I'm curious to see what everyone thinks about this. This only seems to be the writer's speculation, so take it for what it's worth, but I find this idea interesting.With Brian McCann on board and Francisco Cervelli back from his 50-game PED suspension, there doesn't appear to be room for Austin Romine on the New York Yankees' 25-man roster. According to the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo, Romine is "very much available." The former top prospect started off poorly last season after being promoted in late April but finished strong, batting over .300 in July and August.
The Dodgers, meanwhile, may have a surplus arm in Chad Billingsley, especially if the team can trade for David Price or win the Tanaka sweepstakes. The team's 2014 starting rotation already includes Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Dan Haren, and Hyun-jin Ryu, so Billingsley is seemingly expendable.
A.J. Ellis is set to be Los Angeles' starting catcher in 2014, but his spot in the lineup has more to do with his handling of the Dodgers' pitching staff than his bat. Ellis batted .238 in 2013, but the wear and tear of everyday catching took a toll on his production, as he batted .207 in the second half of the season.
My take... Obviously Tanaka is the top priority and on the top of the fans' wishlist and should the Yankees sign Tanaka they probably won't look to bring another starter in and instead opt for a 5th starter within the system likely Phelps or Pineda. But should Tanaka sign elsewhere I think Billingsley might be the most appealing option. For the Dodgers, catching depth is a serious weakness. A.J. Ellis is a solid starter defensively who will likely bounce back with the bat, but behind him the Dodgers have no real solid backup. Romine should be a better option than either Federowicz or Butera and is still young and cost controlled. He could develop into a serviceable starter given time, but with all of the Yankees catching depth he's clearly the odd man out.
Billingsley is coming back from Tommy John surgery, so that's certainly a question mark. He's expected back in May however and Tommy John surgery is not nearly as big an issue as it used to be. Billingsley has one year left on his deal at $12M as well as a club option for 2015 at $14M ($3M buyout), which is more favorable in terms of years and AAV than any the top tier FA pitchers (Garza, Jimenez, and Santana), his injury is not as major as some reclamation projects (like Johan Santana), and his potential is greater than most mid-level FA's like Paul Maholm and others. To give a brief break down I decided to post career statistics for Billingsley as well as Garza and Jimenez (not Santana due to the lack of interest I think the Yankees have in him and the seemingly ill fit he would be pitching in YS), as well as 2013 statistics (2012 in Billingsley's case as he only made 2 starts last year.
Career- 7.94 K/9 3.76 BB/9 0.67 HR/9 46.3 GB% 3.65 ERA 3.67 FIP 3.99 xFIP 17.2 WAR
2012- 149.2 IP 7.70 K/9 2.71 BB/9 0.66 BB/9 45.4 GB% 3.55 ERA 3.34 FIP 3.84 xFIP 2.5 WAR
Career- 7.62 K/9 2.99 BB/9 1.03 HR/9 41.2 GB% 3.84 ERA 3.98 FIP 4.00 xFIP 18.1 WAR
2013- 155.1 IP 7.88 K/9 2.43 BB/9 1.16 HR/9 38.6 GB% 3.82 ERA 3.88 FIP 3.73 xFIP 2.2 WAR
Career- 8.27 K/9 4.04 BB/9 0.73 HR/9 47.6% GB% 3.92 ERA 3.78 FIP 3.96 xFIP 23.6 WAR
2013 - 182.2 IP 9.56 K/9 3.94 BB/9 0.79 HR/9 43.9 GB% 3.30 ERA 3.43 FIP 3.62 xFIP 3.2 WAR
So, all three are pretty comparable in terms of career stats. Jimenez had the best last season, while also having the best individual season throughout their respective careers. That being said, he also had the worst individual season. All three have shown a decline in velocity with Jimenez being the most dramatic and Billingsley being the most minimal. Billingsley has remained the most consistent with most of his peripherals, specifically HR rate and GB rate. Billingsley also has had a steady decline in his K rate while the other two have had something of a rollercoaster ride in their K-rates, Garza specifically who has had two seasons in the 6 K/9 range.
Personally, if not for the injury, I'd probably prefer Billingsley if all 3 were on the open market and I had to sign one of them. While it's true that he's spent his entire career in the NL West which is very pitcher friendly division and the other two have AL experience, he's been the most consistent across the board. He's also the youngest of the three, though they're all close enough in age that the difference is negligible. I'll admit, Jimenez has the greatest potential of the three however he's also historically been the most volatile. I like the fact that Billingsley has maintained solid ground ball rates while still posting above average K rates and controlling his HRs. Add in the fact that Jimenez and Garza will require expensive multi year deals whereas Billingsley is essentially on a one year deal, the Dodgers would probably pick up some of his salary, and he wouldn't cost much in terms of what we'd give up in a trade, and I think (should we miss out on Tanaka) he would be the best addition we can make to the rotation all things considered.
As for Romine and his appeal to the Dodgers, it's really two-fold. As the article, and I, mentioned earlier they lack depth behind Ellis and while not sexy a competent backup catcher is essential for a contending team. Romine is noted for his defensive prowess and while he struggled mightily with the bat initially, he posted a .271/.343/.407 .331 wOBA 106 wRC+ line in the second half of the season. Sure, it's not a huge sample, and he's probably not that good with the bat, but he certainly isn't as bad as his first half either. At 25 years old he still has potential to develop and could become a serviceable starting catcher someday. The second part is salary relief. Romine is young and cost controlled, and while the Dodgers might pay some of Billingsley's salary in a swap they still save a lot of money if Romine (and maybe another mid level prospect) is all they're taking back. With their rotation pretty much set Billingsley is superfluous and with Kershaw's impending free agency, more flexibility to throw money at him is appealing.
Anyway, I'm interested in hearing other peoples' thoughts on this.