Could the Braves target a trade for Lucas Giolito to bolster their rotation?
By Sam Peebles
The Atlanta Braves are doing well so far this season, but they are dealing with the injury bug. The rotation has lost key members for extended periods of time with Kyle Wright and Max Fried hitting the IL.
Could the Atlanta Braves explore the trade market for help? They do not have a good farm system, so what they have to offer would not win many bidding wars.
Typically a team that is looking to sell, will hold their asset close to the trade deadline to maximize the return as competitive teams look to bolster their squads for the second half of the season. That being said, the odds of the Braves making a splash via the trade market any time soon are slim.
However, should the Braves make a move before the deadline, there is one player that looks good on paper, and he plays for the struggling White Sox.
Lucas Giolito was the key piece in the return for the White Sox when they traded Adam Eaton to the Nationals in December 2016.
Giolito was a highly touted prospect that was drafted 16th overall in 2012, out of Harvard-Westlake HS (Los Angeles, CA). He pitched 21.1 innings for the Nationals in 2016 with a poor ERA+ of 64 (36 percent below league average), but once he switched uniforms he came out of the gate on fire (at least, in terms of preventing runs).
In 2017 Giolito had an ERA+ that was 81 percent better than league average for the White Sox in 45.1, although his peripherals showed he was a bit lucky.
Him being a bit lucky in the previous season showed in 2018 as his first full year as a starter where he pitched 173.1 innings. He gave up more earned runs and more walks than any other pitcher in the league.
He figured things out in the following off-season and went on a streak of three straight seasons in which he received Cy Young votes where he averaged an ERA+ of 129 (3.47), 3.54 FIP, 1.076 WHIP, and 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.
In 2022, Giolito struggled again with an ERA+ of 81, FIP of 4.06, 1.435 WHIP, while giving up the second highest number of hits per 9 innings of his career. He still struck out hitters at a high clip of 9.9 per 9 innings, and his expected ERA (xERA) was a 4.23, which was much lower than his actuial 4.90.
Why should the Atlanta Braves target Giolito if his 2022 was subpar?
It is easy to say that the Braves should trade for Giolito to sure up their depleted bullpen, but why specifically Giolito when his 2022 was bad?
One could look at his 2019-2021 and get excited that Giolito has a high ceiling if he could get back to pitching at that level. This is true. However, when you trade for a player, you are trading for what they will bring your team in the future. So, it is always important to look at their peripherals to remove all the noise and help determine what the future might hold.
You can look at a players expectancy stats (XSTATS), to help get an understanding on if a player is in line for positive or negative regression to the mean. In a nutshell, has a player been lucky, or unlucky.
By looking at his XSTATS, we can see a positive picture for Giolito:
- xERA – Top 40 percent of MLB
- Expected Batting Average Against (xBA) – Top 48 percent
- Walk Rate – Top 13 percent
- Strikeout Rate – Top 39 percent
- Whiff Rate (swing and miss rate) – Top 38 percent
He struggles with getting hitters to chase pitches outside the zone with his chase rate being in the bottom half of the league, and when hitters do hit the ball they hit pretty well with an expected slugging percentage against being bottom 42 percent.
However, what we are seeing is an above average pitcher that will only cost what it would take in a trade for a player that had a bad year in 2022 that is only a rental.
The Braves would only owe Giolito the prorated amount of his 10.4M salary this year. Giolito may have some bidding wars since he could be a hot commodity come trade deadline. But, he is absolutely a player the Braves should pursue.