Making A Move: Bradford or Wheeler?

At last count the Rays will have 16 relievers in camp fighting for seven spots. With spots guaranteed to Grant Balfour, JP Howell, Troy Percival (when healthy), Joe Nelson, Dan Wheeler and Chad Bradford, you could really have 10 guys battling for one spot. However, with a trade or two you could free up some much needed payroll space and open the competition a little bit.

So who do you trade? Obviously, it would be nice to trade Troy Percival and his $4 million dollars, but that is a pipe dream. Joe Nelson, Grant Balfour and J.P. Howell are all cheap and under team control so trading them doesn't make a whole lot of sense. That leaves us to the names we've been talking about all offseason: Dan Wheeler and Chad Bradford.

Both of them make over $3 million dollars(Bradford $3.5 and Wheeler $3.2) so the money in 2009 is a wash. However, Bradford is a FA after the season which might make him easier to move. Wheeler has a contract in place for 2010 at $3.5 million and club option for 2011 for $4 million or a $1 million dollar buyout. That could scare off a potential trade partner, unless it's Dayton Moore.

So let's take a look at some pros and cons for both.

Wheeler

The Good

  • Durable- Has made at least 70 appearances over the past four seasons
  • Respectable K/BB rate- Even with a decline in K/9 and an increase in BB/9, his rate was still 2.41 which is pretty solid.
  • LOB%- Has a career LOB% of 74.5 and left 78.9% of his runners on base in 2008.

The Bad

  • Home runs- Wheeler has always had the tendency to give up a lot of home runs and last year was no different. His HR/9 was 1.36 following 2007 which was 1.33. Out of the 44 hits he gave up in 2008,  23% of them were home runs.
  • Fluky BABIP-.285/.329/.202. Those are the BABIP's for Wheeler over the last three seasons. It is hard to maintain a BABIP of .202 from year to year so expect a big jump in that category for him.
  • Declining K rate/Increasing BB rate- Even though his K/BB ratio is still good, anytime a pitcher has less K's and more walks it should be a concern.

Bradford

The Good

  • WYSIWYG- Ground balls. That's his main job and he does that really well. In 2008, his GB% was 66% which is right around his career rate of 64%. Expect more of the same.
  • Home Runs- Typical for a ground ball pitcher, he doesn't give up many home runs. His HR/9 in 2008 was a mere 0.46 and that around his career rate of 0.48.
  • Durable- Like Wheeler, Bradford is reliable. He has made at least 68 appearances in six of the last seven seasons.

The Bad

  • K/BB rate- While he doesn't walk that many batters(career 2.40 BB/9) he also doesn't strike out a lot making for an awful K/BB rate. What makes it worse is the rate is dropping, and dropping fast. Here are his ratios for the last three seasons: 3.46/1.81/1.13. Pretty soon he's going to be walking more hitters than he's striking out.

Concerns for both.

  • They both have extreme splits over their careers. Bradford's OPS splits are .547 vs RHB and .847 vs LHB. Wheeler are  .645 vs RHB and .827 vs LHB.

So, who do you trade? And more importantly, can you find a partner to make a deal in this market?

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