Pirates Should Be Shopping Paul Maholm

Yesterday, before a lot of the trades started coming through, I took a look at how the market was shaping up, noting that it was looking like a seller’s market.  That opinion didn’t change yesterday, especially with starting pitchers.

Ubaldo Jimenez was traded from the Colorado Rockies to the Cleveland Indians.  Jimenez had a big year last year, but has struggled a bit this year, including a drop in velocity which is always a concern for pitchers.  Regardless, Cleveland sent Drew Pomeranz and Alex White, their first round picks from each of the last two years, along with two other prospects.  Prior to the season, White (47) and Pomeranz (61) both rated in Baseball America’s top 100 prospects.  Pomeranz jumped so high during the season that he finished 14th overall in the mid-season rankings by Baseball America.  Putting this in perspective, value-wise, that’s Jameson Taillon and Luis Heredia, plus two other prospects, in exchange for two years and two months of Jimenez, who has some red flags.

Jimenez is a talented pitcher, so you might expect that type of return for him.  But what about some of the other deals for lesser players?

Seattle traded Doug Fister and David Pauley to Detroit, with Fister being the primary player in the deal.  In exchange they got Francisco Martinez, Casper Wells, and Charlie Furbush.  According to Baseball America’s pre-season rankings, that’s the number 4, 19, and 26 prospects in the Tigers’ system, respectively.

The Diamondbacks added Jason Marquis, who is having a decent year this year, and is under control for two more months, with $2.47 M remaining on his salary.  In exchange for the 32 year old starter, Arizona gave up shortstop prospect Zach Walkers, who rated 29th in the Arizona system prior to the year, and who has a .302/.377/.485 line in 361 at-bats in low-A as a 21 year old.

Then there was a deal that didn’t go through, but not because of the value of the prospects.  Boston had a trade for Rich Harden of the Oakland Athletics, where they were sending Lars Anderson in return.  The deal fell through when there was uncertainty about Harden’s medical history.  That’s the same Rich Harden who missed the entire season up until July, and who has been injury prone throughout his entire career.

Even the relief pitching market got some value, as Koji Uehara was sent to the Texas Rangers in exchange for first baseman Chris Davis and right handed pitcher Tommy Hunter.  That deal allowed Baltimore to trade Derrek Lee to the Pirates.

The Pirates should at least shop Maholm around.

Of the above deals, the only one that doesn’t look appealing would be the Marquis trade, and honestly, that’s the only one that seems to have normal value.  Every other trade has fetched a nice return, considering the players involved.  With this looking like a seller’s market, the Pirates would be foolish if they didn’t at least shop Paul Maholm around today.  There are still teams looking for starting pitching, and with the value being paid on the current market, it would be too short sighted for the Pirates to consider Maholm untouchable.

As we’ve seen the last few days, the Pirates may be contenders for the weak NL Central, but that’s about as far as their chances go.  Adding Derrek Lee is an upgrade from Lyle Overbay, but upgrading one position in the lineup isn’t going to cause the offense to do a complete 180.  The Pirates have been good enough this year to beat up on the weaker teams, and they hold their own with winning teams, but not to the point where they’re on the same level as teams like St. Louis, Philadelphia, or Atlanta.

If the Pirates did deal a guy like Maholm, it might hurt the team in the short run, but probably not as much as it would help in the long run.  The short run impact would be lessened, as the Pirates have Ross Ohlendorf returning at the beginning of August.  In the long run, the Pirates could take advantage of a seller’s market and really provide the team with a serious upgrade.  Worst case scenario, they don’t get the big offer I’m talking about, and they keep Maholm.

I’ve been saying for awhile that the Pirates can be both buyers and sellers at the deadline.  I’ve been saying that they should make moves like the Derrek Lee trade, where the biggest thing they give up is salary relief to the other team.  I still think they could use another bat, specifically an outfielder, but at the same time I also wouldn’t be against dealing Maholm, or for that matter, seeing what guys like Joel Hanrahan, Chris Resop, or Jeff Karstens could fetch on this seller’s market.  The Pirates have some depth in the rotation, and they have some depth in the bullpen to lessen the short term consequences of such a move.  As I said before, it would be too short sighted to pass on a deal that could provide a big boost to the long term of the team, all because you don’t want to lessen the chances in the short term of a team that, honestly, doesn’t look like a contender anywhere outside of the NL Central.

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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