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Royals trade target: Mets starting pitcher Dillon Gee

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With the Royals, Giants, and Rangers linked to the Mets and Dillon Gee, it's time to look at what he has to offer.

Ain't nuthin' but a Gee thang, baby
Ain't nuthin' but a Gee thang, baby
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

With Winter Meetings underway, the rumors are a-swirlin', and occasionally this means that the Royals are in talks with agents and other teams. While lately this has meant that something might happen a few days after Winter Meetings conclude (if Royals fans are [un]lucky), this week finds the Royals and Mets linked in the rumor mill.

In the middle of the afternoon on Monday, New York Daily News writer Andy Martino tweeted the following:

He expands on that a bit in an article a bit later, stating that

League sources peg the Giants and Royals as two teams that have expressed interest in Gee.

Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas.com links the Rangers to Gee as well, bringing the potential suitors for the 28-year-old righty to a rumored three teams.

With Martino positing that Gee is the most likely Mets pitcher to get dealt and suggesting that it could happen this week, it makes sense to look at who he is.

Far from a flame-thrower, the pride of Cleburne, TX is entering his second year of arbitration eligibility and is set to make somewhere in the vicinity of $5MM. A team trading for Gee would have control over 6'1" ground-ball pitcher through the next two seasons.

While the risk would be somewhat mitigated by the fact that a team trading for him is trading for two arbitration-eligible seasons, Gee does have a history of right shoulder and elbow issues. He missed the bulk of the 2009 season in the minors with a labral cartilage injury. Around the All-Star Break in 2012, Dillon Gee was shut down for the remainder of the year and went under the knife with to take care of a blood clot in his throwing shoulder and eventually had an arterial replacement. In 2013, he missed two relatively inconsequential four-day stretches with right elbow flexor tendonitis, which apparently bothered him all year. Then last year he spent roughly 60 days on the DL with a lat strain. Counting minor league innings, he has thrown at least 170 innings in three of the past five seasons and two of those saw him go over 190 IP, so it isn't as though he is brittle, but he's not extremely durable either.

The right-hander throws an above average change-up (per Fangraphs' PitchFX Pitch Values) to go along with his fastball. He offers both a slider and curveball, apparently transitioning to a knuckle-curve this past season--if the Pitch FX classifications can be trusted--and looks to have begun to rely upon his curve more this past season. Though the Pitch FX pitch breakdown has Gee throwing a combination of four-seam, two-set, and cut fastballs, it's hard to tell how accurate that data is, as there is no differentiation in velocity between the pitches, all apparently sitting right around 89 MPH. Regardless of repertoire, the cambio has been his only consistently above-average offering.

Of course, the picture isn't clear without having looked at his actual performance. Ignoring his 2010 five-start cup of coffee, 2014 saw Gee outperform his peripherals thanks to a likely unsustainable .268 BABIP. His 6.16 K/9, 16.5 K%, 2.82 BB/9, 7.5 BB%, 2.19 K/BB and 44.1 GB% would point to luck having been a factor in his 4.00 ERA being as low as it was. His 4.52 FIP, 4.22 xFIP, and 4.30 SIERA were all much more indicative of what happened on the field than his ERA would lead one to believe. The -0.1 fWAR he put up last year was the second time in four seasons that he'd been at or just below replacement level, though rWAR had his value at 0.7 wins in each of those campaigns.

On his career, he sports a 6.53 K/9, 2.88 BB/9, 17.1 K%, 7.6 BB%, 2.26 K/BB, 3.91 ERA, 4.23 FIP, 4.16 xFIP, 4.19 SIERA and has been worth 2.5 fWAR and 5.4 rWAR in 106 games (103 starts) in four seasons and change.  If extrapolating his worth based on the most rose-colored measure of WAR on a 162-game average, Gee would be worth 2.3 rWAR per whole season. Getting Gee to a full healthy season, however, is hardly something upon which the team acquiring him could count.

Consulting Steamer--the only Fangraphs projection out for Gee--it projects a 4.35 ERA, 4.27 FIP, 17.0 K%, 6.6 BB%, 2.59 K/BB, and 0.2 fWAR 2015 season in 77.0 IP (or roughly 0.5 fWAR in ~190 IP)--Baseball Prospectus has him projected to be worth 0.8 WARP.

In his best pair of seasons (2012-2013), Gee was worth 2.4 fWAR over 308.2 IP.

Best-case scenario? Gee gives his employer a couple million dollars' worth of surplus value in 2015 and market value the next year. Essentially this would make him the Royals' third #4 starter. For a team trying desperately to reload for another run at a World Series berth on a shoestring budget, this is hardly the impact move that would set the fans into a frenzy or make them favorites to win a division that they failed to win last year.

The cost to acquire Gee is unlikely to be a high one, but one has to wonder if paying him the roughly $5.1MM he is estimated to make in arbitration (per MLB Trade Rumors) is the best allocation of resources that Dayton Moore and the Royals can manage.