Your Obligatory Chad Gaudin Post

Since it won’t seem to go away, I suppose I’ll have to address the rumors about the Dodgers going after Yankees righty Chad Gaudin to be the 5th starter. We’ve heard this rumor floating around a few times in the last few days, mainly in reference to how the Yankees would still like to keep Jamie Hoffmann, even though they just returned him to the Dodgers. Since Gaudin was in a 4-way battle for Yankee 5th starter, and he seems to have lost that battle since he’s been put on waivers, outside observers think there’s a fit to be made since the Dodger rotation is apparently made entirely of duct tape and tissue paper. 

But is there, really?

Let me be clear, first: I don’t really care about losing Jamie Hoffmann. Sure, he’s a nice player and a fantastic outfielder, and you have to love a guy who’s really a hockey player. Having him around for depth is fine by me. But his ceiling is probably that of a 4th outfielder at best, and on a team with a rock-solid starting 3 ahead of him, better players at the same level next to him (Xavier Paul and maybe Jason Repko) and more talented players coming behind him (namely Andrew Lambo and Trayvon Robinson) it’s not like he’s got a real future as a Dodger. So if you trade him for a more useful part, even if it breaks my usual stance against trading prospects for mediocre veterans, I’m completely fine with that – especially if the Yankees pick up most of the $2.95m Gaudin is owed this year, which you’d have to think they would.

No, the question here is not “is it worth trading Hoffmann for Gaudin?” The question is really, “is Chad Gaudin a better option than the multiple 5th starter options the Dodgers already have?” That’s the part I’m not so sure about.

First, let’s look at Gaudin. He turns 27 tomorrow, and has spent parts of 7 big league seasons with 6 different teams. He was horrible for the Padres last year (4-10, 5.19 ERA) before being dealt to the Yankees and performing somewhat better, notching a 3.43 ERA in 11 games (6 starts). MSTI’s preferred Yankee blog River Ave Blues sums him up

In over 460 career innings in the American League, Gaudin has been the definition of league average. His 4.25 ERA equals a 101 ERA+, his .271 batting average against isn’t much worse than the .265-ish league average (basically one extra hit every 142 at-bats), and his 6.5 K/9 is right around the 6.8-ish average as well (one fewer strikeout every 30 IP). His walk rate (4.2 BB/9) is definitely high (~3.4 league average), but he mitigates it somewhat with a strong groundball rate (43.7%). There’s nothing sexy about league average, but it’s very valuable in the role he’s expected to fill.

Oddly enough – though in a much smaller sample size, I will admit – Gaudin’s been far worse in the National League. In 132.2 NL innings, his career ERA is 5.36, for a 72 ERA+. Plus, not that I’m going to put too much importance in just one game, but Gaudin has only pitched in Dodger Stadium once in his career, as a Padre on May 3, 2009. He allowed 6 runs in 5.2 innings, including allowing 4 hits in a row to lead off the game.

Over at FanGraphs, they’ve got projections from 4 of the most well-known systems – Bill James, CHONE, Marcel, and ZIPS. They variously predict him to pitch between 126-162 innings, with FIP (that’s Fielding-Independent Pitching, or ERA without caring about how good your defense is) between 4.24-4.58 and a K rate of about 7 per 9 innings, while walking 4 per 9 innings.

For a 5th starter, that’s not terrible. Yet it’s also not much different than a guy the Dodgers already have in Eric Stults, who’s projected to come in between 4.45-4.57 in FIP (and who’s a lefty with two MLB shutouts to his name), and then there’s also the question of how much promise you see in Charlie Haeger and Carlos Monasterios - two guys who defy projection systems, due to being a knuckleballer and a Rule 5 pick. In addition, while I won’t pretend I have a ton of faith in Ramon and Russ Ortiz, there are those who won’t be able to look past the terrific springs they’ve had as opposed to Gaudin’s lousy camp.

The point is, while Gaudin may be an acceptable 5th starter option, he’s hardly a clear improvement over the guys already in camp. On a team already facing roster issues on the pitching staff, that’s a big concern. The Dodgers have at least 3 pitching hopefuls – Stults, Haeger, & Monasterios - who will probably be lost if they’re not added to the team. That number may increase to 5 if the Ortizes refuse to go to the minors, as we believe they can. Adding Gaudin just makes that decision even tougher.

In a vacuum, Gaudin isn’t a terrible back-end starting choice. In a vacuum, trading a spare minor-league outfielder for a mediocrely decent starting pitcher is fine. But adding him would be just causing more of a roster crunch which would cause guys with hope like Monasterios or Haeger to be lost, without adding any real value over what the club already has. So thanks… but no thanks.

(Besides, look at his ridiculous beard here. What if he only shaved that off last year because he was on the Yankees? Does anyone really want to see that in Dodger blue? If 2010′s “The Beard” is a downgrade from Casey Blake’s glorious chin coverage to that atrocity, this year’s off to a rough start already.)