Yesterday I started my 2010 Pirates preview with a look at ten prospects who could make an impact in the majors this season. Today we’re looking at potential trades during the 2010 season.
We’ve seen the comments made by the Pirates management that they’re not going to be subtracting from the team in 2010. The literal translation of this would mean absolutely no trades will be made. However, I don’t think the literal translation is appropriate, simply because it’s not realistic. There’s no way you can guarantee that the Pirates won’t be making trades this year.
For example, let’s say that Ross Ohlendorf and Zach Duke repeat their 2009 success, Charlie Morton breaks out like everyone is predicting he will, Paul Maholm returns to 2008 form, and Daniel McCutchen puts up decent numbers for a fifth starter. When it comes time for Brad Lincoln to arrive, would it be a big problem if the Pirates traded Zach Duke, who is under control through 2011, and replaced him with Lincoln?
Or say you have Andy LaRoche carrying over his September hot streak from the 2009 season to the first two months of 2010. Now you’ve got Pedro Alvarez ready to come up. You’ve also got Akinori Iwamura hitting for a .290 average with a .745 OPS and good defense at second. And Jeff Clement is surprising at first base, with a .265 average and an .800 OPS. What do you do? Move Iwamura to the bench and move LaRoche to second? Move Alvarez to first and bench Clement? Or do you deal the excess to reload the system?
Small market teams like the Pirates can’t afford to stand still on the trade market. Unfortunately they have to always be trading, as adding mass amounts of talent to the minor league system is the best way to achieve long term success. Take a look at the Rays, for example. In 2009, despite having a winning record, they dealt Scott Kazmir to the Angels. They were able to do this because their future rotation included David Price, James Shields, Wade Davis, Jeff Niemann, and Matt Garza. They have so many starting options that they’ve got no room for guys like Andy Sonnanstine and Jeremy Hellickson, two players who would probably make the Pirates rotation.
The Pirates aren’t anywhere near the Rays level of talent, but they’re accumulating some depth in certain areas. In fact, here are a few depth scenarios I could see in 2010 that would lead to a trade.
I mentioned this scenario above. Brad Lincoln is due up in June. Ohlendorf and Duke are coming off good seasons, and Maholm rebounded at the end of 2009 after being injured most of the year. It’s possible all three could have success in 2010, although the Pirates’ pitching curse could say otherwise. A lot of people have Charlie Morton as a breakout candidate to go along with those three. Daniel McCutchen has also shown some potential, and could be a decent number five pitcher. So let’s say the Pirates have five guys in their rotation, all holding their own, at the time Lincoln is due to arrive. Who gets traded?
The expected move…
Zach Duke – Duke would be the most logical choice. He’s not getting much better than what we saw in 2009, and he’s not going to be with the Pirates much longer, as he is only under control through the 2011 season. Now you may say “why not extend him”, but the Pirates have a ton of pitching depth as close as the AA level, which means Duke might not even be needed after next year. If the rotation is as good as the scenario above, he won’t even be needed in the second half of 2010.
The surprise move…
Paul Maholm - Maholm is under team control for one more season than Duke, and in my opinion is a better pitcher. However, as I mentioned with Duke, the Pirates have a lot of pitching options in the minors now, with some as close as the AA level. If things are looking good with guys like Rudy Owens, Jeff Locke, and Tim Alderson, and if the Pirates are looking like they have no chance of winning in 2010, don’t be surprised to see Maholm moved in a Nate McLouth like fashion.
Pedro Alvarez will be the monkey wrench here. He’s pretty much guaranteed a roster spot, but that spot could change depending on who steps up. Andy LaRoche showed a lot of value with his defense last year, but you can’t pass up the offense that Alvarez can bring from the position. If LaRoche isn’t hitting, he’ll either move to the bench, or replace Iwamura at second as a long term solution. If LaRoche is hitting, then Alvarez could move to first base to replace Clement. Of course, if Clement is hitting, and Iwamura is doing well, then we have a predicament.
The expected move…
Akinori Iwamura - Iwamura is only under team control for one season. The Pirates can’t even offer him arbitration after the season. So if LaRoche is hitting well, and Clement is holding his own at first base, the logical move would be to trade Iwamura and move LaRoche over to second base.
The surprise move…
Andy LaRoche/Jeff Clement – What better way to bring talent in to the system than trading a guy with 4-5 years of service time remaining? The Pirates could afford this type of move as long as they signed Akinori Iwamura to an extension for at least one more season, giving them a bridge until someone like Chase d’Arnaud is ready for the majors. My money would be on Clement moving, mostly because if they didn’t re-sign Iwamura, LaRoche could move to second, and Garrett Jones could take over at first, with Jose Tabata stepping in at right field.
The Pirates added a lot of options to the bullpen, like Octavio Dotel, Brendan Donnelly, D.J. Carrasco, and Javier Lopez. I’m not going to go in to expected moves and surprise moves. I’m just going to throw a scenario out there. Let’s say Joel Hanrahan steps up as a long term closer option, and Evan Meek emerges as a viable set-up man. Let’s also assume that Ronald Uviedo and Ramon Aguero make so much progress that they turn in to options for a September call-up
and a long term spot in the bullpen. At that point, guys like Dotel and Donnelly are excess, and the Pirates could afford to deal them away.
THE 2010 NATE MCLOUTH TRADE
Ryan Doumit – Here’s a scenario for you. Tony Sanchez gets off to a hot start at the high-A level, quickly moving to AA. By July he’s ready for a promotion to AAA, and it’s starting to look like he’ll be up early in 2011. Jason Jaramillo is in the majors, capable of being a stop gap starter until Sanchez arrives. Doumit is also healthy and back to his 2008 hitting ways. I could see the Pirates selling high on Doumit, and going with a Jaramillo/Erik Kratz combo until Tony Sanchez is ready. That will largely depend on the progress of Sanchez, plus the health of Doumit.
I’m kind of torn by this. In one hand, I like Doumit. I think he’s a good player, and I think he’s what the Pirates need. Doumit is an above average offensive catcher when healthy. The Pirates don’t have elite players in their offense, which means they need extra production from positions like catcher and center field to make up for the lack of elite offensive production from left field and first base.
In the other hand, Doumit is always hurt. He’s spent time on the disabled list in each of the last four seasons. It’s pretty much a guarantee that he’ll take a trip to the DL in 2010, which is part of the reason the Pirates considered keeping Jaramillo fresh at the AAA level. If the Pirates can’t count on Doumit being healthy, how can they count on him to be an offensive leader of the team? Doumit is a support player playing a leading role on the Pirates. You trade him to a contender and he’s batting sixth or seventh.
That doesn’t mean he wouldn’t have value elsewhere. I’m sure any team would be willing to take a risk on a catcher with good offense, even if that catcher is injury prone. If Doumit is healthy come July, and hitting like he did in 2008, and Tony Sanchez is at the AAA level, the Pirates would be foolish not to deal Doumit. The last thing they’d want to do is wait until 2011, then see Doumit go down early after getting a pitch fouled off his wrist, sending him out for most of the season, with a key decision on his 2012 and 2013 options due that off-season. Doumit is a classic case of a guy the Pirates should sell high, although they can only afford to do so if Tony Sanchez is producing well on the fast track in the minors.
Overall there’s a lot of scenarios that could take place leading to a trade. We could see someone like Brian Friday tear up AAA pitching in the first half, only to get the call as the long term second baseman, replacing Iwamura. Or we could see John Raynor step up and win a starting job, moving Garrett Jones to first and sending Clement on his way out. The only guy who I think is safe on the opening day active roster is Andrew McCutchen. When you think about that, it almost seems foolish to take any other approach, especially when the season hasn’t even started and most everyone has written this team off.
Check back tomorrow for my 18 things to watch as the Pirates try to avoid 18 losing seasons in a row.