Reds Flip Dan Straily, Marlins Buy In

Cincinnati has agreed to trade Dan Straily to Miami for three prospects, according to multiple reports, in a deal that indicates the intentions of both clubs — the Reds’ to continue their rebuild, the Marlins’ to compete in a top-heavy NL East.

Claimed off waivers by the Reds last spring, Straily is precisely the kind of arm a club like Cincinnati should be flipping for profit. After joining the Reds, the 28-year-old right-hander proceeded to go 14-8 with a 3.78 ERA. His FIP (4.88) and xFIP (5.02), however, suggest he outperformed his true skill level. That’s now the concern of the Marlins, though, who inherit Straily and his four remaining years of club control.

Chris Mitchell’s KATOH system isn’t too high on the prospects involved. The Marlins didn’t place a single prospect on Baseball America’s midseason top-100 list in 2016, so it’s not a particularly deep system. But Castillo rated as the Marlins’ No. 2 prospect, according to the Baseball America top-10 list published earlier this offseason.

Castillo’s an interesting arm. Now 24, he’s hit 100 mph in the past and will sit in the upper 90s. He posted a 2.07 ERA and 16-point strikeout- and walk-rate differential (K-BB%) in 117 innings at High-A Jupiter this past season. Eric Longenhagen scouted Castillo when he was traded by the Marlins last deadline for Andrew Cashner. (When part of that deal, Colin Rea, proved to be injured, Castillo was sent back to Miami.) Also headed to the Reds are Austin Brice, ranked ninth in the Miami organization by, and Isaiah White, a third-rounder in 2015, ranked 16th on the Marlins’ top-20 list.

While the package doesn’t include an elite prospect, giving up three top-20 organizational prospects seems like a considerable haul for Straily, who has a middling 4.78 FIP and 10.5-point K-BB% over the course of his career, which now includes parts of five major-league seasons. His average fastball velocity has dropped from 91.3 mph with the A’s in 2012 to just 89.3 mph over the last two seasons.

It’s not even clear or certain Straily will upgrade the Marlins’ rotation. Neither Miami’s ZiPS projections nor Steamer projections (below, adjusted for playing time) suggest he will:

To believe in Straily is to believe in the changes he made last season, which Eno Sarris expertly detailed. Straily, who has embraced the data available to him, changed the release point on his fastball and increased the rise of the pitch. Wrote Sarris:

“Getting that rise up on the four-seam has also made another pitch better. A relative of Straily’s pointed out to him that the movement difference between his changeup and four-seam was elite. And the changeups around him on that leaderboard are almost all very good changeups. Some are league leaders in results as well as movement.”

Straily’s fastball-changeup sequences helped him to a carer-best 20.5% strikeout rate.

Here’s a swing and miss on a fastball to Hunter Pence:

And then a whiff on a changeup to end the at-bat:

Here’s Keon Broxton whiffing on a Straily fastball to begin a sequence…

And then striking out on a changeup to complete it…

Another element to consider: Straily, a fly-ball pitcher who produced a 32% ground-ball rate last year, moves from one of the least favorable parks for fly-ball pitchers to one of the most. It’s perhaps another reason to believe. Perhaps he can reduce his 12% home-run rate per fly ball from last year.

The Marlins were seeking rotation help in a tough market to find rotation help.

Before the Jose Fernandez tragedy and a late-season skid, the Marlins had reached the All-Star break with a 47-41 record. When Giancarlo Stanton is healthy, the Marlins have one of the better outfields in the majors, with Christian Yelich improving each season and Marcell Ozuna rebounding this past year to hit 23 homers with a 105 wRC+. Five Marlins on the ZiPS depth charts released earlier this week project to combine for three or more wins in 2017.

But the rotation has all sorts of questions marks.

The club signed Edinson Volquez to a free agent deal earlier this offseason, and Straily will presumably slide in somewhere, though on paper there are six arms for five rotation slots. The problem is five of the six arms are projected to produce a 4.09 FIP or worse by Steamer, and the ZiPS forecasts has the projected rotation accounting for a modest 8 WAR in 2017.

The Marlins need more from their starting pitching group, and you have to trust in Straily’s 2016 changes to believe he can add value to the group.

A Cleveland native, FanGraphs writer Travis Sawchik is the author of the New York Times bestselling book, Big Data Baseball. He also contributes to The Athletic Cleveland, and has written for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, among other outlets. Follow him on Twitter @Travis_Sawchik.

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7 years ago

I think this move is probably very good for Straily. As noted, the new home park will turn a few of those league-leading home runs into outs, and I don’t see any reason his BB/9 shouldn’t keep dropping to right about 3. Marlins’ and Reds’ defenses (just a bit better than average) and outfield defenses (just a bit worse than average) were about the same last year. Solid #4/5 pitcher I think, with some upside due to the new circumstances and what looks like starting to “figure it out.” Nice move for the Marlins by my estimation. He probably won’t be >1 under his FIP again, but I figure if he runs something like a 4.50 FIP then this still works for Miami.