Spring Training is almost upon us, and that is music to my ears.
Hot Stove season, though, isn't over. There is still quality talent to be had on the free agent market, and teams will be filling out their rosters over the next few weeks with any final additions.
One intriguing name that remains unsigned is left-handed pitcher Travis Wood, who, according to multiple media reports, could be close to a deal soon.
Interestingly enough, though he has not started exclusively since 2014, teams are offering him a rotation job. That shouldn't come as a huge surprise--a free agent starting pitching class headed by Ivan Nova and Rich Hill tells us all we need to know.
Teams always need pitching, and they will do anything in their power to get it. And that includes making Travis Wood a starter once again.
The last time Wood started over a full season, he went 8-13 with a 5.03 ERA and a 146-76 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 173.2 innings. Advanced metrics such as FIP (4.38) and xFIP (4.51) show that his ERA could have been a tad high, but by no means was Wood a top-of-the-line starter.
He still was valuable, though, due to providing lots of innings at semi-solid production. FanGraphs pegged him at 1.1 WAR.
The year, before, though, Wood was great. A 3.11 ERA over precisely 200 innings, despite a 144-66 strikeout-to-walk ratio, provides lots of value. His 2.7 WAR that year, a career-high, validates that.
Going forward, though, what can Wood's next club expect out of him as a rotation piece?
First off, Wood is a fly ball pitcher. His career fly ball percentage, at 44.0 percent, is almost 10 percent above the 2016 league average. He does not struggle to keep the ball inside the park, though, with his home run per fly ball percentage consistently coming in at a good clip.
Of course, while Wrigley Field can be a hitter's park, a move to a place like Coors Field could be deadly for Wood considering these attributes.
Adding in the fact that he has never struck out hitters at a high rate, Wood's need for a good defense and a big ballpark grow substantially. Years where Wood's BABIP against is high are years were he struggles to keep his ERA down.
Take, 2014, for instance. Wood's .320 BABIP against was the highest allowed for his career. With more hitters reaching base than usual, his ERA was bloated. His command was also poor that year, so his performance isn't a surprise.
Wood's career BABIP against is .276, and years where he finds himself more than 20 points below that are his most successful.
Another interesting attribute about Wood is that, like many starters, he struggles after facing a team twice through their order. For his career, Wood has a 3.39 ERA and a 2.74 K/BB ratio versus the first time through the opposing team's order and a 3.35 ERA and a 2.42 K/BB ratio through the second.
The third time through the order, though, is where Wood falls off the table, with a 6.46 ERA and a 1.51 K/BB ratio.
In order for a team to get the most out of Wood as a starter, they need to field a good defense, play in a fairly roomy ballpark and understand that he may only be able to give them five or six good innings before being pulled. A solid bullpen is necessary.
If a few of those things go in Wood's favor, there is no doubt in my mind that he can be a 2 WAR starter, which would go a long way in the free agent market that remains.