The So What? - Nunez Traded, Kershaw Lands on the DL (7/27/17)

By Ryan Fowler @FreeAgentFowler

Eduardo Nunez traded to Red Sox

In a somewhat surprising – yet desperately needed - move, the Boston Red Sox dealt two minor league prospects to the San Francisco Giants in exchange for 30-year-old Eduardo Nunez. After trying to squeeze a square peg into a round hole at the hot corner all season, the Red Sox designated the shape-shifting Pablo Sandoval for assignment. He posted a .212 batting average, 59 wRC and -0.4 WAR in 108 plate appearances before departing. Thanks for playing.

His departure could have meant more playing time for Brock Holt who returned to the team 10 days ago after missing the first half of the season due to vertigo. However, Holt has already struck out 15 times in his first 53 plate appearances.

With Holt better suited for utility work, the Red Sox elected to call-up top prospect Rafael Devers. He's been pounding minor league pitching all season with 20 homers and a steady average well-north of .300 between Double and Triple-A.

Devers' flaw, which may have forced general manager Dave Dombrowski to make the trade, remains his defense. Devers committed four errors in eight games at Triple-A before his call-up. Although unlikely, if he somehow managed to play every day the rest of the season, he would only be worth ~0.1 wins.

What does it mean?
Dombrowski mentioned in comments following the trade that Nunez has been one of the best hitters in MLB since June 1st. He's right. Through July 25, Nunez (.358) owns the fourth-highest batting average in both leagues behind Jose Altuve, Andrew McCutchen and George Springer. With a more experienced and reliable glove at third compared to the 20-year-old Devers, Nunez is worth 0.7 wins the rest of the season. As a replacement level player, Holt can't compete with that and projected a 0 WAR the rest of the season. In a tightly contested American League East, Nunez could easily mean the difference between finishing first or second in the division.

Clayton Kershaw out 4-6 weeks
If there is a silver lining to the Dodgers losing their ace, it's that Kershaw's injury is a lower back strain and not a disc issue like the one he suffered in 2016, which kept him on the shelf for months. The bad news is him out 4-6 weeks still means roughly eight starts missed. Before he left his last appearance due to this injury, Kershaw had won eight consecutive starts. He averaged 7 IP and 9.3 strikeouts per start during that stretch.

What does it mean?
Kershaw is worth 2.6 wins the remainder of the season. So, the eight starts missed will cost the Dodgers ~1.73 wins. Brock Stewart, 25, replaces Kershaw in the rotation. He carried a 5.79 ERA in 28 MLB innings last season, but has yet to allow a run in 13 innings of relief work over the last month. His 4.04 xFIP is a good baseline for rest-of-season ERA and taking into account the Dodgers' park factor, Stewart is a below league average pitcher.

Despite the downgrade on the bump, there's no need to panic in L.A. with the Dodgers up 12.5 games heading into late-July. Rich Hill is turning things around with a 1.42 ERA and 0.79 WHIP over his past four starts, Kenta Maeda's ERA is down below 4.00 and, if we ignore the 7-ER blemish to the Braves, Alex Wood continues to dominate. Plus, the trade deadline lingers. It's a setback, but not a complete disaster once (if) Kershaw returns in late-August.

Adam Wainwright to the 10-day DL
One would have thought something was physically wrong with Wainwright in his seven starts between June 1 – July 3 when his ERA soared from 3.79 to 5.48. During that stretch, he allowed 29 earned runs in ~33 innings pitched. However, over his past three starts, Wainwright appeared to figure things out as he allowed just five earned runs over his last 20 innings pitched. Then, out of nowhere, he landed on the 10-day DL with a stiff back. He should only miss one start.

What does it mean?
Based on the fact that Wainwright turns 36 years old next month, his 11-5 record and 7.75 K/9 rate in 20 starts has to be considered a pleasant bonus in a winnable National League Central. As of publication, the Cardinals were only four games out of first place. Wainwright has also endured some bad luck on the bump this season with a bloated 4.89 ERA, but 3.92 FIP / 4.04 xFIP. The ugliness isn't all on Wainwright. He's worth 1.0 wins the remainder of the season. So, each start his misses would cost the Cardinals 0.1 wins. It's a far cry from Wainwright's 2013 season when his value was 0.194 wins per start or nearly double of present day value.