Are the Pirates Building Trade Depth?

With the Pirates looking at relievers, it increases the chances that Hanrahan could be traded this off-season.

It’s hard to draw any conclusions about the projected 2011 roster this early in the off-season, but after two days of the MLB Winter Meetings there are two trends that suggest the Pittsburgh Pirates could be looking to add some trade depth to the major league roster.

The first trend is the focus on late inning relievers.  The Pirates made an offer to J.J. Putz before he signed a two year, $10 M deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks.  They’ve also made an offer to Kevin Gregg, who is drawing strong multi-year interest, and are strongly pursuing Jeremy Accardo.  The Pirates were linked to all three players last year.  Outside of those players, they’ve looked at Hiroyuki Kobayashi and Aaron Heilman.

The Pirates are strong in the back of the bullpen with Joel Hanrahan and Evan Meek.  They also have Chris Resop, who pitched well in 2010 after joining the Pirates.  Guys like Gregg would likely command closer money, rather than middle relief money.  That raises two possibilities: either the Pirates want Hanrahan and Meek freed up for the earlier innings, which can be a good strategy, or they could potentially deal one of their two internal relievers when their value is the highest.

The Pirates have said they aren’t shopping Hanrahan or Meek, but would listen if the right deal came along.  Hanrahan would be especially valuable this year, considering the contracts that Putz (2/$10) and Joaquin Benoit (3/$16.5) have signed on the open market.  Hanrahan has three years of control remaining, and would cost less per year than either reliever.

The other trend is the current starting pitching situation.  The Pirates had Paul Maholm, Ross Ohlendorf, and James McDonald as locks for the rotation heading in to the off-season.  They added Kevin Correia to a two year, $8 M deal, which locks him in to a spot.  They also added Scott Olsen, who should compete with Charlie Morton, Brad Lincoln, and Jeff Karstens for the fifth starter job.  Then there’s Rudy Owens, Jeff Locke, Bryan Morris, and Justin Wilson, who are all possibilities to arrive as early as June 2011.

The Pirates could afford to trade a starting pitcher.  In fact, Neal Huntington’s comments, via the Post-Gazette, suggest they could trade one of their starters:

“We’ll always continue to find a way to upgrade,” general manager Neal Huntington said on an otherwise quiet second day of Major League Baseball’s Winter Meetings at Walt Disney World’s Swan and Dolphin Resort. “Maybe it takes one of our established pitchers and makes them available in a trade. If we can add one piece via free agency, maybe we can add another via trade.

The most likely player to go would be Paul Maholm, who has two years of control remaining, including a $9.75 M option in 2012.  Ross Ohlendorf could be an outside possibility, as he has four years of control remaining, and is at a higher value than Maholm.  As for players who could be available via trade, some possibilities are James Shields or Matt Garza of the Tampa Bay Rays, and Kevin Slowey or Scott Baker of the Minnesota Twins.  Garza and Slowey would be the most likely to be moved by their respective teams.

The Rays and Twins wouldn’t be looking for a starter in return for Garza or Slowey, which means the Pirates would need to sell them on Hanrahan or Meek, and give up prospects, possibly ones that they acquire from potential Maholm or Ohlendorf trades.  What kind of trade value do the Pirates players have, and what would it take to land one of the external options?  Using projected values (calculated as [(WAR*$4 M) - Salary]) and Victor Wang’s research on prospect values, we can figure out some estimates.

Joel Hanrahan - Hanrahan has three years remaining, all arbitration years, and at 1.4 WAR per season (his 2010 totals) he would have a value of $12.9 M.  That’s the value of a top 51-75 pitcher, or a top 76-100 hitter.

Evan Meek - Meek has four years remaining, but his 2010 WAR (0.8) was lower than Hanrahan, which gives him a $13.2 M value.  He would be worth the same as Hanrahan, although teams might favor Hanrahan due to the strong strikeout numbers.

Paul Maholm - Maholm has one year remaining on his deal, along with the option.  If you include the option year, which might not be unreasonable if he can bounce back in 2011, then he’s worth around $9.4 M.  Without the option year, he’s worth $6.6 M.  That’s anything from a grade B pitcher or hitter to a top 76-100 pitcher.

Ross Ohlendorf - Ohlendorf is hard to project since he only has two seasons in the rotation, although he’s currently averaged a 1.0 WAR.  That would project him to be around a $12.1 M value.  If you bump him up to a 1.5 WAR, he becomes a $16.6 M value.  He would basically be worth anything from a top 51-100 hitter to a top 100 pitching prospect.

As for the value of the players who could be available:

Kevin Slowey - He has three years of control remaining, and has averaged a 2.2 WAR over the last three seasons.  That puts his value at $14.7 M.  Based on the above projections, that would be Hanrahan, plus a grade C pitcher 22 years or younger.  Most likely a deal would involve Hanrahan, one of Owens/Locke/Morris, and one or two lower level Aaron Pribanic types, due to the demand for young starting pitching.  That wouldn’t be as bad if the Pirates could replace that talent with a return for Maholm or Ohlendorf.

Matt Garza - Garza also has three years remaining, but has been worth a bit more, with a 2.6 WAR average over his last three seasons.  That puts him at a $16.9 M value, which amounts to Hanrahan and a grade B hitter (Tony Sanchez/Starling Marte) or two grade C pitchers (two of Owens/Locke/Morris).

If the Pirates could interest teams in Hanrahan, and deal Maholm for a few pitching prospects, they could pull off a deal for one of these two young starters without taking a serious hit to the farm system.  Of course it’s not as easy as it sounds.  Any team willing to trade for Maholm or Ohlendorf would likely try to trade for Garza or Slowey first, which means the Pirates would have to make their addition before dealing one of their existing starters.  Getting Garza or Slowey wouldn’t be easy either, as competition from other teams could drive up the price, although that same inflation for starting pitchers would apply to Maholm and Ohlendorf.

This is all speculation, but if the Pirates do spend money on a late innings reliever, it increases the odds that they trade Hanrahan or Meek this off-season.  They have said that their main target is young starting pitching, and that while they don’t wish to deal prospects away, they’re not totally closed to the idea.  Based on the talk about their pursuit of relievers, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Pirates make a deal soon to add to their bullpen depth.  If that happens, things could get very interesting, especially with the rotation options the Pirates have added, which crowds the scene in the early part of the 2011 season.

Tim Williams

Author: 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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  • Anonymous

    I like this though process a lot. I was thinking the exact same thing, i would be surprised if the bucs dont try and make a trade for a young front line starter like Garza or Slowley. Whats funny too the Pirates have been linked to with Garza’s and Slowley’s teamates that play SS in Bartlett and Hardy as well… Garza/Bartlett or Slowley/Hardy trade will prob cost us a decent amount Hanrahan, plus a lot of prospects, but would it be worth it?

    • Anonymous

      Could a trade of … Slowley and Hardy for Hanrahan, Doumit/Maholm, Justin Wilson, Chase D’ Arnaud, and Gorkys Hernandez??? Is that not enough on are end? or is that too much…I mean Hanrahan does have tremedous Value, i think we all forget how coveted he is, i mean Huntington asked for Neftali Feliz back in a trade for Hanrahan last year when Texas called. So i would think he would still have the same value in his mind.

  • Anonymous

    I dont think the Twins would be in on Maholm and not sure how much they would value Doumit. Gorky’s is still hurt I think. I’ve heard talk of 1 Rule 5 pick being included in Hardy deal. I think the BArtlett HArdy market is going to come way down with teams solidifying their MI. I know Twins are looking at relief but with Capps and Nathan how much do you give up for a middle relief guy.
    If im the Bucs I’d do that trade though.

    • Anonymous

      true true, they would have the best back end of the bullpen though in the AL with Capps, Nathan, and Hanrahan…Idk though like you said its hard to see if that would happen, Pirates probably not giving up enough in my trade as i look at it now.

  • Matt

    Do the Pirates even need an outfielder? I don’t think they do, at least not as long as they really are going to call Marte up and Presley won’t suffer long-term effects from his concussion issues. Presley has been solid since his callup, and that, along with the last two years, makes his start to this season look more like an outlier rather than something that we can expect from him going forward. That gives them great defense and and least solid offense from all 3 outfield positions.

    • John DiVito

      I don’t know that anyone really considers Presley a long-term starting OF solution. His lack of plate discipline does not bode well for him at the top of the order. I think he will be an acceptable stop-gap until Robbie Grossman, who is an ideal leadoff hitter, is ready. Then he can take his place on the bench, with Tabata :)

      • buccotime57

        i would keep Gorkys for his D over presley..i still have my fingers crossed for tabata..

      • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

        That’s how I view Presley. He’s a good starting outfield in a weak outfield, but in a stronger outfield he’s more of a good fourth outfielder.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Josh-Powell/705435108 Josh Powell

      The outfield aint good. There Cutch … and well that’s all. In fact, *looking around Pirates lineup*, that’s all there is. …Cutch

  • Teacher_in_Tejas

    Tim, just a note, you said the Pirates cannot draw 3 million. Well they can come damn close. Just blue skying here, 35,000 a game would put them at about 2.9 million. I think we both know that isn’t going to happen for various reasons. Even if the team wins the NL Pennant this year, they are not going to sell out Monday evening games against Colorado in April when the Pens are in the playoffs and its 42 degrees out! I can see a world where they average 30,000 for the year realistically.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      That’s why I don’t think they can draw 3 million. I just didn’t go in to detail.

  • http://twitter.com/AJGearhart Andrew Gearhart

    I used to sit in front of a guy at Steelers games who would yell “TOO MUCH” if the D gave up an inch. I’d like to hire him to sit in Huntington’s office to do the same every time the Upton deal comes up.

  • Dave Parker’s Unfiltered Camel

    I agree. The only way that I would trade for Upton is if it involved Hanrahan. The Pirates have plenty of guys that can close. A third team in need of a closer could provide the prospects to AZ. In Pittsburgh the strength of the major league club long term always will be related to the depth of talent in its minor league system. Any trades have to be made with an eye toward keeping that minor league depth intact.

    There is one other issue for me and it is specifically about trading Marte. In my eyes he is the poster child for the Pirates rejuvenated Latin American efforts. Marte is the first major league ready talent since the Bucs reinvested in the region. His success in Pittsburgh could go a long way in strengthening the relationships we have built there, and help the organization procure more top talent from the region. If I’m not mistaken, half of the top six prospects in the Pirate’s minor league system were not drafted. They came from the organization’s efforts in Latin America. Marte succeeding in Pittsburgh would be very good for the Pirates, especially considering the new financial limitations on the organization with regard to the draft.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      Even if they dealt Hanrahan for prospects, they’d still have to give up a lot. Hanrahan would get a top 50 prospect, and maybe a second piece for the deal. You’re still giving up Taillon, and probably an Indianapolis left-hander.

      • Dave Parker’s Unfiltered Camel

        Thanks for clarifying.

  • buccotime57

    Another thing that is not being mentioned is that for the last four years the pirates had the “luxury” of a top eight pick in the draft…making the playoffs or being close is going to put us around 20 (hopefully higher) which decreases the odds of acquiring a top baseball prospect…we NEED to keep what we have and trade a B hitter and B pitcher for someone like victorino to help a marte, cutch outfield

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      I forgot to mention that, and it’s a good point. They’re not going to have the chance to draft top guys like Cole, Taillon, or even Appel. I think that’s part of the thought behind dealing them. It’s been so easy to get them the last three years that it seems like it would be easy going forward. But it will be extremely difficult to get an ace if the Pirates are winning and drafting lower in the draft.

  • HamburgBucco

    Another fantastic article and hopefully one the front office of the Pirates should keep in mind. As a small market team the Pirates just don’t trade for stars, we develop them in our farm system and bring them up when ready.
    It’s not the Pirates’ way to have 3-4 superstars on the team (payroll concerns), but to have a team built around one or two superstars (McCutchen, Alvarez) and supplement those with players from he farm system, journeymen like Sutton or guys acquired through sensible trades. This Pirates team is working well because it’s a team, all players seem to enjoy playing for the Bucs, I don’t see any egos and I see players picking each other up on the field. We are already reasonably good. Imagine how good we could be if Barmes started having an average season instead of a terrible one.
    If Marte came up and chipped in with a few extra base hits. If Bedard and Correia started finding some sort of consistency again after the ASB.
    Let’s not trade away a number of our top prospects, let’s enjoy watching them develop and hopefully join the Pirates in the not too distant future.
    And finally one more thought: I would be very cautious with a player like Upton who is supposed to be the heart and soul of his current team, yet player, club and fans are desperate to trade him away. If anything, this should give another team negotiating with the DBacks a certain degree of leverage. Upton will not play for the DBacks much longer, but if he wants to leave let another team risk their top prospects in a deal, let it not be us!

  • ElGaupo77

    The big question is “Why is Towers shopping Upton?” He’s young, moderately priced and under control for three years. I could see if they couldn’t compete next year but they have nice core with good pitching now and have Bauer and Skaggs beating down the door. They could easily be in the playoffs next year.

    My guess is that he’s a head case similar to his brother and probably is a malcontent now that they’re now winning.

    I hope Huntingon is just doing due diligence to drive up the price for a team like the Reds or Cards to sell the farm to get him.

    • BarryJT

      They are only four games out, so they’re still in it this year. It does seem there is something we’re missing here.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Josh-Powell/705435108 Josh Powell

      From what I hear, Upton doesn’t like the GM? Or owner? I don’t care. The offense is Cutch … and that’s all. They need help.

  • Dan

    Marte looks like an NFL safety right now. I can definitely see him hitting 15+ HRs. Too much value for the Bucs to get rid of him at this point.

  • Adrian Carnelutti

    Tim, what about the prospects of multi-year extensions for McDonald and
    Karstens to provide experience for the pitching prospects coming up in
    2014 in much the same way that Burnette has helped the pitchers this
    year? I think they could sign reasonably priced contratcs and are both
    are likely to keep pitching at the levels they have this year

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      I would extend McDonald. Not Karstens. He’s been good, but he seems more likely to have year to year fluctuations.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kirk.vandergrift Kirk Lee

    I agree with a lot of the sentiments in this article… it may very well be a bad move for the Pirates. But, just to play devil’s advocate, the Pirates wouldn’t be putting their eggs in one basket with a move like this. To use your Rays-Jennings comparison, if the Pirates had Upton already and he was struggling, they’d probably still be ok because they have Cutch and Pedro. But without Upton, if McCutchen were struggling this year they’d be awful. In other words, our eggs are actually 100% in one basket as it currently stands: the Andrew McCutchen basket. This would actually give us more depth and insurance at the ML level. Of course, in the long term it is a riskier move that focuses on just one guy, but as I’ve pointed out before, prospects have the same chance of turning out like the guys we got for Jason Bay as they do of turning into the Mark Teixeira haul. I still think you have to reverse your perspective and ask yourself what you would do before you say no to a deal: if we already HAD Upton in the middle of a division race and someone offered us Marte, Taillon, Owens and Polanco, would you say yes? I doubt it. How is this any different, other than the fact that players are changing uniforms in this scenario?

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      To the first part of your comment, I agree that the team is relying on McCutchen. That’s part of why I wouldn’t deal for Upton. I’d rather build around McCutchen with a lot of prospects, rather than trading a lot of them away for one player.

      To the second part, the Diamondbacks are actually in the race, and they’re willing to deal Upton. That’s a concern to me, considering the rumors about his health and attitude.

  • http://twitter.com/Bjoint24 Brandon Joint

    Great article and i love the salary cap talk with this trade i think it would hurt them in the long run because of that. what do you think they do with hanrahan either at the deadline or in the off season with his arbitration $ going to be extremely high

  • http://twitter.com/joshuabobby Josh Burns

    I realize this isn’t a real trade option, but I think a better 1-for-1 trade than marte would be taillon. At least then you’re talking about a superstar pitcher for a superstar hitter. Shifting the balance of your strengths from pitching to hitting a bit. And I would certainly do that trade, but not by a lot. I think if it really takes all 4 of the guys you mentioned, I would much prefer to keep the 4.

  • buccotime57

    Huntington has stuck to his plan since 08..i doubt he will deviate now and trade all the work he has done…just bring marte up i think he could bat .267 uptons average this year…

  • James S

    I bet that the Upton family skill set, just as it hits peak earlier than most others, also erodes quicker than most others as well. Lets not forget that his brother B.J. Upton was top pick in the nation too for a good reason. Look at him now. Look at the numbers as they worsen each year, and he isn’t even that old.
    This calls for calm insight and logic, not rash emotionalism. I would not mortgage the future for this guy. I think the Diamondbacks GM is seeing the same thing and is smart to be trying to move him now and get some value for him before he crashes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Josh-Powell/705435108 Josh Powell

    This is my view. The team is basically Andrew McCutchen and a good (probably TOO good) pitching staff… The offense desperately needs help and there is very little in the minors that would inspire me to believe it will get better from inside the organization. There is Marte, yes, but he wont be ready this year for sure. And I’m not getting too excited for next year (at least just yet).

    Just think about it this way… If McCutchen slumps badly in the second half, or even plays at a .295 10HR clip for the rest of the year which is more than possible then they’ll probably have a mediocre finish to the season…

    What if the pitching comes back down to Earth again? You can bet Correia will falter again. He ALWAYS does in the second half *one of the worst second half ERA’s in the league since ’07*. Bedard hasn’t played a full season in years and we can already see that he started to trail off… AJ is old too… …….. If the pitching is even average, then they JUST PLAIN DON’T MAKE PLAYOFFS!

    There is no depth… Even with Marte, the team isn’t there. The offense doesn’t match up with the Cards or Reds or any of the teams in the Wild Card race.

    They need to get Upton and take this division!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • JohnDreker

    If you want to check, you can eliminate the years listed above, plus every year since 1992. There are also some obvious years to skip in the 1950′s, 1917 and 1890, plus the first three years when they didn’t win 48 games due to the limited schedule. Only leaves about 80 years to check! :)

  • http://twitter.com/jlease717 John Lease

    47-38 in 1885!

  • JohnDreker

    Good job of research. I know how that team finished though, so I was hoping for a better example. That team almost ran Ed Morris out there everyday throwing his cannonballs, because when he wasn’t pitching they were 17-31. Even Pud Galvin couldn’t do much to help them after they acquired him mid-season, July 13th to be exact, possibly the same date the 2012 team adds some help!