Pirates Prospects » Analysis http://www.piratesprospects.com Your best source for news on the Pittsburgh Pirates and their minor league system. Thu, 13 Nov 2014 05:14:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 The 2015 Predicted Free Agent Prices For Martin, Liriano, and Volquez http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/11/the-2015-predicted-free-agent-prices-for-martin-liriano-and-volquez.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/11/the-2015-predicted-free-agent-prices-for-martin-liriano-and-volquez.html#comments Mon, 10 Nov 2014 18:33:18 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=90404 Every year at the start of free agency, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes an article with predictions on free agent prices, citing an unbiased GM, scout, and his own prediction for each of the top 50 free agents. It’s a fun article that gives us an idea of what the industry expects each player to receive. This year’s version of the article is significant, as it looks at what guys like Russell Martin and Francisco Liriano can expect to receive, along with the expected prices of some potential Pirates’ additions.

Martin’s price was split between five years and $70 M (agent, Heyman) and four years, $60 M. We heard earlier today that he was seeking five years and $75-80 M. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets five years, although the $70 M figure sounds more realistic in that scenario.

The Liriano prediction is interesting. The agent predicts one year and $15.3 M, meaning he would accept the qualifying offer. Heyman and the GM predict three years, with the GM going $40 M and Heyman going $36 M. Liriano is still deciding whether to accept that offer.

The interesting thing is Edinson Volquez. His predicted price is much higher than any other prediction I’ve seen. Heyman has him at three years and $33 M. The GM has $30 M over three years. The agent has four years and $48 M. I think Volquez would be a good signing on a two-year deal that pays $8-10 M per year, but I’m not sure if he’d be worth the price at these rates.

If you’re on the “Adam LaRoche for first base” bandwagon, then the estimated price $24-26 M over two years. For reclamation starters, Brett Anderson is projected to receive $5-7 M on a one year deal. Brandon Morrow is projected for $4 M (agent), $8 M (GM), and $6 M (Heyman). Gavin Floyd is at $2-5 M, and Josh Johnson, who has health concerns, is at $3.25-4 M. If they can re-sign Martin, the Pirates would be better off going with a few of these reclamation projects, rather than trying to bring in Liriano and another starter. That would allow them to also pursue an upgrade at first base.

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Is Catcher Pitch Framing Fully Appreciated Yet? http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/11/is-catcher-pitch-framing-fully-appreciated-yet.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/11/is-catcher-pitch-framing-fully-appreciated-yet.html#comments Wed, 05 Nov 2014 17:55:24 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=90248 Last night when I was watching the Gold Glove awards being announced, I started thinking about how the awards were doing a much better job this year of going to people with actual good defense. That is opposed to the past trend of giving out an award because of a good offensive season, or highlight reel plays that would be routine plays by better defenders. Basically, there weren’t as many Nate McLouth’s this year.

Then it came to the catcher awards, where I figured Jonathan Lucroy or Russell Martin would have received the award. I would have gone with Lucroy, getting the edge over Martin. The actual winner, Yadier Molina, would have been my number three choice. When Molina was announced, I figured it was a case where as long as he spends time behind the plate, and does fairly well defensively, he will win the award. After seven years in a row, we’ve reached the point where you can’t just be better than Molina defensively to win the award. He has to be removed from any consideration for someone else to win.

I didn’t want to write much about it, other than a quick tweet last night, because honestly it doesn’t even matter. If the Gold Glove awards were announced in a week or two, they would be easily over-shadowed by the qualifying offer decisions, Rule 5 additions, or free agency rumors. Any commentary on Gold Glove decisions can usually be broken down as saying “nothing else is happening in baseball right now.”

But then I saw that SABR released their SDI rankings, which is their analytical approach that makes up 25 percent of the voting for the Gold Glove awards. At the top of the leaderboard was Yadier Molina, who had an 8.9 SDI, versus an 8.7 for Martin. Lucroy had a 5.2. That ran opposite of the numbers I came up with, which had Lucroy first, Martin a close second, and Molina third. So I wanted to dig a bit deeper into SDI.

According to SABR, the SDI rankings are made up from the following:

Within the batted ball location-based category, we’ve included 3 measures — Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) from John Dewan’s company, Baseball Info Solutions; Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), authored by noted sabermetrician Mitchel Lichtman; and Runs Effectively Defended (RED) from Chris Dial. The play-by-play based metrics include two measures: Defensive Regression Analysis (DRA) from Michael Humphreys and Total Zone Rating (TZ).

I couldn’t find UZR or RED for catchers. I also couldn’t find DRA or TZ for catchers. The only metric available was DRS, which had Martin ranked first (12 DRS), Lucroy second (11) and Molina tied for third (8).

There was also this addition:

For catchers, blocking balls in the dirt and stolen bases/caught stealing are also included in their ratings.

That gives us two more stats to go on. The first would be rSB, which measures runs saved on the bases by catchers. Russell Martin ranked tied for first in the NL with six. Yadier Molina was right behind him with five. Jonathan Lucroy was way down the list at -1.

There are two ways to determine value for blocked pitches. The first is RPP, via FanGraphs. Lucroy ranks first at 7.4. Molina was seventh in the majors with a 1.6. Martin was 11th with an 0.9. Baseball Prospectus looks at passed balls and wild pitches saved. They had Molina with an 0.9, Lucroy at -1.4, and Martin way down the list at -7.6.

I’m not sure how SDI is calculated with the other metrics, but based on the ones we have above, it seems that a big weight goes to stolen bases (which really hurts Lucroy), and the blocking issues for Martin were enough to put Molina ahead. That said, here is the final thing about SDI for catchers.

Pitch framing by catchers is not currently included in the defensive metrics that comprise the SDI.

When I had Lucroy and Martin ahead of Molina, it was because I incorporated pitch framing. Lucroy was the best at that, worth 23.7 runs this year, or just shy of two and a half wins. Martin was also near the top at 19.3, just shy of two wins. Meanwhile, Molina was down the list at 3.7, which is barely half a win of value. The difference between Lucroy and Molina was two full wins, which would easily trump the value of the difference between the two in stolen bases.

This raises a question: is pitch framing fully appreciated yet? You might argue that SABR is behind the times on this one. You could also argue that pitch framing numbers aren’t gospel yet, since the (outstanding) work by BP is the only thing we have to go on at the moment. But what about the things we’re seeing on the open market?

Sure, Russell Martin will get a contract that says “Texa$” under the amount, but it’s hard to tell how much of that is due to framing. What about David Ross? BP says that he has been worth about 10 runs per year in pitch framing as a backup. That’s a win, or about $5-6 M on the open market. Yet he will probably have trouble making more than $1 M this off-season. Or, to put it another way, let’s look at the 2014 numbers in the following comparison.

Russell Martin: 7810 framing chances, 19.3 runs added

Chris Stewart/David Ross: 6686 framing chances, 19.5 runs added

Martin will probably cost at least six times as much as Ross and Stewart. And for a very good reason. Stewart and Ross, in their best offensive years at this point, couldn’t match a normal year from Martin. Martin’s value trumps their value in other areas behind the plate, such as caught stealing numbers. I’m not saying at all that Stewart and Ross are equal to Martin.

What I am saying is that they are equal to Martin in terms of pitch framing. In fact, they’re better than Martin in that area. And if the Pirates miss out on Martin (which seems likely), there won’t be another catcher available who can provide the pitch framing, plus the offense, stolen base prevention, and other things Martin does so much better than the alternatives. The Pirates will then have to choose a catcher who can excel in one of those areas, and make up for the other areas with the rest of the team.

Based on the projected price for Stewart and Ross, it seems the best value would still be pitch framing. The Pirates could get both catchers for around $2.5 M. That’s the price you pay for, at most, half a win on the open market. If you take the 2014 numbers and assume Stewart and Ross would combine for 10,500 chances as starting duo, you’d get 30.6 framing runs out of the duo. That’s three wins of combined value, even if both catchers will be replacement level in every other area.

Even though pitch framing has gotten so much attention, it still seems that there is value to be had.

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MLBTR Releases 2014-15 Free Agent Predictions http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/11/mlbtr-releases-2014-15-free-agent-predictions.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/11/mlbtr-releases-2014-15-free-agent-predictions.html#comments Sun, 02 Nov 2014 19:16:12 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=90154 Every year, MLB Trade Rumors releases free agent predictions at the start of the off-season. The predictions are in no way accurate, and shouldn’t be seen as anything more than entertainment. For example, last year they had A.J. Burnett and Marlon Byrd returning to Pittsburgh, along with Carlos Beltran, Stephen Drew, Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta, Josh Johnson, and Tim Hudson as possibilities. Obviously none of those guys ended up playing for the Pirates.

The true value of the predictions come in the descriptions, where we can find out what positions the Pirates could be looking at, and what teams could be interested in certain players. For the Pirates, this means focusing on which teams could be contenders for Russell Martin, Francisco Liriano, and Edinson Volquez, while also focusing on who else the Pirates are linked to. MLBTR released the 2014-15 predictions last night, allowing us to focus on what could be in store for those players as free agency is about to begin.

MLBTR has Martin going to the Cubs, while mentioning that the Dodgers could also get involved. The presence of those two big market teams could make it hard for the Pirates to re-sign Martin. If the price is only four years and $60 M, then that’s something the Pirates should spend. But if the Cubs or Dodgers push it beyond that price, it would be hard for the Pirates to match that price.

Francisco Liriano is projected to go to the Red Sox, with MLBTR saying he could be seeking a four-year deal. Tomorrow is the deadline to extend a qualifying offer. The Pirates will extend one to Russell Martin, although we don’t know if they will make the same offer to Liriano. I believe they should, simply because there’s no way he will accept the offer. And if he really is seeking a four-year deal, then he’s not going to settle for one year without testing the market, especially coming off two of the best years in his career.

Edinson Volquez is the final Pirates’ free agent on the list, and is projected to go to the Braves. Several other teams are mentioned as possibilities, not including the Pirates. MLBTR says he’s in line for a two or three-year deal. I think the Pirates should be involved if the price is in the $8-10 M range per year.

As for players the Pirates are connected to, they only had one free agent prediction, and that was Brandon McCarthy. He would be a good addition to the rotation. I didn’t mention him in any of my reclamation project articles because he’s not a reclamation project. He’s coming off a year where he posted a 4.05 ERA in 200 innings, although his 2.87 xFIP suggested he should have been much better. That secret might already be out, since he posted a 2.89 ERA and a 2.85 xFIP after joining the Yankees.

I’d be a bit surprised if the Pirates did end up with McCarthy, since they typically go after pitchers who are buy-low candidates. They have gone after Edwin Jackson and Jorge de la Rosa in the past on multi-year deals, but fell short. It wasn’t a bad thing that those deals didn’t work out, since those pitchers struggled in their long-term deals.

MLBTR also connected the Pirates to Ervin Santana and Jason Hammel, but in a “the Pirates are looking for pitching, so this makes sense” way. The interesting thing is the connection to Adam LaRoche. He’s now a free agent after the Washington Nationals declined a $15 M option. The Pirates are picking from a group of bad options at first base, with Ike Davis, Gaby Sanchez, and Pedro Alvarez coming off down seasons. LaRoche wouldn’t be a bad alternative, and might end up costing nearly the same amount as a platoon of Alvarez and Sanchez.

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Two More Reclamation Projects Hit the Free Agent Market http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/11/two-more-reclamation-projects-hit-the-free-agent-market.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/11/two-more-reclamation-projects-hit-the-free-agent-market.html#comments Sun, 02 Nov 2014 16:49:20 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=90147 Last week I looked at a group of potential reclamation projects on the starting pitching market. I didn’t include players who had option years, since it wasn’t known at the time whether those options would be executed or not. Several of those decisions were made this weekend, providing two more potential reclamation projects on the open market.

The first guy who caught my attention was Brandon Morrow. The Blue Jays declined his $10 M option, making him a free agent. Morrow has outstanding stuff, with a fastball that has averaged 94 MPH in his career. He has struck out over a batter an inning in his career, but has struggled with control issues. He hasn’t had a good career ground ball rate, but something changed last year, as he had a 50.5% rate, up from his 38.3% career mark. The Pirates have had most of their success from strikeout pitchers with poor control and good ground ball rates, after fixing the control issues.

The downside with Morrow comes with his injury history. He has only pitched more than 150 innings once in his career, which was his career high 179.1 innings in 2011. He has pitched a combined 87.2 innings over the last two seasons. He missed two months in 2012 with an oblique injury, four months in 2013 with an entrapped radial nerve in his right forearm, and only pitched one month in 2014 after tearing a tendon in his right hand. The good news in all of this is that there aren’t any injuries that could derail his career, such as a shoulder injury. The downside is that Morrow isn’t a guy who could be counted on for a full season of work.

That doesn’t mean he’s not a good option. He’d be a gamble, but if he stayed healthy and the Pirates fixed him, he would be a top of the rotation guy. The fact that Toronto declined his option suggested that no one else would have paid his $10 M option (assuming Toronto would have taken any return rather than paying $1 M for his buyout). That means he should cost less than $10 M, and likely in the price of what 1-1.5 wins would cost on the open market. During his healthy years, he was a 2.5-3.6 WAR pitcher, which means there’s a lot of potential value here.

The other player who caught my attention was Brett Anderson. The Rockies declined his $12 M option, paying his $1.5 M buyout instead. Anderson is very much like Morrow. He’s dealt with a ton of injuries, but has looked good when healthy. He has averaged 91.8 MPH with his fastball, which is good for a lefty. That velocity was down in 2014, although that might have been due to his back injury, which sidelined him from August to the end of the season. His velocity was fine in the early part of the season, and dipped before he went on the DL. He also fractured his left index finger, which could have played a role in the velocity loss. His worst outings, from a velocity standpoint, were right after returning from the finger injury, and before leaving with a back injury.

Anderson is an extreme ground ball pitcher, topping 60% in each of the last two seasons. He’s got decent strikeout numbers in his career, and good walk rates. His career xFIP is 3.52, and he’s been in that range almost every year of his career, with the exception of 2012-13, when he was in the 3.06-3.26 range. Just like Morrow, the challenge here would be keeping Anderson healthy for a full season. He has pitched a combined 206.1 innings over the last four seasons, so the challenge with Anderson seems a bit higher. That said, the value should be much lower than Morrow, with Anderson possibly costing something in the $5 M range.

Morrow is the guy I like better, as there is less perceived injury risk, and more potential upside. But there could be value with either guy, as long as the Pirates could keep them healthy. I’m not sure if I like either one better than my top choice, Justin Masterson. But if their options had been declined when I wrote the article last week, they would have easily made my list, and would have been some of the top options on that list.

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2014-2015 Off Season Primer http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/10/2014-2015-off-season-primer.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/10/2014-2015-off-season-primer.html#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 14:00:55 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=90009 With the World Series coming to an end last night, the 2014/2015 off-season officially begins today.  Here is a quick primer of all of the off-season topics.

40-Man Rosters

Teams must reinstate players from the 60-day disabled list no later than five days after the end of the World Series, getting their rosters down to 40-men.  The deadline this year is on Monday.  The Pittsburgh Pirates had Charlie Morton on the 60-day disabled list, but reinstated him last week. Thus, no move needs to be made to trim the 40-man roster.

Teams must also make decisions on option years no later than 11:59 PM EST on Saturday night.  The Pirates don’t have any decisions to make with options this year.

November 20th marks the deadline for teams to set their 40-man rosters for the 2014 Rule 5 draft.  We did a Rule 5 preview in September, and will take another look in a few weeks. Teams can make changes to the 40-man roster after November 20th, although they can’t add any new internal players to the roster between November 20th and the 2014 Rule 5 draft, held on December 12th.

My prediction of the 2014 40-man roster can be found here, minus the Rule 5 additions.

Arbitration Eligible Players

Teams have until December 2nd to tender offers to their arbitration eligible players for the 2014 season.  The Pirates have ten players who are eligible for salary arbitration this year.  Last week we looked at all of the arbitration eligible players, and their salary projections.

Once offers are tendered, the two sides (the team and the player) will work to reach an agreement.  If no agreement can be reached, the two sides file for arbitration, during the first two weeks of January.  Once they file for arbitration, the two sides exchange salary figures around the third week of January, and have their salary arbitration hearing during the first three weeks of February.  The sides can reach a deal outside of the arbitration process at any time before the actual hearing, even immediately before the scheduled hearing.

If the negotiations do reach the hearing, both sides will argue their case for the salary they submitted, and the three person arbitration panel will determine which salary is more appropriate for the player.  All decisions made by the panel are final, although the club and the player are free to re-negotiate the deal.

Free Agency

October 30th at 12:01 AM EST marks the beginning of a five day period in which teams retain exclusive negotiating rights with their players who qualify for free agency.  The Pirates have four players who qualify for free agency: Russell Martin, Francisco Liriano, Edinson Volquez, and Clint Barmes.  Pending free agents can have general discussions with other clubs during this five day period, but can’t discuss contract details or sign with a new team until 12:01 AM EST, November 4th.

The big topic during this period will be the qualifying offers for these players. Teams have five days to decide if they will make a qualifying offer to departing free agents. This year the offer is $15.3 M for one year. If the player accepts that offer, the team gets him for the 2015 season on that deal. If the player declines and signs with another team, the former team gets a draft pick in the 2015 draft. The Pirates will make a qualifying offer to Russell Martin, and no word yet on Francisco Liriano.


The two notable meetings that take place in the off-season are the GM/Owners meetings, and the more popular Winter Meetings.  The General Manager’s meetings take place on November 10-12, and the Owners’ Meetings take place November 11-12.  Usually there’s not much occurs during these meetings, although it provides an opportunity for the General Managers to meet face to face, and possibly start discussions on potential trades.

The Winter Meetings take place on December 8-11.  The Winter Meetings usually marks the time when free agency starts to heat up.

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A Look at What Free Agency Could Bring For Russell Martin and Edinson Volquez http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/10/a-look-at-what-free-agency-could-bring-for-russell-martin-and-edinson-volquez.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/10/a-look-at-what-free-agency-could-bring-for-russell-martin-and-edinson-volquez.html#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 19:23:08 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=89997 Over the last two days, there have been a few articles written on two of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ free agents, Russell Martin and Edinson Volquez, looking at what those guys could make in free agency. In Martin’s case, everyone agrees that he will receive a huge payday, although there hasn’t really been a consensus on the amount he could receive, or the years. From the looks of things, there is no consensus in MLB front offices either.

Buster Olney had an article today looking at Martin’s pending free agency. In the article, he polled executives around the league, who had some mixed opinions on what Martin could get. The key takeaway was that some felt a four-year deal would be a tipping point for Martin, versus a three-year offer. Other executives felt the key number to get Martin to sign will be five years. Olney comes up with a guess of four years and $50-60 M.

I’ve been more on the “five years is the tipping point” in my writing about Martin, mostly because big market teams like the Dodgers, Cubs, Rangers, and Red Sox have a need at catcher. If the price is four years and $50-60 M, then that’s a price the Pirates should pay.

There is some risk involved in paying Martin that much for his age 32-35 seasons. Travis Sawchik looked at that risk, noting that the decline in catchers from age 32-34 is pretty big, especially after the steroid era. He also notes something I’ve argued, that pitch framing — which is one of Martin’s big values — doesn’t see as sharp of a decline. I think that, plus his work with the pitching staff, will bring enough value to make him valuable for the duration of his deal. Dave Cameron made the same arguments about framing skills over at FanGraphs.

The Pirates will almost certainly be more risk-averse than big market teams. But Martin is a guy you take a risk on, and if the price is what Olney suggests, then that’s a risk I think they should take.

As for Volquez, MLBTR released a free agent profile, looking at what the pitcher could receive on the open market. The expected contract was a two-year, $18 M deal. Last week I wrote about reclamation projects, noting that Volquez could technically still qualify if the Pirates believe they can turn his top stuff into a true top of the rotation pitcher. I noted that if the price was $8-10 M per year, then it wouldn’t be a bad price to pay. All of that depends on whether you believe the advanced metrics (which say Volquez is a league average starter) are gospel, or if you believe he can take another step with more work from Ray Searage and Jim Benedict. Volquez has some of the best stuff in baseball, so I’d lean on the side that there’s more to him than the xFIP shows.

If the Pirates did go for Martin and Volquez at these prices, they’d be adding about $20-24 M to their 2015 payroll, which is currently projected at $65 M. I’m guessing that will go down a bit with an Ike Davis or Pedro Alvarez trade, meaning the Pirates would be at $80-85 M in 2015, giving them room for a second reclamation project starting pitcher.

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Pittsburgh Pirates 2015 Arbitration Estimates http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/10/pittsburgh-pirates-2015-arbitration-estimates.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/10/pittsburgh-pirates-2015-arbitration-estimates.html#comments Sat, 25 Oct 2014 15:49:39 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=89933 Matt Swartz at MLBTR has been producing some very accurate arbitration estimates over the last three seasons. His estimates for the Pittsburgh Pirates just came out recently, in an off-season preview that was written by Charlie at Bucs Dugout. Below are the MLBTR arbitration estimates:

  • Gaby Sanchez, 1B (5.025): $2.7MM
  • Neil Walker, 2B (4.166): $8.6MM
  • Ike Davis, 1B (4.155): $4.4MM
  • Mark Melancon, RP (4.098): $7.6MM
  • Travis Snider, OF (4.091): $2MM
  • Chris Stewart, C (4.091): $1.3MM
  • Pedro Alvarez, 3B (4.085): $5.5MM
  • Tony Watson, RP (3.101): $2MM
  • Josh Harrison, 3B (3.033): $2.2MM
  • Jared Hughes, RP (2.162): $1.1MM
  • Vance Worley, SP (2.139): $2.9MM

Charlie notes that Mark Melancon’s projection is way up there due to a combination of saves and holds that might have messed up the projection system. He disagreed with the projection for Melancon, and I do as well. I’ve got Melancon projected for $4 M, and I think he’ll end up around that range. So I’m keeping that projection on the 40-man payroll page. The rest of the projections have been updated with the MLBTR figures.

The 2015 payroll projection has been updated with the new figures. The estimated payroll was $65,452,500 prior to this. The new estimate is $65,574,750. There were a few differences here, but overall they balanced each other out. For example, my projection for Neil Walker was $600,000 low, but my projection for Pedro Alvarez was $500,000 high. As another example, my projection for Josh Harrison was $800,000 high, and Vance Worley was $900,000 low.

I don’t see the Pirates keeping both Davis and Alvarez. Also, Gaby Sanchez could be a non-tender candidate, with the possibility that he could return at a lower price. So the projections would drop at least $4-5 M, and possibly more than that, depending on how the first base situation plays out.

Here is a look back at how accurate the projections have been in previous years (or if you skip over this, know that they’ve been very accurate).


Player (Projection/Actual)

Joel Hanrahan ($4.0/$4.1)

Casey McGehee ($3.1/$2.5375)

Jeff Karstens ($2.8/$3.1)

Garrett Jones ($2.4/$2.25)

Ross Ohlendorf ($2.1/Non-Tendered)

Charlie Morton ($2.1/$2.445)

Jose Veras ($2.5/$2.0 with Milwaukee)

Chris Resop ($1.1/$0.85)

Evan Meek ($0.9/$0.875)

Jason Grilli ($0.8/$1.1)


Player (Projection/Actual)

Joel Hanrahan ($6.9/$7.04)

Jeff Karstens ($3.8/Non-Tendered)

Garrett Jones ($4.4/$4.5)

Charlie Morton ($2.6/$2.0)

Chris Resop ($1.3/$1.35)

James McDonald ($3.0/$3.025)

Neil Walker ($2.9/$3.3)

Gaby Sanchez ($1.8/$1.75)


Player (Projection/Actual)

Garrett Jones ($5.3/Non-Tendered)

Neil Walker ($4.8/$5.75)

Pedro Alvarez ($4.0/$4.25)

Charlie Morton ($3.9/$4.0) *Part of an extension

Mark Melancon ($3.0/$2.595)

Gaby Sanchez  ($2.3/$2.3)

Travis Snider ($1.4/$1.2)

Michael McKenry ($900K/Non-Tendered)

Vin Mazzaro ($800 K/$950 K)

Felix Pie ($500K/Non-Tendered)

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Dodgers Hire Andrew Friedman – How This Could Impact Russell Martin http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/10/dodgers-hire-andrew-friedman-how-this-could-impact-russell-martin.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/10/dodgers-hire-andrew-friedman-how-this-could-impact-russell-martin.html#comments Tue, 14 Oct 2014 18:43:17 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=89497 The big news today is that the Los Angeles Dodgers have hired Andrew Friedman away from the Tampa Bay Rays.

Friedman is one of the best executives in the game, making the Rays a contender in almost every year since 2008, all while having one of the lowest payrolls in baseball. Since the 2008 season, the Rays have 627 wins. That is one behind the Cardinals and Angels, and ranks fourth behind the Yankees, who lead baseball with 648 wins in that span. The fact that all of those teams trump the Rays in payroll every year makes this a phenomenal accomplishment.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers have practically unlimited money to spend. Their local TV deal gives them $280 M, and while they don’t get all of that money to spend on their payroll, it does allow them to out-spend every team in baseball, and gives them the ability to overpay on any player they want.

One of the best executives in the game, plus the biggest payroll in baseball means trouble. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pittsburgh Pirates get to see the downside to this combo in the upcoming off-season.

Currently, the Dodgers need a starting catcher. Russell Martin is the only starting catcher on the free agent market. He’s coming off a big year offensively, but his bread and butter is his defense, highlighted by his pitch framing. Under Friedman, the Rays prioritized pitch framing more than any team, except maybe the Pirates.

The Pirates signed Ali Solis as a minor league free agent for the 2013 season, and Solis was rated as one of the best pitch framers in Triple-A that year. The Rays signed him for the 2014 season. They signed Jose Molina, who is one of the best defensive catchers in the game, but not considered a starter at all. They also added Ryan Hanigan from the Reds for the 2014 season. Both catchers have been outstanding with their pitch framing skills.

So you’ve got an executive who clearly values catcher defense and pitch framing. And that executive has all of the resources needed to overpay on any player and not feel a thing if the deal goes bad. His team has a need at catcher, and the only free agent available to fill that need is exactly the type of player he tries to acquire.

Is there anyone who thinks that Russell Martin WON’T end up with the Dodgers now? They could make him a huge offer — fifth year, $17+ M per year — and wouldn’t have to worry about the percentage of their payroll that he eats up, or what might happen if his production falls off a cliff after year two or three of the contract. With the Dodgers’ need, and with Friedman’s preference, Martin makes total sense.

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An Early Look at the Pirates’ 2015 Payroll Shows Plenty of Room For Russell Martin http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/10/an-early-look-at-the-pirates-2015-payroll-shows-plenty-of-room-for-russell-martin.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/10/an-early-look-at-the-pirates-2015-payroll-shows-plenty-of-room-for-russell-martin.html#comments Tue, 07 Oct 2014 15:35:26 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=89301 Today I finished putting together the 2015 40-man payroll page, which will be updated throughout the off-season, and in to the regular season. Bookmark that link, as I’ll be updating the chart after every move throughout the off-season. The chart provides an estimate  of the year-end 2015 payroll, which will definitely change throughout the off-season.

Right now the estimate is made up of three things. First we have the guaranteed salaries. Next are the projected arbitration increases. Finally there are the projected roster decisions. I didn’t include projected free agents, since that’s unpredictable. I mostly stuck with players who were out of options, or who didn’t play a huge role at the end of the season. For example, Jaff Decker wasn’t a September call-up and Jeanmar Gomez wasn’t added to the Wild Card roster, so I listed them as projected non-tenders.

I projected a 25-man roster when making this payroll chart, although this year was a little difficult. For example, the current catching combo is Chris Stewart and Tony Sanchez. I expect that to change, regardless of whether Russell Martin is brought back. Right now that accounts for $2 M in payroll. Any additions would remove at least $500,000 of that amount, with Sanchez or Stewart being removed from the list. I also left a few spots open. I didn’t project two starting pitching spots, and I didn’t project one of the backup infield spots. These will likely be filled by free agents.

The Pirates are currently projected for a $65,452,500 payroll in 2015. A lot can change with that figure. As an example, last year they had a projected $60,924,500 when I first made the chart around this time of year. The end of year payroll estimate was $81,394,476. Their Opening Day payroll projection in 2014 was slightly higher than their end of the year projection in 2013. If that trend continues, then they’ll have at least $16 M to spend this off-season, and likely more than that when you consider that the current projection has some money that would disappear with certain off-season moves. To get an idea of what can impact that figure, let’s look at some of the biggest contract issues.

Russell Martin

The biggest topic this off-season is going to be Russell Martin. Right now the Pirates are at a projected $65 M, and I think Martin would cost at least $15 M per year, putting them in the $80 M range. If they signed Martin, they would probably have to go with reclamation projects for their remaining starting pitching roles. If they signed two reclamation projects to go with Martin, that would put them in the $95 M range. If they didn’t bring back Martin, they could afford a bit more for the starting pitchers, although their success with the reclamation approach says they should stick to this plan. Martin will be the biggest factor this off-season. For those wishing for a $90-100 M payroll, it would be likely if they brought him back.

Let me just say that there’s no reason the Pirates can’t spend in the $90-100 M range comfortably. Last year they tried going after A.J. Burnett and James Loney. If those deals would have been accepted, they would have been in the mid-80s on Opening Day, and likely in the low-90s by the end of the year. So they’ve shown the money is there if needed, and Martin is the type of player who warrants that need.

First Base

There is no way that the Pirates are going to keep Pedro Alvarez, Ike Davis, and Gaby Sanchez as first basemen. I have the trio making just under $14 M, and that would have one of Davis or Alvarez on the bench most of the time. I could see one of those two getting traded. As for Sanchez, I think his job is safe, although the Pirates could go a creative route and have Tony Sanchez take over the right-handed side of the platoon. This would only work if they brought back Russell Martin and Chris Stewart as the catchers. Overall, the Pirates will probably save at least $4 M by making a decision on two of their three first basemen. If they got creative with the right-handed side of the platoon, they could expand that potential savings to at least $7 M.

Free Agency/Trades

This is going to be a big year for the Pirates in free agency and on the trade market. They’re going to pursue Russell Martin, and if he signs elsewhere, they will need to find some sort of solution other than having Tony Sanchez and Chris Stewart as their catching combo. They will need to get at least one starting pitcher, and most likely two. The first base situation mentioned above will also clear some of the current projected payroll space. Beyond that, they could look to add relievers and bench players, although I think they will go with more minor league free agents or guys barely making over the league minimum in this regard.

In-Season Additions

The difference between the Opening Day payroll and the final payroll is always big. There’s no way to project all of the in-season moves, whether that comes in the form of trades, waiver claims, or the constant promotions and demotions from Triple-A. In 2012-13 the Pirates added about $7 M per season during the regular season. Last year the Pirates added about $6.5 M in-season. In previous years it has been as high as $11 M. The estimated number represents the Opening Day projections. You could probably add $5-10 M to that figure on Opening Day to guess what the final figure would be.


The estimated payroll is exactly that, an estimate. It doesn’t include every bonus, incentive, or exact salary figures for the league minimum guys. In the past, the estimate has been pretty accurate. In 2010 the end of the year figure was $1.36 M short of the actual results. In 2011 the estimate was off by $1.66 M. In 2012 the estimate was $1.91 M off the actual year-end payroll. The 2013 total was a little over half a million lower than the actual amount. So based on those four years, the estimate has a margin of error of $1.36 M on average.

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Pittsburgh Pirates 2014-15 Off-Season Contract Situations http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/10/pittsburgh-pirates-2014-15-off-season-contract-situations.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/10/pittsburgh-pirates-2014-15-off-season-contract-situations.html#comments Tue, 07 Oct 2014 14:31:09 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=89289 The MLB off-season is full of potential moves, whether those moves are free agency, option years, arbitration eligible players, or non-tender candidates. Earlier this week I looked at 14 of the biggest questions for the Pirates this off-season, which detailed a lot of the potential transactions. Below is a list of players who are eligible for off-season transactions, along with some important dates for those transactions.

Pending Free Agents

5th Day After the World Series – MLB Players become eligible for free agency

Russell Martin

Francisco Liriano

Edinson Volquez

Clint Barmes

The Pirates will go after Russell Martin, although it might be difficult to bring him back. I don’t know if they will pursue Liriano, but I do think they should give him a qualifying offer. I also wouldn’t rule out Volquez or Barmes for returns.

Arbitration Eligible

December 2nd – Deadline to tender arbitration

Neil Walker – 3rd out of 4 years

Ike Davis – 3rd out of 4 years

John Axford** – 3rd out of 4 years

Gaby Sanchez – 3rd out of 3 years

Pedro Alvarez – 2nd out of 3 years

Travis Snider – 2nd out of 3 years

Mark Melancon – 2nd out of 3 years

Chris Stewart – 2nd out of 3 years

Tony Watson – 1st out of 3 years

Josh Harrison – 1st out of 3 years

Jeanmar Gomez** – 1st out of 3 years

Vance Worley* – 1st out of 4 years

Jared Hughes* – 1st out of 4 years

*Likely Super Two Eligible

**Non-Tender Candidate

The Pirates have a lot of arbitration eligible players this year. I was conservative with the non-tender estimates. I only went with Axford and Gomez, mostly because they both had issues this year, and were both left off the Wild Card roster. I don’t think the Pirates will keep both Pedro Alvarez and Ike Davis, although I don’t think they’d non-tender either player, since one of them could be traded. Gaby Sanchez is an interesting situation, since he’s now getting a bit on the expensive side for a right-hander in a platoon. I think Chris Stewart’s situation will largely depend on what happens with Russell Martin.

Beyond that, there are some interesting arbitration cases, such as the first year for Josh Harrison, the price for Travis Snider after what could have been a mini-breakout in the second half, and what Neil Walker will receive coming off a career year offensively, with declining defense.

Under Contract

Andrew McCutchen – $10,000,000

Charlie Morton – $8,000,000

Jose Tabata – $4,000,000

Starling Marte – $1,000,000

Out of Options

Charlie Morton

Pedro Alvarez

Ike Davis

Mark Melancon

Travis Snider

Chris Stewart

Vance Worley

Jared Hughes

Stolmy Pimentel

Jeanmar Gomez

John Axford

Brent Morel

Chaz Roe

The lack of options could impact the roster chances for Stolmy Pimentel, Jeanmar Gomez, John Axford, Brent Morel, and Chaz Roe. I think the others will make the Opening Day roster, despite their lack of options.

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