Warren Piece: Who’s the Pitcher the Cubs Got for Castro?

I will apologize in advance for any typos here, as I’m typing through tears. Okay, not really, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little sad about Starlin Castro’s departure. His transition to the role of sympathetic figure was truly one of my favorite storylines from 2015 and I was hoping for a continuation of that redemption in 2016. There’s a bit of relief from this move too though, as there was always this sense of angst with Castro as we waited for the other cleat to drop.

Speaking of relief, the guy the Cubs got in return for Castro adds some depth to a pitching staff that has yet to be fully fleshed out. Adam Warren, 28, performed really well for the Yankees as both a starter and a late reliever, moving into the 7th-inning role when Ivan Nova came back off the DL. This feels kind of like the re-signing of Trevor Cahill in that the Cubs now have yet another guy who’s comfortable in both the rotation and the pen and who isn’t taking up a big chunk of change.

Warren, in fact, is only projected to earn around $1.5 million as he enters his first arbitration-eligible season. With two more years of control after that, the Cubs figure to have added a guy who grants them a great deal of flexibility, both financially and in how they deploy him. But who is he?

In 2015, Warren’s third in the majors, he pitched 131 1/3 innings over 43 appearances (17 starts and 26 relief) with the Yankees. The innings were a career high after having posted 77 and 78 2/3 IP coming almost exclusively out of the pen over the two previous seasons. Warren’s career stats (3.39 ERA, 3.69 FIP, 1.24 WHIP) don’t necessarily jump off the page, but they’re certainly quite solid. And if you’ll indulge me another couple swings at this dead horse, the 6’1″, 200 lb righty is quite valuable as a swing man.

He’s not, however, much of a swing-and-miss man, as evidenced by a 7.13 K/9 last season. But he kept the ball on the ground at about a 45% clip and didn’t allow a great deal of hard contact. In speaking about the trade on MLB Network, Al Leiter described Adam Warren as “a two-and-a-half-pitch pitcher,” which is something I’ve not really heard anyone called before.

Warren employs a fastball/slider/change/curve mix, all of which were above-average offerings in 2015. Well, the fastball was barely a tick above zero in terms of runs saved, but that’s a big improvement over its past efficacy figures. Both last season and for his career, Warren has achieved the best results from his change and slider and has done well with the curve too. His fastball sits in the low 90’s, the slider and change in the mid-80’s, and the curve right at 80 mph.

This isn’t a guy who’s going to come in and set the world ablaze, but he’s not going to be a tire fire either. Unless there’s something really unexpected on the horizon, the Cubs are pretty well set with their rotation for next season, but I don’t think anyone really has a great deal of faith in Jason Hammel. As it sits now, Warren is probably slotted into that 7th-inning role in which he thrived with the Yankees.

Originally announced as a PTBNL, the Cubs are reportedly receiving Brendan Ryan from the Yankees as well. A light-hitting middle infielder, Ryan is owed only $1 million for next season, after which he’ll be a free agent. I can’t see him making any sort of appreciable impact in 2016, though I suppose it’s never bad to have an organizational guy around. If, that is, he’s still around beyond Spring Training.

This isn’t a massive haul, but between the Ben Zobrist signing and the emergence of Addison Russell, there just weren’t enough at-bats to go around. As such, the Cubs dealt from a position of strength and addressed an area of weakness. And while many of us will miss Starlin Castro, I don’t think there’s any doubt that the Cubs became a better team on Tuesday evening.

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