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Dillon Gee is available -- should the Rays be interested?

It probably depends on Jake Odorizzi's oblique.

Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, the Mets designated starting pitcher Dillon Gee for assignment. That means that they now have ten days to trade him and his $5.3 million (a bit over $3 million left on it) salary, or release him to whatever team puts in a waiver claim. If no team puts in a claim, he can be sent to triple-A.

Should the Rays offer a trade? Should the Rays place a claim if no one above them in the waiver order does?

Right now the answer is probably "no." Jake Odorizzi's rehab from an oblique strain is allegedly going well. He caught and threw with Andrew Bellatti, who is also on the DL, two days ago and experienced no setbacks. If Odor is able to come back on schedule, then it's tough to see an open spot in the Rays rotation for someone like Gee (who is out of options), as he's not going to supplant Chris Archer, Odorizzi, Nathan Karns, Alex Colome, or Erasmo Ramirez.

If, however, Odorizzi (and also Bellatti) are to miss extended time, that would open the door for Gee to take a spot in the rotation and push Matt Andriese back into the cycle of long relievers on the Durham shuttle. That's no knock on Andriese, who really might be a better pitcher than Gee right now, but the Rays have dealt with the many injuries to their starters by going to the bullpen early and not allowing their second-tier pitchers to be overexposed to opposing lineups, and to continue that strategy they need guys like Andriese available in relief.

Evaluating Gee

So let's look more closely at what Gee is. Despite being a recognizable name and a one-time opening day starter for the Mets, he's not a very good pitcher. Here are his career stats from FanGraphs.

2010 33.0 12.5% 11.0% 47.0% 2.18 4.20 5.00
2011 160.2 16.2% 10.1% 47.4% 4.43 4.65 4.46
2012 109.2 21.0% 6.3% 50.3% 4.10 3.71 3.54
2013 199.0 16.9% 5.6% 42.6% 3.62 4.00 4.07
2014 137.1 16.5% 7.5% 44.1% 4.00 4.52 4.22
2015 39.2 13.7% 6.0% 51.0% 5.90 4.39 4.22
Total 679.1 16.9% 7.5% 46.0% 4.03 4.24 4.16

Who goes out and acquires a guy with a career 4.24 FIP who only strikes out 17% of the batters he faces?

Let's play a game. See if you can identify these pitchers by their movement charts.

Pitcher A

Pitcher B

Player A is of course Erasmo Ramirez from his last season with the Mariners. Player B is Dillon Gee this year.

Their pitch shapes are remarkably similar. Both have unexciting four-seam fastballs and sinkers but changeups with oodles of vertical drop, plus a slider and a curve (I think that Gee's breaking pitches are a bit better than Erasmo's, but let's not concentrate on them for right now). Recently, Kevin Antonevich published a great article on modelling groundball percentage based off of the velocity and movement of a changeup, and using his model, we see that Gee's changeup should expect the 55th highest groundball rate in all of baseball, a remarkable 56.4% (his actual career mark is a pretty close 54.2%).

Gee hasn't gotten quite as many whiffs on his changeup as Erasmo Ramirez has, probably due to the fact that his fastball isn't quite as hard, but he still misses plenty of bats with it. Really, the two changeups are very comparable.

Erasmo's career numbers, both career and recent, were worse than Gee's when the Rays traded for him, so we know that if the Rays see potential in Gee they won't be scared off by his lack of success.

The Fix

So what potential might the Rays see in Gee? A few weeks back, Jason Hanselman wrote about how Jim Hickey and the Rays had improved Ramirez. They did it by simplifying his approach and emphasizing the pitch combination that was most effective: rising fastball and falling changeup.

Gee seems poised for the same treatment.

Dillon Gee

Gee has thrown more sinkers than four-seam fastballs, and the disparity has been even higher this year. That's a good way to get ground balls, but it prevents him from striking batters out. Very similarly to Ramirez's numbers, Gee's four-seam fastball has drawn a whiff 18.0% of the swings against it, while his sinker has only drawn a whiff 9.7% of the time, according to Brooks Baseball.

Moreover, as we've seen with Ramirez, pounding the bottom of the zone with a two-seam fastball doesn't set up the changeup as well as changing the eye level with the four-seam does.

Being in a position where you're searching for another Erasmo Ramirez is sub-optimal to say the least, but the improved Erasmo Ramirez, along with a steady stream of fresh relievers, has been a part of pitching this team to first place in the American League East. If there is any doubt about Jake Odorizzi's ability to return to health in a timely manner, then Dillon Gee is probably worthy of a waiver claim. Dillon Gee, Matt Andriese, and the rest of the Durham shuttle is a better option than Matt Andriese and Durham alone.