With one of the best and deepest 40-man rosters in baseball, it will be tough for the Yankees to find upgrades heading into the 2020 season. However, one player still available on the market that warrants a long look by the Yankees front office is left-handed pitcher Alex Wood. The soon to be 29 year has already compiled 13.6 fWAR in his career while pitching for the Braves, Dodgers, and Reds, but has been slowed repeatedly by injuries that now force him into the bargain bin.
2019 was a disaster for Wood after he was traded to Cincinnati in the offseason from the Los Angles Dodgers. He was only able to throw 35.2 ineffective innings after a back injury during spring training landed him on the 60-day injured list into late July. He finished with a 5.80 ERA, and an even higher 6.38 FIP that shows he was not victimized by bad luck.
Injuries are nothing new for Wood, and have plagued him throughout his career as he has been on the injured list at least once every season since 2016. Those trips to the injured list have limited his production and included multiple 60-day IL stints. Since 2016, he’s twice been limited to 60.1 innings or less in a season.
When Wood is at his best, though, he can be tremendously effective. As recently as 2017, he was an All-Star and received a down the ballot vote for National League Cy Young. In the five seasons between 2014-1018, he had an fWAR between 2.4 and 3.1 in four of them. When he is at his peak performance, he is a good groundball pitcher, as many of his best seasons saw him generate groundballs around 50% of the time. That ability wavered in 2019, as his groundball rate dropped over 10% from the previous season, and he was hit hard.
Wood features a sinker, changeup and curveball. This past season, he threw the sinker 50% of the time, averaging only 89.9 mph on that pitch. His velocity puts him in just the 12th percentile of major-league pitchers. To get around his lack of elite velocity, Wood throws his pitches on the edges of the strike zone at a rate above average, but that also equates to him throwing more balls out of the zone. Wood threw both his changeup and curveball around 25% to complement his go-to sinker. Wood rates toward the bottom of the league in spin rate for both his fastball and curveball, analytic measurements that would be certainly evaluated in depth if he joined the Bombers.
Is Wood a strong candidate for the Yankees to bring in? Probably not. The Yankees still have to clear space on their 40-man roster to officially announce Brett Gardner’s return to the team, and just scanning the roster shows that it will be very difficult to find an easy DFA and trade candidates to bring in a player like Wood.
Has Wood’s stock fallen enough that he could be brought in on a minor-league deal? That is a place where the Yankees have flexed their economic muscle in the past. Last season, Scranton was filled with former major leaguers like Logan Morrison, Brad Miller, and Trevor Rosenthal, and they already brought in Adam Warren this offseason on a minor-league deal even though he is recovering from Tommy John surgery. It’s not impossible that Wood may need to settle for a minor-league deal to rebuild his standing, but if a major-league deal is available to him, then he likely won’t land with the Yankees.