I have to say this: with every move, I’m loving the apparent plan by Neal Huntington more and more.
It’s obvious that he’s blowing up the team and starting from scratch. But there’s an actual plan. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the majority of pitchers he’s acquired are ground ball pitchers who don’t necessarily throw hard, but have good control with a good out pitch, usually a curve ball or a sinker. Also makes sense that he hired Dave Kerwin, who specializes in working on control and command with starting pitchers.
It’s probably not a coincidence that the majority of infielders he acquires are strong defensively, at least when you consider skill sets. The signing of Perry Hill, a strong infield defense coach, helps back up that notion.
Then there’s the fact that the majority of hitters acquired are gap hitters, with not a ton of power, but good speed, and the ability to hit for extra bases.
It’s not homers and strikeouts. It’s defense, double play balls, and two RBI doubles to the gap. Time will tell if the plan will work, but at least there’s a plan.
Today just added pieces to the plan.
The Pirates sent away a key part of their defense, trading Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez in two separate deals, and in return they further bolstered their pitching depth, and added another offensive prospect in Jeff Clement.
In dealing Freddy Sanchez away, the Pirates received starting pitcher Tim Alderson, who easily is a top two pitching prospect in our system, and arguably the best pitching prospect we have, maybe even better than Brad Lincoln.
In the Jack Wilson/Ian Snell deal, the Pirates received three low A pitching prospects, and a former top hitting prospect in Jeff Clement. The pitching prospects are too far off to project how good they will eventually be, or if they’ll even make the majors, but prospects is a game of quantity, and we certainly are building that in the lower levels of the minors.
The Pirates will apparently call up Lastings Milledge to fill the vacant spot on the 25-man roster, left by the Freddy Sanchez trade. My guess is that Milledge will play left field, Garrett Jones will play right field, and Delwyn Young will move to second base, with Ronny Cedeno playing shortstop, and Ramon Vazquez splitting time between second and short.
In the short term, we could be in line for a rocky road. I’d consider the rest of the 2009 season to be an extended Spring Training. Delwyn Young will get on the job experience working on his second base defense. With very few second base prospects in the high levels of the system, Young improving his defense would be a key part to the rebuilding of the Pirates.
Cedeno and Vazquez aren’t really long term options at short, and the Pirates don’t have any immediate replacements, with the best immediate option being Argenis Diaz, who has strong defensive skills, but poor offense. That might not be bad, considering the poor offense from Cedeno this season, and the way our staff is built around ground ball pitchers pitching to contact.
So what about the 2010 payroll?
I don’t have any charts for this, just numbers and an estimate. Assuming no more trades are made, the following estimates can be drawn:
-Guaranteed Salaries (Doumit, Maholm, Vazquez): $10.05 M
-Arbitration Raises (Capps, Duke): $9 M estimate
-League Minimum (Morton, Cutch, Hanrahan, Gorzelanny, Dumatrait, Karstens, Andy, Ohlendorf, Diaz, Milledge, Moss, Jones, Delwyn, Meek, Chavez, Pearce): $6.5 M estimate
That’s a $25.55 M payroll, with four spots open on the 25-man roster. We can assume the following depth chart from that list:
C – Doumit/Diaz
1B – Pearce
2B – Delwyn
SS – Vazquez
3B – Andy
LF – Milledge
CF – Cutch
RF – Jones/Moss
SP – Maholm
SP – Duke
SP – Morton
SP – Ohlendorf
SP – OPEN
RP – Hanrahan
RP – Dumatrait
RP – Gorzelanny
RP – Karstens
RP – Meek
RP – Chavez
CL – Capps
The bullpen looks pretty strong, and there’s a spot in the rotation, possibly for Brad Lincoln in June. There’s also the possibility of Daniel McCutchen getting the call before then.
At first base there’s Steve Pearce, with Garrett Jones if Pearce doesn’t work out, and the newly acquired Jeff Clement if all else fails.
At second and short the Pirates are weak. That weakness could be lessened if Delwyn Young works out the remainder of the year (and I’m only speculating that he gets his shot). I wouldn’t mind seeing Jack Wilson return, assuming Seattle buys out his 2010 option.
The Pirates have the payroll space to add at least one high priced free agent. Even if they added Jack Wilson at $4 M a year, they’d have $20 M remaining to spend on three players. One of those players could be a power hitting corner outfielder (Jermaine Dye, anyone?), with plenty of payroll room remaining. We did hear Neal Huntington say he’d rather allocate the Freddy/Jack funds to another area on the field that would bring more value.
Of course, this could all change in the next two days, as I wouldn’t rule out trades with Matt Capps, John Grabow, or Zach Duke. Considering the returns we got for Jack Wilson, Ian Snell, and Freddy Sanchez, I’d love to see what we could get for a guy like Duke, who is only under team control through the 2011 season, and very affordable during that time span for contending teams.
Finally, my trade predictions for the final two days before the deadline:
Robinzon Diaz to Detroit. Diaz has to be on the 25-man roster next year, and the Pirates have Jaramillo, with Clement and Kratz at AAA, Lerud at AA, and Tony Sanchez working his way through the system. Diaz is expendable.
Matt Capps to a team looking for a RH reliever. Not sure who that could be, but with the success of Evan Meek and Jesse Chavez, plus the addition of Joel Hanrahan, all combined with the fact that Capps will probably make $10 M combined in his final two arbitration years, makes me think that Capps could be traded.
John Grabow to Colorado for Eric Young Jr. Maybe it’s more of a dream, but it would solve our second base issues, and give a very speedy top of the order with Cutch and Young. The same offer has reportedly been shot down, so maybe a deal involving Grabow to Anaheim for Brandon Wood might work.
Zach Duke to Texas for a load of prospects. If there’s one team that we need to trade with, it’s Texas. Id love to get a top prospect or two from the Texas farm system. I’d even go for a straight up trade for Elvis Andrus, although I doubt they’d go for that. They’re looking for starting pitching, and low on funds. That makes Duke the perfect trade candidate.
Ryan Doumit to anyone? The Pirates will likely use Jeff Clement at first base. They still have Jason Jaramillo in the majors, Erik Kratz at AAA, Steve Lerud at AA, and Tony Sanchez on a fast track to the majors. I’m almost certain that Doumit will end up getting traded in the next year or two. However, I thought the same on McLouth, and he was dealt this year. We assume that Diaz will be the one traded, but would anyone truly be surprised if the Pirates traded Doumit and went with Diaz/Jaramillo until Sanchez was ready? I could see it happening if we got an offer like Clay Buchholz in return for Doumit.