It happens every year — a player that was seen as a consistent performer and has previously been a mainstay on their team is now considered useless and is put aside midseason.
Zack Godley is just the latest pitcher to be designated for assignment this season. Even though the 29-year-old start is coming off of a 2.5 fWAR season and put up 3.4 fWAR in 2017, Godley has been atrocious for the Arizona Diamondbacks this season.
A 6.39 ERA that ranks as the fourth-highest among all big-league pitchers with at least 70 innings pitched, essentially earned him the DFA and is the reason why he’s now a Toronto Blue Jay.
The torrential downfall to his production this season is why Toronto has been able to pick up a genuinely well-regarded talent in the very broad picture. He’s really just steps away from a successful season and has shown that he’s able to at least be a mid-rotation starter on a slightly successful team. Not the most exciting talent, but he was free.
That’s exactly why this claim is perfect — no repercussions if Godley continues his awful descent into baseball mediocrity. But if he is anything other than awful, the Blue Jays have the option to keep him for the 2020 season. This winter Godley is heading into his first arb-eligible off-season, meaning that Toronto can simply non-tender the pitcher if they don’t want to keep him around.
Keeping this contractual flexibility is important to this front office as they head into one of their more difficult winters as they try to add to this young core of position players. All they need is someone that can give them some innings and not be terrible.
Since trading away both Stroman and Sanchez, the starting rotation has been only the young low-ceiling pitchers like Thomas Pannone and Sean Reid-Foley, with Godley, they have someone that can — for the lack of a better baseball term — eat up innings.
Through 2017-19, he’s pitched a total of 409 and 1/3 innings and has made a total of 66 starts. He’s made only nine of those this year, as the Diamondbacks moved him to the bullpen to try and get some value out of him this year as they push for a wild card.
But it’s clear that Godley is able to stay healthy enough to make a ton of starts and considering where the injury luck has gone for all Blue Jays pitchers, they could use someone as durable as him. Even if he’s able to just keep it average during his time in Toronto, he could be had for extremely cheap and could be a decent 4th-5th starter for a team that’s projected to have an even younger rotation than their current iteration.
The only problem is that both on the boxscore and in his underlying numbers, Godley has shown a steep decline in his ability.
In everything but Hard Hit percentage, Godley has gotten much worse. Going from one of the top starters in the league when it comes to expected metrics, to bottom-of-the-barrel rates that demonstrate how terrible he has been for Arizona this year.
In a new environment it might change — grass is always greener, etc. — but that’s all up to simple hopes and dreams when it comes to an established starter having a resurgence as he approaches 30 years. He’s striking out considerably less than past years, only 6.87 K/9 compared to a 9.34 K/9 just last season, while also walking more than people should be comfortable with at 4.14 BB/9.
Considering where this team is currently, there really isn’t a downside to this transaction.
Even if Godley stays in his 2019 self, keeping up an above-6.00 ERA while keeping those horrible rates and bottom-tier starter stuff, he’s still a veteran to have in a rotation filled with inexperience. He’s easily someone to take a chance on — a career 6.0 fWAR player that is free to acquire and is still pre-arb, it would make no sense if the Blue Jays didn’t put in a claim.
Putting him in the current rotation, there’s nothing to lose. The Blue Jays were already prepared to have the bullpen days and stick to the young rotation, but now Godley adds another dynamic that can at least do something. At worst, he’s a stopgap until the Nate Pearson, Anthony Kay, Patrick Murphy wave of young pitchers come and try to earn a spot on the rotation.
Let’s give it up for asset management.