Looking back at the Jason Bay Trade

The biggest criticism of Neal Huntington so far has been the Jason Bay trade. In defense of the critics, the trade hasn’t looked good so far. In his first full season with Boston, Bay hit for a .267/.384/.537 line, with 36 homers. This isn’t new for Bay, as Bay has hit for 30 or more homers in four of his six seasons in the majors, and has combined for an OPS of .895 or greater in five of those seasons.

It didn’t help matters that Andy LaRoche, the key return in the trade, hit for a .258/.330/.401 line with 12 homers. The other parts of the return didn’t do much better. Brandon Moss hit for a .236/.304/.364 line with seven homers. Craig Hansen was on the disabled list all season, and might have a career ending injury. Bryan Morris, one of the other key pieces in the deal, continued to be plagued by injuries, and when he was healthy, was working on an overhaul of his mechanics.
Looking at the trade grades, the Bay trade cost the Pirates 2.3 wins between the final two months of 2008, and the 2009 season. That number may seem low to the critics, although there are a few things that aren’t considered:
-Andy LaRoche brought a lot of value with his defense, ranking 10th in the majors in UZR amongst third basemen.
-Jason Bay loses a lot of value for his horrible defense. Bay ranked 54th out of 63 qualifying major league outfielders in UZR.
-You can’t compare the stats of Bay and LaRoche without considering that Bay plays a corner outfield spot, and the numbers he puts up are more common for a corner outfielder than a third baseman.
Let’s go back and pretend the Pirates didn’t make the trade. What would have happened?
First of all, the Pirates would have had Bay in the middle of their lineup for the 2009 season, which probably would have sparked some nice offense with Nate McLouth, Adam LaRoche, and later Andrew McCutchen hitting around him. We’ll also assume that the Pirates’ give Nyjer Morgan the remaining starting job in the outfield, making the outfield Bay/McLouth/Nyjer, at least until McCutchen is called up.
That would have been a nice addition to the offense, but the question is, would it have been enough?
At the time of the Nate McLouth trade, the Pirates had scored 225 runs. They had only allowed 222 runs, which gave them a positive run differential. Their 225 runs had them tied for 22nd place in the majors. Their 222 runs allowed was sixth in the majors. In this assumption we’re going to assume that Jason Bay replaces Brandon Moss, and Jose Bautista replaces Andy LaRoche (because why trade Bautista when they have no one to take over?).
At the time of the McLouth trade, LaRoche was hitting for a .297/.366/.424 line. Bautista was hitting for a .274/.410/.389 line. So the two players were close in their production, with Andy getting the slight edge, and a bigger edge going to Andy for his defense at third. Bay would have provided more offense than Moss, but the defensive hit, along with the defensive hit with Bautista, would have hurt the pitching staff, and I don’t think the Pirates would have had the 6th best pitching staff in the majors.
I would agree that Bay would have provided a boost to our offense, but at the same time, our defense would have taken a hit, and a big one at that with Andy LaRoche removed from the infield defense, behind a pitching staff that favors ground balls. Of course, what are the consequences of keeping Bay?
First of all, there would be no reason to bring Garrett Jones up. If the outfield was Bay/McLouth/Nyjer, the next guy to get the call would have been Andrew McCutchen, assuming McLouth or Nyjer is traded. I also doubt we see a Nyjer/Milledge swap, since there would be no need for Milledge with Bay, McLouth, and McCutchen in the outfield. The reason Jones came up was because Nyjer was traded, and Milledge wasn’t ready to get the call.
Let’s also compare two players here:
Player A: 14.75 AB/HR, .921 OPS
Player B: 14.95 AB/HR, .938 OPS
Player A is Jason Bay in 2009. Player B is Garrett Jones. We don’t need to ask ourselves how the outfield would have looked in the second half with Bay around. We saw it. Let’s look at another comparison:
Player A: .277 AVG, .707 OPS, 24.1 UZR/150
Player B: .291 AVG, .729 OPS, 17.3 UZR/150
Player A is Nyjer Morgan in his time with the Pirates in 2009. Player B is Lastings Milledge in his time with the Pirates in 2009. Milledge was the better hitter, although Nyjer provided better defense. One more comparison:
Player A: .256 AVG, .819 OPS, 5.8 UZR/150
Player B: .286 AVG, .836 OPS, -0.5 UZR/150
Player A is Nate McLouth in his time with the Pirates in 2009. Player B is Andrew McCutchen in 2009.
The biggest complaint was that we should have kept Bay to see if we could contend in 2009 with an outfield of Bay, McLouth, and Morgan. Now we have the same production from Jones, Milledge, and McCutchen, and as an added bonus, we have Andy LaRoche potentially taking over at second base when Pedro Alvarez arrives next year. That group will be together for several years to come. Bay would have been gone after the 2009 season.
That’s the most important thing to remember. Jason Bay would have been gone after the 2009 season. There’s no denying this. Bay won’t even sign an extension with the Boston Red Sox. It’s crazy to think that he would have signed with the Pirates before testing free agency as one of the biggest names on the market.
There’s also the argument that the Pirates could have at least taken a shot at re-signing Bay. Fortunately, it looks like they will still have that chance, as Bay looks to be ready to hit the free agent market. Unfortunately, I don’t think the Pirates have a chance to outspend teams like Boston, New York, and Los Angeles for one of the top hitters on the market.
In the end, the trade breaks down like this:
Pirates Lose: 1 year, 2 months of Jason Bay, 2 Comp Picks in the 2010 Draft
Pirates Get: Andy LaRoche, Bryan Morris, Brandon Moss, Craig Hansen
If we’re grading the trade on the 2009 season alone, I’d say the Pirates lose. However, that’s not how you grade trades. The Pirates wouldn’t have had Bay beyond the 2009 season, regardless of whether they traded him or not. The difference now is that they have LaRoche, who could be a solid second baseman, and Morris, who still has time to develop in to a major league starter one day. Not to mention, you could argue that with Bay on the roster in 2009, the Pirates don’t stumble on to Garrett Jones, and don’t trade Nyjer Morgan for Lastings Milledge.
The early results were poor, but from here on out the Pirates win the trade, simply because trade or no trade, Jason Bay wouldn’t be a Pittsburgh Pirate beyond the 2009 season.

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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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