First Pitch: The Questionable Decision to Trade Away the Compensation Pick

The moves the Pirates made at the deadline have come under question in the last two months, with some feeling that the Pirates didn’t do enough at the deadline to improve the team. Considering the nature of the team’s second half collapse, I’d have a hard time arguing that one player would have made a difference. But there is one question I have about the deadline deals: why trade the compensation pick?

The Pirates were awarded the second pick in the competitive balance lottery, which would amount to the 33rd pick in the draft right now (that number could change). The competitive balance picks were tradeable, and the Pirates did end up dealing their pick. They sent the pick, along with Gorkys Hernandez, in exchange for Gaby Sanchez and Kyle Kaminska.

At the time, the deal was questionable. Sanchez had a .556 OPS with Miami this year, and was sent to Triple-A. Kaminska was a struggling Double-A reliever. That doesn’t seem like the type of combo you’d deal the 33rd pick in the draft to acquire. After thinking about the deal, and seeing a bit more of the results from Sanchez and Kaminska, my opinion hasn’t changed much. It’s still a questionable deal.

First we’ve got Sanchez. In 2010 and 2011 he had very similar seasons, posting an OPS of .788 and .779 respectively, and hitting 19 homers each year. That’s not a bad player to have at first base. It’s also not a great player to have. Last year Sanchez ranked 10th in WAR out of 24 qualifying major league first basemen. In 2010 he ranked 14th in WAR out of 24 qualifying first basemen. He had a 3.0 WAR in 2011 and a 2.3 WAR in 2010.

I think it would be safe to say that those results would be the upside for Sanchez. He’s probably not going to be any better than that ~.780 OPS, strong defensive first baseman. I think his chances of bouncing back from his 2012 season are good, considering pretty much everyone in Miami struggled this year. But his upside is pretty well defined.

The draft doesn’t offer many guarantees. There can be some upside with the 33rd pick of the draft. The Pirates got Barrett Barnes with the 45th pick this year, and Barnes has the potential to be a power hitting outfielder. His lack of arm strength might prevent him from sticking in center field, but he projects to have the power to play left field. That kind of upside would be greater than what Sanchez provides.

I can see the argument for dealing the compensation pick for Sanchez. It’s all about risk and it really depends on personal preference. By going with the draft pick there’s more risk, but there’s a chance for a greater upside. By dealing for Sanchez there’s less risk. He’s had two good seasons in the majors so far, and chances are he’s more likely to be closer to his 2010/2011 numbers than his 2012 numbers with Miami going forward. But the upside with Sanchez is limited compared to a draft pick. Best case scenario, the Pirates are looking at a 2-3 WAR player. There’s at least a chance to improve on that with the compensation pick.

The other part of the trade is a wild card. Kyle Kaminska has been a reliever for most of the last two years. He fared well in the rotation over four starts between Bradenton and Altoona, but he was also old for the levels, and had previous experience in high-A. If he turns out to be an actual pitching prospect, it would tip the scales in this trade.

Personally, I prefer to see small market teams going with the riskier plays. I think it would be better to roll the dice with the draft pick, hoping to draft and develop an impact player. Sanchez might be worth the value of the pick, especially if he does bounce back to his 2010/2011 numbers. But if you think about having the 33rd pick in the draft, you’re probably not thinking about drafting a future Gaby Sanchez. There’s no guarantee that the pick could end up better than Sanchez, and the pick might end up worse than Sanchez. That’s where the risk comes in. Considering how baseball favors big market teams, and how the Pirates are limited in opportunities to acquire potential impact players, I’d much rather see them take the risk and go for upside, rather than play it safe with a guy like Sanchez.

Links and Notes

**How Many Good Hitters Do the Pirates Need For a Legitimate Lineup?.

**Gerrit Cole Ranks Third on the Eastern League Top 20.

**Pittsburgh Pirates 2012 Season Recap: First Base.

**AFL Recap: Five Pirates Prospects Get in to Game Action.

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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, 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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  • ElGaupo77

    Barrett Barnes has about a 2% chance of being anything tangible. The 33rd pick hasn’t produced anything since Brad Wilkerson (drafted in ’98) and Dave Burba (drafted in ’87):

    The deal also says “we’re not banking on Curry and Dickerson”, which I like.

    • SweetNick

      I agree. The chances of any 33rd choice making an impact are much less that the chance Sanchez or Kaminska helps. I’d make that deal any day of the week, even if the 2 we got don’t pan out.

      • Lee Young

        I just noticed the name “Tommy Sandt” from 1969! Blast from the past!!

        So, does this mean by trading the pick we just screwed ourselves out of a footure 1st base coach? :)

    • Lee Young

      El Gaupo….you beat me to it. At first I was upset at the deal, but when I started doing research on players drafted with the 33rd pick, I was less upset.

  • John Lease

    Considering how down the Marlins were on Sanchez, I also think it was too high of a price to pay. The pick was really all that the Pirates gave up, I don’t think anyone thinks Gorkys Hernandez is anything other than a pinch runner, defensive replacement outfielder, at best. And teams don’t carry those anymore.

    • whiteAngus

      its really a shame too. ive seen gorkys in person a few times. his defensive prowess is stellar. he reminds me of Gary Pettis out there. he also hits like him. blah.

  • Steve Dimmick

    they have the the Appel pick and their 1st round pick, maybe overspending on those two and not having the compensation pick will work out in their favor. It would suck to have the same situation as last year.

  • Kevin_Creagh

    The Pirates can potentially control Sanchez for 3 more years (2013-15) during his arb-years. The 2013 draft pick, at best, would be ready in 2015. I liked the move at the time and still do because of the multiple years of control for Sanchez. If they gave up the pick for a “rental”, then I would be concerned.

    • whiteAngus

      I was going to say the same thing. well said.

  • Guest

    i guess my only issue is the flexibility they lost in the ’13 draft by having one less pick. I saw what some other teams did with multiple high picks and was kind of hoping that would be an option this year. having an extra million or two (not knowing the value that will be assigned to #33) could allow for some really nice flexibility in the event someone falls to say pick #9 and the extra pool money the would have had could be the difference needed..

    • JohnDreker

      This is the bigger reason losing the pick is bad, the amount of money the team will be able to spend in the draft is now less. They didn’t just lose the pick, they lost the money that goes along with it. This team can’t afford to have another 2012 draft signing class, one that has limited upside from the start due to unsigned and safe/overdraft picks

      • ecbucs

        I see Sanchez as at best a platoon player at first so the price was too high. If he had been having a decent season in majors with Marlins this year it would have been ok (performing like he did in 2010 and 2011) Since he had struggled all this season and been sent to the minors he shouldn’t have cost the pick. It doesn’t sound like anybody has seen the pitcher and been impressed with his stuff so I don’t see him as more than a throw in. Maybe the much maligned Pirate scouts saw something in him. We’ll find out if that was the case next year.

        • whiteAngus

          much maligned? you mean the same people who were able to get really good seasons out of Cutch/Walker/Jones and Pedro???
          sanchez would have cost a lot more if he were having a good season, and he may not have been made available at all.

          • ecbucs

            I was talking more about the folks that supplied the info that Sanchez would be a good player to acquire. I realize he may not have been available if he was having a good season but the point I was trying to make was the Bucs took a gamble to get him and lets see if scouts were right that he can be a plus contributor to the team.

            These would be the same folks that made reports on Barmes, Barajas, Bedard, McGehee, Qualls, etc. that indicated they could help the ballclub.

  • Bill Tull

    I would’ve paid someome off to take Gorkys off the team, especially the 40-man roster. Look what he’s done in extended playing time in Miami. A solid move to get a guy to play 1B who traditionally can hit LHP (.291 avg., career .869 OPS) for three seasons for another pick. This was a move to better the team now, rather than later, NH usually gets criticized for playing too much in the future and this was the right move for now.

  • john.alcorn

    A MLB average 1B for three years in exchange for a wild card, not seeing how this is a bad trade. Even the slot value would only be $1 million and its not like you can take all of that for another player, you still have to sign your 33rd pick. Your best case result from that pick is an average MLB starter at what a 15% chance?

    • emjayinTN

      j: I agree 100%. Hernandez was going to be gone at the end of 2012 one way or another. We have the #9 and the #13 picks in the 1st Round and a decent low number in the 2nd Round. We needed a defensive 1B, and preferably something that could provide some punch in the middle of the order. The Pirates have plenty in the tank as far as prospects who are 2-3 years away, so IMO, this was a no-brainer. If Gaby Sanchez qualified for a year of MLB Service this year he will go to Arbitration the first time. He made 483K in 2012. He gave us excellent D, decent batting average and better than average OBP. I liked this guy a year ago, but I thought he was untouchable in Miami – a quality player, good clubhouse presence. In my 2013 lineup, he starts at 1B and Jones starts in RF.

  • leadoff

    Draft day the Pirates probably would wish they had the 33rd pick in the draft, but that pick is not going to make or break them, I don’t even know if they would be able to sign them considering the money that they will have to spend for the first 2 picks they have, they may even have to take a signable over what they really want in the 2nd round.
    IMO, baseball is a very complicated game for GM’s. You have the, I need to make a move now problem, then you have the what about the future move problem, sometimes you can’t have it both ways.
    The Pirates IMO, should be looking for 2 more stout starting pitchers, 2 stout relievers and a couple of coaches and I think they could make a legit run next year. I am not critical of their development programs because the coaching in the minors is getting the players to AAA and they are performing well at AAA, their major league development however is another matter, this is where I think they need better coaching to work with these young guys when they come up.

  • Curtis

    I agree that this was a bad trade. One aspect that the article doesn’t mention is that under the new draft rules it makes a huge difference how much your total pot is, and this pick added measurably to that pot. Even if there is nobody that you are interested in at #33, you can sign a senior for $10K with this pick and have the rest of the money to court other signings. That alone makes up more than the difference between Sanchez and Hague for me.

  • Brian Churney

    Don’t underestimate the importance of front office’s instability in this. While I generally thing they’ve done a great job of not selling out so they win before they lose their jobs, I felt like this move may have been influenced by that sentiment. Even if the pick works out, you’re looking at it being probably 2-3 years before the major league club benefits. If the pick doesn’t work out, then it’s a publicly failed draft pick. Sanchez could help now, and if he does win a few more games for them, it may save some jobs.

    I don’t like the logic at all obviously, but just wanted to note that it may have been an influencing factor.

  • F Lang

    I feel like we filled a perpetual gaping hole for next year. Sanchez is not my ideal 1B power-wise but we have good team power and he will hit for a little pop and do enough other things to help. One other important thing is he gives you solid AB’s on a team that K’s a ton. The Orioles and Bucs are similar i feel like…except they have more power, their pitching didn’t cave, and they have a good leadoff hitter who unfortunately for us is nate McLouth. I cant even blame the Bucs fo for this. I saw Nate all April and he looked done. He didn’t look good at the plate, in the field, on the bases…more of the Pirates just not catching a break.

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