What If: The Pirates Kept Bay/Nady

I’ve been updating the National League database the past week at AccuScore, getting ready for the start of the season. Soon we will have our initial previews out, although a lot will happen between that point and the end of Spring Training to change those projections.

Not too much Pirates news lately, so I figured I’d go with the age old debate tonight: what if the Pirates didn’t trade Jason Bay and Xavier Nady?

With Bay, Nady, and Nate McLouth manning the outfield, the Pirates had one of the most productive trios of the 2008 season. The 514 runs scored by the Pirates offense, leading up to the date of the Nady trade, ranked seventh in the majors, and third in the National League. The Pirates had both players under team control for the 2009 season. Sounds like it would be crazy to trade them, right?

Well, let’s consider the other factors. Even with the good offense, the Pirates were 48-56 at the time of the Nady trade, 12 games back from the Cubs and Brewers. This was mainly due to their horrible pitching staff, which was responsible for 584 runs allowed, worst in the National League at the time, and second worst in the majors to Texas.

The obvious answer is: keep Bay and Nady, and add pitching next year…right? Well, let’s just see how the payroll would have looked next year with Bay and Nady. By taking the 40-man roster and payroll chart, removing the players received in the Bay/Nady trades (Ohlendorf, LaRoche, Moss, Karstens, and Hansen), and adding Bay/Nady (I won’t include Damaso Marte because they probably wouldn’t have picked up his option, which I forgot about when making the chart…so add an extra $250 K for his buyout) we get the following:

The Pirates have set a $54 M payroll budget this year. As you can see, by keeping Bay and Nady, the Pirates would be over that budget by almost $10 M this year. Another big problem is that they would be entering the 2010 season with the exact same pitching staff that helped lead them to a 48-56 record at the time of the Nady trade.

Now they probably can expect a bounce back year from Ian Snell or Tom Gorzelanny this season (hopefully both). Maybe they could have seen Zach Duke or Phil Dumatrait step up. Maybe Paul Maholm would have continued his success. Then there’s the question of whether Nady would stay healthy, and whether the offense would repeat their success. Pretty much, that’s a lot of “ifs”.

As for the payroll, the Pirates would already be over budget. Before the 2008 season, Forbes projected the 2007 Pirates to have an additional $17.6 M in earnings. Of course this is before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization, which means the Pirates wouldn’t have seen the entire $17.6 M. It’s also important to note that Forbes is only an estimate, and not official numbers. Also, we’re assuming the same figures stand in 2008 and 2009.

The Pirates payroll in 2007 ended up being just over $51 M, according to The Biz of Baseball. If we assume that the Pirates had an additional $12-13 M to spend from that $17.6 M (and when estimating the total after the interest, taxes, depreciation, and amoritization, $12-13 M may be high), the Pirates would be breaking even with Bay and Nady on the 2009 team.

This means that the Pirates would be hoping that a team who went 48-56 could maintain their strong offense, see their top pitcher (Maholm) sustain his success, see their struggling pitchers (Snell/Gorzelanny) bounce back to pre-2008 form, and someone like Duke or Dumatrait stepping up. Like I said before, that’s a lot of “ifs”.

Of course the Pirates could have helped reduce those “ifs” by bringing in some starting help. However, it’s already a stretch to think Bob Nutting would go so much over budget on the same team that went 48-56 the year before. It’s even more of a stretch to think the Pirates would put out a $70+ M payroll in 2009 on that same 48-56 team.

All of this fails to mention that we wouldn’t have Jose Tabata, Bryan Morris, or Daniel McCutchen in our system, ranked by Baseball America as the 3rd, 5th, and 9th best prospects in our system for 2009. We also would have no chance of keeping Nady past 2009, as he is a Scott Boras client, and little chance of keeping Bay past 2009, as he would be one of the top outfielders on the market.

So looking back, I support the Bay and Nady trades. I’d rather have Andy LaRoche, Brandon Moss, Jose Tabata, Bryan Morris, Ross Ohlendorf, Daniel McCutchen, Jeff Karstens, and Craig Hansen for several years, rather than one more year of Jason Bay and Xavier Nady, with very little hope of improving on the team that could only post a .462 winning percentage in 2008.

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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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