Cubs Are The Perfect Match For Pirates

We’ve heard a lot of talk about how the Pittsburgh Pirates will be buyers this year at the trade deadline, and how they are likely to make moves where they take on payroll, rather than giving up top prospects.  So far we’ve heard a lot of speculation on fits to that approach, but we haven’t really heard the Pirates actually linked to any player.

Two of the biggest perceived needs are first base and third base.  Pedro Alvarez was recently optioned to AAA where he will try to get back on track, while Lyle Overbay has struggled at first base this year.  That has led to a lot of speculation about some possibilities for the Pirates.  The perfect match for them might end up being the Chicago Cubs.

In the past month I’ve detailed the trade values of two of the Cubs top trade possibilities.  The first is Carlos Pena, who is under a one year, $10 M deal. The second is Aramis Ramirez, who is making $14.6 M this year, with a $16 M option in 2012.  Ramirez has a no-trade clause, although he might be tempted to waive it if his 2012 option was guaranteed.  I profiled Ramirez yesterday, and concluded that he had $2.7 M in trade value if a team was willing to eat his entire salary over the next year and a half.

As for Pena, when I first profiled him, I calculated his salary as $10 M, with an estimated $3.3 M owed to him over the final two months of the season.  Pena has a unique deal which pays him $5 M in 2011, with $5 M of his deal deferred to 2012.  I originally thought his deferred salary would be split with the Cubs, although it’s recently been announced that any team that acquires him will also be taking on the $5 M in payroll for 2012.

That change really alters Pena’s value.  He goes from being owed $3.3 M in the final two months of the season, to being owed $6.65 M for two months of service.  That seems like a ridiculous price for Pena, and the price shows in his trade value.  Entering in the updated salary figures, along with a 2.5 WAR in 2011, Pena’s value comes up to be -$2.5 M.  Even if the Cubs paid $2.5 M of his salary, the Pirates wouldn’t have to give up anything to add him.

The addition of Ramirez and Pena to McCutchen would make a strong lineup.

That could create an opportunity for the Pirates to add both Pena and Ramirez.  If the Pirates added Pena, and took on all of his salary, his negative value would off-set the positive value that Ramirez had.  The Pirates would have to cover $0.2 M in value, which is one Grade C hitter.  It would basically be a salary dump for the Cubs.  There are three questions in this deal.

Aramis Ramirez

The first question is whether Aramis Ramirez would agree to waive his no-trade clause.  It would be hard to imagine him passing up the chance to make his 2012 option guaranteed, as he’s unlikely to make $16 M in 2012 through free agency.

The Cubs Needs

Will the Cubs just be looking for salary relief, or will they be looking for prospects?  Current speculation says they’d be looking for salary relief, and this move would save them $6.65 M from Pena, and $6.81 M from Ramirez (his remaining 2011 salary and his $2 M buyout in 2012).

The Pirates 2012 Payroll

If the Pirates added Ramirez and Pena in 2011, they’d be adding about $6.5 M to the payroll.  That would take them up to around $53 M this year, although they could reduce that number if they found someone to take Lyle Overbay’s contract off their hands.  The big issue would be the 2012 payroll.  Would the Pirates be able to afford $5 M for Pena, who would likely be playing elsewhere, all while paying $16 M to Aramis Ramirez?

It’s unlikely that the Pirates would be able to make a move like this, and pick up Paul Maholm’s $9.75 M option for 2012.  They could deal Maholm, and replace him with either Ross Ohlendorf, or Brad Lincoln.

From there, the Pirates would have to also cut ties with Chris Snyder and Ryan Doumit, going with some sort of combination of Eric Fryer, Jason Jaramillo, and Michael McKenry behind the plate.

Pena would be gone, so first base would have to come down to someone from the group of Garrett Jones, Steve Pearce, and/or Matt Hague.  The Pirates could also choose to bring Alvarez back up, and move him to first base, with Ramirez playing third.

Overall, the Pirates would be spending $6.46 M in 2011, and $21 M in 2012.  That’s $27.46 M for two months of Carlos Pena, and a year and two months of Aramis Ramirez.  Because of the high salaries, they wouldn’t have to give up anything as far as prospects go.  So would $27.46 M be worth the short term additions of Ramirez and Pena?

The Stretch Run Lineup

The biggest appeal to this type of move would be the boost it would give the lineup.  You’d add a 25 home run hitter and a 40 home run hitter to the middle of the lineup.  When paired with Andrew McCutchen, that would be a powerful offense.  Looking at the projected starters:

C – Michael McKenry

1B – Carlos Pena

2B – Neil Walker

SS – Ronny Cedeno

3B – Aramis Ramirez

LF – Jose Tabata

CF – Andrew McCutchen

RF – Alex Presley

The Pirates would have a great combination of power and speed.  They would be able to move Neil Walker to the six spot, rather than having the young second baseman trying to carry the lineup.  The addition of two bats would also provide the Pirates with a huge boost to their pitching staff, providing some run support for their starters to work with.

Again, there have been no names connected to the Pirates in their role as buyers this year, so this is just simple speculation.  It’s looking at a team that is rumored to be selling, looking at two players who are rumored to be on the block, and matching those players with needs that the Pirates have.  The move matches up well on paper, but it’s far from a guarantee.  That said, it’s not far fetched, and a great idea for the Pirates if they want to make a deal without giving up any significant prospects.

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

     or trade for soriano and some cash coming our way, platoon him with overbay at first and have him play right field vs righthanders, cut diaz and trade jones. Bring up alverez and have hime platoon at 3rd with wood or harrison. NOW the big ? can soriano play first and how much money comes along with him.

    • jester1036

      Soriano’s contract is absolute poison for about 3 more years.  ANY deal to acquire him is a terrible idea.  He’s owed 18 million per season through 2014.   I wouldn’t want that contract on the team for free.

  • Anonymous

    I think acquiring both is too much. IMO it is vital to get Alvarez back on track and that includes promoting him when he is ready. So blocking him should not be an option. Also that is too much salary for next year i would like to see them have some flexibility this offseason.

  • Anonymous

    Certainly a deal they could do, but not a very good one for the Pirates. They need to sign Maholm, 9-10 mil is cheap for him, they need to sign McCutchen, that is about 20mil added to the payroll IMO.
    The problem with the Pirates is not a bat, the problem is pitching, bullpen pitching to be exact and the 3rd base, Harrison can’t play there defensively and Wood cannot hit for enough average for that position.
    The bat is here, his name is Presly.
    If I were the Pirates, I probably would have had Jordy Mercer playing a lot of 3rd base, because he has a prototype body for a 3rd basemen and he hits with power, let d’Arnaud continue get some polish at SS at Indy.
    Bring Hague up for 1st base, no way is he going to give you less production than Overbay.

  • Anonymous

    That would say a lot to what the Pirates brass thinks of Alverez.
    I say go for Pena. It appeases the fan base and gives the Pirates a legit power source behind Cutch.

  • Anonymous

    Before the Pirates start adding aging stars from the Cubs they better figure out if this years team is an abberation. When i step back and look at this team i just don’t undrstand how they are doing it and can it continue?

    Rushing in and spending millions on aging stars could set this team back years.

    People just assume that the pitchers are going to perform the same next year.

    I’m not trying to be negative i just don’t want them to fall into the same pattern as Littlefield did thinking adding an aging player or two will be a cure all when there may be deeper problems that need to be taken care of. Maybe adding a quality pitcher may be more important even though the offense is severly lacking. I don’t know i just want them to be carefull. 

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PVAKXR37WWO6OKYOEJUCYA45M4 jonathan

      there is a difference between adding an aging player over the winter for the season and adding an aging player that is playing well for the last 2 months of the season only… littlefield didn’t really get that chance and pittsburgh hasn’t seen it done since what? early 90′s? 

  • Anonymous

    NO WAY!!!!!!!!!!! Ramirez has the worst attitude i’ve ever seen. no reason to f*ck up the new found chemistry. Also we don’t need another first baseman who can’t hit above .240

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PVAKXR37WWO6OKYOEJUCYA45M4 jonathan

    pena only… ramirez at 16 million for next year is not in our best interests and the cubs wouldn’t pick up too much of it for him to play elsewhere… pena for 7 mil or so is not a big deal, that deferred payment is owed in January from what I hear so we may as well count it as this year’s salary… small price to pay for a playoff berth

  • Anonymous

    NO to adding anybody of the aforementioned.  This F/O has a “modus operandi” that has worked wonders by adding valuable, young players who mesh together to field a winning team that is greater than the individual pieces.

    Huntington just added arguably the best catcher of the past ten years, and last month he was riding the pines in Pawtucket. 

    The MVP of this team is the chemistry and winning attitude beheld by this group of basically mid-twenty year-olds.  In fact, we would get greater return to wait for Pedro and Doumit to return than to trade for OVERPRICED aging veterans in their thirties.

  • Anonymous

    I agree that they could use 1st base and 3rd base help, just think there are better fits out there than Pena and Ramirez.