Again in need of pitching depth, the Blue Jays could use another trade like the Rowdy Tellez deal
Photo credit:Mitchell Layton/GettyImages
3 months ago
Remember this trade?
With Trevor Richards and Bowden Francis both pitching on Saturday, and doing so quite well, it’s time to look back at the Rowdy Tellez trade once again. Yes, it’s only been a month since I looked at it, but things have changed since.
Rowdy Tellez has cooled off drastically:
When someone is either traded or cut from a team, it’s hard to root against them, unless you’re Anthony Bass. Tellez is one of those players in which it’s just impossible to root against, even if it’s nearly been two seasons since he took his last hack with the Jays.
With all that being said, Tellez has cooled off a lot since that May 11th article. At that time, he was slashing .239/.318/.540 with 10 homers for a 125 wRC+ in 129 plate appearances. His K% was at a solid 24.8%, while his BB% was at 10.9%.
In the past month, he’s slashing .214/.290/.310 with two homers and a triple (I was there for that game). That’s a 64 wRC+ over a 93-plate appearance stretch. In terms of his walk rate and strikeout rate, not much has changed. It just appears that teams have adjusted to his approach.
Overall, Tellez is slashing .228/.306/.442 with 12 homers in 222 plate appearances. He has a 10.4 BB% and a 25.7 K%, giving him a 100 wRC+ and a -0.2 fWAR.
This was the second straight season where Tellez started the season off hot, as he slashed .248/.307/.530 with eight homers in 127 plate appearances for a 130 wRC+ to start the 2022 season. He eventually ended up slashing .219/.306/.461 with 35 homers to end the season for a 110 wRC+, so there’s still plenty of time to get hot again.
With that being said, Tellez is a streaky batter who will hit homers. As I said in last month’s article, there was nowhere to play him on the Jays, especially after how bad he was in 2021 prior to the trade.
Let’s hope that Tellez can’t find his early-season form.
Trevor Richards is good:
I think people are finally starting to see it.
In last month’s article, I went into more depth about how Richards helped stabilize the bullpen in 2021. That alone makes me think the Blue Jays were winners in the trade. Furthermore, when I wrote the article last month, Richards had a 5.14 ERA, 4.24 FIP, 35.4 K% and a 13.8 BB%. His numbers now stand at a 3.30 ERA, a 3.77 FIP, a 38.9 K%, and an 11.1 BB%.
So when I say that the right-handed pitcher has risen his stock even more in the past month, you better believe me. We’ll look more into why he’s such a good reliever in this article.
The 30-year-old’s changeup is devastating as it has a 50.9 whiff %. Out of pitchers with more than 74 changeups thrown this season, that is the second-highest whiff percentage, behind Shane McClanahan.
His fastball has some perks as well. It only sits 93 mph, but it’s one of the highest-rising fastballs in the game, as it has 3.6 inches of vertical rise, second only to Jeremiah Estrada’s fastball.
The fastball isn’t meant to generate whiffs, as it only has a 23 whiff%. However, the rising fastball when located, is a good setup pitch for the changeup which drops 3.7 inches (and does a bunch of other weird shit).
Richards has only pitched 2 innings of high leverage, according to Fangraphs. He has allowed an earned run and has a 2.27 FIP with a 44.4 K% and a 22.2 BB%.
Interestingly, he has had more medium leverage opportunities as of late, something he’s done well in. He’s pitched in 7.1 “medium leverage” innings, giving up a single earned run while facing 28 batters. More impressively though, is the fact he holds batters to a .120 batting average. Not just that, but he also has a 0.95 FIP, the lowest of any of the three leverages.
At this point, Richards has become one of the most trusted relievers in the bullpen, as only Nate Pearson, Erik Swanson, and Jordan Romano rank above him in high-leverage situations.
Bowden Francis impressed in his 2023 debut:
The Jays don’t have a ton of depth in the minor leagues when it comes to MLB-ready starters/bulk relievers. So when Alek Manoah optioned to the Florida Complex League, some people may not have known much about the 27-year-old Bowden Francis.
Well, he’s on the map now.
During that Saturday game, Francis showed off what I believe is one of the best curveballs in the organization. It has a 12-6 movement with 55+ inches of break and a spin rate above 2500 RPM. What’s more is that his curveball has some horizontal movement as well, breaking away from right-handed batters.
However, Francis doesn’t just have an 80-grade pitch like Richards, as his fastball is also a pretty good weapon for him. It sits anywhere from 93 mph to 96 mph, but touched 97.8 mph in his 2023 debut.
Francis also features a sharp slider which is a pitch still under development but could become another weapon for him.
The 27-year-old righty was recently optioned to Triple-A for Thomas Hatch, as the Jays need relievers in the pen. Francis won’t be allowed to be called back up until June 26th (unless there’s an injury), but this won’t be the last time we see him.
Francis has a chance at becoming a reliable fifth starter or long man in the pen that can eat four or five innings.
Who won this trade, part two:
Richards is a reliever who can do a whole bunch of things for you. Need him to pitch multiple innings? He can do that. Need him to open for a young pitching prospect? He’s got you covered. Need a reliever to pitch in medium-leverage? Yup. Need a pitcher to strike a batter out? There’s a Trevor Richards for that.
Like I said in the previous article, what Richards brought in 2021 instantly made this trade a win. It just so happens that he’s been fantastic in any role that the Jays have given him this season.
It also helps the Jays acquire Bowden Francis, who has pitched fantastically for the past year or so with the Buffalo Bisons and Criollos de Caguas in the Puerto Rican Winter League. Despite the fact he was optioned to Triple-A, it won’t be long until he’s back up.
As for Tellez, he’s an easy guy to root for. A baseball season has ebbs and flows, so it isn’t too surprising that he hit a rough patch after a strong start. While he may be an average hitter according to wRC+ right now, all it takes is two good weeks of hitting the ball to get back to it.
I will maintain that both teams won this trade. Tellez is an above-average first baseman, despite the numbers. Richards has pitched very well this season, while Francis could be a future backend of the rotation starter.
As always, you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @Brennan_L_D. It’s a similar premise to the article I wrote last month, but I tried to go more in-depth with what makes Richards so good and a few other things. Hope you enjoyed!
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