In the past I’ve done this trade values series solely on what our trade chips have been worth. However, the term “trade chips” has been limited to the people the Pittsburgh Pirates could eventually deal as sellers. I mentioned that Joel Hanrahan (article here) and Paul Maholm (article here) could get good returns, but that Ryan Doumit and Chris Snyder (article here) probably wouldn’t see much, and that was before their injuries hit.
With the Pirates moving to 34-33 last night, there’s been a lot of talk about whether the Pirates could become buyers, rather than sellers. I talked at the beginning of the month about how I didn’t see the Pirates as contenders. Then they went out and took a three game series against the Philadelphia Phillies, and another against the Arizona Diamondbacks, two first place teams in their divisions at the time. I wouldn’t call them contenders just yet. They’re 34-33. The Cincinnati Reds are ahead of them at 37-33. The Brewers (39-30) and the Cardinals (38-31) are way ahead of them in the division, which is an issue when we consider that the Pirates can’t seem to beat the Brewers.
But let’s have fun with this. What if the Pirates did become buyers? What would it take to add some key pieces to the team? David Todd of Extra Innings had two interesting scenarios on his blog yesterday. The first involved a trade for Jose Reyes, which makes sense, as the shortstop position isn’t exactly a sure thing in Pittsburgh. The second involved a trade for Hunter Pence. Again, that makes sense, as the combo of Matt Diaz and Garrett Jones has been disappointing. But what about the cost for each players? Does that make sense? For that, we go to the trade value charts.
NOTE: Keep in mind that David wrote his post with an amusement-only disclaimer. This post also comes with the amusement-only disclaimer. The purpose here is to see the value of our guys, using projected values (calculated as [(WAR*$5 M) - Salary]) and Victor Wang’s research on prospect values.
We’ll start with the Jose Reyes trade…
Jose Reyes for Stetson Allie, Rudy Owens, Chase d’Arnaud, and possibly Gorkys Hernandez
Here is the Reyes trade value:
Explanation: Reyes is making $11 M this year. The salary and production are each pro-rated, assuming he gets traded on July 31st. I set his WAR at 6.0, as I feel we’re seeing the pre-2009 version of Reyes, rather than the injury plagued version we’ve seen over the last two years. I also set him as a Type A free agent. He’s currently a Type B, according to the latest Elias projections, but he’s right on the edge, and he’d probably make the jump if he continues this season.
What He’s Worth: According to Victor Wang’s research, Reyes would be worth a top 51-75 pitcher, assuming he’s a 6.0 WAR player, a Type A free agent, and is traded at the deadline. Stetson Allie was rated 79th by Baseball America heading in to the year, and his control problems probably haven’t helped much, although I think they’re a bit over-blown considering his limited history on the mound. Most likely something like Allie, Owens, and d’Arnaud OR Hernandez (I’d go Hernandez, since Reyes is a free agent after 2011, leaving a need for d’Arnaud) would do the trick, value-wise.
My Opinion: I wouldn’t do it. I don’t foresee a situation where the Pirates would be in a position to benefit trading for two months of Reyes. I also don’t see him re-signing here. Considering his injury history, I wouldn’t want him re-signed to a long term deal. The big issue here is Stetson Allie. We talk about projected roles, and currently envision a rotation with Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, and Luis Heredia, and Allie as the closer. The fact is that none of these guys are guaranteed. Cole, Taillon, and Heredia aren’t guarantees to be top of the rotation starters. By that same token, Allie is no guarantee to fail as a starter and be limited to a star closer. I would much rather see the Pirates hold on to all of these guys until they at least get established. I’m not saying Allie is untouchable. I just wouldn’t deal him for two months of a shortstop, especially when there are no guarantees with the other potential aces. It’s fair value, but just not a good fit.
Next up, the Hunter Pence trade…
Hunter Pence for Jose Tabata, Brad Lincoln, Jeff Locke OR Kyle McPherson, and maybe either Matt Hague OR Jordy Mercer
Here is the Pence trade value…
Explanation: Again, the value for 2011 is based on a July 31st trade. The 2012 and 2013 salaries are based on the 60/80 arbitration scale for the final two years of arbitration, although those could be a little high (which only means Pence’s value would be higher). The WAR is based on an average of his 2007-2010 seasons. He’s only 28 this year, so there’s a chance that he could be improving to more of a 4.0 WAR guy per year, although that doesn’t do much to the value. Even if we get optimistic, and go to a 5.0 WAR, the value only goes up to 29.4 M.
What He’s Worth: $22.7 M is the price for a 26-50 hitting prospect. That was Tony Sanchez prior to the 2011 season, although I doubt he’s still there now. It would probably take a guy like Sanchez, along with a Grade B hitter or pitcher, such as Rudy Owens or Justin Wilson, based off of John Sickels’ pre-season rankings. It might even take an additional pitcher and a hitter, as the values of Owens and Wilson may also be different. But as for the original trade, let’s review Jose Tabata.
Explanation: Same rules apply for 2011. The 2012 and 2013 salaries will be league minimum salaries, and might be a little high, although the difference is hardly noticed in the end. Years 2014-2016 go on the 40/60/80 scale, based off of the annual WAR. As for the WAR, we’ve seen about one full season of Tabata, and in that time he’s put up a 3.3 WAR. Considering that he turns 23 in August, I’d say a projection of a 3.0 WAR over the next five and a half years is very reasonable. It might even end up being low. I didn’t include the Type A status, as there’s a chance the status could be gone by 2016.
My Opinion: I would not trade Tabata for anyone right now. He’s got huge value to the Pirates over the next few years. It’s one thing to trade a strong major league ready prospect for a guy like Pence. Prospects aren’t a guarantee. However, in one full year, we’ve seen Tabata put up a .288/.351/.389 line with seven homers and 33 stolen bases, and strong defense in the outfield. Those are excellent top of the order numbers, and keep in mind he’s only 22 right now, and might eventually see a boost in those power numbers.
The upgrade from Pence to Tabata right now wouldn’t be worth the loss of Tabata in the long term, plus it doesn’t fill the Diaz/Jones platoon, unless you go with Alex Presley. I’m not sure the Pirates have a guy they could deal for someone like Pence. The best combo I can see would be Tony Sanchez (valuing him at $12.5 M as a 76-100 hitter), Stetson Allie (valuing him at $9.8 M as a 76-100 pitcher), and maybe even two from the group of Rudy Owens, Justin Wilson, Kyle McPherson, and Brad Lincoln (assuming they all fall around the B-/C+ range). I’m not sure I’d make that trade, even though a guy like Pence would be a huge addition over the next few years (and I think the talk of Pence is moot, as I don’t see the Astros trading him in the division, but it’s all for fun, right?).
The trades are somewhat fair, although I definitely wouldn’t trade Tabata, and you’d probably have to replace him with someone like Tony Sanchez to complete the deal for a guy like Pence. The big thing is that a trade like one of the above would really put a dent in the depth the Pirates have, and the Pirates aren’t really to a point where they have a lot of expendable players. You could argue that they don’t have any top 50 hitters right now, as their best guys (Pedro Alvarez, Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata, Neil Walker) are in their 0-3 years. Their pitchers have value, but they’re in the lower levels, and they become far more valuable if you hold on to them and let them develop.
One issue that often gets talked about with small market teams, and building through the minors, is “the window to compete”. Ideally, there shouldn’t be a “window”. Ideally, a team should be able to compete, even after losing top players. Look at the Rays right now, after losing Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, and trading Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett. They’re still 36-32, mostly because they don’t make these trades. The Rays balked at dealing their prospects for a one and a half year rental like Jason Bay a few years ago. And you know what? They’re better off for it. Boston can make that deal, because Boston doesn’t need to build through prospects. They can sign Carl Crawford for $142 M. Teams like the Rays, and teams like the Pirates, are always going to lose the top guys to the big spenders, and for that reason, they need replacement options in the minors, and ideally multiple options, since prospects aren’t guaranteed.
We talk about the 40-man roster crunch, but the Pirates aren’t in danger of losing any top guys. Guys like Starling Marte, Rudy Owens, and Justin Wilson aren’t going to ever see the Rule 5 eligibility list. Guys like Brett Lorin, Ramon Cabrera, and maybe even Tim Alderson, might become eligible for the Rule 5 draft. But if the Pirates lose those guys, what are they losing? Back up catchers? Bench players? Bullpen arms? Maybe #5 starters? The Pirates saw Nathan Adcock get drafted this year, but even before the draft, Adcock looked like a strong reliever, or a back of the rotation starter. That’s what he’s been this year, with a 3.38 ERA in 24 relief innings, and an 8.22 ERA in two starts (granted, he made the jump from A-ball to the majors).
If the Pirates need to trade for two star players like Reyes and Pence, then they’re not contenders. I wouldn’t be against making a trade when the Pirates actually are contenders, but the trade I would make is more of the depth style trade, adding a strong 8th inning reliever, adding a big bat off the bench, or maybe even an average position player to fill a hole. That’s where you trade off Rule 5 depth, only you deal from the Lorin/Alderson/Cabrera group for these support players, rather than dealing your better prospects for a short term rental of a star. I’m not saying the deals for a star wouldn’t be fair. I just don’t think they fit the goal the Pirates need to be striving for, which is trying to compete long term, rather than going for it all in one year.