What Should the New York Yankees Do With Ivan Nova?

We’re smack in the middle of trade speculation season so New York Yankees fans, blogs and beat writers have been tossing out a new trade idea every day it seems. Virtually no New York Yankee has been spared in these various trade proposals either. Robinson Cano? He was proposed in a package for Felix Hernandez. Jesus Montero? Some fans still just can’t wait to trade him away. Phil Hughes, A.J. Burnett? You would have thought that Phil Hughes didn’t post a 5.79 ERA in 74.2 innings and you would have thought that A.J. Burnett didn’t have $33 million left on his deal. And then there is Ivan Nova. After he emerged as the New York Yankees’ No. 2 starter late in the season, you would have thought that the fans would have excused him from their trade speculation for a few months. Nope, apparently not. A few weeks ago, the fellas at NoMaas.org put it quite plainly: sell high on Ivan Nova. This got me thinking about Ivan Nova’s future with the New York Yankees. How likely is it that we’ve seen his last start in New York Yankee pinstripes?

There are two general lines of thought tugging at me right now. On one side you have the “I wish the Yankees would start developing their own pitching prospects” line of thinking. Nova fit that mold in 2011 with a performance worthy of a fourth place Rookie of the Year finish. On the other side you have the “Yankees need to know when to cash in on their prospects” argument. Nova isn’t a prospect anymore, but you could argue that he still has some upside…or you could argue that 2011 was his peak. Hmmm…

Optimistically, Nova posted a 3.70 ERA (4.01 FIP/4.16 xFIP), 16 wins (2.7 WAR) and a 52.7% GB rate. Wins are a weak stat to evaluate pitchers, but I know there are a lot of fans out there who haven’t quite warmed up to the new age stats. He’s got good velocity on his fastball (92.7 mph) and he started to implement a solid slider in 2011 as well. Is it crazy to expect Nova to take a step forward in 2012? Probably not.

The pessimist (or realist perhaps) would that suggest that Nova’s success in 2011 was fueled by good fortune. The first thing that catches my eye is the 5.33 K/9. Strikeouts aren’t everything, but you definitely like to see a few more punch outs per game from a guy who is going to slot into the second spot of the rotation. Secondly, Nova’s .283 BABIP isn’t that far off from the .300 league average, but even a moderate bit of luck in that area is extremely significant for a guy like Nova because he pitches to so much contact. If and when that figure regresses to league average, Nova’s numbers are likely to take a significant step backwards.

If this was fantasy baseball, this discussion would have been over three paragraphs ago. It obviously isn’t that easy though. The Yankees have five more years of control over Nova who won’t even be arbitration eligible until 2014. Even if he settles in as a solid No. 4 or No. 5, the fact that he’s cheap makes him a very valuable asset.

So I’ve played Devil’s Advocate up to this point, but now it is time to commit one way or the other.   I do think the New York Yankees should explore the value that Ivan Nova has on the trade market (not to be confused with “shopping” him).  When I look at 2011, my feeling is that Nova showed us the upper crust of his potential and that his future is still as a back-of-the-rotation starter – a commodity that the Yankees have in high supply.  Adam Warren, David Phelps, Hector Noesi and D.J. Mitchell are each on the cusp of the big leagues and it seems safe to gamble on at least one of those guys being able to replace Nova’s production in the rotation.

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  • Tanned Tom

    Craig, normally I enjoy your posts, but not this one. To suggest trading Nova is ridiculous. This team needs to develop good, cheap young players. Then one comes along and you want to trade him right away? Nova was the 2nd best pitcher on the staff in 2011 and you do not move forward by trading players like that.
    Better to trade Burnett, who is not even 5th starter caliber anymore. Also trade Hughes, making $3 mil next year, who shows up overweight and out of shape and then sucks all year. Another target to go is Soriano, bad attitudes are never worth keeping around, and some team will like getting a closer for just 2 years at the cost of a left handed middle reliever.
    After Posada these were the 3 highest paid players that sucked on the team. Shipping them makes sense, trading Nova? If Cashman trades Nova without obtaining an ace like Felix Hernandez, he should simply be fired on the spot.

    • richard griffith

      Trading Nova isn’t going to happen for the reasons you gave. Suggesting we would give up Cano for Fernandez is not credible as well.

      Hughes will show up in shape this year ( had little to do with his dead arm), and $3 M is hardly an issue. Regardless of salary, the dead weight last year was Arod and Tex. I’d trade Tex in a heartbeat and go after Pujols or Fielder. Maybe then we’d get some post-season production.

      Getting rid of Burnett – PLEASE

      • craigwilliams

        I’m actually excited about Mark Teixeira in 2012. He recognized that his swing got out of line (sometimes the hardest thing is admitting that there is a problem in the first place) and he’s going to work with Kevin Long this offseason. The dude is the definition of professional and he’s going to make sure he’s doing everything in his power to bounce back. There are two problems with trading him though. First, he’s got a ton of money left on his deal and second he’s got a full no-trade clause. He’s going to be a Yankee for the rest of his contract most likely. And after 2012, we’re going to be fine with that.

    • craigwilliams

      I’m glad you enjoy the posts and I appreciate your honesty here Tom.

      On the surface, the idea of trading Nova is ridiculous. The Yankees need pitching and Nova emerged as the No. 2 starter. However, IF the right target comes along this might be the time to pull the trigger. Looking at his peripheral numbers, I have doubts of Nova sustaining top-of-the-rotation production. That is still a big ‘if’, because that guy may not come along and if he doesn’t, I have no problem with the Yankees keeping Nova. I just think he is much more likely to be a cheap, solid back-end starter – still valuable, but more easily replaceable.

      You mentioned trading Hughes. Hughes was a much more highly touted talent than Nova coming up through the system. What’s to say that Nova doesn’t have a similar regression in 2012? I can’t say he will for certain, but the numbers suggest it. Also, you can’t trade Hughes, Burnett and Soriano at this point. Hughes because his value is dirt cheap after that garbage 2011; Soriano and Burnett because they were terrible in 2011 and are owed ridiculous amounts of money.

      I don’t want to make it sound like I want Nova shipped out ASAP, because I don’t. I just think that the Yankees can afford to move him in a deal (due to the presence of Adam Warren, David Phelps, Hector Noesi and D.J. Mitchell) and I would prefer him moved before a guy like Dellin Betances with more upside.

      • Tanned Tom

        Yes I guess I’d include Nova in a deal for a true ace, but reluctantly. As for trading Burnett, maybe the Cubs would swap us Zambrano, or we could pay 2/3rds of his salary and take back a left-handed reliever. Guys can always be traded. Soriano? His numbers were actually not too awful, and his short contract might entice some team, again we’re probably talking small returns like couple of AA ball pitchers. Hughes can absolutely be traded, his salary is low, he’s still young and plenty of teams will gamble on guys like this.
        The mega-deal that solves half of what’s solvable on the Yanks: Burnett, Hughes, Pena and Cervelli to the Cubs for Zambrano (a better pitcher than AJ, and signed for only 1 more year)and Sean Marshall. Gives us the lefty reliever we need and clears out the dead wood.

        • craigwilliams

          I think fans will end up being pleasantly surprised by Hughes’ production in 2012. I don’t have anything really concrete to support that feeling. Just a hunch and a tiny playoff sample. You’re right about Soriano. His numbers really weren’t too bad once he came back from his injury. The Yanks will probably hold on to him though since he is probably more valuable than the return in a trade would be.

    • VT YANKEE

      Anybody remember a young Yankee pitcher by the name of Ian Kennedy?

      • craigwilliams

        Yea, he was one of the pieces that brought Curtis Granderson to the Bronx.

  • richard griffith

    I stopped reading when you Ranted Cano proposed for Fernandez. Where did you get that from? And giving up Nova is plain silly.

    • craigwilliams

      Well, for starters I wouldn’t trade Robinson Cano for anybody. Not in a one-for-one at least. Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp? Yea. Justin Upton and Stephen Drew? Maybe. Straight up for Tim Lincecum or King Felix? Not a chance. He’s the best second baseman in the game and one of the best players overall. However, I have seen a comment or two from the occasional fan that is so desperate to put Felix in pinstripes that they would approve any package for him – even those that involve Cano.

      If this hypothetical situation arises where the Yankees can acquire a legit and established “second ace” then the idea of trading Nova is not that silly. There are a lot of numbers that suggest that Nova is not going to have as much success in 2012 (FIP, BABIP, K/9, K/BB) and that his current value is at its highest point. He still has plenty of value to the Yankees and I don’t want him just shipped off for the first name that gets offered, but his long term future is most likely as a No. 4 or a No. 5. Those guys are easier to acquire than an established stud (or even borderline stud) that could fill – and remain in – the No. 2 slot of the rotation behind CC.

      • richard griffith

        Good stuff. Thanks

  • DartDude66

    I feel that Nova has proved himself worthy of a spot on the Yankees rotation. There is basically a bigger need for a lefty in the bullpen. I also feel that Noesi will be competing for the 5th spot in the rotation with Hughes in spring training. The 1-2 punch combination of Chamberlain and Hughes out of the bullpen would make the bullpen stronger. Burnett would make a great long relief guy, he is good for 4 to 5 innings anyway, why not put him in the game later after a starter is lifted? I like the Garcia signing, he will anchor the 4th spot, with Burnett backing up if needed. But I am not the GM of the Yankees, this will be a pipe dream. I am hoping that the Yankees can hold onto Banuelos, Betances, Montero, Noesi, and Nova. I am very high on this group to become the future of the Yankees.

    • craigwilliams

      I think the need for a second lefty in the ‘pen is a bit overrated. Hopefully Boone Logan can be a little more consistent in 2012, but the guys that the Yankees have out there are more than capable of getting lefty hitters out. I also don’t think there is a need to pencil both Hughes and Joba (once he returns in June) into the bullpen this season – not when Mo, Soriano and Robertson are locking down innings 7-9. Of course you want some bullpen depth, but I think that can be addressed without moving Hughes there yet. There is just so much up in the air right now. We have to see what moves the Yankees make in free agency. I could easily see them making two free agent acquisitions and then you’d have to keep an eye on the trade market. Maybe they find a taker for Burnett, maybe they bring in that No. 2 guy…there are a lot of pieces that could shift around over the next couple of months.

  • Count Zero

    I think you’ve got it right. Nova is a highly valuable asset who may never again be worth as much as he is right now. His peripherals would lead you to believe that anyway. There is something to be said for a high GB rate in YS though…

    I think the bottom line is this: Right now we need starters, so trading Nova seems to create another hole where we already have a hole. Phelps, Banuelos and Betances are far from a sure thing and really only Phelps has a shot at the rotation in March. So even if you trade Nova for a #1 or #2, you are only getting an incremental upgrade and you still have a hole in 2012.

    But I’m not against it for the right package…certainly doesn’t hurt to take a phone call inquiring. We might have to jump through some hoops in the short term, but long term the chances that one of the three above will turn into a #3 or better aren’t bad at all.

    • craigwilliams

      Yea, making a hole in the rotation to fill one isn’t very efficient. There are still a lot of starting pitching options on the free agent market though. I could see the Yankees signing one or two of them. I guess the main thing for us to see is if the Yankees make one of those signings in the first place. Secondly, we’ll have to see if they are better than Nova. Time will tell.

  • Ricochet

    First off Ivan Nova isn’t a #2 starter, they don’t view him as a #2. There is no doubt that the Yankees love his moxy and mettle and that he could become a everyday #2 down the road.

    Phil Hughes is another who’s shown when he’s right he’s that he looks like a great number #2 but until it’s consistent they will see these 2 as young 4th and 5th starters.

    That said these 2 could very well be dealt of they can get an ace to place in the #2 slot behind CC.

    Then there is the loaded AAA and AA pitching staffs that have a lot of future MLB starting pitchers on it’s staff and they will come in handy here in the next 2 seasons as either cheap back of the rotation options or as trade chips.

    The Yanks want to completely revamp the rotation but it’s highly unlikely to happen because there are just too many obstacles but they would deal Nova if it was the best thing for the club.

    • craigwilliams

      Your first sentence is key. Even though he emerged as the No. 2 starter in 2012 (mostly due to his performance, partially by default), he doesn’t profile as a No. 2 starter. He’s still a great guy to have on the squad, but if a true No. 2 comes around I would not be surprised if Nova was involved in a lot of rumors and/or eventually dealt.

  • Ricochet

    What the Yankees would like to ideally do but won’t because they can’t because it’s high unlikely the right pieces could fall into place for them to actually pull of this scenario.

    First off they would love to get rid of AJ and free up the #3 spot in the rotation.

    The pitcher to replace him is FA Mark Buehrle. He’s there ideal #3, as he’s a quality starting pitcher who eats up innings and has the experience wanted and needed.

    Next would be to get Yu Darvish. The Yankee scouts love him and while his upside is as a front of the rotation starter they see him as a #4 early on and in time as he improves who move up in the rotation.

    This would give the rotation it’s #1, #3 and the #4 starter and this would give the Yankees more flexibility to deal Nova and/or Hughes in a deal to get an young ACE to put in the the #2 slot.

    If Hughes or Nova are still around then the got the 5th spot and if they aren’t they’ve got Freddy Garcia to man the role for 1 more year or they could go with Noesi, Warren, Phelps or DJ Mitchell let alone the likes of Banuelos or Betances.

    But like I said it’s not going to happen but this is ideally what they want.

    • craigwilliams

      I actually think that Hughes will bounce back in 2012. He’s probably going to have to do so as a Yankee because he doesn’t have much trade value at this point. I would love Burnett to be moved but I just don’t see that happening. The Yanks would have to really crowd their rotation before a Burnett trade became more realistic. They won’t get much in return other than some salary relief, but if they need to free up a rotation spot for someone better then the move for “nothing” could be worth it.

  • http://www.givejonadollar.com Jon @ GiveJonaDollar.com

    No way Nova gets traded. He is a young and controllable talent. A team would have to put quite the package together to get him. Brian Cashman is no dummy.

    • craigwilliams

      He definitely isn’t a dummy, isn’t there a realistic chance that Cashman could get that package in a deal involving Nova?

  • nick blasioli

    the yankees need to do something…right now,,its the same old boring team as they had last year…i wont even buy the baseball package if they cant field a better team than the one they have now…it sounds like cashman is ok with the current pitching staff..it makes me barf to think that they could contend with that flimsy staff..do something at the meetings next week please…for all of us yankee fans,.,.,thank you..

    • craigwilliams

      To be fair, it has been pretty slow for just about everyone at this point. Most of the main pitchers are still on the market and no big trade chips have been moved. I definitely think that the Yanks do need to make at least one rotation upgrade, but I’d still go ahead and get the package if I were you. Especially with the second wild-card. I don’t really see five teams in the AL being better than the Yankees.

  • Ryan

    If a team values Nova as a #2 SP and makes you a corresponding offer for a cost controlled #2, Cashman would be foolish not to accept it. That could be a very nice return. Truthfully, I don’t think any team out there sees him as such, but if they did you have to pull the trigger.

    • craigwilliams

      I think Nova’s value is mostly in the fact that he’s cost controlled for five more seasons. Even if teams don’t value him as a No. 2, most teams (including the Yanks) will value the inexpensive production. That alone wouldn’t bring an actual No. 2 starter, but it could make a package for one a decent amount sweeter.

  • http://www.aimhighprofits.com/ Pabs

    I would love to see a Nova-Johnson trade with the Marlins. I would love to get Nova in Florida and be able to dump Johnson’s salary on the Yankees. The two penny stocks of the Yankees pitching, Nova and Delin would be a sweet deal for the Marlins to get considering Johnson’s salary and recovery from surgery. Am I pipe dreaming?

    • craigwilliams

      That might be too good of a deal for the Yankees. I only guess that because I think most Yankees fans would be okay if Dellin Betances and Ivan Nova were the two key pieces being moved in a trade for Josh Johnson. The shoulder is definitely a risk, but it could be worth the potential reward.