Cuban First Baseman Jose Abreu is the Perfect Pirates Off-Season Target

Pittsburgh_Pirates10Rob Biertempfel reported yesterday that the Pittsburgh Pirates have been scouting Cuban defector Jose Abreu, and will attend a showcase he will hold in September. The Pirates have been mentioned in the past with Cuban players, but they have never been serious bidders. Most of the international signings the Pirates make are off the radar players like Starling Marte ($85,000), Alen Hanson ($150,000) or Gregory Polanco ($75,000).

Baseball America profiled Abreu, and broke down what needs to happen before he can sign. Basically he needs to establish residency in another country, be declared eligible as an MLB free agent, and then he’s able to sign. Because he’s 26 years old, he wouldn’t count against a team’s international budget, which could drive up the price. Jeff Passan speculated that the bidding could reach $60 M+.

On the surface this move would make sense for the Pirates. Abreu is projected to be a potential power hitter who can hit 30 homers a year. That’s not the consensus, as some scouts do question his ability to translate over to hit Major League pitching. But with Yoenis Cespedes and Yasiel Puig having success in the majors, it’s hard not to dream about Abreu seeing that same success. First base is one of few positions where the Pirates could use a short-term upgrade, and where they don’t have a lot of strong long-term options. So is Abreu the perfect fit for the Pirates?

The Internal Options

The Pirates have been going with a platoon of Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez this year. Sanchez has held up his end of the platoon by crushing lefties. Jones has struggled against right-handers this year, possibly showing signs of age. Both players have two years of arbitration remaining beyond the 2013 season.

Jones is making $4.5 M this year, and will probably be in line for at least $6 M next year, even after the down season. Arbitration looks at your entire career, so the down year won’t impact Jones as much.

Sanchez is making $1.75 M this year, and could be looking at $3 M next year, and possibly more than that.

In total, the Pirates could be paying $9 M or more for their platoon. Typically you platoon guys like Jones and Sanchez because you can’t get a better option, and you’re going for value. At $9 M in 2014, and probably a few million higher in 2015, you’re probably better off spending a bit more to try and get an everyday player. Or just going with cheaper internal options. Or signing a 26-year-old Cuban power hitter.

In the pipeline, the Pirates have a few options, but no top guys who you can pencil in starting next year. Andrew Lambo could be the next Garrett Jones, but he needs to make that jump to the majors first. Also, he’d be more valuable in right field until Gregory Polanco arrives.

Alex Dickerson is the top first base option, and is having a huge second half. I could see him staying in Altoona to start the 2014 season, much like Brock Holt, Jordy Mercer, Andrew Lambo, and others have done after less than a full season of success. He could still reach the majors in 2014, much like all of those other guys did, despite starting that same year in Double-A. But a more conservative path has him ready in 2015, if he does make it. His Altoona teammate, Justin Howard, is hitting well, but he doesn’t have enough power to be a starting option.

Stetson Allie has a ton of power, but also has a ton of strikeouts and isn’t anywhere close to being penciled into a major league roster over the next few years.

There’s the “move Josh Bell to first base” camp, but that’s not a good idea at the moment. For one, you don’t need to move Bell until you have three long-term outfielders in the majors. Second, you don’t need to move Bell until he’s close to the majors and the only way to get him in the majors is by changing positions. That’s not the case right now. Bell also won’t be ready until 2016-2017, assuming a level per year.

In short, there aren’t many internal options. It’s possible Lambo could immediately become the next Garrett Jones, or Dickerson could make it as a starting option in the majors. But that combo isn’t as strong of a bet as saying Gregory Polanco is the third starting outfielder of the future. If the Pirates added Abreu, they wouldn’t be blocking anyone.

The Roster and the Payroll

The Pirates can definitely afford Abreu. Their guaranteed payroll the next four years is $25.25 M, $14 M, $17.5 M, and $14.25 M. That doesn’t include arbitration numbers for guys like Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker, Mark Melancon, and guys who will be arbitration eligible at the tail end of that span like Jeff Locke and Starling Marte. You also have to figure that the Pirates will need to replace some of the current guys like A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, and others who could leave via free agency. Some of those players might return, and some spots might be filled internally.

The Pirates do have a lot of young players, with a lot of cost-controlled contracts over the next four years. From 2014-2017, the following players have just 1-2 years of arbitration, or less.

Vic Black

Gerrit Cole

Brandon Cumpton

Andrew Lambo

Jeff Locke

Starling Marte

Jordy Mercer

Bryan Morris

Stolmy Pimentel

Tony Sanchez

Duke Welker

Justin Wilson

That list doesn’t include prospects who could come up in that span, which is a list that includes Jameson Taillon, Gregory Polanco, Tyler Glasnow, Alen Hanson, and pretty much any other prospect in the top three levels right now.

Not all of the above players will be impact players, but a lot of the above players will be Major League quality players who can keep costs down. That will give the Pirates some flexibility to add payroll. When you also include the extra $20-25 M that each team will get starting next season for the National TV deals, the Pirates would have even more money.

The Team Needs

Let’s take a look at the team needs for the next few years, to get an idea of what other positions the Pirates need to upgrade.

C – Russell Martin is in Pittsburgh through 2014, and Tony Sanchez should be ready to take over after that. Reese McGuire wouldn’t be up until 2017 at the earliest.

1B – We’ve been over this above.

2B – Neil Walker is under control through the 2016 season, although he’s looking like a platoon player. The Pirates could fill his spot with a prospect down the line, like Dilson Herrera or Alen Hanson/Jordy Mercer.

SS – Jordy Mercer took over as the starter this year. Alen Hanson has more upside, but if it comes down to a middle infield of Hanson and Mercer, it might be best to put Mercer here for his defense.

3B – Pedro Alvarez is under control through the 2016 season, and the Pirates don’t have a lot of options after that.

LF – Starling Marte has plenty of control left. Also, don’t get caught up on where the outfielders are positioned.

CF – Andrew McCutchen is under control through the 2018 season.

RF – This is a short-term hole, but Gregory Polanco could be up as soon as mid-season 2014 to help out.

Starting Pitching – A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez are eligible for free agency after the season. I could see Rodriguez exercising his player option to stick around. It’s also possible Burnett could stick around. Francisco Liriano is a free agent after the 2014 season, and he won’t stick around with this level of performance. The Pirates will have guys like Jameson Taillon, Nick Kingham, Tyler Glasnow, and more coming up in the next 1-3 years, so they should be able to replace any departing free agents. Finding the next Burnett/Wandy/Liriano bounce back special wouldn’t hurt.

Relief Pitching – Do we need to talk about this with Huntington’s track record?

The Pirates are good in the short-term with every position except first base and right field. In the long-term the needs are first base and third base, although the latter starts in 2017. Second base could also be a long-term need as Walker gets more expensive, and less valuable as a platoon option. But that could be filled from within, unlike first base.

There’s another team need that we’re not talking about here: lineup construction. Abreu is a right-handed power hitter. Currently the Pirates have Andrew McCutchen batting third, and Pedro Alvarez batting fourth. That sets up a lot of situations late in games where teams can pitch around McCutchen and bring in a lefty specialist to face Alvarez. If you add a right-handed hitter between those two, you help reduce that strategy. But none of the current options on the roster could really fit in that cleanup spot. Abreu could be the right-handed power bat to add some variety to the lineup, especially when Gregory Polanco (left-handed) eventually gets added to the mix. Think about this lineup in 2015-2016:

1. Alen Hanson, SS

2. Gregory Polanco, LF

3. Andrew McCutchen, CF

4. Jose Abreu, 1B

5. Pedro Alvarez, 3B

6. Starling Marte, RF

7. Tony Sanchez, C

8. Neil Walker/Jordy Mercer Platoon, 2B

You could probably flip a few people around there and go with your own combo, but that’s a pretty dynamic lineup. Of course most of those guys are already in the system, and while they aren’t guarantees, they are strong bets. But who wouldn’t want to add another potential 30 home run hitter to that group? You could potentially get 150+ home runs from the 2-6 spots in the lineup. The Pirates as a team this year have 117, which ranks 5th in the NL.

What Kind of Deal Could Abreu Receive?

In the last few years we’ve seen several top Cuban players sign huge contracts. Pretty much all of those players have lived up to the hype. There are really two players who we can use to get an idea of what Abreu could command. The contracts are via Cot’s.

Yoenis Cespedes (26 when signed) – 4 years/$36 M (Can become Article XX(B) free agent after 2015 season)

Yasiel Puig (21) – 7 years/$42 M (May opt into arbitration once he earns 3 years of MLB service time, which at this point looks like it would be after the 2016 season when he’s set to make $6.5 M and $7.5 M in his final two years. Arbitration could be higher.)

Puig’s deal looks better in so many ways. He has the chance to earn more money than the $42 M guaranteed to him, but he’s under control for the full six years of service time. By comparison, Cespedes is only under control for four years. Considering Abreu is 26, like Cespedes, I could see him getting a similar deal. And if that deal is for $60 M, then you’re talking about $15 M per year for a guy who has never seen a Major League pitch. If you get him for the full six years, then that $60 M isn’t as bad. But what are the alternatives?

The 2014 Free Agent Market

As an alternative to Abreu, let’s look at the upcoming free agent market. The free agent market for first basemen this coming off-season isn’t that strong. Here is the list, via MLBTR:

Corey Hart (32)
Todd Helton (40)
Eric Hinske (36)
Xavier Nady (35)
Mike Napoli (32)
Paul Konerko (38)
Casey Kotchman (31)
Adam Lind (30) – $7MM club option with a $2MM buyout
James Loney (30)
Kendrys Morales (30)
Justin Morneau (33)
Mike Morse (32)
Lyle Overbay (37)
Carlos Pena (36)
Mark Reynolds (30)
Kevin Youkilis (35)

Most of those names aren’t starting options. The only guys who could be considered starters are Corey Hart (coming off a major injury), Mike Napoli (injury issues and more of a DH), and Kendrys Morales (having a good season with Seattle). James Loney might also get some attention with the year he’s having with the Rays.

Last year wasn’t a good market either. The top guys were Nick Swisher, Adam LaRoche, and Mark Reynolds. Swisher got four years and $56 M. LaRoche got two years and $24 M. Reynolds got a one year, $6 M deal.

Going back to Abreu’s potential salary, if Adam LaRoche is getting $12 M a year these days, then $15 M a year for Abreu at 26 doesn’t sound bad. There’s still the fact that Abreu hasn’t hit MLB pitching yet. However, it’s not like the market is going to be flooded with options. I could see Abreu costing just as much as the above names, and almost all of those guys come with their own risks.

Should the Pirates Try to Sign Abreu?

Yes.

There are a lot of factors to consider here. First of all, any time this situation comes up, everyone is an optimist. Everyone believes that a guy like Abreu is guaranteed to reach his upside, even though some scouts doubt he will succeed. I would be one of those optimists. There are always going to be scouts who doubt whether a top prospect from another country can play in the majors. The thing is, no one ever doubts the guys who are already in the league. Corey Hart is no more of a guarantee than Abreu. Neither is Mike Napoli or Kendrys Morales.

I will say that, like all of you, I’m only a guy who has seen a few YouTube videos and read a lot of positive reports on Abreu. So that’s the extent of my scouting in this instance. The Pirates have been very successful scouting international players, especially international hitters. Huntington was quoted in Biertempfel’s article saying the Pirates like him, so that’s a good sign that they’re not on the side that questions his abilities.

It’s not as simple as the Pirates deciding whether they want him, then just going out and spending the money. They’re still going to have to compete with other teams, and the Pirates can only spend so much, even with the payroll space and the extra money coming in. But the Pirates have enough payroll space to be competitive in this case. They also have very few needs — with first base being one of those — and very few internal options, so this is a case where it makes sense to spend.

If Abreu gets a Cespedes type deal, where he’s only signed for four years, that makes things less appealing. But if he comes in and immediately makes an impact, you’re not going to be focused on the price per year. The only focus will be on the fact that he’s ONLY under control for that amount of time. Also, this could give the Pirates some time to develop from within. If during that four year period the Pirates find an internal option who can replace Abreu, they could deal Abreu for a huge return and use his money to fill another hole on the team. If the Pirates can get him for the full six years of service time, and at that speculated $60 M price, then absolutely do it. But I have a feeling that’s unrealistic, since Abreu would have enough leverage with this weak free agent market to demand a deal similar to Cespedes, and for more money.

The Pirates have the need at first base, and that’s one of few needs they have. They have the money to spend, and once again, they don’t have a lot of areas where they need to spend that money. They don’t have good internal options for the short-term or the long-term. In the short-term you’re talking about two years and about $20 M for the Jones/Sanchez platoon. That’s a third of the way to Abreu. In the long-term, there are promising prospects, but none that look like guarantees. The free agent market is weak, and doesn’t offer anyone that looks safer than Abreu. In total, even if it would require a four year deal, signing Abreu would make total sense for the Pirates. They still need to compete with other teams for his services, but there’s no reason why they can’t be going heavily after him, much like how Oakland went after Cespedes and landed him.

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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  • https://profiles.google.com/110709561392331201235 Vicente Barletta

    Great article Tim. The last couple of weeks I was just thinking what the Pirates will do at 1B for the 2014 season.
    I admit that the Abreu option looks interesting, but only if comes at a decent price. 60M is way too much for an unknown, even with the Cespedes and Puig references. Precisely that success will drive the price higher. I can see the Red Sox, Mariners and other offering that kind of money for only 4 years.

    Having said that. Here are my suggestions for next year.
    1) Trade for Justin Smoak. The kid is turning around his career. Because of that his trade value might be high. But a package around Jones and Dickerson may get it done. The problem is he is like Walker, a switch hitter who struggles against lefties. That is where my suggestion #2 comes in.
    2) Trade Gaby Sanchez to the Twins for Josh Willingham to platoon at RF and 1B. Sanchez can have value with 2 more years of arb as a backup for Mauer or Morneau if they bring him back.
    Willingham is only 7M for one year. Enough to hold the position until Polanco comes up.

    So the 2014 Pirates might look like these:
    Marte LF
    Walker 2b
    Cutch CF
    Alvarez 3b
    Willingham RF
    Smoak 1b
    Martin c
    Mercer ss (I would sign Stephen Drew as a FA, but that is another discussion)

    My big investment this offseason would be a SP. One that can be around for 3 years until Cole, Taillon and Kingham can settle in their roles.
    My bet: Tim Lincecum. With his up and downs from the last 2 seasons he might take a 2year/30 million contract to regain value and go back to the FA market in 2016 as a 31 year old.

    Thoughts?

    • BostonsCommon

      You don’t want to go $15M/year for an “unknown” power hitting 1B, but your willing to give that to Lincecum? His velocity has dropped every year since 2008 to the point that he his now averaging just 90.2 mph on his FB. He’s getting hit more and more and giving up more HRs as his stuff continues to decline. And as a righty flyball pitcher, PNC Park is just about the worst park in the NL for him. I know he is still striking out a batter an inning, but there is just very little upside there.

      Now talking about Abreu, he is all upside. I like him at 4 or 6 years. Less risk at 4, more potential value at 6. Would be a very bold move by the Bucs. But if the Oakland As can do it, no reason the Pirates cant.

      • BostonsCommon

        1) Trade for Justin Smoak.

        Is he really turning his career around? Because the two seasons before this he looked eerily similar to Matt Clement. Certainly not sold on him, and I’m not sure his upside justifies A) The cost to trade for him and B) his rising arbitration salaries.

        2) Trade Gaby Sanchez to the Twins for Josh Willingham to platoon at RF and 1B.

        You really think the Twins want Gaby Sanchez? I think they would want way, waaay more than Gaby. Especially considering the demands the Pirates faced in trying to acquire guys like Schierholtz and DeJesus.

        I also think the Twins would be selling low on Willingham, who is in the middle of the worst year of his career. Plus, they still need someone to play RF next year. And his contract is extremely reasonable. Too many reasons to keep this trade from happening.

        The last comment I have on this: You’re trading one platoon for another, why? They are both going to cost you around $10M next year. Why not just spend a little more ($15M), and get player who will replace the platoon. You could probably even just non-tender Jones, save his $6M next year, and come out even.

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

      If I had the choice between giving $15 M a year to Abreu and giving $15 M a year to Lincecum, I’m going with Abreu.

      The only knock against Abreu is that he hasn’t hit in the majors yet, which raises the question of whether he can. I don’t think there’s a strong concern here.

      Lincecum only looks better because of previous major league success. The last two years he has seen a decline in his velocity and has posted some poor numbers. He’s a possible bounce back candidate, but for $15 M you’re banking pretty heavily on that. He offers just as much or more risk than Abreu.

      • BostonsCommon

        “He’s a possible bounce back candidate”

        I don’t know if this is true. 5’11″ 170 lb righties with declining stuff do not age well. He is about the exact opposite of AJ, who has always had the physical ability and above average stuff.

        • Kevin_Young

          This + the fact that he’s a righty fly ball pitcher, which is not the the Pirate reclamation-type player of choice.

          • https://profiles.google.com/110709561392331201235 Vicente Barletta

            Ok. You convinced me of the Lincecum idea.
            How about Justin Smoak and Willingham?

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

              Why would Seattle trade Smoak? I agree with you that he’s looking good, but I don’t see their motivation to deal him.

              I also don’t know why Minnesota would trade Willingham for Gaby, when everyone else clearly would want Willingham.

  • duckwoes

    I really would like to see them go hard after Abreu. Seems unlikely they would get him, but he would indeed bring that threat they so desperately need in the middle of the lineup, providing his game translates to MLB.

  • leadoff

    If the Pirates can get Abreu for 60mil or even 62mil for 6 years plus maybe a club option, I would definitely make that move, Puig had not played mlb before the Dodgers jumped in head first.
    As far as Lincecum, I don’t have a clue why the Pirates would even have a passing thought on him.

  • https://profiles.google.com/102528271117676652475 Joseph Panariello

    Great article again, Tim. All the points you have listed make great sense and I think you can really give Abreu a good deal and not worry about the consequences handcuffing you financially. I think you could give him a 6yr/72M deal if you really wanted to. Getting rid of an aging Jones and Sanchez platoon saves you not only future $10-15M for Abreu, but it opens another spot on the bench for another prospect further boosting our bench. I really do think this decision is a no-brainer and needs to happen.

    In NH I trust.

    • BostonsCommon

      “Getting rid of an aging Jones and Sanchez platoon”….

      This is the idea here. That platoon is basically going to cost you the same as paying for Abreu. I echo your sentiment. Pay Abreu, dump Jones and Gaby, an try to find someone to hold down RF until Polanco is ready.

      • BostonsCommon

        Although I might hang on to Gaby. He’s going to be pretty cheap still next year and mashes lefties. Maybe he can give Pedro some time off against them? I know Tim has suggested this in the past, even though Gaby has exactly zero starts at 3B.

        • https://profiles.google.com/102528271117676652475 Joseph Panariello

          I am on the same boat with Gaby, but think you can find someone like James said a little while ago like an Alberto Callaspo excuse my spelling, but I was think more along the lines of that. Gaby over to 3rd would be good to if his arm can play.

  • reddfoxx39

    He looks like Miggy. I am all in on this guy.
    Lets start a tony fund. I’m in for $50

    • Nuke Laloosh

      I like the Tony Fund. Is that like the Human Fund? I’m in too! Let’s get this guy on board and not have to worry about who is batting in the four hole again.

  • IC Bob

    Good article. Bottom line is the Bucs need someone they can plug in behind Cutch. Right now the Pirates are hopeless late in games because teams just pitch to our platoons. Alverez and Jones have about as much chance of getting a hit against a lefty as I do late in a game. I find myself wishing thy would get beaned or walked.

  • Nuke Laloosh

    It’s time to end the Jones era and move on. He can’t even hit RHP now.

    • Y2JGQ2

      he didn’t just “forget” how to hit righties. Problem is, he plays better when he plays vs. lefties and righties. years where he was in a platoon he always underperformed which is something Tim can’t quantify cause it’s not mathematical. If someone is down for a challenge, take the numbers for any season and even segments of the season (cut them into 4) where he was platooning- average, slugging, OPS, whatever- now compare them to when he was starting and playing everyday. I’ll bet anyone that his numbers vs. righties are at least slightly higher when he was playing everyday. (he also hits lefties way better when he faces them on a regular basis)

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

        He was a platoon player last year and his numbers were good. (.888 OPS). He had an .808 OPS the year before, platooning with Diaz. The one year that he was an everyday player he had a .775 OPS (2010).

  • https://profiles.google.com/109596891856789730877 Stephen Soltis

    While I love the article and the wild fantasies it elicits, what are your true feelings on the over/under on this actually happening. Unfortunately I’d put odds at below 10% for this to actually happen.

    Until the front office does something to change my mind, my feelings are as such. No big moves, spend as little as possible, etc.

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

      It’s hard to say what they’ll do, but I never dismiss something because they’ve never done it before. People said they wouldn’t draft Alvarez because of Boras. Then people said they would only draft hitting in the first round because of Alvarez/Sanchez in the first two years. Then it was they only liked high school pitching, so they might not draft Cole. With Heredia it was that they never spent that much on an international player.

      Those are just examples in the draft and international sections. There are plenty of others you can use. If we’re saying a team won’t sign a big name Cuban player because they never have before, then basically we’re saying that Abreu is only going to Oakland, Los Angeles, or Cincinnati.

      • emjayinTN

        Tim: I had hoped that Jones would pick it up after the AS break, but he has been terrible. Gaby Sanchez should be in there full time – better D and cannot be any worse than Jones against RHP’s. Dickerson to 1B the last month of the season at AA and then pencil him in for the AFL as a 1B. If he can do well there, we may have the decision made for us with a guy who can take it into the future at 1B. Jones could be valuable to an AL team. Start working with Josh Bell at 1B after the season down in Bradenton.

        • http://www.facebook.com/david.donahue.100 whiteAngus

          Dickerson has had plenty of time at 1B under his belt, so I really dont see the rush in moving him there for the AFL. However, it wouldnt surprise me to see him play at the 3 in the AFL.

    • BostonsCommon

      “Until the front office does something to change my mind, my feelings are as such. No big moves, spend as little as possible, etc.”

      They are spending pretty significant cash on R. Martin, Wandy, and AJ, and they are on the hook for $44-$60M for Cutch, so its not so much “spend as little as possible”.

      I think they definitely have commitment issues though, and they don’t like the idea of being tied to long term contracts. They trumpet “years of control” when they gobble up guys like Snider, but at the same time they don’t like to be tied down to contracts. It’s an interesting dynamic IMO.

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

        I think “years of control” is more about the cost controlled years. As you can see above, that has so much value.

        Think about it this way: the Pirates will be paying Gerrit Cole $1.5 M over the next three seasons to hopefully be an ace. They’ll be paying Starling Marte $1 M over the next two years to be an impact left fielder. They’ll have all of the other guys I mentioned above who will be league minimum guys, or in their first two years of arbitration over the next four seasons.

        Because of this, they would be able to sign free agents or make trades to take on salary and build a competitive team. They’re never going to be a team that can afford a team full of high priced guys. They need to have a lot of value in order to be able to compete.

        • BostonsCommon

          “I think “years of control” is more about the cost controlled years. As you can see above, that has so much value.”

          I get it, I just think its funny. “We like years of control, but only when they are the good years”.

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

            Yeah, the “years of control” arguments can backfire when a player doesn’t work out.

  • reddfoxx39

    Red Sox, Cubs, NY Mets, and Philly would seem to be suitors with cash.
    Dodgers are locked into Adrian Gonzales and Yanks to Texiera for several more years.

  • Nuke Laloosh

    How good does the Yankees acquisition of Soriano look now? Wish the Pirates would have pulled the trigger on that one. Cubs are paying a large portion of his contract and got a low level prospect in return.

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

      That’s because Soriano said he’d only accept a deal to the Yankees.

      • http://www.facebook.com/david.donahue.100 whiteAngus

        … and no guarantee that Soriano would put up those offensive numbers while wearing black n gold.

  • Bucco_Joe

    If the big market teams get involved (Philly, Boston etc), there is no way this organization will spend the money required to sign him. They would rather have another stop gap player fill the role (Morse, Napoli etc) rather than get a potential long term solution.

    • leadoff

      Money is and isn’t an issue.
      IMO, major league baseball screwed the Pirates and other small market teams with Cuban and Japanese players, they are not part of the international draft and teams that get TV contracts for 3 or 4 billion dollars can pay a lot more than any small market team, especially one that gets around 20mil a year. In fact the Pirates are probably the best managed small market team there is, with one of the lowest revenue streams in baseball, they still put a quality product on the field and still keep the team in the small market and can still get a guy like Abreu if he does not have a bidding war going on for him.

      • Bucco_Joe

        If they want to increase their revenue streams, put a team on the field that is a WS contender and then you can increase ticket prices and command higher TV revenue. Will they every match NY or LA in revenue, of course not, thats why you need an owner who isn’t looking strictly at profit/loss as a measure of success. At some point even ownership gains by spending more money because the franchise valuation goes up by putting a contender on the field. The current ownership group has a too short term approach to managing the team.

  • leadoff

    I wonder if the Pirates have Sano on their minds still?

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

    Here is your key sentence, Tim:

    “They’re still going to have to compete with other teams, and the Pirates can only spend so much, even with the payroll space and the extra money coming in.”

    I ain’t getting my hopes up one bit!

    Foo

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

      I say that because people tend to look at these situations and think the only thing that matters is whether the Pirates are interested or not. As if all they need to do is say they want to sign him.

      Of course, when I mention that other teams will be involved, it’s always to the other extreme.

      In reality, the Pirates have as good of a chance as anyone else, which isn’t 0% or 100%.

      • BostonsCommon

        “I say that because people tend to look at these situations and think the only thing that matters is whether the Pirates are interested or not. As if all they need to do is say they want to sign him.”

        I would even take it one step farther. At some point Abreu still needs to AGREE to sign with the Pirates. It’s the same story with any FA. Just because the Pirates want to sign the player, and offer the most money/years doesn’t mean anything.

    • Andrew

      Along those lines, at what point are Pirates prized out of the conversation or is prize driven up that the risk not worth it. I remember reading about the Cespedes deal and how it was a bit of a coup for the A’s to sign him and commit $36 million to him, possibility benefiting from being the first-mover. (I do not remember the Puig deal) I don’t worry that the Pirates will not try, just that if several other teams evaluate the market similarly the likelihood of this trends downward.

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

        Andrew………prize or price?? He’d be a great prize, but I think he’ll be priced out or our range. :)

        Tim….I think are chances of signing Abreu are more towards the 0% range. You and others are welcome to get your hopes up, but…

        Not unlike getting a date with Kate Upton….on paper, your chances of getting a date with her are the same as Chris Evans, but in reality………
        :)
        Foo

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

          That’s not saying much. If every team had an equal shot of signing a player, each team would have a 3% chance of landing him.

          If only a third of the league wants a player, then each team has a 10% chance, which is still low.

          But that’s not the same as saying the Pirates have less of a chance than other teams. That’s not true. I’m not getting my hopes up. I’m just pointing out that there’s nothing separating the Pirates from every other team.

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

            Tim…okay…glad you made that clear….I think…

            :) :) :)

          • Andrew

            Priced (maybe that was Freudian or just laziness); I agree that their chances are the same as other teams, but if another team(s) assigns a similar risk to the deal the Pirates relative limit on payroll could alter the likelihood. Then again maybe not, I haven’t looked at future payroll commitments of other teams. I have no disagreements with the general points, Pirates have a need, he fills the need and is near top, if not top option, and the numbers could work.

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

          “OUR chances”

          I are dumb. :)

  • smurph

    Pretty much agree with everything in this article. Since the Pirates are mostly a young team, they can afford to pay big money for a middle of the lineup slugger. Not saying this guy is Giancarlo Stanton, but the advantage is you don’t have to trade 3 or 4 top prospects to get him like you would Stanton. A small market team needs to balance signing FAs and making trades. In other words, teams like Boston or Yankees can sign 3 expensive FAs and hope one or two of them earn their massive contracts. With a small market team you might be able to take a one-time shot at a high-paid FA, but you better be sure he is worth it.

  • Y2JGQ2

    i like the idea of going out and getting someone whether it be trade or FA, and I agree that probably Morales is probably the best option on the market, but i’d still take Morneau on a 1 or two year deal to replace Garrett and give him a shot at the full time job. Abreu is a reasonable but costly option, I just don’t see the Pirates doing it, but who knows….maybe?

  • https://profiles.google.com/100182448651113142116 Mark Ludwig

    I dunno, this signing would terrify me if it’s any bigger or longer than Cespedes (and it will be). You mention that he’s no more of a risk than Hart, Napoli and Morales, which is true. However, nobody in their right mind I’d advocating a 6/$70M deal for any of those guys. Even if we discard the possibility that he is a total bust (which could happen…he’s essentially a 26 year old in A+) he could also merely be OK. What if he has a bad platoon split or doesn’t walk enough or any number of issues that could leave him with a 110 OPS+. Now anchor him at 1B. Is he really that appealing anymore. Plus, with a 6 year deal you have to consider his age on the back end. What if he’s not the same hitter at 32 that he is at 26?

    Sure, I’d like to see an improved lineup ASAP and if he is a true middle of the lineup bat, that would be amazing. Still, if he’s anything less, this could be the kind of deal that puts a major crack in this window of opportunity…

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

      A 6/$70 M deal would be a little less than $12 M a year. That’s what Adam LaRoche got last year. Maybe Hart won’t get that, but I could see Napoli and Morales getting that per year.

      • https://profiles.google.com/100182448651113142116 Mark Ludwig

        Per year, sure! But it’s a hugely different commitment to bet $12M that he will live up to it for 2-3 years as opposed to 6 or 7 years.

  • CalipariFan506

    What about trading a guy like Locke with Dilson Herera and maybe a Pimentel for Cron of the Angels?

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

      You mean the guy with a .738 OPS in AA? Plus he is slow and not a good defender.

      No thanks…maybe Pimental straight up with Curry tossed in.

      Foo

    • BostonsCommon

      Call me crazy, but I’d kind of like to hang on to a guy who is an All Star in his first full season in the bigs. Yes he’s dealing with some regression right now, but No 3 starters making league minimum don’t just grow on trees.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chrishale525 Chris Hale

    Again….Jordy Mercer’s defense is horrible, We need a long term SS As well. I do not see where people are getting this Mercer is being a good defender. He booting a ton of balls. I don’t see the athletic ability to play the position He can play a decent 2B, He will make a decent bench option

  • https://www.facebook.com/bkrhodes Brian K. Rhodes

    I would love to see the Pirates go after Abreu but I doubt it happens. The only guy they’ve spent that kind of money on is ‘Cutch and his money won’t really kick in for another year or so. What would a move like that do to the locker room? Spending 60 mil on a guy who’s never hit major league pitching? Just thinking out loud. I know if he comes in and performs from day 1 all would be forgotten. But if the guy isn’t producing, can’t speak English (assuming) and is the team’s highest paid player it kind of creates a problem.

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

      Well technically, A.J. Burnett is the team’s highest paid player right now. It’s just that the Yankees are sending money to help cover that salary. But I don’t think it would really matter. I don’t know that players would view it in the way you’re viewing it.

      As for the inability to speak English, he’d still have people to talk with, such as Alvarez, Tabata, Marte, Liriano, and so on.

  • https://profiles.google.com/108870717547098474743 James Wohler

    Tim I like the way you think. I would sign on for 5yr 60MIO which would be middle of the two other contracts with same per year as LaRoche. Easy to say it works for me obviously. But how do you think it would be viewed? What does this sort of contract do to the Pirates pay structure going forward.? With Cutch being the exception (Oh and Tabata though at a much lower number) the PBC has managed to keep contracts short term. So internally nobody has an issue with it but I could see an Borras problem.
    The above contract is really not long or onerous as many. ARod as worst example so far but Angels are nervous to say the least.

  • atniup

    Other than the last, approximately, 2 months, Garrett Jones hasn’t been that bad. Pirate fans have a habit of fantasizing about players who play for other teams, and imagining that they are, somehow, an upgrade. Many times, the reality is that they aren’t. Let me give a couple of examples:

    Ronny Cedeno out, Clint Barmes in – Nobody liked Cedeno, but this was a downgrade.

    Ryan Doumit out, Rob Barajas in – “Doumit can’t play defense, wah wah wah,” for 3 years. Barajas tanks.

    2 More:

    This didn’t happen, but I read forum after forum where fans were in desperation for the acquisition of Alex Rios. Even with Jones Struggling, extrapolate his stats over a full season and compare them to Alex Rios. You can’t do this because he only platoon’s now? Take his stats from the last time he played a full season. Can’t do that because he was 2 years younger? Take a combination of the two then. I wouldn’t have traded a box of sunflower seeds for Rios.

    Jose Tabata out, Marlon Byrd in – This one will take heat, and 50% will come about because Byrd hit one home run last night.
    Tim wrote a great article that was posted recently, and gave 2 examples of projections for Byrd, in terms of his projected performance the rest of this season. He didn’t hit 20 home runs in Pittsburgh, he has hit one. He is project to be in the .263 or .264 range the rest of the season.

    I am SO tired of people disregarding Tabata, and this comparison is a good microcosm of why. Tabata has a career at .271/.338/.379, and the .379, which is, not very good, is skewed by one very poor season. In the other three seasons, he was .362, .400, and is .410 this season. This year, he is right at .270 with 4 HR, which you would project between 8 and 12 in a full season of at-bats. He only has 222 AB, but I still say 8 because the .410 is slightly higher than it has been.

    Byrd has a career at .279/.335/.424. Now, overall, he has a lower OBP, and a higher BA and SLG than Tabata. All 3 numbers are close, but Byrd hit over .300 (BA) 3 times before 2007. Since 2012, Byrd has 572 AB and has 152 hits, which equates to a batting average of .266.

    If you read all of this and you’re think, Tabata isn’t any better, the stats are very close. That’s one acceptable response, and basically means you’re throwing away Herrera and Black (regardless of whether you want to downplay the importance of relievers or not) for nothing. You’re telling me Tony Sanchez can’t hit .215 and play better defense? Yeah, Buck has (probably) more power, but you CAN’T be talk out of both sides of your mouth. You can’t say, “I value power more, that’s why I like Byrd and Buck and not Tabata and Sanchez,” but then turn around and talk about Jones being bad and proclaiming that Byrd is an upgrade. This doesn’t even bring defense into the equation.

    I know this is a “scattered” post, so allow me to sum. Byrd and Buck brought a decreased OBP and decreased defense to the team, as opposed to play Tabata everyday and Sanchez as the backup at C. That’s the reality. Byrd is projected as having a lower avg and obp than Tabata has CURRENTLY, not even playing everyday. In addition, Byrd’s average, which is split, would be a textbook example of an outlier, in regards to a comparison with recent past performance. His career average and OBP are unimportant, because that’s like thinking A-Rod will hit .330 when he comes back. I simply included it to point out that EVEN WHEN you include it, Byrd still falls short of Tabata in regards to OBP.

    Last comment, and nobody wants to hear this, but Tabata would be better suited to hit leadoff than Marte. I know, “You’re a moron, wah wah wah.” I LOVE Starling Marte. I love him, and I see him as a .280-.300 hitter at this level, with nice gap, and even home run power for a leadoff hitter. His play in the field is great, imo. Comparatively, Marte (.275) and Tabata (.271) have very similar career averages. Tabata walks drastically more, and strikes out drastically less. Those are just facts. They both play plus defense, they both have cannons, Marte has better range. For the love of God, just play McCutchen, Tabata, and Marte in the outfield as an everyday lineup until we see what Polanco has. That’s fine, there is nothing wrong with that outfield. Somebody who is bored. go find an outfield that has 3 hitters that are all above .271 for their careers and all play plus defense.

    Byrd hits RHP at a .258/.306/.491 vs. lefties at a .338/.376/.585 clip
    Tabata is hitting .268/.355/.378 vs. righties and .276/.300/.500 vs lefties.

    On a team that strikes SO much, why is this such an upgrade? Please call me an idiot and tell me why. I am clueless.