Pirates Notebook: The Issue of Trust

In light of the contract offers to Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez, which have since been rejected, I decided to do a rundown of the current estimated 2010 payroll, taking in to consideration option years, current projected service time (Super Two), and the performance of top prospects this season (Brad Lincoln).

Here is what the 2010 payroll would look like with Jack Wilson at $4 M, and Freddy Sanchez at $5 M:

Based on the current budget of $54 M for the 2009 season, and assuming the Pirates keep that budget next year, the Pirates would still have a little less than $13 M to spend, which leaves plenty of room for an increase to Freddy Sanchez, which seems to be the hold up on completing a deal with both players.

What happens if the Pirates don’t extend Freddy? Odds are they will either trade Jack, or buy him out of his 2010 option (which would cost $600 K). That would leave two gaping holes up the middle, with no internal solutions. That would also create the following payroll scenario:

Neal Huntington has said that the main holdup on an extension is a difference in agreement over the value of Jack and Freddy. The Pirates have one idea, and they’re sticking to it. In the scenario without Jack and Freddy, the Pirates have about $21 M to spend, with holes at both middle infield spots. $21 M is enough to fill those holes, but the question is, will those players be any better than Jack and Freddy?

I pointed out the list of free agent second basemen for the 2010 season, noting that Freddy was arguably the best option available. That doesn’t mean a guy like Felipe Lopez would be bad, and it doesn’t mean that Lopez would cost considerably less than Sanchez. It just means we’d be taking a drop from Freddy’s performance. I’d say our most likely route is getting an external option via trade (Eric Young Jr?), which wouldn’t raise salary that much.

As for shortstops, it would be harder to get a shortstop via trade, and the free agent market doesn’t look good. Here are the available players, via MLB Trade Rumors:

Orlando Cabrera (35)
Alex Cora (34)
Craig Counsell (39)
Bobby Crosby (30)
Adam Everett (33)
Chris Gomez (39)
Alex Gonzalez (32) – $6MM mutual option with a $500K buyout
Khalil Greene (30)
Jerry Hairston Jr. (34)
John McDonald (35)
Marco Scutaro (34)
Miguel Tejada (36)
Omar Vizquel (43)
Jack Wilson (32) – $8.4MM club option with a $600K buyout

Marco Scutaro, Adam Everett, Alex Gonzalez, and Orlando Cabrera would all be good defensive options. Cabrera would be the same type of player as Wilson, only a few years older, which means I doubt we’d see the Pirates offer him any more. Everett and Gonzalez are both a drop off on offense. Scutaro is having a nice year, but he’s 34 years old, and not a guy to build around.

Miguel Tejada is the only other solid option, only he’s 36, and while his offense is good, his defense is very poor at this stage.

Let’s assume they prefer defense and go with a guy like Adam Everett for $2 M, rather than Jack Wilson for $4 M, and they also trade for Eric Young Jr to replace Freddy. Now what are we going to do with the close to $20 M remaining?

The argument Huntington has provided against spending this much on Wilson and Sanchez is that the money would be better used in other areas, citing the outfield market as an area that could provide some value. It’s likely that we’ll see Garrett Jones at first base next year if he keeps up his recent performance, or anything close to it. That leaves Milledge and McCutchen in the outfield, with Delwyn Young available as well.

The question is, would the Pirates actually pony up for a guy like Jermaine Dye or Bobby Abreu? Dye is likely going to be bought out from his $12 M option, which sets his price around $10 M or less, something the Pirates could easily afford, even if they did sign Jack and Freddy. The problem is that most Pittsburgh fans don’t trust this approach, because we’ve yet to see it.

Last year we heard that the Pirates were going after a starting pitcher, bullpen arm, and a power bat. Those players ended up being Virgil Vasquez, Chris Bootcheck, and Eric Hinske. Those additions may boost the depth of each position, but they don’t inspire hope that the Pirates will ever be players in the free agent market.

In all fairness, the current management group has only been here two seasons. The first off-season they wanted to see what they had, which was good, because everyone that year agreed that the needs were catcher and center field. Signing free agents for those positions would have blocked Ryan Doumit and Nate McLouth from breaking out.

Before this season the Pirates didn’t have as much to spend, with arbitration raises to Zach Duke, John Grabow, and Adam LaRoche, extensions to Paul Maholm, McLouth, and Doumit, and raises to Matt Capps, Jack Wilson, and Freddy Sanchez. Going in to the 2010 season they don’t have nearly as many contract increases, which will give them a considerable amount to spend in free agency.

This will be the first time that we’ve seen Huntington knowing the team needs, and possessing room in the budget to fill those needs. A lot of people will write this off by saying “They’ve never signed a big free agent before”. The same kind of talk was thrown around before they drafted Pedro Alvarez, saying they wouldn’t draft him because the Pirates have never made a move like that. The same thing was said before Alvarez signed. The same thing is being said now about Sano (and that’s a situation that will hopefully be finished soon, because I don’t know how much I can take of Jorge Arangure saying the Pirates have a 90% shot, and 90% of Pirates fans saying the Pirates have a 10% shot).

Bottom line: Pittsburgh fans are extremely pessimistic, and expect the worst until they see a change. Heck, you can even scrap that last part. We spent $9.8 M in the draft last year, with most of that money being spent close to the signing deadline, yet there are a lot of people saying we’re not going to spend that much this year, despite that being the whole strategy behind the draft.

It will be interesting to see how it all plays out. Personally, I’d like to see Jack and Freddy retained, but if we can somehow find replacements, I’d be fine seeing them go, as long as Neal Huntington is serious about using the money elsewhere on the major league roster.

The MVP Tracker

The MVP Tracker is updated with the 7/18 win. Here are the big changes for the 7/19 loss:

1. Zach Duke: -.184 WPA
2. Adam LaRoche: -.162
3. Garrett Jones: -.117
4. Ramon Vazquez: -.113
5. Delwyn Young: -.100

Other Stuff

-The Pittsburgh Pirates Prospect Watch for 7/19 is up.

-Dejan Kovacevic breaks down the contract talks between the Pirates and Jack/Freddy.

-Jennifer Langosch has an interesting note on the draft signing process. While the commissioner’s office can’t reject any deal the Pirates sign, they do like
teams to take a certain approach. It seems that the Pirates are going through the motions in order to avoid ruffling the feathers of the MLB front office. I have confidence that we’ll get a lot of guys signed close to the deadline. I’m going to write more about this tomorrow.

-I had some problems with the site yesterday, due to the site I use to host images. I’ve fixed the problem by switching to a different host. The new host is a company called Amazon.com. Maybe you’ve heard of them. I think they’ll be a little bit more reliable. It’s going to cost a little money each month, but that’s better than the headache of logging in to a blank blog, then having to transfer all of the files over to a new server with free hosting sites.

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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