Analyzing the Suzuki and Sanchez trades

The Yankees now can call Ichiro their own. Was it a good move though?

Apparently the MLB Trade Deadline is on July 31, but somebody in the league office must have forgotten to inform the GMs, as Major League Baseball went on a random trading spree Monday that would make Wall Street jealous. Some big names changed locations..or in Ichiro’s case, which dugout he’d walk into in Seattle later that day. The trading probably isn’t over yet (why so down, Matt Garza and Justin Upton?), but enough has happened already to make the man in charge of ESPN’s MLB Rumor Central to throw up his hands and say, “Why bother?”

As always, though, some of these trades will matter more than others. numberFire decided to look at the other two trades from yesterday: Ichiro Suzuki to Seattle and Anibal Sanchez to Detroit. Ichiro’s trade received more publicity for good reason - the man’s a former MVP, a 10-time All-Star, and can cause Japanese fangirls to swoon with one sideways glance. But the only team that truly got better yesterday wasn’t the one in pinstripes.

Ichiro Suzuki

OF Ichiro Suzuki (nERD: -2.82) – Seattle to NYY
Yankees Playoff Odds: No Increase
Yankees Championship Odds: No Increase

Here’s the deal about numberFire’s nERD system: if a player has a negative score, that’s not a good thing. If anything, it means that your team is likely worse off with that guy in the lineup than it would be with an average player at your position. Ichiro’s score isn’t only a negative number; it currently ranks as the #301 nERD among all players who qualify in the majors. His weighted on-base percentage of 0.243 is multiple Empire State Buildings lower than either Brett Gardner (0.313) or Nick Swisher (0.299), the two guys he’s supposed to replace. Only two groups of people should be happy about Ichiro’s move: the Mariners who instantly become younger, and the New York media, who get to hear all about the sexiness of slap hits.

Want an idea of how well Ichiro’s playing, Yankees fans? Trust me when I say you don’t - his two closest numberFire comparisons are 2011 Erick Aybar and 2011 Coco Crisp. I think it’s safe to say that it’s not a championship-winning move.

Anibal Sanchez

SP Anibal Sanchez (nERD: 2.29) – Miami to Detroit
Tigers Playoff Odds: +1.6%
Tigers Championship Odds: +0.5%

Meanwhile, over there in Car Country, the Tigers pulled off a coup, getting numberFire’s 24th-ranked overall player Anibal Sanchez at a fairly discounted price (including the first ever exchange of draft picks!)

The problem is that the Detroit pitching staff was pitching pretty well anyway. Even Tigers rookie starter Drew Smyly holds a strikeout rate of 22.7% of at-bats while only walking guys 6.3% of the time. By comparison, Justin Verlander has a strikeout rate of 24.8% and a walk rate of 5.8% I’d say it’s probably the best Detroit rookie outing since "My Name Is".

Sanchez’s K rate is actually lower than either one at 21.8%, but he also doesn’t allow as many home runs as other current Detroit pitchers (2.4% HR rate), leading to the slight increase in odds. The Tigers received the best player yesterday, but internally, the team clearly did not address its biggest weakness.