This will probably ruffle some feathers, but when are we to shy away from that?

Here’s the deal (NoMaas offseason idea #3).

Nova posted a 3.70 ERA in 165 IP in 2011, while going 16-4. He’ll only be 25 next season and he won’t be a free agent for another five years. As such, he’s likely to produce on-field value well above what he’s being paid.

What lovely selling points!

In reality, Nova is an average starter with an unimpressive ceiling. You won’t find a scout who has ever pegged Nova as anything more than a middle of the rotation guy, and his underlying skills bear that assessment out so far. His K/BB so far is a mediocre 1.68, due to a 5.38 K/9 and a 3.21 BB/9. He does a fine job inducing ground balls, but the low 50′s rate is still decidedly 2nd-tier. This is not the second coming of Chien Ming Wang. We don’t know how he’ll handle another jump in innings, and he just doesn’t appear to have the stuff to make great headway from his 4.20 xFIP.

Now, this doesn’t mean we’re anti-Ivan Nova. If he stays in New York, he will be a valuable rotation piece. Even an “average starter” is a legitimate asset. So don’t start whining that NoMaas said Nova stinks, because we don’t think that at all. However, we believe that at this point, Ivan Nova could bring the Yankees what they actually need most…a true top of the rotation starter.

And who is the pitcher we think the Yankees could land in a trade involving Nova? Cue all the internet psychologists, because we want Milwaukee’s Zack Greinke.

Greinke is an all-or-nothing player for the Brewers in 2012. He certainly could be a big part of them making the playoffs again, but he’s one year away from being a free agent. If he falters, or if the team around him falters, the Brewers will be left with nothing to show at the end of the year for the $13.5 million they’ll have paid him. With Braun, Weeks, and Gallardo in the fold for at least through at least 2015, the Brewers need to keep an eye on sustainable success with cost effective players.

While the Brewers front office surely knows Greinke has great potential, it’s also quite possible they underrate Greinke’s value. After all, Greinke posted a league-average 3.83 ERA in 2011. Milwaukee may well feel that it was not worth having spent 1/6th of their budget on Greinke in 2011, and they may be wary of repeating that in 2012.

The Yankees, however, should know that Greinke is an unquestionably elite pitcher. His 2.56 xFIP was the best in baseball this season — better than Cliff Lee, better than Roy Halladay. He got a late start to the season due to a rib injury, but once he got started he pitched 171 healthy innings. His ability to shoulder an ace-quantity of innings is apparent in his workload for 2008, 2009, & 2010, when he exceeded 200 IP each year. At 28, he is in his prime. This is quite simply one of the best pitchers in the world, and there isn’t anyone within shouting distance available on the free agent market.

A young, average, cost-controlled starter like Nova is a valuable asset to most teams. We think he could get the discussion going with the mid-market Brewers. We’d also happily throw Hector Noesi into the deal too, another young cost-controlled starter.

Also, let’s not forget that the Yankees have plenty of young arms in their system, and several with higher ceilings than Nova (two of which who are pretty close).

Bottom line, a CC-Greinke 1-2 would be sick. While Ivan Nova performed admirably in 2011, his trade value is likely at its peak. These are the types of astute moves that could solve the Yankees annual rotation problems.


It’s time auction off Ivan.

*Props to Marshall Seymour for also contributing to this post