What's Up With Wade Davis?

Hey all, I'm terribly sorry I haven't come up with my weekly analysis piece yet. I've been a bit swamped with life details, and the Winter Meetings are making for an exciting (although busy) week so far. I don't have time for as long or detailed a post as I'd like, but I wanted to at least share some of my recent ponderings about the Rays.

As we all know, the Rays are looking to trade a starting pitcher this offseason. Yeah yeah, Andrew Friedman claims that he's happy with his current depth and isn't going to trade anyone, but we should all be able to see through his doubletalk by now. The Rays need to open up a rotation spot for Matt Moore (or to begin the season, Alex Cobb), and we've already heard rumors that Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis are on the trade market.

Odds are one of the Rays' starters gets dealt this offseason, and it'll likely be one of three pitchers: Niemann, Davis, or Cobb. The trick is, which pitcher do the Rays think they can get the most return for?

The common assumption around here seems to be that Wade Davis is the likely candidate to go. He's young and under a very affordable contract for the next three seasons (with three more team options), and he's shown the potential to be a solid, dependable starter. Yet the more I look at Davis' numbers, the more I begin to wonder: are we vastly overestimating Davis' trade value?

Consider: Wade Davis has now thrown nearly 400 innings in the majors and he's entering his age 26 season, yet he has a career 4.55 FIP and 4.61 SIERA. His strikeout rate has declined each of the past three seasons, and he's an extreme flyball pitcher (42%) that has benefited from playing in the pitcher-friendly Tropicana Field. His peripheral statistics stunk in 2010, and he only got worse in 2011.

When you dig into Davis' stats a bit more, the picture doesn't necessarily get any prettier. His strikeout rate was below average against both righties (12%) and lefties (14%) last season, but he actually had some success in keeping lefties in the park (0.8 HR/9, 3.81 FIP). And it's not like he was working with a pitch repertoire that was only suited for one hand or the other; he features both a slider and a curveball, which should give him a weapon against both hands. He simply couldn't get many whiffs with either pitch last season, though -- 15-20%, max.

All this doesn't even mention his injury history. While he's no Jeff Niemann, Davis has gone on the DL each of the past two seasons with some ailment or the other. These stints may have been for minor injuries, but it still likely raises question marks in the eyes of other teams.

If you want to look at the positives, Davis did post improved strikeout numbers and peripherals from late July on. But even at his best last season, he was an average pitcher (4.31 FIP in August) and struggled to keep his K:BB ratio above two. He's not exactly a young ace, or even a pitcher that looks like he has much upside at the moment. If it wasn't for his minor league history and past scouting reports, I'd be ready to write Wade Davis off as a bust.

So when teams look at the Rays, are they going to be excited about the possibility of getting Wade Davis? I don't think so. He has too many question marks hanging over his head right now, and he hasn't been a good enough pitcher to really garner much of a return. He has upside, especially in the National League, but I wouldn't bank on him bringing in a haul.

At least, that's what I'm finding myself thinking more and more these days. Agree? Disagree? Have at it.'

*One a side note, I'm still a proponent of thinking about moving Davis to the bullpen. His contract makes it a distinct possibility, as he won't make more than Kyle Farnsworth is currently until 2014 ($4.8 million). If the Rays think he has limited upside as a starter, why not try and turn him into a back-of-the-bullpen arm? Reallocate that pitching depth.

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