Yesterday it was announced that the Pirates and Yankees have come to an agreement that sent RHP Ivan Nova from New York to Pittsburgh on August 1. As first reported, Nova came to the north shore for two players to be named later. Well, as of yesterday those two players were named to be Stephen Tarpley and Tito Polo.
Now that the trade is complete, it certainly seems to be a quality fair trade from both clubs point of view. Pittsburgh, who also found themselves shipping Francisco Liriano north of the border in a separate deal on the same day, was in need of another starting pitcher to help stabilize their rotation. Ivan Nova was that player that fit their mold. He was cheap, only a rental, and would not cost the likes of a top prospect as required with many other pitchers made available at this deadline.
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Nova was a long time Yankee who had some seasons of success while having other season of pure disaster. Much like his ex-Yankee counterpart, Francisco Cervelli, many of those years were spent on the disabled list. He had Tommy John surgery early in 2014. Nova is a career 4.34 ERA pitcher who was having a down year sporting a 4.90 ERA in the Bronx. He had two season’s with a sub 4 ERA, with his best coming in 2013 recording a 3.10 ERA in 139.1 innings.
So far since becoming a Bucco, Nova has given us everything and more the fans could have expected. Actually, I am pretty confident most of the fans were expecting a bunch of nothing with the thought that this team had given up on the year. In 5 starts, Nova has pitched 31.1 innings with a 2.87 ERA while striking out 22 and ONLY walking just one batter. He also posted a complete game in Houston while allowing just one run on six hits. Nova is currently 4-0 in this span while the Pirates have won every time his turn in the rotation was up.
The loss of Tarpley and Polo appear to be hurtful but let’s be honest, neither of these players are top prospects. Both are certainly ‘good’ prospects as they ranked 17th and 28th in our strong minor league system. With the top heavy Yankees system, I would expect them to rank right about the same as well with Polo probably moving up a few slots. However, the likely hood of just one of these players playing a major impact for Pittsburgh down the road were slim.
Stephen Tarpley was the Orioles third round pick in 2013 and acquired in the Travis Snider trade that also landed Steven Brault. Tarpley is a lefty that sits around 94 MPH with good sink and also features a slider and curveball. His ceiling for most scouts seemed to put him as a back end starter to a most likely middle reliever. Though there is value in being either, the Pirates have loads of depth with young and talented arms.
Tarpley also was having a down year being a 23 year old pitching in high A Bradenton. For this season, he has pitched 100 innings while carrying a 4.32 ERA (3.92 FIP). He has posted 90 strikeouts to 37 walks, which tells you exactly what every scout has been trying to tell you. We at the NS9 fell in love with the Snider deal as it still is working for us, but last season Tarpley posted a 2.48 ERA last year at age 22 where he was also in A ball and definitely more seasoned than the rest of his competition. The jump to high A with his struggles I believes tells a more complete and accurate depiction of what type of prospect he truly is.
For the second piece in this trade, Tito Polo has been making a name for himself among Pirate fans over the past two seasons. If not for his play, his name alone has given him a buzz and the loss of him is probably hurtful for sentimental value more than actual value. Polo is a 22 year old outfielder who was signed out of Columbia as a 17 year old.
Last year, while in West Virginia, Polo made himself known when he hit for a .267/.341/.404 slash during the second half of the A ball affiliate. His impressive speed made for some highlight plays and caught the eye of many fans and scouts. His start to the 2016 season didn’t disappoint either. In his second go at West Virginia, Polo hit .302/.368/.551 in 251 at bats with 12 home runs and 20 stolen bases. The Pirates noticed this and decided to promote him to Bradenton on June 23.
Polo’s time in high A has been not as stellar, but still productive. In 247 at bats, he is now slashing a .276/.351/.346 with four home runs and 17 stolen bases. As you can see, the power has taken a tremendous drop, however it is actually more in line with his career numbers.
Many scouts don’t project Polo becoming much of a factor in the majors. Polo’s ceiling projects him to become a 4th outfielder who will hit for a plus average while his speed should allow him to cover a good amount of ground in the outfield. Like Tarpley, Polo would find himself blocked of making much of himself in the Burgh with the talented outfield they currently have in the majors and minors. With the outfield possibility of Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, and Andrew McCutchen/Austin Meadows until at least 2021, Polo could only be viewed as a 4th option once his debut is made. Let’s also not forget that Willy Garcia, Barrett Barnes, and Jose Osuna are viewed at least slightly higher than Tito and have a closer path to travel to the majors.
You can certainly argue that Nova was not an extremely talented pitcher and therefore the demand of mid level prospects should not have been warranted, but this year’s market told a much different story. Players like Will Smith and Matt Moore were drawing top notch prospects in their return as well as Andrew Cashner essentially costing the Marlins their #2 prospect along with an MLB pitcher in Jarred Cosart. Seeing Ivan Nova cost the Bucs two mid to low level prospects is not truly that bad of a deal at this moment.
Another thing that must be factored in is the fact that Stephen Tarpley and Tito Polo are both rule 5 eligible after this season. Though it would be tough to see anybody take Polo in the draft, Tarpley would absolutely be an arm a team would go after. In order to protect players from being drafted, Pittsburgh would need to place them on their 40 man roster. With a lot of their players already locked up and the talent Pittsburgh has in the high minors, they already are in a crunch to protect payers this upcoming season. With this in mind, the Pirates were likely to have to make some type of move or fear losing a mid level prospect for nothing. Oh, I take that back. They would lose a mid level prospect for $50,000.
As for the Yankees, they are finally in a full rebuild mode and are in need to filling their farm with any and all talent. With the major acquisitions being made, they landed top prospects in Clint Frazier, Gleyber Torres, Justus Sheffield, Dillon Tate, and Billy McKinney. With Ivan Nova becoming a free agent in 2017, acquiring any type of talent would be a win and they were able to coup two players who could round out a roster in their future.
Though we never announced it, we heard rumors swirl that Mitch Keller was a piece in the PTBNL. Depending on how Nova performed and if the Pirates made the playoff’s would determine that. If that were to be the case, then I can confidently say that the price of Nova was quite expensive. However, the sources appear to not have been correct and with the news I can confidently say that this trade is not an injustice and is, in fact, a fair deal to both sides. Losing a couple of future fringy MLB players for a potential wild card run is a price worth paying. In a couple of year, we all could be looking back at this deal the same way we view the Wandy Rodriguez trade.