First Pitch: What is the Next Move For the Pirates?

Could Garrett Jones be the next to go? - Photo by Mark Olson

Could Garrett Jones be the next to go? – Photo by Mark Olson

After Jason Grilli was signed, we waited for the other shoe to drop with a Joel Hanrahan trade. Now that the Hanrahan trade is completed, we’re left waiting for another shoe to drop. One of the big returns in the deal was Jerry Sands, who joins a crowded corner outfield/first base situation. That crowded situation already has a lot of people speculating about the next move for the Pirates.

The Pirates don’t necessarily have to make a move. They can afford to keep everyone currently on the roster. There are no space issues since they’ve got options on enough players to keep everyone. But keeping everyone doesn’t make a lot of sense. First of all, we’ve already heard Garrett Jones trade rumors this off-season. Also, the Pirates acquired Clint Robinson and now Jerry Sands. Robinson was a minor move, and the cost to get him was small. He could have been added for depth, but I don’t think Sands was added to be a bench player or play in Triple-A.

Trading Jones wouldn’t be a bad move. If you look at his numbers in 2012, they’re an outlier compared to 2010 and 2011.

2010: .247/.306/.414, 21 HR, 654 PA, 11.2% HR/FB

2011: .243/.321/.433, 16 HR, 478 PA, 11.0% HR/FB

2012: .274/.317/.516, 27 HR, 515 PA, 17.1% HR/FB

The key difference is his increase in power. That came as a result of his increased HR/FB rate. He had a 21.2% rate in his breakout year in 2009, which mostly came from a monster month in July. I think it’s more likely that his 11% HR/FB ratio in the 1132 plate appearances in 2010-11 is what we can expect going forward. That means he’s probably going to be closer to 20 homers than 30, and closer to a .400 slugging than .500. This would be a good time to sell high on him, since ultimately he’s a platoon player and not a regular starter.

If Jones was dealt, it would open up the first base position. The current projection has Jones and Gaby Sanchez splitting time. Clint Robinson or Jerry Sands could replace Jones. Both have hit for a lot of power in their minor league careers, but haven’t had much time to break out in the majors. They’re in similar situations as Jones pre-2009. That doesn’t mean they’ll have the same results, but they’re both interesting options because of that power potential. Sands isn’t really a platoon player. He’s right handed and doesn’t have any platoon splits. He’d be more of a candidate for regular playing time, but that would leave Gaby Sanchez without a role.

I don’t see Sanchez being dealt, especially after they acquired him for a first round compensation pick. I don’t think Starling Marte or Travis Snider would be traded, since they’re both young with a lot of upside, and both look like the potential starters in the corner outfield spots. I could see Jose Tabata or Alex Presley being possibilities, although that might not be necessary. The Pirates could just option Presley to Triple-A and have Sands in the majors, splitting time with Snider, Marte, and Tabata until two players step up for regular playing time.

Sands, Presley, and Robinson all have options remaining, which is why the Pirates don’t have to make a trade. They also currently have a payroll of around $66.5 M after today’s trade and the eventual Francisco Liriano signing. That’s a payroll they can afford. There’s also the current roster situation.

The Pirates have question marks on their team, but they don’t really have a need that is unfilled. They don’t have a regular first baseman, but have a platoon of Jones and Sanchez, with Robinson and Sands as alternatives. They don’t have an established corner outfielder, but have Marte, Snider, Tabata, Presley, and Sands. They don’t have an established fifth starter, and there are question marks with Liriano, but they’ve got Jeff Locke, Kyle McPherson, and a bunch of depth options like Vin Mazzaro. Plus, Charlie Morton should return by mid-season and Gerrit Cole is expected to arrive in the majors by that point.

They’ve got question marks, but they also have options for those question marks. Trading Jones would be smart in that in would be selling high on his value. It would also free up more payroll space, allowing the Pirates to make one more big move and provide a better guarantee to one of those question mark positions. The downside is that it would make first base an even bigger question mark. They’d be going with Robinson or Sands, who might be the next Jones, rather than Jones, who is already there.

It will be interesting to see what the Pirates do from here. They don’t have to trade Jones or anyone else. A trade of Jones could be good or bad, depending on the return, and especially depending on what they do with the money saved. I don’t think it’s as inevitable as a Hanrahan trade, but I’d be surprised if the Pirates kept Jones. I just can’t see them adding Clint Robinson and Jerry Sands via trade only to send both to Triple-A for the entire year. Add in the rumors we’ve already heard about Jones, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he was the next to go.

Links and Notes

**The 2013 Prospect Guide is now available. Order your copy today!

**Pirates Trade Joel Hanrahan and Brock Holt to the Red Sox.

**Why the Joel Hanrahan Trade is a Good Move.

**Where Would the New Prospects Fit in the 2013 Top 50?

**Pirates Designate Chad Beck For Assignment.

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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  • http://www.reverbnation.com/johnrussellskinner johnrussellskinner

    I’m afraid that all of these guys will go the way of Jeff Clement. Sanchez looks like he is best fit for an Albert Pujols lookalike contest at this point. I will take Jones’ production over a AAAA guy with a long, loopy swing (Sands). Sox prospects is not too encouraging about his MLB potential. Love the site Tim!

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      not a Sands or Robinson fan either

  • swartnp7

    What are some possible fits for Jones? i think AL teams are more likely.

    How about:
    Jake Arrieta & Nick Delmonico from Bal
    Nick Tapesch & Luis Sardinas from Tex

    If it is not a return like that, I’d rather they keep him until another player forces the situation thru stellar play.

    • wkkortas

      Hey, if the Rangers would be interested, I say go big. Jones as part of a package to pry Elvis Andrus loose.

      • https://profiles.google.com/116255365477483987850 jalcorn

        That’s delusional. If they wouldn’t trade Andrus for Justin Upton and Trevor Bauer, they sure as heck arn’t even answering the phone for GFJ.

        • wkkortas

          You’ll note I said “part of a package”–I’m not averse to trading Hanson and/or Polanco in a deal like that.

          • https://profiles.google.com/116255365477483987850 jalcorn

            Why would Texas want prospects? They have the games best system and are trying to win now.

    • https://profiles.google.com/116255365477483987850 jalcorn

      I’d go for Chris Tillman from Baltimore. He increased his velocity this year and may finally be ready to reach those lofty rankings that he had a few years back. Arrietta and Britton would be my fallback options.

      From Seattle, I’d work for Erasmo Ramirez, great changeup coming from off the radar to the MLB rotation.

    • http://www.facebook.com/matt.beam.16 Matt Beam

      Baltimore would seem to be interested if you look at their RF and 1B situations… I don’t think we’d get a ML ready pitcher like Arrieta or Britton AND a prospect, I think it’d be one or another. If the prospect route, I’d like to see them get Jonathon Schoop or Delmonico (in that order)

    • jg941

      Great fit right now for O’s, but any chance to use Jones and some other pieces (Tabata or Presley, Wilson or McPherson, etc) to break up their logjam at SS and get JJ Hardy?

  • swartnp7

    Or CLE for Ronny Rodriguez/Dorssys Paulino and Chun Chen/Alex Monslave

    If you check out their top 20, I think 4 of their top 6 are SS.

  • http://twitter.com/DJCarozza77 DJCarozza77

    What is the likely hood of a Walker extension this offseason?

  • http://twitter.com/DJCarozza77 DJ Carozza

    What could we expect to get for Jones?

  • http://twitter.com/vabarletta vabarletta

    There are a some AL teams looking for a LH bat that can Play OF/1b, so I agree now its a good time to trade Jones.
    To the Yankees for Eduardo Núñez who can be a better utility this year than Harrison and maybe can take over SS for 2014.
    To Baltimore for one of their P
    To the White Sox for Floyd if the Pirates throw in someone like Justin Wilson and Chicago pays some of Floyds 9M salary
    Hey, even another deal with Boston if their Napoli deal fails

  • http://twitter.com/AdreBox AdreBox

    If the Pirates are trying to win in 2013, trading Jones doesn’t make sense to me. That pretty much eliminates the platoon at first. I don’t see a LH career minor leaguer making up for jone’s production. I don’t think Sanchez has ever hit 20 HR’s in a season. Sands?

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      I’m with you AdreBox

    • http://www.reverbnation.com/johnrussellskinner johnrussellskinner

      I agree. For the price 4-5 mil we won’t be able to get anyone comparable. Even if he only plays 2/3 of the games, I’ll take 25+ HR and 80+ RBI. If his platoon partner actually performs even half as well in his 1/3 of the games, we have the equivalent of a 30+ 100 RBI guy for half the price of a fulltime player. Even if the numbers slip to 20 HR and 75 RBI I’ll take it. The right handed bats in the platoon situation have been dismal, but those players should be held accountable for their performances. I understand there is a need for a shortstop in the system, but 1 year of Jones alone won’t net a legitimate shortstop prospect. His OBP would have been much better without the total disappearance of walks in the first 2 months. I get the sell high argument, but we will never have a chance as long as we sell high on PROVEN major league producers like Jones. We will have to give up a valuable piece with years of control to address our need of a shortstop for the future. We have barmes for 1 more year, and that is what it is. I only got to see the Bucs once live in 2012, but barmes did appear to be the infield general from my seat. I think a .500 team would have gone a long way with most bucs fans. I’m a 3rd generation fan, an i know that is the case with me. Does Herrera have ANY potential to turn into an MLB SS?

      • Y2JGQ2

        It would be 2 years of Jones, this is his first year of arbitration

        • http://daleberrasstash.blogspot.com/ Kevin Creagh

          Jones is a Super 2 arb player. This is his 2nd year of 4 arb years, so there are 3 years of control for Jones.

    • http://AOL totall

      Jones can only hit right handed pitching, and quite well. But he is a butcher at first and in right. He is an ideal DH in the A.L. If he could fetch a better hitter than our SS, so be it.

      • lawdog

        He is not the greatest first baseman ever, but he is hardly a “butcher” at either first or right field. He made some fantastic catches in RF this year and is average at 1b. Be honest.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

    I’d like to see what Sands does in Indy before I hand him the 1b job.

    Not a fan of his.

    • swartnp7

      I agree, I’d rather keep jones and see a player force the teams hand thru good play, but I think they’re looking to trade him.
      The more I look at the Indians roster, the more I think jones fits there. Plus, if you take NHs relationship w/ them, it fits. I’d go Rodriguez/SS and Chen/C (hit 30 2bs last yr and picked off 35% of would-be thieves). That would give the option of Hanson and Rodriguez at SS (both w/ 20hr potential) and Sanchez/Chen at C.

      Rodriguez is competing w/ 3-4 other SS, and Chen is blocked by Santana.
      From Baltimore, Delmonico is blocked by Hardy and Machado.
      From Tex, Sardinas is blocked by Andrus and Profar.

      As for a Walker extension, is it necessary? It’d be nice, I wouldn’t mind it and it would be a great gesture. But don’t they have him for a while longer yet before they need to do this?

  • http://www.facebook.com/stephen.brooks.581 Stephen Brooks

    As soon as LaRoche signs, we’ll get a sense of the market for Jones. The Bucs are definitely better served by waiting this one out.

    That said, I really would prefer to keep him here for the year. Positional flexibility is a huge asset for this team as currently constructed, particularly with so many question marks at the corner OF spot.

  • Rebel

    Omg!! One of the big returns is Jerry Sands??? Mercy….. Now I know we got hosed.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      lol….for once I agree with you!

  • Y2JGQ2

    Okay Tim- What I don’t get with your evaluation of Jones is why you expect him to be more like the 2010 and 2011 version, than the 2009 or 2012 version. He’s had two really strong seasons and two mediocre ones. Averaging them together would probably be more useful than just assuming this year will be like 10, or 11. I guess I just don’t understand what that assumption is based off of. Beyond that, we all know that we can’t assume AAA stats will even remotely carry over to MLB, and even more so with a righty vs. a lefty with our home ball park. It just seems A) a stretch to assume he’ll only hit 20 homers and hit .250 and B) a stretch to assume anyone else who takes the position can deliver the same with no stats to back it up.

    So Tim, with my above statements taken into account- why would trading him make sense with no established power hitters to take his place, looking at the 2013 season?

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      With all of the seasons taken in to account, Jones is still a platoon player. The big difference in his numbers really comes down to how well he crushes right-handers. In 2009 and 2012 he did very well. In 2010 and 2011 he didn’t do as well.

      If you take all four seasons, then you’ve got a player who is going to play about two-thirds of the games at first, with the potential to be either version of himself. If he’s the 2009/12 version, that would be great for the Pirates. If he’s the 2010/11 version, that wouldn’t be great.

      I wouldn’t say it’s impossible for Jones to repeat his 2012 numbers in another platoon situation. I just think it’s very possible that he returns to his 2010/11 numbers. If it were obvious that he had no shot at repeating his 2012 numbers, he wouldn’t have any trade value.

      As for why it would make sense trading him, I think that could only be answered by seeing what they get and seeing what they do with the money freed up. As I said, they’re in a situation now where they don’t have to trade him.

      • Y2JGQ2

        Tim- That’s a well thought out response. I guess the next question I have is: What is the perceived trade value of Garrett Jones vs. what Joel Hanrahans’s was? Is the two years of control a bigger value than Joel’s all star credentials? From a WAR perspective and the value of the position of course…..what could we expect realistically in a trade? We don’t need pitching, we don’t need first base, second base, or corner outfield, or even center field. Catcher, third base, and shortstop are really our only depth needs if we are talking about a prospect- could we even get that for Jones?

  • https://profiles.google.com/106508220943703406151 Kevin Anstrom

    I would offer Starling Marte straight-up for one of the three big Mariners pitching prospects … Walker, Hultzen, Paxton

    Also from Ben Badler (twitter)

    “Pirates 2B Dilson Herrera raked in the Colombia winter league’s all-star game. Homered twice and drove in six runs to win MVP.”

    • http://AOL totall

      Why would you want to trade the best defensive OF on the roster ?? He has a lot of upside as a hitter and has the best and accurate arm on the roster. Makes no sense !! He should be the everyday CFer not cutch. Cutch cannot go straight back on a ball hit over his head, his arm is weaker than Marte’s, and he is less accurate than Marte.

    • Y2JGQ2

      Kevin- That makes absolutely no sense. In a system RICH with pitching, but with no offensive talent, we’d trade away the only A prospect we have for more pitching? …….i’m not going to be a jerk, but what exactly is the thinking behind that. whats the plan to replace his value in the of? We’d literally have to trade Taillor or Cole to get offense back, so i really don’t see the benefit.

      • https://profiles.google.com/106508220943703406151 Kevin Anstrom

        Hello Y2JGQ2

        My thinking is this …

        Walker and Hultzen are rated at or above the Cole and Taillon level. Paxton is a step or two behind so I probably wouldn’t trade 1:1 for him. Perhaps Paxton + young SS (Franklin) or Marte + young SS (D’Arnaud or Mercer).

        I think Marte will be an excellent MLB outfielder. However, there is some risk and Marte will not be able to play his best position (CF). And there is a chance he could settle in as a .700-.750 OPS OF which is just average.

        Sands is not a 1B … he’s an OF. Additionally Sands is only a few months older than Marte. As an offensive player I think he can be as good or better than Marte. Sands should have better power and a higher walk rate (and higher OPS).

        The Pirates have several young OF who project to be as good as Marte in Polonco and Bell. Also Hanson’s best position may end up being in the OF. With only 2 open spots in the OF and many candidates at the ML level (Tabata, Presley, Sands, Snyder, Jones) and more coming (Polanco, Hanson, Bell, Garcia, Barnes, Gaffney) I think it’s worthwhile to consider trading a terrific young OF prospect (Marte) for a top young pitching prospect.

        If the Pirates were able to get Hultzen or Walker they would likely have the hardest throwing group of starters in the history of MLB. As best as I can tell that honor belongs to the 2012 Washington Nationals (average FB velocity of 93.8 MPH).

        http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=sta&lg=all&qual=0&type=10&season=2012&month=0&season1=2012&ind=0&team=0,ts&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0

        Of course with some their young arms such as Taillon, Cole, McPherson, Oliver, Wilson, and Pimentel they may be able to get to the 94 MPH level with no additional trades.

  • lawdog

    If they trade Jones for anything other than a top of the line prospect, a proven power hitter, or a top of the line starter, either straight up or a package, I’m done with them this year. I agree with johnrussellskinner. For the price of 4 or 5 million, he is a very nice bargain. I completely reject Mr. Williams argument that somehow 2010 or 11 is the “norm”. Why? Maybe he just finally figured it out. He has had two great years and two mediocre, but with still 20 HR’s. We are in no danger of losing him, he is not overpaid and is guaranteed production. The reason we suffer through 20 years of losing is they inexplicably trade guys like this.

    I said it before on here, just because a guy has value does not mean you trade him. To be a good team, you know, you should have good players (duh) playing on your team. If you are losing a guy like Jones in free agency or is way too expensive, that is different. (like Hanrahan and 7 mil). To trade him to play some prospect when there is absolutely no need to trade him and hope his replacement even hits half as good as Jones in lunacy.

    • Y2JGQ2

      I couldn’t have said it better- unless you can fill a position need for the future, you can’t trade him. That would be 3B,SS,C. Thats it. We aren’t going to get a player back with his production who is established, if we did, he’d be more expensive anyways. A prospect who is ready to fight for the major league roster or a year away is really the only thing you can trade him for