Earlier today it was reported that the Pirates claimed outfielder Brandon Jones off of waivers from the Atlanta Braves. Shortly after the move, Rob Biertempfel posted a comment on Twitter telling Pirates fans not to get too attached to Jones. After the comment I speculated that Jones might have been a “claim and trade”, since only the Washington Nationals had a shot at Jones, and it’s likely that one of the other 28 teams might have an interest in Jones. Now Dejan Kovacevic is reporting that Neal Huntington is engaged in trade talks, possibly a two for one deal to open two spots on the Pirates’ 40-man roster, and that the deal could include Jones.
We know that one of the recent deals signed with Ryan Church and Brendan Donnelly has not been made official yet by MLB, which left an opening on the 40-man roster for Jones to be claimed. The Pirates will need that spot once the lingering deal to either Church or Donnelly becomes official. They also will need an additional spot for Octavio Dotel, who has been reported close to signing for about a week now.
So who are some candidates to be traded? Aside from Jones, here are some possibilities:
Neil Walker - Doesn’t really have a future in Pittsburgh with Andy LaRoche and Pedro Alvarez surrounding him. He also has yet to hit AAA pitching, but at this point might have some appeal to another team as a “change of scenery” risk, especially as a former top draft pick and top prospect.
Anthony Claggett - I’m surprised Claggett has remained on the roster this long. With all of the non-roster invitees, plus the recent additions of D.J. Carrasco, Brandon Donnelly, and the expected addition of Octavio Dotel, Claggett doesn’t really have a spot. Either he’s next to go, or the Pirates see something in him that they really like.
Steve Pearce - He has yet to impress in the majors, although he has decent AAA numbers. He also has platoon splits, which could make him an intriguing bench option against lefties. I don’t think he gets a chance to start with Jeff Clement, Garrett Jones, Jose Tabata, and Ryan Church getting first dibs in 2010 at first base or right field. With Brandon Moss, Delwyn Young, John Raynor, Jonathan Van Every, and Brandon Jones in the mix, they could afford to lose Pearce.
Chris Jakubauskas - Same situation as Claggett, with a lot of right handers recently added. The role Jakubauskas would have played will probably be claimed by Carrasco. Jakubauskas does have options remaining, but there’s not much need for a 31 year old right handed reliever on the 40-man considering all of the “bodies” that have been acquired.
Delwyn Young - Young is out of options, and might not have a spot on the bench in 2010. It really could come down to Ramon Vazquez or Young, and the Pirates probably will take Vazquez because of the money invested in him. I’d prefer they keep Young.
Ramon Vazquez - Probably won’t happen. I wouldn’t mind if the Pirates picked up his entire 2010 salary to get a return, as it would probably help the team in an addition by subtraction way.
Brandon Moss - Moss is out of options, and like Pearce, finds himself in a crowded bench, with a lot of competition for the fifth outfielder role. He’d be a good bench option, as he provides strong defense, and his projections are predicting a better season at the plate in 2010.
John Raynor - Here is a crazy idea. Raynor, as a Rule 5 pick, needs to stay on the active roster all year, or be offered back to the Marlins. What if the Pirates waive Raynor, then try to work out a deal with the Marlins to keep him in AAA? By adding Jones, they would add insurance that they get to keep one of the two players, and both have similar upsides at this point. If Raynor manages to clear waivers, and a trade is worked out, it would open a spot on the 40-man roster. If the player traded for Raynor comes from the 40-man (maybe Jones?), you’ve got your second spot.
This wouldn’t be a bad approach. The Pirates now have Moss, Pearce, Jones, and Van Every as outfield options. Raynor doesn’t fit in to the future of the Pirates, as he’s behind Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata, Lastings Milledge, and maybe even Gorkys Hernandez. Raynor is 26 this year, which means that he either needs to be productive in the majors right away, or needs to spend the year working on his skills at AAA. If he’s in the majors, it will be as a fifth outfielder, where he won’t get much of a chance to prove his value. He might be better served with an extra year at AAA, kind of a similar approach to what we saw from Garrett Jones last year.
We’ll find out who gets traded, if anyone, in the next day.