Pirates Notebook: Pirates lose value by trading Grabow

With John Grabow set to be a free agent at the end of the season, we’re going to see a lot of talk of the Pittsburgh Pirates trading their lefty set-up man to re-stock the farm system. If they really want to re-stock the farm system, they should hold on to him…at least until the end of the 2009 season.

According to MLB Trade Rumors, Grabow is a probable Type A free agent after this season. If you are unfamiliar with Type A free agents, here is how it works:

-Every player in the majors is ranked over the last two seasons by the Elias Sports Bureau
-The top players in each positional group receive Type A status. The next best players receive Type B status. The remaining players have no status, and gain no compensation. The positional groups are: 1B/OF/DH, 2B/3B/SS, Catchers, Starters, and Relievers.
-In this example, Grabow is projected to be one of the top relievers in baseball over the last two seasons. Therefore he would classify as a Type A player.
-Type A free agents get their team two compensation picks. One pick comes in the sandwich round before the first and second rounds. The second pick comes from the signing team. That pick is either the signing team’s first round pick (assuming that pick falls between #16-30 in the first round) or their second round pick (assuming their first round pick is in the top 15). A Type B free agent only receives the sandwich pick, and that doesn’t come from the signing team.
-In order to get compensation for Grabow, the Pirates would have to offer him arbitration at the end of the year.
-Grabow would have the option of accepting arbitration, with a guaranteed raise over his current $2.3 M salary, and no compensation for the Pirates. However, if another team signs him, the Pirates receive compensation.

So in short, if the Pirates keep John Grabow, and offer him arbitration at the end of the year, they could receive two first round picks in the 2010 draft, assuming he signs elsewhere. Of course this brings up the issue of whether Grabow would sign elsewhere. I happen to think he would.

Last year the left handed reliever market was pretty deep. The class featured Jeremy Affeldt, Damaso Marte (who was hardly a free agent), Joe Beimel, Will Ohman, and Brian Shouse. Aside from Affeldt, who received a two year, $8 M contract, and Marte, who received a 3 year, $12 M contract, the salaries were pretty low. Beimel, Ohman, and Shouse all signed for $1.5-2 M on one year deals. Trever Miller was also a free agent, and signed an incentive laden contract that could pay him as little as $0.5 M, and up to $2.08 M if he reaches all of his incentives.

You could point to the economy as one of the reasons these players got such low salaries. That would be a valid argument, and one that isn’t going to disappear in the 2010 free agent class. There is one difference between the 2010 and 2009 classes: supply and demand.

Affeldt, Beimel, and Ohman are all 30-32 years of age. Shouse is 40 and Miller is 36. The left handed reliever market was a seller’s market, as most of those players were on the market, driving each other’s prices down. Looking ahead to the 2010 market:

Joe Beimel (32)
Alan Embree (40) – club option
Scott Eyre (38)
Casey Fossum (32)
John Grabow (31)
Eddie Guardado (39)
Ron Mahay (39)
Trever Miller (37)
Will Ohman (31) – club option
Darren Oliver (39)
Glendon Rusch (35)
Scott Schoeneweis (36)
Brian Shouse (41) – club option
Ron Villone (40)
Jamie Walker (38)

The advantage Grabow has is that he is one of few under 35 years of age. The only other guys are:

-Joe Beimel, with a 3.81 ERA this year
-Casey Fossum, with just 4 IP this year, and a career 4.58 ERA as a reliever
-Will Ohman, who may not even hit the open market, although he’s struggled with a 5.84 ERA this year

I’m not sure what Grabow would see through arbitration. He’s making $2.3 M this year, so maybe something in the $3-4 M range. I don’t think he’d turn that down for a one year offer, but I do think he’d take a multi-year offer that paid less per year (maybe 3/$9 M), and I think he’d get it.

Grabow has a 3.09 ERA in 2008-2009. He has 103 games so far, and 105 innings pitched, not counting tonight. He has stepped up as a solid late innings reliever who is a work horse. Looking at the list above, I feel Grabow stands out as the best option, kind of this year’s Jeremy Affeldt.

I don’t think the Pirates could receive two first round quality prospects by trading Grabow. The team receiving Grabow would only be getting his services for two months. Granted, that team would have the arbitration option as well to recover their prospect losses if Grabow left via free agency.

Therefore, I feel it is in the best interest of the Pirates to keep Grabow, and try to get two first round picks next season. Worst case scenario? Grabow accepts their offer of arbitration, and they retain a guy who is currently ranked #3 in the 2009 MVP Tracker, according to the FanGraphs WPA figures.

The MVP Tracker

Speaking of The MVP Tracker, it is updated through yesterday’s loss, with Paul Maholm losing the top spot to Freddy Sanchez. Here are the big performers from tonight’s win:

1. Andy LaRoche: .174 WPA
2. Andrew McCutchen: .153
3. Ian Snell: .141
4. Adam LaRoche: .111
5. John Grabow: .101

Prospect Watch

The Prospects Tracker is updated with tonight’s games.

-Pedro Alvarez went 2 for 5 with 3 strikeouts. Alvarez nw has 68 strikeouts on the season in 232 at-bats.

-Robbie Grossman went 1 for 4 with a double, and was hit by a pitch. Grossman has now hit safely in 14 of 16 games in the month of June, for a .333 average. Time to move him up to Lynchburg.

Other Stuff

-According to this report, Brooks Pounders, the third pick by the Pirates in the 2009 draft, will sign tomorrow. The 2009 Draft Pick Signing Tracker is updated with the news. According to the report, Pounders will take his physical tomorrow, and sign the deal around 5 PM. He will report to Bradenton.

UPDATE: Chuck Finder at the PPG confirms that Pounders will sign tomorrow. In the same article, Zach Dodson (4th round) and Billy Cain (8th round) might receive above slot offers soon from the Pirates, and Trent Stevenson (7th round) will meet with the Pirates on Monday. Cain is my favorite of that group.

-The 26th round pick for the Pirates, Matthew Dermody, threw a perfect game in six innings, striking out all 18 batters he faced. First we have to consider that it is high school baseball. Also, it was the first game of a double header, and his teammate no-hit the same opponents in game two, so it’s probable that they aren’t ve

ry good. That being said, Dermody has put up solid numbers in the past.

Dermody is 4-0 with a 0.29 ERA and 54 strikeouts this season. Last year he had a 0.78 ERA and a 135:15 K/BB ratio in 63 IP. He throws in the mid to upper 80s with a good curve and changeup, according to his coach. However, he is 6’5″ and 18 years old, so he may have room to improve.

In the link above, Dermody says he will wait until the end of the summer to decide whether he will go to Iowa (where he has committed), or sign with the Pirates. By “end of the summer” I can only assume he means “August 17th at around midnight”. He’s only going to drive the price up with more outings like this one.

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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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  • UtesFan89

    The thing about Grabow being a type-A guy… will other teams sign him knowing it'll take away their first rounder? Or will it be a Juan Cruz like thing from last year where no one is willing to sign him given the cost?

  • Tim Williams

    I don't think either situation will impact him in the long run.

    Cruz did eventually sign with the Royals, for 2 years/$6 M.

    As for Type A guys, last year Russ Springer and Juan Cruz were Type A free agents, and both signed with new teams.

  • Goodtymes

    The Grabow debate is a very interesting one, but I suspect he will be traded simply because 1st round picks (well, a 1st and a sandwich pick) command big signing bonuses, and I dont think the Pirates would be interested in paying 3 1st round bonuses next year. Additionally, most teams with several early picks, end up getting conservative so that they sign, and dont get full value, so a trade may provide more certainty on what we are getting.

    On Grossman, can't move the kid up yet. He is striking out in over 1/3 of his AB's, and the kid is still barely a year out of high school. Moving him up now could crush him, he needs to stay the full season at WV.

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