The Zach Duke era with the Pittsburgh Pirates is officially over. After designating the left handed starter for assignment on Friday, the Pirates traded Duke to the Arizona Diamondbacks for a player to be named later.
According to Nick Piecoro of The Arizona Republic, the Diamondbacks aren’t likely to tender an arbitration offer to Duke, and basically traded for him to try and negotiate a deal prior to the non-tender deadline. Piecoro had this to say about the PTBNL on Twitter:
The PTBNL isn’t one of the Dbacks better prospects. Can’t name him now because rosters are frozen pre-Rule 5 draft, I’m told.
It could be that the player to be named later will come from a group of players eligible for the Rule 5 draft, which means the Pirates wouldn’t want to select anyone until after the draft. Piecoro also mentioned that the quality of the player doesn’t change if the Diamondbacks can’t reach a deal for Duke.
AZ Snakepit has a list of Rule 5 eligible players for the Diamondbacks this year, which provides us with an area to start speculating on the prospect coming back to the Pirates. A few of the highlights:
Wes Roemer – Roemer is coming off a year where he split between AA and AAA, working as a starter. In AA he pitched 52.2 innings, with a 2.39 ERA, a 7.3 K/9 and a 1.9 BB/9. In AAA he pitched 71.2 innings, with a 7.03 ERA, a 7.2 K/9 and a 4.9 BB/9. Roemer throws in the 88-92 MPH range, and can touch 94-95, but struggles with his control in that range. He could end up a back of the rotation starter, but is more likely to wind up in the bullpen in the majors.
Ed Easley – A few years ago, Easley looked to be the catcher of the future for the Diamondbacks, ranking as their seventh best prospect in the 2008 Baseball Prospectus rankings. He hit for a .259/.335/.315 line in 162 at-bats in AA in 2010, then moved up to AAA to hit for a .188/.235/.250 line in 48 at-bats. His defense has struggled, and he hasn’t shown much power, despite being advertised as a potential 10-15 HR hitter. The Pirates need upper level catching depth with Erik Kratz and Hector Gimenez departing, although I’m not sure Easley would be a guarantee to come back to the Pirates in a trade.
Mark Hallberg – Hallberg was the fourth best prospect for the Diamondbacks heading in to the 2009 season. His best tool is his bat, and he has great plate patience, with a career 139:142 K/BB ratio. His power hasn’t come along though, and he’s not strong defensively, serving as more of a 2B/3B option, rather than a shortstop, which is where he played from 2007-2009. In 2010 he hit for a .263/.349/.349 line in 384 at-bats. I don’t see the Pirates adding him, since they’ll have Chase d’Arnaud, Jordy Mercer, Josh Harrison, and potentially Brian Friday, Argenis Diaz, and/or Pedro Ciriaco at the AAA level.
Evan Frey – Frey spent the last two seasons at the AA level. In 2009 he hit for a .267/.348/.338 line. In 2010 he saw some improvements, hitting for a .286/.373/.356 line in 517 at-bats. Frey is a center fielder, and his bat plays more as a leadoff hitter due to his lack of power. He stole 34 bases in 47 attempts in 2010. Frey could be an option, as the Pirates will need outfield depth close to the majors, and he can provide that depth at all three positions.
Roemer or Frey seem like the best matches for the Pirates, and my choice of these guys would be Roemer. I’d guess that the player would be named after the Rule 5 draft, which will be held on December 9th.