In my interview with Neal Huntington last week, I asked him whether the Pittsburgh Pirates would be open to trading prospects for major league players. His response was:
We are getting to the point in time where we’re going to be a lot more open to trading our prospects. To trade a top notch prospect for a short term fill, probably not. We’re not there yet. Are we ever going to be there? That’s always going to be a tough one, given the need to build from within. That’s the reality of where we are, it’s the reality of our existence in the market size, the size of 10-15 other markets in the game. But we are looking forward to…you want to stockpile prospects in your system, you want to stockpile future major league players in your system for two reasons. One, to play for you and to be integral parts of your major league team, or to be role players on your major league team, and the second thing is to help you acquire players who can be integral parts of your major league team, or role players on your major league team. In theory, sure, we’ll absolutely be open to it when it becomes a practical application, those are always a lot more difficult. We’ve got to make sure we keep the right players, and we’ve got to make sure we’re open to trading the right players if it brings us back the right return.
From my view point, the time to trade prospects could be coming soon. I talked a lot about the roster crunch that the Pirates would face last year, due to the Rule 5 draft. They didn’t face as big of a crunch, since Rudy Owens, Starling Marte, and Diego Moreno weren’t eligible for the draft, but they did see the need to make room on the roster for Jeff Locke, Kyle McPherson, Tony Watson, Daniel Moskos, and Michael Crotta. This year, the crunch will definitely be bigger. A look at the players who will be first time eligible for the 2011 Rule 5 draft in December:
Emmanuel De Leon
The issues that shortened the list last year aren’t present this year, due to the removal of the draft and follow process starting in 2007. There are a lot of players from the list who will definitely need to be protected, while others won’t be a factor in the Rule 5 decision process. Some of the players who need to be protected could end up arriving in the majors during the 2011 season. I’m looking specifically at guys like Rudy Owens, Chase D’Arnaud, and other guys at the AAA level.
In my opinion, you could make a case to protect Tim Alderson, Chase D’Arnaud, Jeremy Farrell, Matt Hague, Josh Harrison, Andrew Lambo, Quincy Latimore, Brian Leach, Brett Lorin, Starling Marte, Jordy Mercer, Diego Moreno, Rudy Owens, Aaron Pribanic, and Justin Wilson.
Not all of those guys are guarantees. Some of those guys will disappoint, and lose their prospect status and appeal. Tim Alderson is an example of a guy who probably won’t need to be protected, unless he somehow turns his career around this season. Jeremy Farrell is poor defensively at third, and if he doesn’t hit at the AA level like he hit in high-A, he wouldn’t be a risk of being protected. Brett Lorin’s career has kind of stalled, and unless he gets in back on track this year, he wouldn’t be a candidate to be protected. Then there’s all of the regressions that we can’t foresee.
At the same time, there’s the chance that we could see some sleeper prospects. Yeiber Sanchez, for example, was throwing in the 94-95 MPH range in Spring Training, although with poor control. If he can fix that control, there’s the chance he could have a surprise Kyle McPherson type season. David Rubinstein had a nice year at the plate last year, but lacked power, making him more of a future bench player at best. But what if he has an Alex Presley type breakout year? Hunter Strickland is a tall, projectable arm who hasn’t put it all together yet, but is still young enough to where it’s too early to write him off. These are just a few examples. There’s also the chance that they could add more prospects who need protection, or players who are already on the 40-man roster, at the deadline.
The overall point is that, from now to the roster deadline on November 20th, the Pirates could have as many as a dozen players who could be candidates for the 40-man roster. Look at that 40-man roster. There’s some players that could come off the list (Jose Ascanio, Chris Leroux, Daniel McCutchen), and there’s some guys who will come off the list (Lyle Overbay, Ryan Doumit), but there’s no way the Pirates will be able to protect all of the guys who need protection. That means we could either see some trades, with the Pirates getting some value for their prospects, or we could see them lose some guys in the 2011 Rule 5 draft, specifically guys who are a bigger risk of being protected than Nathan Adcock this year. It’s just my opinion, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the former, with the Pirates making a move to try and add a future piece this year.