Would You Trade Fernando Martinez for Chris Tillman?

According to Roch Kubatko of MASN, the Orioles “would be willing to” trade right-hander Chris Tillman.

If you recall, Tillman, who will be just 24 next year, was, not too long ago, one of the most highly regarded pitching prospects in the game. Drafted in the second round of the 2006 draft by Seattle, the Mariners traded Tillman in a five-player package highlighted by outfielder Adam Jones to the Orioles for Erik Bedard before the 2008 season.  Tillman’s prospect profile took off from there; he dominated AA in 2008, ranking as the 22nd best prospect in the game by Baseball America heading into 2009. Tillman continued his success in AAA the following year, making his major league debut at 21 years-old in July of 2009.

Unfortunately for the Orioles, Tillman’s arrival has thus far marked the high point of his career. He has bounced between AAA and the Majors the past two seasons, struggling mightily in the big leagues; he is 7-15 with a 5.58 ERA in 180.2 career innings. His fastball velocity has steadily declined over the last three seasons, from an average of 92 mph in 2009 to 89.5 last season (although that might be partly be due to throwing a two-seamer more often), and his overall development has clearly stalled.

One thing I find interesting is that Tillman’s performance did show some marked improvement at the big league level in 2011. In 62 innings, he posted a 5.52 ERA but his BABIP  (.348) was high and his LOB% (65.7%) was well below the league average. His K/9 rate was 6.68, and his BB/9 3.63, both of which aren’t too far from average and was an improvement over his 2010 campaign. Tillman’s Achilles heel is his extreme fly-ball tendencies, inducing grounders just 37.3% of the time in 2011. Nevertheless, Tillman’s 4.83 xFIP is far more representative of his 2011 season. While not exactly ace-like, it’s hardly terrible, especially considering he pitched in the AL East.

What’s perplexing is that Tillman actually performed worse in AAA during 2011, posting a 6.25 FIP with a 6.37 K/9 and 4.48 BB/9 in 76.1 innings. Perhaps he was just experimenting at the AAA level, and his big league performance is a better reflection of what he is capable of right now.

On the plus side, Tillman doesn’t have any history of arm injuries. Even if he does regain his old form, Tillman’s fly-ball propensities will probably preclude him from ever really dominating at the big league level. But, many pitchers — such as Ted Lilly — have performed quite well in spite of similar fly-ball tendencies. Worst case, Tillman can very easily be a decent bullpen arm.

And who knows, the good ol’ change of scenery might do wonders for the youngster. While it’s hard to say the Orioles have shown a systemic failure in developing young pitchers, a long line of disappointing pitching prospects — Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz, Tillman, Matt Hobgood, Daniel Cabrera, Hayden Penn, Rhadames Liz, newly signed Met Adam Loewen, Matt Riley, etc. — at the very least, suggests Tillman might benefit from working with a different coaching staff.

So would it be worth trading F-Mart for Tillman? Tillman probably has a better chance of making at least some impact for the Mets, as either a back-end starter or a middle reliever, given his lack of injury history. At this point, whom would you rather gamble on?


Matt is a high school student in New Jersey and avid Mets fan. He occasionally updates his blog at: matthimelfarb.wordpress.com
  1. NormE November 29, 2011 at 8:02 am
    Do it! I’m not convinced that F-Mart will ever amount to much, at least with the Mets.
    Sounds as if both players could use a change of scenery.
  2. Mike B November 29, 2011 at 8:24 am
    I would trade F-Mart for anything. This is just another case of these cant miss top 100 rated prospect missing for both sides. But I am sure all our prospects will come right up and dominate like Doc and Straw and we will be great in 2013.
  3. james greenleaf November 29, 2011 at 11:03 am
    it is worth a shot. A mediocre arm is worth something, while 4th outfielders are a dime a dozen.
  4. Christopher Soto November 29, 2011 at 1:17 pm
    Absolutely!!!! The club is freshly stocked with OF prospects that will jump F-Mart on the depth chart. I personally already have Captain Kirk above him and its only 1 good month away from having Lagares above him too (Im assuming Lagares starts in AA).

    After the big 4 pitching prospects we wont have much coming through until the Akeel Morris/Tapia/2011 Draft Class group comes matures.

    • John December 1, 2011 at 10:33 pm
      It sounds like Gorski may have a future
  5. Joe November 29, 2011 at 2:20 pm
    I’m with the others in not seeing much with F-Mart and supporting serious consideration.
  6. argonbunnies November 30, 2011 at 5:29 am
    Tillman’s velocity drop means something’s wrong. If we can identify it and a path to fix it, then thumbs up to the trade. If not, then I have no interest in a righty who throws 89 with control problems. Trade F-Mart for something else.
    • Mike B November 30, 2011 at 11:37 am
      Lets get Rick Peterson back in here, He will fix it in a minute.
      • argonbunnies November 30, 2011 at 7:58 pm
        I would say that Peterson’s willingness to mess with pitchers made all of them higher-risk and higher-reward. He actually strikes me as the perfect coach for a rebuilding team. He’ll destroy a few prospects and get miracles out of a few others.

        I don’t know why more teams aren’t trying what Peterson did in the minors with this small righty who was drafted in the 6th round and wasn’t much of a prospect. Peterson completely rebuilt his mechanics, increasing his velocity and movement and catapulting him to the majors. That small righty is Tim Hudson.

        • Mike B November 30, 2011 at 8:56 pm
          What was the huge reward for us met fans? Tom Brady was drafted in the 6th round, does slick rick get the credit for his career too?

          I really dont have that strong opinion of rick or any coach for that matter, they help some hurt some. just trying to dig at Victor Zambrano

        • argonbunnies November 30, 2011 at 11:30 pm
          Oh, yeah, I definitely don’t want Peterson as my GM! (Nor Duquette, for that matter.)

          As for what he did for us, I dunno, it seemed that he kept Ollie on track longer than anyone else has been able to…

        • Joe Janish December 1, 2011 at 12:57 am
          Agreed, bunnyman.

          And if coaches have no impact, how does one explain Dave Duncan?

        • Mike B December 1, 2011 at 9:56 am
          Joe if your saying coaches have such a huge impact can you name one that would truly make a difference other than Duncan.

          I have no doubt that he is a good coach but I am sure the way St Louis runs there team has as much to do with his success as anything else.

          Do you believe if we had duncan we would be celebrating 2 world championships in the last 5 years?