Do not overlook internal options

Pirate fans have mostly supported adding a second-rate free agent to team with Garrett Jones in covering the right field/first base spots. Even Frank Coonelly got in on the fun, with Rick Ankiel’s name coming up specifically. It seems like a harmless idea, seeing as the Pirates do not have many inspiring options for those positions. However, contrary to popular belief, adding a marginal player through free agency would do anywhere from very little to nothing to help the team win.

Here is a list made up mostly of available, middling, corner-type free agents that the Pirates have some realistic shot at signing. I have included their 2010 CHONE projections, available at FanGraphs.

2010 CHONE Projections
Player PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Defense WAR
Rick Ankiel 473 0.242 0.298 0.436 0.318 -3 1.1
Russell Branyan 337 0.243 0.335 0.497 0.359 0 1.2
Carlos Delgado 482 0.247 0.322 0.449 0.337 0 1.1
Jason Giambi 410 0.218 0.354 0.416 0.344 -4 0.7
Vladimir Guerrero 501 0.291 0.337 0.489 0.357 DH 1.6
Adam LaRoche 588 0.259 0.330 0.459 0.343 -3 1.2
Brandon Moss 471 0.267 0.335 0.426 0.332 0 1.1
Xavier Nady 454 0.271 0.326 0.448 0.337 -6 0.7
John Raynor 443 0.259 0.330 0.374 0.316 3 0.7
Jim Thome 487 0.233 0.351 0.442 0.351 DH 1.2

Brandon Moss - Matt Bandi, PLC

As you can see, I included Brandon Moss and John Raynor on the list. Anyone else having a hard time distinguishing their projected numbers from the others?

The Pirates already have an overflowing bench. I cannot see why we should add another player to the mix, particularly one that is projected to perform no better than Moss and only marginally better than Raynor. Both Moss and Raynor are 26 years old, cheap and possess some sort of upside. None of these options can say the same. But if the Pirates sign any of these players, Moss and/or Raynor will be out the door. It just does not make sense to me.

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Author: Matt Bandi

Matt has covered the Pirates at Wait ‘Til Next Year, Pittsburgh Lumber Co. and now Pirates Prospects. He served as Pirates team expert for Heater Magazine in 2009 and 2010 and has contributed to Graphical Player 2009, 2010 and 2011. Matt was also the editor of the 2011 and 2012 Pirates Prospects Annuals.

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  • MarkInDallas

    The thing about projections is the choose 1 outcome of what are actually many possible outcomes. Not every player that has a 1.0 WAR projection has the same ceiling and floor of possible outcomes.

    The idea is that the more 1 WAR options you have, the more likely you will get a 3 WAR performance from someone, and the much less likely that you will have to settle for 0 WAR.

    Truthfully, I’m at a loss to see where Brandon Moss’s projection comes from. When I see his AAA stats and watch him at the plate and look at his MLB stats to this point, I don’t see an average hitter, like his .332 wOBA projection says.

    I may be wrong, but Ankiel or even Nady has a much higher ceiling than Moss does. At no point in his high minor or MLB career has Moss shown the ability than Ankiel and Nady have shown. I just don’t get that projection unless it can be justified that he’s going to learn to hit a breaking ball consistently when he’s never shown that ability.

    Sure, Clement and/or Tabata might perform very well and make the point moot. But if they don’t, and there’s a situation like what happened in 2009 when neither Moss nor Pearce would step up to stop the suck, then the Pirates are likely stuck with 0 WAR again from their RF position.

    Signing Ankiel or Nady would at least mitigate that possibility better than Moss would, and could provide a higher upside if the Pirates get lucky.

    • http://pittsburghlumberco.wordpress.com Matt Bandi

      But you can only fit so many projected 1-win players on the roster. Ankiel, Nady, Moss, Raynor and Pearce (projected WAR of 0.8) can’t all fit. The Pirates will be lucky to keep Moss and Raynor right now (with Pearce starting in AAA), let alone if they add an Ankiel or a Nady.

      If we had to choose between Moss, Nady and Ankiel, and all are projected to produce about the same, I would prefer the cheap 26 year old over the guys in their 30′s. Moss is at an age in which he can still develop and improve, while Nady and Ankiel are entering the typical decline years.

      Moss was above average in the minors in 2006-2008 (albeit with a high K%). Last year he was mediocre, but he also had some back luck on balls in play (BAPIP of .286 vs. xBABIP of .323). Ankiel has had only two average-ish seasons (2007-2008) and Nady has always been pretty lousy outside of his fluke 2008 campaign. Neither of them are more interesting options than Moss, in my opinion.

      • MarkInDallas

        Well, you know how I feel about guys that don’t hit higher than .282 in AAA. I don’t hold out a lot of hope for them.

        Moss had a 10 game stretch where he was lights out (.515 BA) and the whole rest of the year hit .210 and didn’t have consecutive games where he had more than 1 hit.

        Anyway, it looks like the Pirates won’t be adding Ankiel or Nady as the FO is now saying they would be signed as a backup insurance policy, not as a starter. That pretty much puts the Pirates behind all the other teams looking to sign them as backups, and my guess is they won’t fall to us.

        • http://pittsburghlumberco.wordpress.com Matt Bandi

          Yeah, I doubt he will ever hit for a decent average with his contact issues. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not real high on him. I think he’s a fourth outfielder at best. My point was more that the available veteran options are lousy too.

  • http://pirateswfc.blogspot.com Brian

    There’s no reason to sign Giambi, Guerrero or Thome because they can’t play in the field anymore. But Branyan and Ankiel have each slugged .500 two of the past three years. It would make sense to bring in a power bat to hit #5 in the lineup. Doumit is always a question mark. Lastings Milledge is a #7 hitter, maybe a #2, but he’s not a #5 hitter.

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