There are people in this world who get excited about how many revolutions a curveball makes on its way to home plate. You’re right to eye these people with suspicion and keep them out of your home, but they exist. And one of the pitchers who excites them the most is Seth Lugo, the Mets right-hander whose curveball spins more than the average pitcher’s.
The Cubs might be interested in this spin wizard.
— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) July 26, 2017
Technically, this isn’t news. The idea that teams would be interested in a young, cheap pitcher who is under contract for the next few years shouldn’t surprise anyone. But it is a rumor, and we have one of the biggest teams in baseball linked to him.
That means it’s good enough for our standards. Let’s grade this danged rumor.
(Also, for future reference, please note that I’m not grading the veracity of the rumor or the integrity of the person sharing it. Just the idea of Player X on Team Y. It’s fun!)
What the Cubs would gain from trading for Seth Lugo
A low-cost starter for years to pair with Jose Quintana and Kyle Hendricks. Those three would combine to make about as much as a No. 4 starter for the next three years, which would allow them to spend big on other free agents. Bryce Harper. Clayton Kershaw when he opts out. Manny Machado (who would play fifth base). Really, it doesn’t matter. The Cubs have money, and they would have even more of it if 60 percent of their rotation came cheap.
But they would also love to have a good starting pitcher, as would every team. Lugo just might be that guy. Did we talk about the spin rate? Frrrrrrrrrrrrr, it spins so much!
Of course, Lugo has a 4.10 ERA this season in eight starts, with a below-average strikeout rate, and he’s already 27. We’re not exactly talking about a young super-prospect, here. He’s something of a project, still, even though he’s older than Quintana and Chris Sale. He’s still just 16 starts into his major league career.
But he’s under contract through 2022, and he has shown a propensity to miss bats in the minors. And it’s not his fault that he’s on the older side. He missed a year with Tommy John surgery, and he’s been moved along slowly by the Mets, who didn’t need to rush their pitchers back then. If the Mets are willing to trade Lugo without seeing what his ceiling is, the Cubs are absolutely interested. His floor is probably as an average major league starter, after all, which is valuable, especially when paired with a pre-arbitration contract.
That would be valuable to another team, too. Say, the Mets …
What the Mets would gain from trading Seth Lugo
At this point? I’m not sure. Lugo was hurt this year, and he’s been a touch erratic since coming back. He’s not the kind of proven commodity who will bring back as much as Quintana, not even close. He would be a speculative investment for a team, and that’s not going to garner the very best prospects in exchange.
Think about this sentence, too:
His floor is probably as an average major league starter, after all, which is valuable, especially when paired with a pre-arbitration contract.
You know what team would be really, really into a solid major leaguer at bargain rates? The Mets. Because they’re still screwed up by a Ponzi scheme from years ago, and they probably will be for a while. They are a long way from harnessing the power that should come from playing in the biggest media market in the country, and they need all the cheap players they can get.
What they would want to trade Lugo, then, is either to a) have secret doubts about his durability and have a reason to sell high, or b) be overwhelmed with an offer they can’t refuse. There’s no evidence for the first one, so I would assume the Mets wouldn’t trade Lugo unless they were planning on restocking the farm or filling immediate needs in the lineup.
And the only reason another team would do that is if they really, really, really believed in Lugo. Which is possible. Spin-rate fetishists have infiltrated every level of major league organizations. You could be talking to one and not even know it. If an organization like the Cubs believes in Lugo, maybe they would offer something more than you would expect. I’m talking an outfielder you’ve heard of. Maybe a recent first-rounder. Wink.
That’s a heckuva stretch, though. I think I pulled something.
There’s a lot of suspension of disbelief with this one, so I’m going with a D+. It would be one thing if Lugo was dominating and would clearly bring back a Chris Sale-like package. It would be another thing if he were getting expensive. It would be yet another thing if Mets pitchers weren’t being devoured whole by tiny hell imps, whose hunger will never be sated.
None of that is true, though, which means if the Mets are going to deal Lugo, they’ll need to get a return that will make you spit out your drink. It could happen. But it probably won’t.