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.

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, 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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