Pirates a fallback for Pedro?

Jon Heyman of SI.com wrote a note today about Pedro Martinez (scroll down to the bottom of the first page). Heyman mentioned Pedro’s desire to use the World Baseball Classic as a stage to showcase his abilities. Heyman mentions the Indians made an early run at him, and makes reference to the Pirates showing interest. He ends the short note with a comment about Pedro having the Pirates if all else fails.

I’ve mentioned many times at the Pirates message board that I feel Pedro would be a good fit for the team. Back in this post on the free agent starting pitching market (notice that Pedro and Ben Sheets are the only guys remaining) I listed my reasons for liking Pedro:

You would think the Pirates hold an advantage with Pedro. They have Joe Kerrigan, his former pitching coach in Montreal and Boston. They also have his cousin, Denny Bautista, signed to a minor league contract. Pedro comes with a risk, as he has dealt with injuries the last few years. In 2007 he made just five major league starts, and a combined 14 starts at all levels. In 2008 he made 20 major league starts, but posted a 5.61 ERA (But Tim, that would have given the Pirates an upgrade last year!).

2005 was Pedro’s last full season, and he didn’t disappoint with a 2.82 ERA in 31 starts. The Pedro of old may be gone, but the current Pedro represents a decent risk for the Pirates. If he returns to even 75% of the pitcher he was in 2005, the Pirates would easily have the ace of their staff. I don’t expect much from Pedro next season, but I think a 7.50 K/9 and at least 20 starts is reasonable. That type of power is something the Pirates lack at the major league level. Plus, Pedro would be a big draw at PNC, helping to pay off any investment the Pirates make in him.”

On the personal side, the Pirates still have Pedro’s two time pitching coach in Kerrigan, plus his cousin, Denny Bautista, in camp.

Looking at production, most importantly, there are the injury issues. Pedro did make 20 starts in the majors last year, but posted a 7.2 K/9 ratio, which is his worst in his major league career. He also put up a 1.6 HR/9 ratio, again his worst performance over his career. Pedro is definately a buy low candidate, but the question is: will he ever bounce back.

That’s what Pedro is apparently trying to prove in the World Baseball Classic. The amount of playing time he would receive is questionable. Last time around the Dominican Republic played in seven games, for 63 total innings. Bartolo Colon led the team with 14 innings, but was the only starter with double digit innings. Daniel Cabrera, Jorge Sosa, Francisco Liriano, and Odalis Perez were the only pitchers with more than five innings, and their range was 5.1 to 8 innings.

The rosters are formally announced tomorrow, but already the Dominican Republic could have Edinson Volquez, Ervin Santana, and Fausto Carmona. My guess is that Pedro will see a maximum of eight innings in the Classic, which is enough to showcase his arm strength, but not enough to showcase his durability, which I believe is a bigger concern.

Looking at the teams who could be interested in Pedro, I don’t see a match.

The Mets have Johan Santana, Oliver Perez, John Maine, Mike Pelfrey, and fighting for the fifth spot they have Tim Redding, Livan Hernandez, and Jon Niese.

The Dodgers have Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda, Clayton Kershaw, Randy Wolf, and fighting for the fifth spot they have Jason Schmidt, Eric Stults, James McDonald, and Scott Elbert.

The Indians have Cliff Lee, Fausto Carmona, Jeremy Sowers, Anthony Reyes, and Carl Pavano. It is believed that their interest in Pedro died when they signed Pavano, who comes with similar injury risks.

Pedro would require a major league contract, which might hurt his chances with these teams. That leaves the Pirates as options.

The question then becomes, is Pedro worth the risk? Chances are he will only take a one year deal, and he’s not going to be the difference between winning in 2009 and losing. However, Pedro’s experience would be like adding another pitching coach to the staff, and as I said before, if he’s at 75 percent of his normal self, he’s still one of our better options.

Most importantly, Pedro would be a big draw, probably to the point where he would pay for himself. Assuming Pedro made 10 starts at home, and drew an extra 10,000 fans each start, that’s an extra 100,000 fans. At $30 per fan, that’s an extra $3 M, which is probably close to what Pedro can expect to receive at this point.

For Pedro, the Pirates provide a great opportunity to revive his career, much like Kenny Rogers did at the age of 41 with Detroit. Of course, Rogers wasn’t a power pitcher, which made it easier to maintain his level of performance, but he managed 17 wins and a 3.84 ERA, which earned him a two year, $16 M contract with the Tigers the next year.

Finally, how would Pedro impact the rotation, not so much on performance, but on blocking prospects? Paul Maholm has a spot locked up. Ian Snell and Zach Duke are pretty much locks due to their salaries. That leaves two spots for Tom Gorzelanny, Ross Ohlendorf, Phil Dumatrait, Jeff Karstens, Daniel McCutchen, Jimmy Barthmaier, and Virgil Vasquez.

Chances are McCutchen, Barthmaier, and Vasquez will go to AAA, while Dumatrait will start out in the bullpen. I’d want to give Tom Gorzelanny a shot to see if he can return to his 2007 numbers. If Pedro were given a spot, that would put Ross Ohlendorf and Jeff Karstens either in the bullpen, or in the minors, as both have options remaining.

I would be fine with this. You’ve got Ohlendorf, Karstens, or Dumatrait ready to step up incase of injury, or if Snell and/or Gorzelanny don’t rebound, or if Duke struggles again. If those three don’t pan out, you’ve got three more options in the minors in Barthmaier, McCutchen, and Vasquez. An addition of Pedro would give us a somewhat complete pitching staff (hey, they’ve all pieced together one good year, with the exception of Duke who only had half a good year), with six options waiting in the wings as backups. Plus, if we’re lucky, it could give the Pirates an ace, assuming Pedro returns to form.

Of course if all goes well for Pedro, most likely we would be hoping for a decent prospect in return around July 31st.

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • Fla Pirate

    You know, a sneaky way to work in Pedro into our roster would be to make a deal with Duke or Gorzo, and send one of them to AAA for the season since they still have options available. Toss them some cash under the table or whatever it takes to soothe their hurt feelings. Unless we get convinced early that one of the other optionless guys is worthless.

    Yes they will be unhappy, but if they are struggling like last year, I would rather give Pedro a shot for half a season or so, then see those two dishing out BP.