First Pitch: Getting Value From the Upcoming Roster Moves

In the next week or two, the Pittsburgh Pirates are going to have some roster decisions to make. The primary decision would be clearing a roster spot for Gregory Polanco. The arrival of Polanco, which I’m guessing will happen sometime next week, will mean the departure of an outfielder. Currently there are two prime candidates for that corresponding move: Jose Tabata or Travis Snider.

Tabata has a .632 OPS this season. The one thing that might keep him on the roster for now is money. He has $9.25 M guaranteed beyond the 2014 season, not to mention the remaining balance he’s due this year, which takes his total money owed to around $11 M.┬áSnider isn’t doing much better, with a .629 OPS. He doesn’t have a long-term contract to keep him secure on the roster. The Pirates seem to like Snider more than his stats would warrant, but I’m not sure if that’s still the case after his struggles this year.

Over the weekend, the Pirates received a competitive balance pick in exchange for Bryan Morris, who seemed to have zero trade value. The pick, which is 39th overall, gives the Pirates an extra draft choice, and an extra $1.47 M in their bonus pool. That could be very valuable if they can draft a talent player and sign him for under slot, which is what they did last year, creating enough money to sign Erich Weiss to an over-slot deal in the 11th round. Weiss is currently the top hitter with West Virginia.

It might be greedy to expect the same from a possible Travis Snider trade. Just like Morris, Snider seems to have zero trade value. Expecting a return similar to Morris might be like expecting lightning to strike twice. I’m not even sure if the Pirates could make a deal in the next two days, getting that extra pick before the draft. But they might be able to get other value for someone like Snider.

I was looking tonight at some of the deals for international bonus money last year. There were several deals which featured bonus pool money changing hands. This isn’t actual money, but the ability to spend money in the international market. So it’s not really an asset, but an ability. Here is a look at some of the deals that just included bonus pool money (leaving out player for player trades that also included pool money).

**Cardinals trade Mitchell Boggs for $206,000 in international bonus pool money. Boggs was non-tendered at the end of the season.

**Mariners trade Alex Liddi for $73,700 in extra international bonus money. Liddi had a .636 OPS in 173 at-bats in his career at the age of 24. He was granted free agency at the end of the year.

**Cubs trade Ronald Torreyes for $784,700 in international bonus money. Torreyes is a marginal prospect, and wasn’t ranked in the Cubs top 30 by Baseball America, or the Astros top 30 after the trade.

A trend here is that these guys dealt weren’t exactly valuable pieces. Boggs and Liddi were released or non-tendered by the end of the year. That’s probably going to be the same path for Snider. If those guys can get bonus pool money, then the Pirates should try for the same thing with Snider, after Polanco arrives.

One of the benefits the Pirates got from the Morris trade was a bigger draft bonus pool. They went from having the 21st biggest pool, to the 13th biggest pool. Most of the extra money will go to the 39th overall pick, but they could find a way to get an extra over-slot player in the process. For a team like the Pirates, the ability to spend money in the draft and international markets is huge. Unfortunately, MLB’s latest CBA makes it so that you are limited with what you can spend, forcing teams to trade for the ability to spend money.

On the international side, the Pirates have about $1.9 M that they can spend, which ranks 26th out of 30 teams. Teams can trade for up to 50 percent of their bonus pools, which means the Pirates could trade for about $950,000 in bonus pool money. That would put them much closer to their former budget of $3 M (before the CBA), and would allow them to spend more money in the international market, where they’ve had a lot of success.

It’s not out of the question that Snider could be dealt for bonus pool money. He wouldn’t fetch $950,000. However, there has to be another team out there willing to gamble on his upside. The international bonus pool money seems to carry a low trade value, based on what we’ve seen in the past year. For a team like the Pirates, the ability to spend more in that market carries a higher value than for most teams. When Polanco is ready to arrive, the Pirates should try to deal Snider for international bonus pool money, similar to their approach with Morris.

Links and Notes

**Latest Mock Draft From Jim Callis Has a Power-Hitting Shortstop For Pirates

**Prospect Watch: Glasnow Continues Hot Streak; Pimentel Starts Rehab

**Minor League Schedule: Zack Dodson Has Had Success Keeping Runs Off the Board

**Top 10 Hitters: A Week Profiling Depth and Trade Deadline Candidates

**Top 10 Pitchers: The 2013 Tyler Glasnow Makes an Appearance

**Prospect Highlights: Gregory Polanco Shows Off Defense and Speed

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://@gwbicster gwbicster

    Really good article, I hadn’t thought of that possibility. My opinion is that they’d rather get rid of Tabata, and the salary. Snider, for all his failings as a starting player, has excelled as a pinch hitter. He’s also the only left handed bat off the bench. I doubt they want to pay Tabata $4 million a year to be a fourth OF. All of the OFers are right handed bats, and they have Harrison if they need a RH bat to spell Polanco. Harrison has played well enough to merit receiving Tabata’s PT.

    Just a thought, for what it’s worth.

    • NSA

      I doubt anyone wants to pay Tabby $4M a year to play Bench so in two weeks Snider will be sold off to some schmuck for a fistful of beans and Jose will continue to work on his pinch hitting.

  • pilbobuggins

    Looks like a good idea to me,pirates need all the advantages they can get after the cba pulled the rug out from under them and other small market teams.

  • Wilbert Matthews

    Wouldnt Tabata be slightly more appealing if he can play center field?

    • ElGaupo77

      He can’t though. Well, he can’t for the Pirates. He could for other teams that don’t value defense at all. The Nats think Bryce Harper can play CF.

    • Y2JGQ2

      He also would be if he had speed he had 3 years ago, didn’t have chronic injury problems, had an arm, had any motivation to get better, and/or put on some muscle in the offseason. alas…..don’t count on it

      • bucsws2014

        To be perfectly fair about this, Tabby’s arm is stronger and more accurate than Cutch’s. Tabby has thrown out guys at 3b and home from RF. Arm is the least of his problems.

        That said, there’s nothing really stopping the Bucs from eating part of his salary if they really wanted to keep Snider (although they’d still be paying $1.2 mil a LH bench bat – and they could find better).

  • emjayinTN

    Tim: Gregory Polanco is in a period where he is still hitting, but very few EBH over the past few weeks. JHAY is hitting .304 in 43 games with an .826 OPS, 5 doubles, 2 triples, 4 HR’s, 12 RBI, and 19 runs scored. In the last 5 games he is 10 for 23, .435 with a double, a HR and 4 RBI. Starling Marte is hitting a horrible .139 over the last 10 games and has struggled almost since the beginning of 2014. We have a big long-term investment in Marte, so I guess we are trying to let him play out of his slump. Bringing up Polanco will not help that situation at all, because the fans will want to see him playing full time, and the last thing we want to do at this point is yank a hot bat like JHAY out of the lineup. For my money, I allow Polanco to stay at AAA until the 10 game home stand that begins on Jun 26. If he gets on a hot streak before that where he is ripping it up again, then I might make that move possibly a week earlier, but with an eye on how the team is playing, how Marte is doing, and how Harrison is doing. After winning 4 of the last 5 on the Coast, there is no hurry at this point, and it will allow NH an extra week or two to possibly make a trade. I guess I am a little surprised that we have not heard overtures from a few needy teams about JHAY as a starting middle infielder.

    • impliedi

      While that all may be true, I don’t see the play of Marte or Harrison having any impact whatsoever on when the Pirates call up Polanco. I imagine Polanco comes up possibly for the Reds series on June 17 or, at the very latest, for the Rays series since they’ll need a DH starting June 23.

      • impliedi

        Actually, I’m going to make a prediction: The Pirates will call up Polanco during Indy’s off day on June 19 and he’ll make the drive that day from Indy to Chicago for the start of the Cubs series on June 20. The reason: Nutting is too cheap to buy a plane ticket for Polanco, he’ll make him drive instead (and won’t reimburse him mileage)!

        • leowalter

          Or he might even have an Indy booster drive Polanco up there after he packs him a picnic basket ?

      • emjayinTN

        im: The Reds series the week before was what I was referencing if GP gets hot. Or, we sit down with the Yankees to find out how badly they want to move Solarte to 2B which is his more natural position, and have JHAY move to 3B for them which is his more natural position.

    • CamJay87

      The thing nobody really brings up is defense. Whether or not Polanco hits when he gets called up, he can prowl the outfield much better than the 5’9″ at-best jhay. I’m a fan of what Harrison’s doing with providing some great defense along with the hot bat, but the sheer fact of Polanco’s defensive value is what makes him more valuable. His 6’4″ frame can cover way more ground than anybody but maybe Marte. He’d be better served in CF. Jhay will be platooning at 3rd and 2nd when GP arrives.

      • Jared

        Not sure I want a platoon at 2b the way Neil is hitting this year. Giving JHay a chance at short wouldn’t be the worst idea ever. Just a couple games and see what happens. He’s a gamer…never know.

      • Monsoon Harvard

        The way Marte has been swinging the bat, the Pirates would be better off with Josh Harrison in right and Polanco in Left right now. Let Marte have some time to remember how to have patience and get his timing back working in the batting cage.

      • Y2JGQ2

        The way walker is hitting, he won’t be sitting for JHAY- he will play more at third, occasionally at short, occasionally spelling polanco and Marte and even Cutch

    • Y2JGQ2

      They aren’t going to bench JHAY as long as he stays hot, he is the biggest reason why they are winning. So…..i’m not sure how this plays out. I think you will see him playing all over the place to keep his bat in the lineup, its a good problem to have

      • moose7195

        This good problem to have is a hard one to solve. I don’t see how they bench Marte, and I don’t think NH holds Polanco back either. Which means JHay is going to have a hard time finding regular ABs, which is the easiest way to kill a hot streak. If it were me, I’d send Marte to AAA if possible and let him work on his plate discipline, and see if JHay could play SS at all because I have no faith that Mercer can provide any consistency with his bat.

  • rburgh

    Josh Reddick, Billy Butler, Jackie Bradley, Domonic Brown, Nate Schierholtz, Will Venable, Alejandro deAza. All these guys are getting regular playing time in the OF or at DH, with OPS’s south of .630. The Phillies, in particular, have a poor farm system and could be buyers of one of these guys. I’d think the White Sox would have modest interest also – Adam Eaton in CF for them is also scuffling. I’d think Oakland and San Dieo might also be willing to kick the tires, anyway. Among other things, I’d be looking to fill in for the PTBNL for Ike, whoever he might be.

    Honestly, I’d sell off both of them, and bring up Dickerson with GP to continue to mentor him and serve as the LH bat off the bench and 4th OF against RHP, with J-Hey as the 4th OF against LHP and RH bench bat. Hopefully we could return a PTBNL replacement and some international cash. Maybe even flip one of them to the Mets instead of the PTBNL – their corner OF group of Eric Young Jr;, Granderson, and Chris Young is a disaster.

    • BlueBomber72

      I got no problem getting rid of both Snider and Tabata either. Dickerson and Decker can’t be worse, and with Polanco up you are only need a back-up type player. The only challenge would be getting some value for Tabata and Snider.

      • Y2JGQ2

        problem is- then your depth is gone. they won’t get rid of both of them, just whatever they can get more from, or will cost them less to discard

    • piraddict

      The Pirates should sell off both of them, but Lambo’s injury/surgery depletes a thin outfield core in the minors. In fact with Dickerson’s DL stay they couldn’t easily promote Polanco until Dickerson returns. Broxton is ready for promotion in AA as well as Bell in A+, but no one in WV looks suitable for promotion yet so they can’t easily daisy chain promotions down the system and still have enough outfielders to easily field outfields throughout the system. As a result they’ll sell or DFA Snyder and keep Tabata because Tabata’s salary makes him harder to unload.

      • leowalter

        Broxton will not be promoted,you can NOT field an OF in Altoona of Garcia,Vasquez and a Matt Curry ! Things are bad enough offensively there now. Last weekend they scored a total of 1 ( that is ONE ) run in 40+ innings,and Rojas Jr. was there for at least half of those innings.If I owned the Curve,I would be on the phone with the Pirates right now demanding they at least be competitive. I can guarantee that the previous owner would not have stood for it.

        • https://profiles.google.com/117072260031604417798 PikeBishop65

          (as Harry Doyle) One run!? That’s all we got? One God Damned run! ;-)

        • StevePegues

          I’m sure the owner of the Altoona Curve will be on the horn as soon as he finishes up his shift at Subway.

          But I kid the minor-league owners… Seriously, though, I’m pretty sure he is well-compensated by the development agreement with the Pirates and probably doesn’t need to rely on gate receipts all that much.

          • leowalter

            Steve, you obviously have no idea of how Minor League Baseball operates,do you ? You probably would be better off not saying anything when you lack any knowledge. By the way, the previous owner of the Curve was Chuck Greenberg, if that name means anything to you. In case it doesn’t , he was one of the owners of the Texas Rangers later, and also was Mario Lemieux’s attorney.Quite a jump from Subway ? And, MLB doesn’t compensate for a development agreement. That is the dumbest comment I have seen here in quite a while by the way.

            • StevePegues

              Are you saying the owner of the Altoona Curve gets no money– or inadequate money– from the Pirates? Because it’s my contention that he does and that’s the only point I was making with my dumbest comment.

              • leowalter

                I am not going to do your work for you,try investigating the subject before going off making comments like those earlier ones. As for the current owner of the Curve,you could only dream of having the personal success that he and his family have achieved.It also looks like Y2 has no idea of how the Minor League franchises and MLB organization’s co-operate to maintain their individual development systems.

                • StevePegues

                  So are you saying that the owner of the Altoona Curve gets no compensation– or inadequate compensation from the Pirates?

                  If he’s as successful a guy as you say, I’d hope he would be able to take a little joke, by the way.

        • Y2JGQ2

          Noone cares how bad Bradenton is- they exist solely to improve players and supply the next team up

          • Y2JGQ2

            or altoona

            • zombie sluggo

              Y2JGQ2 – You are 100% correct. The Pirates brass cares about 1 thing in terms of on the field product and that is at the major league level. Nobody in Pittsburgh gives two sh*ts about how the Curve are performing as a team. Individual player development is what the minors are there for. If the Curve owner would have a problem with the Curve’s roster, he probably should be involved in other fun-time activities.

    • Y2JGQ2

      Almost all of those guys have had huge success or are still considered highly ranked prospects 1-2 years removed. Not all, but almost all. Reddick, Bradley, Butler, Brown- none of them would be replaced with tabata or snider

  • IC Bob

    IF we get a $1000 international money for Snider it would be worth it.

  • ElGaupo77

    I think the Yankees are involved. They don’t care about money nor defense and need some offense.

  • Pie Rat

    Tabata is batting .280. How does that not have value? The Pirates could offer to pay some of his salary or package a minor league player.

    • Y2JGQ2

      OPS mongers believe the .280 is worthless. if he is a pinch hitter, all i care about is what he does when he pinch hits.

      • Y2JGQ2

        More often than not, OBP is the only thing that is really important for a pinch hitter. Noone is expecting Tabata to come off the bench and hit a homerun. When he comes up, we want a baserunner, and someone who won’t K. In this way, OPS is pointless to gauge his value.

  • Monsoon Harvard

    One thing Snider has been good at is pinch hitting. He has been very reliable in that regard this season.

    • Y2JGQ2

      Disagee, because Tabata hits righties better than Snider hits lefties. Sniders propensity to K is also much higher.

  • Y2JGQ2

    Wow Tim, very impressive. Being able to trade bonus pool allocation seems absolutely ridiculous since its like monopoly money, but its cool that you can for times like this

    • Y2JGQ2

      I expect Snidr to be dealt. Tabata is more flexible, and still has ability to not be a “sunk cost”

  • Monsoon Harvard

    Maybe they could send Marte to triple A when they bring up Polanco. His average continues to plummet and his timing gets worse each game.

    • leadoff

      IMO, they need to set him down for a game or two, that is one of the ways Polanco can help. With Polanco they could keep Harrison in right field and move Polanco to left field, this of course is just a temp move.

      • Monsoon Harvard

        Right, temporarily indeed. But just having the bat of Polanco out there will push Marte to learn better patience in the long run. If he doesn’t continue to improve, he will be the first guy bumped for the next crop of stars, particularly Meadows (once he comes back from the hole in the earth that he apparently fell through), but also Josh Bell If they don’t move him to first base.

  • leadoff

    This might be blasphemy, but I would keep Polanco in the minors a little longer. He is polished, but the only benefit I can see with him coming up is that he will give them more depth at the major league level. He won’t hit better than Harrison is hitting, won’t pinch hit better than Tabata. Right now they have 3 center fielders on the 25 man roster, do they need 4? If Polanco was all about power I might think differently. Having said all of this Polanco will be here within a week and Snyder will be gone one way or another, there is also the possibility that Snyder or Tabata will come down with the dreaded hamstring or oblique injury and have to be put on the DL.

    • https://profiles.google.com/117072260031604417798 PikeBishop65

      Bring up Polanco to play left field, bench Marte and keep Harrison leading off and playing right. Put Polanco in the #2 hole, and drop Walker to sixth. Your lineup would be tough to match up relief pitchers against late in the game as well: 1. R 2. L 3. R 4. (Davis)L 5. (Walker) S 6, (Pedro) L 7. (Martin) R 8. (SS) R.

  • smurph

    I can’t ever see Snider being good enough to be a ML starting outfielder. His defense is below average, and there is no power in his swing. He has had multiple chances with the Pirates and Jays, and has NEVER taken advantage of his chances. He should be gone. As for Marte, it seems to me the major league hitting coach should be able to do more with him than the coach at AAA. It seems that once he starts to swing, he does not have the ability to hold up his swing, and therefore offers at many pitches out of the zone.

    • leadoff

      I can see what the Pirates see in Snyder, they have outfield talent coming, but other than Polanco the other talent is not ready yet. If you look at the rest of major league baseball, most teams not only have a Snyder on their team but probably 2 or 3 of them. As far as Marte is concerned, tough problem, he is caught between the undisciplined way that he wants to play versus the disciplined way that the Pirates want him to play. LA is caught up with this problem with Puig, but they overlook a lot because he is producing, Marte is not.

      • smurph

        leadoff, I watched some of the Dodgers game last night. They were commenting as to how much Puig has improved his plate discipline this season. His swing-and-miss % is way down from last year. Hopefully the same thing can happen for Marte. At this point, why would a pitcher throw him a ball in the strike zone?

        • leadoff

          Against the Pirates the first two games of the series Puig was swinging at the same stuff they get Marte out with and he was not hitting it, Cumpton does not throw that low and away soft stuff and he hit him pretty good. The Problem with Marte is that he is not hitting good pitches either.

        • emjayinTN

          Marte has a quick enough bat to not commit as early as he has been on breaking pitches. He starts early because he wants to pull the ball with power. He can hold back longer if he adapts to how he is being pitched, makes the needed adjustment, and commits to hitting straight out on every pitch. Major league hitters must be making adjustments constantly because advance scouts pick up on every flaw.

  • R Edwards

    Its been well documented, that I am not the biggest Charlie Morton fan – as I always thought he underachieved due to a less than aggressive/bull dog mentality and disposition. But, I have to hand it to him – other than his last inning last night, he was very impressive and earned a well deserved win.

    He still walks and hits too many batters, and is still susceptible to the big inning – which he escaped from in the 5th last night. He also still throws too many pitches, because he goes so deep into so many counts. Batters have caught on to him and seem to be very patient with Morton. He needs to go deeper in games.

    But, for the first 4 innings last night, he was on and had no hitter kind of stuff.

    • leadoff

      Too bad umpires have not caught on to him, his ball breaks so much that it appears that they give up on some of his pitches to early. I have seen every team in baseball play this year and have not seen any pitchers with better stuff than Morton. I think he has so much break on some of those pitches that they would be hard to control. sometimes though, I think he has a million dollar arm and a ten cent brain.

      • R Edwards

        If he could somehow harness his pitches to the point where he can be effective for 7-9 innings, instead of just 5-6, he would be very successful. It just seems he sails along for a few innings, and then the wheels just fall off.

      • Andrew

        I don’t think a guy who leads the majors in hit batters and was 2nd last year issue is getting squeezed by the home plate umpire.

  • http://www.facebook.com/andy.prough.3 Andy Prough

    Anyone notice which team had the NL’s #2 batting average, #1 OBP, #2 BABIP, and 2nd lowest K% for the month of May? Your Pittsburgh Pirates. And suddenly, after seemingly every analyst had given up on their season, they are sitting 2 games out of the wildcard.

    Maybe panic isn’t such a useful emotion after all??