Perception or reality: Wandy Rodriguez … underrated?

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News that the Rockies claimed Wandy Rodriguez off waivers and will have until Thursday afternoon to potentially work out a trade with the Astros for him has me wondering if the 32-year-old left-hander is underrated.

For the past week or so various prominent media members have been acting as if Rodriguez’s contract is a Vernon Wells-like albatross that no team in its right mind would possibly touch, but is it really that bad?

He’s owed $10 million in 2012 and $13 million in 2013, with a $13 million team option or $2.5 million buyout for 2014 that becomes a player option if he’s traded. So if the Astros simply decide to let the Rockies claim him for nothing it’s essentially a two-year, $25.5 million contract and if instead the two sides work out a trade that gets him to Colorado it’s a three-year, $37 million deal.

That’s certainly no bargain, but this offseason Jorge De La Rosa signed a two-year, $21.5 million deal while Carl Pavano and Jake Westbrook each got $16 million for two years. Rodriguez is slightly more expensive than those three veteran starters, but he’s also a better pitcher. In fact, among the 83 different MLB pitchers with at least 400 innings since 2009 he ranks 18th in ERA and 20th in xFIP. In other words, he’s been a low-end No. 1 starter or a top-notch No. 2 starter, posting ERAs of 3.02, 3.60, and 3.31 during that time.

Rodriguez has never had elite raw stuff and there’s clearly a widely held perception that he’s nowhere near as good as his numbers, yet his performance has consistently placed him among the top 20 or 25 starters in baseball and even a three-year, $37 million commitment doesn’t seem all that crazy in that context. Whether or not Rodriguez is capable of thriving while calling Coors Field home is another issue altogether, but in terms of his track record and contract it sure seems like perception has trumped performance in Rodriguez’s case.

Phillies owner John Middleton is in Las Vegas with Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper
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Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.

Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.

As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.