Pirates Notebook: Who is the next to go?

I did my write up of the Nate McLouth trade last night. After thinking about it some more I guess my biggest problem is the timing. From what I read in the PPG, Tommy Hanson and Jason Heyward were both untouchable. That’s understandable. Hanson is an ace, and I think Heyward could be another Jason Bay. That being said, I think we could have at least gotten Heyward in a deal for McLouth.

The problem I have is the timing. Atlanta is desperate for a center fielder with Gregor Blanco and Jordan Schafer struggling this year. Unless I’m mistaken, the trade deadline wasn’t yesterday. The Pirates could have held off for another month, trying to get a better return. What’s the worst case scenario? We keep McLouth? I think we could have gotten the same package a month from now, but at least we could have tried for Heyward.

Rather than continue to look at the McLouth trade, let’s focus on another issue: who is the next player to be traded?

There are two ways of looking at the McLouth trade:

1. Neal Huntington doesn’t think we’re going to be able to win in the time period that Nate was going to be with us.

2. Neal thinks that an offense with Andrew McCutchen isn’t that big of a downgrade from an offense with McLouth (more on this below).

Right now our top minor league prospects are Pedro Alvarez, Jose Tabata, and Gorkys Hernandez. Alvarez is struggling with the average, but I think he can be up a year from now. Tabata is hurt, which has delayed his development, but I could see him up by this time in 2011 at the latest. I also don’t see Gorkys up until 2011.

So looking at that, our hopes are slim of seeing a big boost in improvement this year and next year, meaning option number one from above could be likely. What does this mean for 2009 trades? Here are some guys I wouldn’t be surprised to see traded this year:

Matt Capps - Capps has two arbitration years after this year. Huston Street received $4.5 M in his second year of arbitration this year. I could see Capps getting $10 M over the next two seasons. Are the Pirates really going to pay $10 M for a closer when they don’t anticipate winning? Capps would be a good trade chip, and the Pirates could go with Jesse Chavez in the closer role upon his departure.

Zach Duke - It may be a surprise for you to see Duke on here, especially since I talked about extending him the other day. Duke also has two years of arbitration left, which puts him with us through the 2011 season. His value is at an all-time high right now, and I also think this is as good as it gets for Duke. As a young left handed starter with success, Duke could bring a huge return. I say either extend him beyond 2011, or trade him. Right now he’s kind of in no-man’s land, and with this year’s performance he could be looking at a big pay day through arbitration.

Ian Snell - Snell is due $4.25 M next year, and has options for 2011 and 2012. The problem is that he’s been struggling for the last year and a half. I could see Snell traded, with the newly arriving Charlie Morton getting the call. The problem is Snell’s value is low, so the return would be small. Unless Snell turns it around, or unless he gets packaged with someone else (Grabow or Jack), I don’t see him sticking around.

John Grabow - Grabow had Type A status at the end of the 2008 season. Chances are he will be a Type A free agent after the year, getting us two comp picks in the 2010 draft if we offer him arbitration. I don’t think we’d see the same return via trade, unless we packaged him with someone else, kind of like the Nady/Marte trade last year.

Freddy Sanchez - The Pirates were willing to trade McLouth, so does anyone think they’re willing to pay Freddy $8 M next year? It’s not that I think the money has anything to do with it, but why spend $8 M on a guy like Freddy when you can further stock your minor league system?

Jack Wilson - The defense by Ramon Vazquez really hurt today (although his 4 for 4 performance made up for it). I don’t want to see Jack traded, but I could see it happen. I think a package deal of Jack/Grabow/Snell would be enticing for a contender. I don’t think we’d have problems getting a replacement defensive infielder to cover short until someone like Brian Friday is ready.

Adam LaRoche - I don’t think LaRoche returns next year, which means he will probably be gone by the deadline. I’m not sure what to think about this, since we don’t really have a replacement. Steve Pearce is only hitting .272 with 6 homers in 173 at-bats at AAA. Maybe Pedro Alvarez will be ready by mid-year next year, but with his sub-.250 average, that’s not a guarantee. Maybe Adam will sign a team friendly deal to continue playing with his brother another season.

Ryan Doumit - Yes, I think Doumit could be gone. Diaz and Jaramillo have done a good job in place of Doumit this year, and are both under team control for six years. Of course maybe next year the Pirates could shift Doumit to first base, leaving Jaramillo and Diaz behind the plate, and solving the first base vacancy left by the probable Adam LaRoche trade.

The McLouth trade sets the team’s contending period back. Our top prospects are all set to arrive around the 2011-2012 season. Therefore I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Pirates unload some guys who are only going to be here from 2009-2011. Those guys aren’t going to provide much help in the meantime, and could be of better value by helping us re-stock the minor league system. Basically I’m saying I wouldn’t be upset if we decided to go all-in for a rebuilding effort, aiming for the 2011-2012 seasons.

McCutchen with a strong debut

If there’s one thing that made the trade seem better, it was the debut by Andrew McCutchen today. McCutchen had a strong performance, going 2 for 4 with a walk, three runs, an RBI, and a stolen base. Most of that damage came later in the game, with a big lead already in place. Still, it was nice to see some quick success from Cutch, especially after years of never seeing prospects live up to their hype.

Now I’m not calling it a Hall of Fame career just yet, but I will say that I don’t think the downgrade from McLouth to Cutch is huge. I don’t think there’s any downgrade defensively. On offense Nate obviously provides more power, but Cutch brings some serious speed to the table.

I love the Cutch/Nyjer one two punch. First of all, you’ve got two speedy guys on the bases. Back to back singles puts runners at first and third, and then you’ve got one of the best gap hitters in the league following them in Freddy Sanchez. In his career, Sanchez is a .311/.347/.429 hitter in the number three spot (1031 PA), compared to .284/.316/.404 in the number two spot (916 PA).

There are other small things I love about the Cutch/Nyjer set up. First, Nyjer is left handed, making it really hard for right handed catchers to do a snap throw down to try and pick off Cutch at first. It also makes it a little harder for right handed catchers to throw down to second, as they have to move slightly away from Nyjer to make the throw.

Then there’s a smaller chance of grounding in to a double play with those two providing speed. It would either be hard catching Cutch at second, or if you could catch him at second, it would be hard getting Nyjer at first on the second part of the play.

Fianlly, this move gives the Pirates three solid OBP hitters to top the lineup, assuming

McCutchen carries over the performance that got him a .361 OBP in AAA this season (which is close to his .362 OBP in his minor league career). That’s followed by Nyjer Morgan, who is currently at .359, and Freddy Sanchez, who is also at .359. Only four teams in the majors have a lineup that features three guys at the top of the lineup all with a .360+ OBP. Those teams are the Yankees, Twins, Red Sox, and Astros. Not bad company to be mixed in with.

So overall I don’t think the dropoff from McLouth to McCutchen is that drastic. We lose some power, but if Cutch lives up to his hype we gain extra value that he brings with his speed.

More thoughts on McLouth

Some good reading at other Pirates blogs on the McLouth trade…

Jim at North Side Notch has a rundown of the players we got. I agree that Charlie Morton could be another Ross Ohlendorf type player. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the rotation by August.

Brian at Raise the Jolly Roger points out our excess of outfield talent, as well as the fact that the Pirates weren’t exactly World Series contenders before the trade. Good points.

Charlie at Bucs Dugout has two good posts on the deal. In this second post he points out how McLouth battled for playing time under DL and Tracy. Kind of makes you appreciate McLouth when you think back about the road he took to get here. Went from a 25th round draft pick in 2000 to being labeled a reserve outfielder under DL and Tracy, finally got a shot at the end of the 2007 season, then had to win a job in 2008.

Brad at This is Getting Old has a rundown of the deal, including a question of what to do with all of his former bobble heads. I currently have bobble heads for Oliver Perez, Jason Bay, Craig Wilson, another Jason Bay, and Freddy Sanchez. That doesn’t speak well for the future of Sanchez.

Pat at WHYGAVS raises the question: what is Nate McLouth worth? I think that’s the key to whether you like the deal or not. If you’re not sold that McLouth is an above average player and a legit gold glover, the deal looks great. It could just be one of those “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” deals where Pirates fans are over-valuing McLouth. In another post, Pat reminds fans to give McCutchen a chance. I heard some reports that McCutchen was booed before his first at-bat. That’s just wrong, and unfair. McCutchen is supposed to represent hope: our best prospect to reach the majors since Barry Bonds.

The MVP Tracker

The MVP Tracker is updated through the 6/2 game. The top performers for today’s win over the Mets:

1. Jason Jaramillo: .174 WPA
2. Nyjer Morgan: .136
3. Brandon Moss: .115
4. Andy LaRoche: .105
4. Adam LaRoche: .105

McCutchen ranked 7th, mostly due to the fact that a lot of his production came late. However, I’d say his performance was most encouraging as it provided hope that the hype behind him is legit.

Other Stuff

-Last week I settled on three players who I feel would be best for the Pirates to take in the 2009 draft with their first pick. Today I did a feature on Aaron Crow. Dustin Ackley was on Tuesday, and Jacob Turner will be on Saturday. My 2009 Draft Preview will be on Monday.

-A new poll will go up tonight asking who you would want the Pirates to take if Stephen Strasburg and Dustin Ackley are off the board. Don’t forget to vote!

-Charlie Morton made his debut for Indianapolis tonight, and it was impressive. Morton’s final line: 7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 K. 96 pitches, 66 of them strikes. 11:3 Groundout/Flyout ratio. Ian Snell better not get too comfortable in the Pittsburgh rotation.

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.

Share This Post On
  • hokies416

    The deal I'd like/love to see now is Snell to the Rockies for Seth Smith. Might have to include something else, (Neil Walker?) but Seth Smith would slot nicely into LH replacing Morgan. The net result would be McCutchen and Seth Smith replacing McLouth and Morgan, with what we got from the Braves (for Nate) catapulting to very, very nice. I can hope/wish can't I?

  • Anonymous

    I would like to see Duke traded before he falls back to him normal self. chk out http://www.buildingthebucs.com

  • Brad

    I only watch the Bucs because they give away the most bobbleheads in a year. I paint them when they get traded.