By Robert Cunningham, Angelswin.com Senior Writer
This series will attempt to identify other potential front-line starters that the Angels can possibly trade for and we will continue the series looking at the New York Mets, SP/RP Seth Lugo.
Contract Status - Seth has entered his first year of arbitration control, in 2020, and settled with the Mets for a yearly salary of $2M for next season. After that he will have the additional, standard two years of arbitration control for a total of three years of team control. If he does return to a starting role, it would not be surprising to see his 2021 salary jump to somewhere in the $4.5M-$5.5M range and in his last year to something approaching the $8M-$9M realm.
Repertoire (2019 as a Reliever) - Four-Seam Fastball (34.8%, 94.5 mph), Curve Ball (23.4%, 79.6 mph), Two-Seam Fastball (22.2%, 94.0 mph), Slider (13.3%, 87.9 mph), and Change Up (6.1%, 87.8 mph)
Statcast Information - Seth has a nice five-pitch mix with his four-seam, two-seam (sinker), and curve ball being the best three of the group. In particular his curve ball has an incredible amount of spin, sitting at 3,285 rpm, which is pretty ridiculous. Those three primary weapons helped Lugo to have a very good season throwing 80 IP out of the bullpen and could serve him well if he moves back to the rotation as he, himself, has indicated he wants to do.
Although Lugo's change up and slider have interesting characteristics, they have not developed into put away weapons yet. The other three, however, generate high strikeout rates and poor contact, against both sides of the plate, making Seth a good candidate to return to a starter role.
Despite the fact that Seth threw in relief in 2019, take a look at this Statcast graphic below of all his four-seam fastballs in the zone last year:
The results? A 43.2 K% with a corresponding .173 Batting Average Against, across 81 plate appearances. Pretty sick numbers even in a relief role!
Outside of the zone?
Results are, expectedly, even better, as Seth struck out 51.4% of the hitters and held them to a ridiculous 0.074 Batting Average Against, across a modest 37 plate appearances!
To be clear, moving to a starting or long-man relief role would likely result in a lower average velocity and decreased effectiveness of his four-seam and other pitches but when you start at such an amazing level it may not be too noticeable.
Injury History Risk - Medium-High (Spondylolisthesis, partial tear of ulnar collateral ligament (UCL), and right shoulder impingement)
Three-Year History -
As you can see, Seth's K-BB% has significantly increased year-to-year over the past three seasons. Certainly, over the last two years, his move to the bullpen can be directly attributable to that improvement but it is also partly due to the increased use of his exceptional curve ball and the upgraded performance of his four-seam fastball. Additionally, his pitch mix usage has fooled batters more, creating poor contact off the bat, particularly against LHH's.
Also here is Lugo's batted ball data:
Seth creates a fair amount of ground ball contact with a lot of balls getting pulled or hit up the middle. Additionally, his line drive contact has gone down year-to-year, again, in-part, due to the move to the bullpen but also attributable to his improved four-seam fastball and curve ball.
Already this off-season the Mets have added a lot of back-end and relief pitching through free agency.
Behind the Mets starting four of deGrom, Syndergaard, Stroman, and Matz, they recently signed Michael Wacha and Rick Porcello on one-year deals to supplement the rotation. Additionally, the Mets signed reliever Dellin Betances to an already strong back-end four of Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, Justin Wilson, and Brad Brach. This leaves little room in the rotation or the bullpen for both Lugo and Robert Gsellman, although if the Mets placed both of them into late inning roles they would have a very frightening relief corps.
However, Seth has made it abundantly clear that he wants to be a starter, in his words an "ace" for the Mets or another team. Lugo had been a starter his entire career up until the 2016-2017 off-season where he played for Puerto Rico in the 2017 World Baseball Classic and ended up with a partial tear of his UCL.
This forced him to miss the first two months of the 2017 season until June where he continued pitching out of the rotation for a total of 101.1 IP, across 18 starts and 19 games. Even in this abbreviated season with his lingering arm injury he still had solid peripherals. Certainly the move to the bullpen has only strengthened his numbers but it seems pretty clear that Lugo could still thrive in a starting role, particularly with his broad arsenal and above average four-seam, curve ball, and sinker.
All of this lends itself to the idea that someone like Lugo might be available in a trade and his ability to work as a starter or reliever would probably spark interest from multiple teams. In particular, the Angels seem well-suited to placing him in a six-man rotation where they could ease him back into a starting role, allowing him to find his groove in Anaheim.
Because the Mets have utilized Seth as a reliever, his surplus value as a trade chip is slightly depressed versus what you could market his worth for as a starter.
However, no matter how you parse it, Lugo does have desirability and New York knows this. In terms of surplus value, Seth probably has close to $35M due to his aforementioned three years of team control and the value he can bring out of the bullpen, even if he fails as a starter.
That surplus value is probably two good prospects (think Top 10) or one good prospect plus two mid-tier prospects. Alternatively it could be a Major League-ready player like Luis Rengifo plus a lower-level prospect, for example.
Realistically, looking at the Mets current projected roster they have pretty good position players around the diamond. However, it has been rumored that they might be shopping Jed Lowrie and Dominic Smith, which could create potential depth needs. If they are concerned about Rosario at SS they might like a player such as Luis Rengifo to platoon a bit with him since Amed hits LHP so well but RHP very poorly, which Luis is better at hitting. Alternatively, they might like to have someone like Taylor Ward who could play some 3B and 1B and in the outfield corners. Both Ward and Rengifo still have options so the Mets could move them up and down as needed throughout the season.
Beyond those two players though, New York may prefer to restock their dwindling farm system instead. In that case they would be targeting two of our Top 10 prospects, probably and we would be offering something from the group of Jordyn Adams, Jose Soriano, Chris Rodriguez, Jerimiah Jackson, Matt Thaiss, Jahmai Jones, Jose Suarez, Jaime Barria, or Patrick Sandoval, in addition to the aforementioned Luis Rengifo and Taylor Ward.
So a trade might look something like this:
Angels send SS/2B Luis Rengifo and OF D'Shawn Knowles to the Mets in exchange for SP/RP Seth Lugo
Alternatively, if they prefer pitching in return, more, they might prefer a grouping like this instead:
Angels send SP Jose Suarez and OF Jordyn Adams to the Mets in exchange for SP/RP Seth Lugo
Finally, if the Mets want to go prospect heavy, they could prefer the following:
Angels send OF Jordyn Adams, SS Jeremiah Jackson, and OF Trent Deveaux in exchange for SP/RP Seth Lugo
Seth Lugo is similar to Carlos Martinez, insofar that their injury risk profiles are elevated. Certainly a partial UCL tear is nothing to trifle about but at the same time, Lugo has a tantalizing five-pitch mix with an absurdly high spin rate on his curve ball, able to successfully attack batters on both sides of the plate and the UCL tear is nearly four years in the rear view mirror.
More importantly, based on the reports, he wants to not only be a starter but be an ace for any team and it appears that the Mets will not likely have that position available for him in 2020 because they are already six starters deep, unless they trade someone, which could very well include Seth.
For the Angels, obtaining three years of a competent pitcher would be very useful and they could have Lugo start, be a long man, or pitch in high-leverage relief, the door really is wide open. As a starter, Seth would certainly not be throwing at a higher relievers velocity but the low-to-mid nineties should still allow him to operate in the 3.00-4.00 ERA range, particularly with his nasty curve ball and quality sinker to pair up with his good four-seam fastball.
Seth will not come cheap but any good pitcher is going to cost the Angels in MLB-ready players or prospect capital and if the price is right, he represents a mid-rotation option with the potential for upside, based on his Statcast data and results to-date.