss.
So, the Bombers won’t miss Nova if he gets sent to another organization for a middle-level prospect or two. In fact, if they do deal him they’ll get Severino (3-0, 2.52 ERA in four Triple-A starts) back and into the rotation. Notwithstanding the impressive numbers, however, Severino still needs to get his location and consistency back on track.
Regardless, Nova’s ERA in his last five starts is identical to Sevy’s overall ERA this year so they could bank on a now confident Severino to be an improvement over not only what he was prior to his injury, but over the production they have been getting from Nova since May 30.
You don’t think anyone will trade for a starter in the ruts like Nova? Just remember that the Minnesota Twins gave Phil Hughes a $58-million dollar contract after a year in which he went 4-14 with a 5.19 ERA featuring a 1.5 HR/9 rate in New York.
All he needed was a change in scenery as he led the league in K/BB ratio the following year. There will be a team that will take Nova’s three start surge along with the fact that maybe he needs a change of scenery with a grain of salt and bite on a trade.
That brings up the question: what buyer needs a starter like Ivan Nova?
Prior to this season, the Miami Marlins showed extreme interest in the Yankees’ starter according to the Boston Globe. Although there are none other teams mentioned in the report from the preseason, interest from other clubs in need of a back-end starter could be in the mix.
One team could be the Detroit Tigers. Jordan Zimmermann (9-3, 3.24 ERA) has been exceptional as the ace of the staff with a complementing number two man in Justin Verlander (7-5, 3.78 ERA) and the surprising Michael Fulmer (7-2, 2.43 ERA) but beyond that there’s nothing much else to offer.
Anibal Sanchez, Mike Pelfrey and Shane Greene all have ERAs that range from 5.19 to 5.97. They are in dire need of a back-end starter to help complement a powerful offense and help them take the American League Central crown.
What could the Yankees get in return? Outfield prospect Steven Moya could be thrown on the block to wheel in a starter but given the outfield depth New York has in their farm system, they’ll likely stay away from taking that route.
To add to that thought, Detroit may prefer to target a reliable reliever to help not only lighten the load on a shaky rotation but the Tigers’ bullpen is arguably one of the worst in baseball and if they plan on contending for a title, the unit has to get it together.
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Another team in need of assistance from starters that is contending right now are the Baltimore Orioles. They can’t depend on their dominant offense and superb bullpen to luckily keep them towards to top of the division for the rest of this season. Without a doubt, the club’s shortage of quality starting pitching is going to bring them back to planet Earth at some point.
Overall, their 4.96 team ERA from starters ranks 27 in all of major league baseball but a huge issue pops up when it comes to matching with the Yankees. Baltimore owns a poor farm system with the mindset of not adding to the organization’s payroll. Not only are they not a match for a trade with New York, but they may be unable to pull off a deal with any other team in baseball.
The Boston Red Sox are also in need of a starter. No, I don’t see the Yankees dealing anyone to a division rival but Boston is looking to add an inning’s eater who can just give them a chance to win every fifth day. Nova in a Red Sox uniform can help straighten out their back end of the rotation that features David Price at the top.
The Royals could be in the mix for a starter but they traded away numerous prospects to add Cueto and Ben Zobrist to help fuel their first World Series championship since 1985. It’s hard to envision them parting with their best young talent but they are in “win now” mode and will not defend their title with their current rotation.
Including the previously mentioned teams, there are 13 teams with a rotation ERA of 4.50 or higher. Out of those teams, I can decipher six of them to be considered “buyers” in serious need of a starter.
Despite that, the Marlins could be the only ones that can match up with the Yankees for a trade. Why? Because of the lack of starters in their farm system, New York can trade away Nova for a young pitching prospect like Kendry Flores or Ivan Pineyro.
Flores, 24, posted a 2.29 ERA with 85 strikeouts in 118 innings between Double-A, Triple-A in 2015. This year, he has started in one game and lasted just three innings but only allowed one hit.
In a quest for a dependable starter, he could be Miami’s saving grace but Pineyro could be traded away to add that inning’s eater of a fifth starter.
He was sent to Miami from the Chicago Cubs in the Dan Haren deal and posted 3.58 ERA with 118 strikeouts in 146 innings while in the Pacific Coast League. He is a potential fourth starter with great instincts and success, when healthy, but in a trade involving Ivan Nova, this is the type of return the Yankees will get.
The bottom line is, this trade makes sense for New York.
According to a report from the New York Post’s George King before the trade deadline a year ago, Nova’s name had been in discussions with the Cincinnati Reds for ace Johnny Cueto who was eventually traded to the World Champion Royals.
They tried to bargain him last year, so why not now? With Severino eyeing his return along with Bryan Mitchell expected to return in August there are options to replace him here while stocking their farm with a promising arm.
Anyway, if the team projects to contend, they either need this version of Ivan Nova out of the rotation or out of town. It will likely happen following this year anyway, so, we ask again: why not now?