Jam Packed Pirates Trade Market Preview

At the start of the season I did a trade preview, asking whether the Pirates should trade guys like Freddy Sanchez, Jack Wilson, and Adam LaRoche. The main argument against trading these guys was that we had no replacement options at any of these positions.

That’s not something that has changed since the start of the season. In fact, we’re worse off now than we were then.

At the start of the season we at least had hope that Brian Bixler, Shelby Ford, and Steve Pearce could step in as replacements. Bixler and Pearce have been horrible in their short time in the majors, with less than encouraging success at AAA. I’m not writing Shelby Ford off yet, but he’s been very unimpressive at AAA.

The trades we have seen were a surprise. It was a surprise that Nate McLouth was traded, mostly because he was signed to an extension right before the season started. It was a surprise that Nyjer Morgan was traded, mostly because at the start of the season it would have been a surprise to think he would actually be in demand.

And now we’re left with the same names on the block as when I originally looked at the trade market. Combine that with the realization that anyone could be traded, and you’ve got a jam packed trade market full of Pittsburgh Pirates. Here is a rundown on every player who I think has at least a remote chance of being dealt:

1. Freddy Sanchez

Contract Status: 2010 option for $8 M that guarantees with 600 PA in 2009.

Possible Replacements: Ramon Vazquez, Delwyn Young, or Luis Cruz.

Teams Rumored to be Interested: San Francisco, Colorado, Minnesota, Chicago Cubs, Seattle, Tampa Bay

Analysis: The major downside to trading Sanchez is the lack of immediate replacements. Ramon Vazquez isn’t a solid everyday guy (struggles against left handers), and his range is very limited on defense. Delwyn Young has shown to be a great hitter, but would be a big drop off in defense from Freddy. Luis Cruz is an unknown, and would likely be a defense-only guy, something the Pirates, already lacking on offense, can’t afford.

Not only is Freddy a good hitter, arguably the best on the team right now, but he is also solid in defense. Considering our “pitch to contact” / groundball pitching staff, a loss in defense could be big. If Freddy stays, it’s likely his option will be guaranteed for next year, and $8 M isn’t necessarily a bad salary for a player of his caliber.

Overall, a lot of rumors suggest he’s as good as gone. If we added a decent second base prospect (like Eric Young Jr of the Rockies, for example), I’d be fine dealing Freddy. Without a replacement, it’s a deal that really hurts us for the next year or two, as our minors are pretty bare in the middle infield department at the upper levels.

2. Jack Wilson

Contract Status: $8.4 M option in 2010 with a $0.6 M buyout.

Possible Replacements: Ramon Vazquez and Luis Cruz

Teams Rumored to be Interested: Boston and Seattle have been linked, although not many heavy rumors.

Analysis: I’m of the belief that a trade sending Jack Wilson away would hurt the team more than it would help. Wilson may not be an offensive minded shortstop, but his defense is one of the best in the league. He currently ranks as the best defensive shortstop in baseball, according to UZR, and the fifth best defensive player overall.

As far as replacements go, the same situation involving Freddy Sanchez also exists with Wilson. While I think Luis Cruz could be a good defensive shortstop, I’m not about to say he can replace the quality of defense we’ve seen from Wilson.

The problem is that Wilson is overpriced for a defensive shortstop. He’s making over $7 M this season, with an $8.4 M option next season that no team is likely to pick up. This means that the Pirates are essentially trading two months of Jack Wilson, and I can’t imagine the return would be anything major, even if they picked up some salary.

If they did trade Wilson, it would hurt the Pirates more than it helps, as it wouldn’t add anything special to the minors for our rebuilding process, and would create a huge hole up the middle, while putting a big dent in our defense, which could really hurt the pitching staff.

I’d rather see Wilson extended for a year or two, as the only option in the minors who looks to be a complete player at the position right now is Chase D’Arnaud, currently at high A in Lynchburg.

3. Adam LaRoche

Contract Status: Free Agent after the 2009 season

Possible Replacements: Garrett Jones or Brandon Moss

Teams Rumored to be Interested: San Francisco

Analysis: LaRoche is a free agent after this season, and a notorious second half masher, batting .314 with 41 homers in 663 at-bats the last three seasons after the All-Star Break. That would make him an attractive target to any team looking to add a bat for a playoff run.

The team that has been linked to LaRoche the most is San Francisco. The Giants are looking for an extra bat, and match up well with the Pirates. San Francisco also is interested in Freddy Sanchez, and I’d imagine they’d rather add Freddy over LaRoche.

LaRoche is making $7.05 M this season, which means a team trading for him on July 31st is picking up about $2.5 M of his 2009 salary.

As for replacements, Steve Pearce doesn’t appear to be able to hit a curve ball, which rules him out. Garrett Jones has been hitting well lately, and is originally a first baseman. The only problem there is that Jones is untested, and we have no clue if this is legit, or if it’s a Chris Shelton-type flash in the pan. Brandon Moss also has some time at first base, although Moss hasn’t been able to stick in the lineup every day as a right fielder, which makes him less likely to be relied upon at first.

I’d be fine going with Jones at first, and trading LaRoche. Jonathan Sanchez has been on the trade block, and I wouldn’t mind a LaRoche for Sanchez swap (if you’ve been in the live blogs, you’ll notice that I’ve liked Jonathan Sanchez since before his no-hitter). Pedro Alvarez is likely the first baseman of the future with his defense at third being sub-par, which means Jones will likely only be in the first base position for about a year.

4. John Grabow

Contract Status: Free Agent after the 2009 season, potential Type A free agent

Possible Replacements: Tom Gorzelanny, Donald Veal, Kyle Bloom, Daniel Moskos

Teams Rumored to be Interested: NY Yankees, Minnesota, LA Angels

Analysis: With a lack of left handed relievers, it may make more sense for the Pirates to keep Grabow and offer him arbitration after the season. Grabow currently projects as a Type A free agent, which means he could fetch the Pirates two extra first round picks in the 2010 draft if they
offer him arbitration and he signs elsewhere. Worst case, he accepts arbitration and we have him for an additional year at a raise over his $2.3 M salary.

As far as replacements, Donald Veal will be in the majors, but has been very inconsistent, with poor control. Tom Gorzelanny was decent in relief, but the Pirates appear to want him as a starter. The only other options would be Daniel Moskos and Kyle Bloom, both starting in Altoona.

Moskos isn’t exactly dominating as a starter, although most projected him as a reliever to begin with. One problem is that Moskos has been struggling against left handers, with a .302 BAA, versus a .301 BAA against right handers. This is a major change from last year, where he had a .224/.298 split. Part of that could be a .373 BABIP, which is very unlucky (he has a .312 BABIP vs RHB).

Bloom has been decent as a starter, but has seen a dip in his strikeout rate this season. However, he has a .167 BAA against left handers, following a .216 BAA in 2008. Bloom has a .197 BAA in his minor league career against left handed batters.

Despite the options available, the Pirates would likely get a better value by going to arbitration with Grabow. The only way I could see them getting a good return would be in a Damaso Marte situation, where they’d package Grabow with someone like Freddy Sanchez or Adam LaRoche to get a good return.

5. Ian Snell

Contract Status: $4.25 M in 2010, $6.75 M option in 2011 with no buyout

Possible Replacements: Bag of Balls

Teams Rumored to be Interested: Colorado

Analysis: We know the story on Snell. He was horrible in the majors this year, asked for a demotion, and has been great at AAA. Hopefully that will increase his value enough for the Pirates to get a team to take him. I don’t know if the Pirates will straight up salary dump Snell, but I figure they’re listening to anyone who even mentions his name.

6. Matt Capps

Contract Status: Arbitration eligible in 2010 and 2011. Free Agent after 2011.

Possible Replacements: Joel Hanrahan, Jesse Chavez, Evan Meek

Teams Rumored to be Interested: Colorado, Florida, Minnesota

Analysis: Let’s forget the horrible blown save against the Phillies for a second. Capps has been a very good closer for the last two years. He’s not elite, but he’s no scrub. He’s a guy who could step in as a closer for a team in need (like Florida), while being under control for two more years.

Capps would likely fetch one of the biggest returns for the Pirates, and probably would be one of the easiest guys to replace. Evan Meek and Jesse Chavez have both been pitching well this season for the Pirates, with Meek holding the best ERA on the team. Newly acquired Joel Hanrahan has closer experience, but has struggled with his control this season, leading to a very high ERA.

Capps will likely make $10 M combined over the next two seasons through arbitration. I can’t see the Pirates paying that, especially when Capps could bring them some solid prospects in their rebuilding, combined with the performance of Meek. They also have Steven Jackson at AAA, who can replace Meek or Chavez in the middle innings.

A Matt Capps trade could open up the trade market for the Pirates, as Capps could return a position of need, such as second base. Just speculating, but a Capps for Eric Young Jr deal would open up a deal for Freddy Sanchez, with no worries about a potential replacement for Sanchez.

7. Zach Duke

Contract Status: Arbitration eligible in 2010 and 2011. Free agent after 2011.

Possible Replacements: Tom Gorzelanny, Jeff Karstens, Daniel McCutchen, Brad Lincoln

Teams Rumored to be Interested: San Francisco, Philadelphia, Texas

Analysis: Duke is having a great season, and was just added to the All-Star Game, replacing Matt Cain. With starting pitching always in demand, Duke could fetch a big return, especially with talent-rich teams like Texas and Philadelphia looking to add help to their rotation. There’s also a recent rumor floating around that the Giants are looking for a package of Duke and Freddy Sanchez.

Last year we made trades to try and improve our pitching depth. A year later we have seen a complete turnaround from our pitching staff, which is largely due to the performance of Duke. The top prospects in the Pirates’ system all seem to be in line to reach the majors by 2011, which is the last year Duke is under controll.

I’m not saying we should make it a priority to trade Duke, but he’s by far our biggest trading chip, and he’s not likely to be here for the bulk of the time our big prospects will be in the majors. Trading him would bring a big return, and wouldn’t crush the long term plans. The Pirates also have some pitching depth at AAA, and potentially have Brad Lincoln ready to arrive by mid-season 2010, making it easier to trade Duke.

One thing to consider: Duke is a ground ball pitcher, with an above average 45.2% ground ball rate this season. His stats likely take a hit if Jack Wilson, Freddy Sanchez, and/or Adam LaRoche are traded. If his stats take a hit, so will his value.

8. Paul Maholm

Contract Status: $4.50 M in 2010, $5.75 M in 2011, $9.75 M option in 2012 with a $0.75 M buyout.

Possible Replacements: It’s complicated

Teams Rumored to be Interested: See Duke, Zach.

Analysis: Maholm could be the same situation as Nate McLouth. Maholm was signed to a three year extension, covering his arbitration years, with an option for one of his free agent years. So far this season Maholm has struggled on the road, with a 5.77 ERA, hardly repeating his performance from last year.

Maholm has been solid at home, and the road struggles are curious, as Maholm posted a 4.13 ERA on the road last year in 93.2 innings pitched. One cause for concern is the level of talent Maholm has played at home. Those teams include Atlanta, Colorado, Houston, and Kansas City, hardly some of the better offenses in the league (he caught Colorado when they were struggling early).

Is it possible that Maholm is just another one hit wonder in the pitching staff? Or is it that he’s no more than a #3 starter, being touted as a top of the rotation pitcher simply because we have no one else? That’s an issue for a different post, but for now I could see Maholm dealt for all of the same reasons I could see Duke dealt.

9. Ryan Doumit

Contract Status: $3.55 M in 2010, $5.10 M in 2011, $7.25 M option in 2012, $8.25 M option in 2013 (both options have to be exercised after the 2011 season)

Possible Replacements: Jason Jaramillo, Robinzon Diaz, Tony Sanchez

Teams Rumored to be Interested: Boston

Analysis: Doumit would be a bigger surprise than McLouth, although the move would make sense. The Pirates were fine with Jaramillo and Diaz splitting time while Doumit was injured (well, not fine, but that’s not because of the catcher situation). Both catchers have at least five years of team control remaining, although neither represents the total package that Doumit has become.

Tony Sanchez was taken in the first round by the Pirates this year, and has been off to a great start in the minors (click his name to check out the numbers). Sanchez could be on a fast track to the majors, as his defense was said to be his best aspect, with the only questions being on his offense. He looks to be answering those questions so far.

The main drawback to Doumit is his health. It would be one thing if Doumit’s injury this year was a fluke, but looking at his injury history, it looks to be more of a guarantee that he’ll spend some time on the DL each season. I’m not saying he’s not a good player. He’s a great player…when he’s healthy. A team like Boston, who have been linked to Doumit in the past, can afford to be without him for a month. A team like Pittsburgh can’t really afford the same loss.

Doumit would likely fetch a huge return, as in a Clay Buchholz type pitcher to lead the Pirates rotation. Buchholz has five years and 18 days of service time remaining, which means he’s likely to be under control through the 2014 season. Texas tried to get Buchholz for Taylor Teagarden or Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the off-season, but Boston refused. Doumit is more established than Teagarden or Salty were, which would make this idea more likely (and note, this is only my idea, and not an actual rumor).

Finally, I ask you, what trade ideas would you be in favor of? Doumit for Buchholz? Capps for Young? Freddy Sanchez/Zach Duke for Tim Alderson/Jonathan Sanchez/Manny Burris? Ian Snell for a bag of balls?

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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  • Jim Rosati

    I would take a bucket of balls for Ian Snell in a heartbeat. That would be an absoulute steal, in my opinion. Seriously, though, if I was offered Ian Snell for future/cash considerations, I would take it.

    If Maholm or Duke is traded, I would want a lot in return. I heard a Maholm for Alex Rios (straight up) rumor yesterday. I don't think that would be enough. Even if Toronto picked up most of Rios' salary.

    I really don't think I would have a problem in a Doumit trade. Mainly because of the success Diaz/Jaramillo have had this season. Together, those 2 make up a pretty formidable catching combination, which is way better than most teams' catchers. Doumit could also net a nice return, like you said.

    I have a feeling the Pirates, if they traded Wilson, which I think they should, would sign him to a 1 or 2 year deal during the offseason for much less than he is making now. They aren't going to pick up his option, so you might as well get something for him. It wouldn't be much, but if you can get a B or C prospect for him, do it. Then re-sign him for less money in 4 months.

    Freddy needs to go, in my opinion. His value is as high as it will ever be and he should net a decent return. Freddy most likely won't be a part of the next contending Pirates' team, so might as well trade him when his value is at its peak.

    Keep Grabow…and get the 2 picks.

    If an offer is right for Capps, take it. He's a solid closer, however I don't know how much longer he will be able to sustain it. Especially considering the shape he is. It will start to take a toll.

    Adam LaRoche is gone as long as they can get someone who wants him. I don't think a Laroche for Sanchez swap would happen, though.

    Jeez, I should probably just make a post on that stuff…

  • Anonymous

    Great post. It will be interesting to see who's on the Pirates after July 31 and after August 31.

    I live close to Boston and watch just about every Red Sox game. As much as I would like to see Clay Buchholz in the 'Burgh, I don't see it happening. Red Sox GM Theo Epstein doesn't give up elite pitching prospects very often. The Red Sox currently don't need a catcher. I think the Bucs would have to entice the Red Sox with more than just Grabow, a free agent at the end of the season, and Wilson and his potential hefty price tag for 2010 to pry Buchholz.