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Transaction Analysis 7/31: Gyorko traded to the Dodgers for LHP Tony Cingrani, RHP Jeffry Abreu and Other Considerations

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MLB: Game Two-Los Angeles Dodgers at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The rollercoaster ride involving Jedd Gyorko for the past several months is finally over. The Cardinals have sold Jedd Gyorko to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Gyorko’s career with the Cardinals has always been confounding to some. He hit 30 HRs for the Cards in what was largely a part-time role in 2016, and yet people always seemed to say he shouldn’t start. He did have an issue with staying healthy for the entire season, although from 2016 through 2018 he appeared in the same number of games on offense with a wRC+ of 112 for 2016 and 2017 and 110 in 2018. While his ISO dropped every year he was with the Cards (.253 to .200 to .154), which made his 30-HR 2016 season look like a mirage, he was still a valuable player that offered solid defense in the middle infield, even if he wouldn’t have been your first choice at some of them.

With the acquisition of Paul Golschmidt pushing Matt Carpenter to 1st base, Gyorko looked like a bench player, and from a fan’s perspective, one had to like Gyorko in that role. If nothing else, he mashed left-handed pitching to the tune of a .919 OPS and a .216 ISO, while offering insurance at every infield position. That’s a valuable player to have.

The problem, however would be the cost going forward. He was set to make $13 million this season. The Cardinals could perhaps stomach that for this season because the Paders were responsible for $5 million of that salary. But the Cards held a $13 million option on his services for next season, and having extended Matt Carpenter to play 3B, justifiably felt like $13 million was a tad steep for a bench player.

Gyorko could have been useful for the Cards this year, but he has been hurt for most of it, and could never get on track at the plate, slashing only .196/.274/.304 with a 56 wRC+ in a small sample of 62 PA. His woes opened the door for players like Yairo Munoz and Tommy Edman to step into the role he almost surely would have played. There are a lot of what-ifs involving Gyorko if he had not been hurt. Would the Cardinals have developed a fetish for Yairo Munoz? Would the Cardinals have bothered to purchase the contract of Tommy Edman early? Alas, not only will we never know that, but we will also never know how he might have done in Carpenter’s absence this year. It is a little curious that the best team in the National League believes it has a use for Gyorko and the Cardinals do not. But perhaps this move is best explained by the Cardinals knowing they would not exercise Gyorko’s option next year, wanting to get some of his salary off the books, and wanting to get something instead of just watching him walk.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

This trade was more about dumping Gyorko’s salary than anything else. In addition to forking over Gyorko, the Cardinals have provided cash considerations (presumably in the form of paying the Dodgers part of the $5 million salary the Cards were responsible for) in addition to international cap space. With respect to the international cap space, the Cardinals are not paying the Dodgers actual cash for that portion, but rather the right to spend cash in the international market that the Cardinals otherwise would have the right to spend. The exact details of the cash considerations and international cap space are unknown at this time, but we will update this when the details become available.

THE RETURN FOR GYORKO

LHP Tony Cingrani

The Cardinals were apparently not joking when they said they wanted left-handed relief. If you have any faith in the front office at all, however, you would have to believe there is more to this acquisition than meets the eye. Cingrani has not pitched at all this year, and is currently on the 60-day IL after having surgery for a torn labrum, confirmed to be out for the rest of the 2019 season. In addition, he had 5 years and 88 days of service time going into the season. Players on a major-league disabled list get major league service time credit for the entire time they are on it, so he will automatically become a free agent at 8:00 A.M. Central Time on the day following the last day of the World Series. Not only that, but the Cardinals are also now responsible for the pro-rated portion of his $2.65 million salary, which over 61 days left of the season, amounts to a little over $869,000, according to my rough calculation (assuming a 186-day championship season and that salary is broken down by day, the latter of which I could absolutely be incorrect about). You have to believe there’s something the Cardinals see in him that believes he can recover and that they believe they will be able to resign him, because otherwise, his inclusion here makes no sense whatsoever.

Cingrani, who just recently turned 30 years old, was drafted in the 3rd round of the June 2011 draft out of Rice University about a month shy of his 22nd birthday. He was a September call-up the very next season in 2012 straight from AA. He pitched out of the bullpen for 3 games that season, was primarily a starter for the next 2 seasons, before becoming being moved to the bullpen basically on a full-time basis in 2015, when he made the last start of his major league career in July. Traded to the Dodgers at the deadline in 2017 for Andy Van Slyke’s son Scott, he pitched 22 games for them that season, then another 30 games last season before going on the shelf.

After the first 2 years, Cingrani developed control problems, which seemed to only get worse when he went to the bullpen. In 25 games with the Reds, he seemed to solve his control issues, with the best walk rate of his career at 2.3/9. But he traded his control problem for a home run problem, giving up 9 HR in 23.1 IP, for an ugly rate of 3.5/9. He could have been unlucky with an uncharacteristic 21.3% HR/FB ratio on the season when you include his time with the Dodgers.

If there’s any silver lining to be had, is that he made improvements when he went to the Dodgers. Of course he must have been helped by playing in Chavez Ravine instead of a bandbox, but his strikeout rates of 13.0 and 14.3 SO/9 for the 2017 and 2018 Dodgers, respectively, were a welcome development. I’m sure we are all waiting for the explanation behind this one

RHP Jeffry Abreu

The Cardinals must have viewed Abreu as the long-term centerpiece of the deal. Not much is known about him. Signed by the Dodgers as a 17-year old undrafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2017, the 6’4” 200-pound right-hander made his debut in the Dodgers organization by splitting time in 2018 between the club’s 2 affiliates in the Dominican Summer League for 11 games with 6 starts. He started this season in the Arizona Rookie League (the counterpart to the Gulf Coast League in which the Cardinals have an affiliate), and had pitched in 6 games so far with 2 starts.

The young man only has 17 games and 44 IP under his belt, which is of course, premature to make any judgments. So far this season, he has kept the ball in the park, has no walk issues yet and sports a 28.2% K rate. Abreu just started his age-19 season enter and is obviously years away.

ROSTER RAMIFICATIONS

This transaction has absolutely no impact on either the 40-man or 25-man rosters of the Cardinals. Both Gyorko and Cingrani are on the 60-day IL and do not occupy even a 40-man roster spot for either club. The roster rules require the clubs to activate all players from the 60-day IL no later than 4:00 Central time on the 5th day following the last day of the World Series, regardless of whether the player has spent at least 60 days on the list. This can create 40-man roster crunch issues, but it won’t be a problem for the Cardinals in this case, because of Cingrani’s impending free agency. If he is not re-signed by then, he will be automatically declared a free agent (players do not have to file) at 8:00 A.M. Central time on the day following the last game of the World Series, and that move automatically removes the player from the 40-man roster. In Cingrani’s case that rule will eliminate the need for the Cards to add him.