Drew Pomeranz has seen his name creep up in trade rumors over the past week, with various reports connecting him to the Marlins and the Orioles. As I recently did with Julio Teheran (see here and here) — another controllable pitcher that is drawing trade interest but needn’t necessarily be aggressively shopped by his team — I explored the cases for an against a Pomeranz trade yesterday. There’s no right or wrong answer to the debate, of course, and we at MLBTR apparently aren’t able to come to a consensus on the matter. Here’s the second edition of our MLBTR Roundtable series, in which I’ve asked everyone from our staff to weigh in on whether the Padres should hang onto Pomeranz or look to sell high on him this summer…
Tim Dierkes: The Padres should trade Drew Pomeranz this summer. Despite a 3.00 ERA at present, there are concerns. First, he’s walked 11.3% of batters faced this year. No qualified pitcher reached that level in 2015. Pomeranz has still been able to succeed because of a .254 batting average on balls in play, meaning hits aren’t dropping in. Assuming Pomeranz is not the next Chris Young, he can’t maintain that BABIP. Pomeranz’s current skill set will lead to high traffic on the bases and early hooks. Pomeranz is also a 27-year-old who has never reached 150 pro innings in his career and only reached 120 once, in 2012. He’ll be in uncharted waters in late August, and has two career DL stints for shoulder injuries. By trading Pomeranz now, the Padres have a chance to cash in an unreliable asset, however tantalizing this year’s strikeout rate may be. Verdict: Shop him.
Steve Adams: Pomeranz has been terrific this season, but he’s already approaching his innings total from the 2015 season and has never delivered a full season with a starter’s workload. I can’t say with any confidence that I expect him to throw even 170 innings this season, so I can certainly see the argument to sell high at this juncture. However, big league teams likely have similar concerns about his ability to hold up over the life of a full season, and as such he’s probably not going to command an otherworldly return. With such a weak crop of starters on the open market this winter, the Padres would be better off hanging onto Pomeranz and hoping his previous shoulder and biceps issues don’t resurface. Marketing him coming off a full season of strong innings would yield a significantly better return than trading him after 80-100 innings, and if the offers still aren’t great, there’s always next summer, when he’ll have one and a half years of control. I typically advocate for teams in the Padres’ shoes to be willing to part with virtually any player on the roster, but Pomeranz’s value is still rising. Selling too soon in this case is a larger risk to me than the risk of an arm injury or a rapid decline in performance. Verdict: Retain him.
Jeff Todd: I voted in favor of the Braves trading Julio Teheran, but I’m going to edge in the other direction here. It goes without saying that there’s a point at which the Pads should be willing to cut a deal, but I’m generally predisposed to holding here. That opinion is due in no small part to the fact that I expect other organizations to be conservative in valuing Pomeranz — both as a rental and as a long-term asset. ERA estimators take a more conservative view of his good work to date than his bottom-line results would suggest. Indeed, Pomeranz is delivering a mediocre walk rate while benefiting from some good fortune in the BABIP department. And it’s no secret that he lacks a track record as a quality and durable starter. Given that uncertainty, I’d like to see San Diego chase the upside here. While many have noted that Pomeranz relies heavily on his curve, which is true, he’s also increasingly using a change-up that gives him a new weapon against righties. Thus far, he has limited opposite-handed hitters to a .193/.277/.338 slash, which is significantly better than he has fared historically. If he can prove that he’s a mid-3 ERA starter and stay healthy for a full year, he’ll be a sparkling trade piece over the winter — when the rest of the league will be picking over a barren market of starters. (Or, if contention feels within reach, the Pads can hold onto him as a cheap, quality rotation piece of their own.) There’s risk, to be sure, but I think the chance at big-time surplus value is worth it. This just isn’t the same thing as holding onto a hurler who has already full established himself. Verdict: Retain him.
Mark Polishuk: The Padres’ big moves of the 2014-15 offseason have proven to be such a misfire that part of me feels that the club should just totally start over and trade everyone of value (Pomeranz included) for young talent. Overall, however, I’m in the “keep Pomeranz” camp. It wasn’t too long ago that he was considered a top prospect, and it’s probably no surprise that he’s gotten better and better the further he’s gotten from Coors Field (a.k.a. the worst possible place for a young pitcher to break into the majors). Pomeranz has turned into an unexpected find for San Diego, and he comes at a bargain price for now and with substantial team control….unless another team goes overboard with an offer, the Padres should stand pat with him. Verdict: Retain him.
Charlie Wilmoth: I’d certainly consider trading Pomeranz if I were in A.J. Preller’s shoes, but would ultimately lean toward keeping him. Pomeranz isn’t eligible for free agency until after 2018, so there’s no rush to trade him. And while his performance thus far this season has been a bit better than his peripherals suggest, it hasn’t been wildly out of line either, and he should continue to perform well, health permitting. Next year’s crop of free agent starting pitchers is poor, so as long as Pomeranz stays healthy, the Padres should have further chances to reevaluate their situation and deal him later. Keeping him for now would also allow the Padres to prepare for the impending departures of Andrew Cashner (who can depart this winter) and Tyson Ross (who can leave after 2017). One could make some similar arguments about Julio Teheran, who I recently suggested the Braves should strongly consider trading, partially on the grounds that it’s risky for non-contending teams to hold on to established pitchers, who are at perpetual risk of injury. But Pomeranz is not as well established as a starter as Teheran, and therefore not as likely to net a big return. All things considered, then, the Padres should probably keep him for now. Verdict: Retain him.
Connor Byrne: The Padres are bottom dwellers now and they’re highly unlikely to contend before Pomeranz is scheduled for free agency at the end of the 2018 season, so it seems like a no-brainer to shop him this summer. Taking Pomeranz’s cheap 2016 price tag, remaining team control, performance and the paucity of front-end starters expected to go on the block over the next month into account, the Padres should be able to cash him in for a quality return. Plenty of playoff contenders need starters, so an inexpensive 27-year-old who’s top 25 in the majors in K/9, ERA, FIP, xFIP and infield fly rate (and gets an average amount of ground balls) should appeal to multiple clubs with rotation issues. There are questions with Pomeranz – durability, control problems and the fact that he’s succeeding with a knuckle curve as his primary pitch spring to mind – but it’s hard to believe those would scare off every starter-needy team from making a solid offer. If they do, then the Padres could retain Pomeranz and hope he continues increasing his value. There’s no harm in putting Pomeranz on the market prior to Aug. 1, though, and if rebuilding San Diego ultimately nets a package that helps augment its farm system, it would be a major win for the franchise. After acquiring Pomeranz for a pittance over the winter, the fact that the Padres are now in position to auction him off for a potentially appealing return is a boon for A.J. Preller – whose GM tenure is desperately in need of some positive results. Verdict: Shop him.
With all of that said, let’s turn this one over to everyone else. Let the debate begin! (Link to poll for Trade Rumors app users)