For the past month I’ve been saying that the Pittsburgh Pirates should be looking at potential moves where they upgrade the team, while giving up very little in prospects, all by taking on salary. That’s exactly what the Pirates did at the deadline, acquiring Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick in exchange for Aaron Baker and a player to be named later. Lee and Baker aren’t huge splashes on the trade market, but it’s hard to argue that they’re not upgrades for the Pirates, replacing Lyle Overbay and Garrett Jones, respectively.
Along with giving up Baker and the player to be named later, the Pirates took on an additional $4.2 M in payroll for the remainder of the year. A look at the 40-man roster shows that they’re projected for a total payroll just under $51 M. As for the deals, here’s how they broke down:
Pirates Get: Derrek Lee and $400,000
Orioles Get: Aaron Baker
Analysis: If you look at the overall numbers this season, Lee doesn’t seem like a major upgrade from Lyle Overbay. However, if you dig deeper, you’ll notice that Lee is currently on a hot streak at the plate. On June 17th, Lee went 5-for-5 at the plate. From June 17th to now, Lee has a .294/.331/.538 line with eight homers in 143 at-bats. Last year Lee started off slow, with a .233/.329/.366 line in 322 at-bats in the first half. In the second half he posted a strong .298/.373/.516 line. We’re seeing the same thing so far this year. Lee started off with a .235/.294/.372 line in 277 at-bats in the first half of the 2011 season. So far in the second half he’s hitting for a .321/.368/.604 line in 53 at-bats.
If Lee can provide production over the final two months that is similar to what we saw from him last year, he would be a huge addition. He’s already swinging a hot bat, so it wouldn’t be far fetched to assume he continues to hit well. Worst case, if his hot streak ends, and if his offense returns to what we’ve seen from his overall numbers this year, he would be providing the same production as we’ve seen from Lyle Overbay this year. Considering the chances are good that he continues his hot streak and has a strong second half, the addition of Lee was a good move to upgrade the offense.
The addition was especially good because the Pirates didn’t have to give up anything of value to take a chance on Lee. They traded first base prospect Aaron Baker, who has a lot of raw power, but who might profile best as a designated hitter in the majors one day, due to his lack of defensive skills. The Pirates have Matt Curry, Alex Dickerson, and even Matt Hague ahead of Baker on the first base depth chart, so losing him isn’t going to hurt the system, or the search for a long term first baseman from within.
Pirates Get: Ryan Ludwick
Padres Get: PTBNL
Analysis: Ludwick is more of a short term upgrade, at least in the lineup. With Jose Tabata and Alex Presley hurt, Ludwick serves as an upgrade over Garrett Jones and/or Xavier Paul. When Presley returns, which should be in early August, Ludwick could take the final outfield starting spot. However, when Tabata returns, the best trio in the outfield would include Presley and Tabata.
Ludwick hasn’t done much at the plate this year, although it has to be considered that he’s been playing at Petco Park all year. That said, he’s got a .258/.300/.389 line on the road this year. He had a standout year in 2008, with a .966 OPS and 37 homers, but hasn’t come close to that in any other year. In other seasons with St. Louis, Ludwick was good for an OPS in the .775-.825 range. His ultimate value is defense, as he has a 4.1 UZR/150 in the outfield this year, which is similar to his career numbers. If he can return to hitting like he did in St. Louis, and he had an .827 OPS before being traded to San Diego last year, he might have some nice value as a starter. However, that seems unlikely, based on his hitting on the road this year.
The key thing here is finding out what the Pirates gave up for Ludwick. A player to be named later doesn’t necessarily mean the return is going to be nothing. Due to the tight deadline, it could just mean that the Pirates and Padres didn’t have time to settle on an exact player (the deal was announced at 3:55 PM). There’s also the possibility that the PTBNL is a 2011 draft member that signed after July 31st, 2010. That would apply to Nick Kingham, Brandon Cumpton, Ryan Hafner, Jared Lakind, Dan Grovatt, Drew Maggi, Stetson Allie, and Jameson Taillon. I can’t really see Taillon, Allie, Kingham, or Hafner being dealt in this deal.
-To make room on the 40-man roster for Lee, the Pirates transferred Ryan Doumit to the 60-day disabled list. This does nothing for Doumit’s timeline on his return to the majors. He can be activated when he’s healthy.
-To make room on the 40-man roster for Ludwick, the Pirates designated Michael Crotta for assignment. Crotta will go through waivers, and could still be traded if there’s a lot of demand for him. If he doesn’t get claimed, the Pirates could outright him to AAA.
-No corresponding moves yet for the 25-man roster. Those are likely to be announced later tonight/tomorrow morning.
Draft Pick Compensation
One benefit to the two deals that were made is that they could come with draft pick compensation. Lee currently doesn’t qualify as a Type B free agent, although a move to the National League rankings, and a strong second half could sneak him on to the back of the list. Ludwick qualifies as a Type B free agent, and that probably won’t change.
Type B free agents are eligible for draft pick compensation, under the following circumstances:
-The former team offers them arbitration
-The player turns down the offer of arbitration
-The player signs with a new team
If the above three requirements happened, the Pirates would get a draft pick in the compensation portion of the 2012 draft, between the first and second rounds. However, the picks are far from guarantees. First of all, the arbitration would be based on the total compensation for the player from the previous year. In Ludwick’s case, that’s $6.775 M. Lee, however, is making $7.25 M, and is very likely to receive $2 M in performance bonuses for the remainder of the season. That means his total compensation package would be $9.25 M.
I don’t see a situation where the 35 year old Lee turns down more than $9.25 M next year, and I think it’s very unlikely that Ludwick finds something better than $6.775 M. The only way I could see the Pirates getting draft picks, would be:
-If either player hated playing in Pittsburgh enough that they wouldn’t take top dollar to stick around
-If Ludwick decided that he wanted to try and be a starter, rather than a bench player behind Jose Tabata and Alex Presley
-If the Pirates worked out an agreement with either player where they would decline arbitration once offered (this is done by other teams)
It’s unlikely that the Pirates receive compensation for either player, but it’s not impossible. If they could somehow get compensation, even just one pick, it would add value to these deals, as the Pirates could turn Aaron Baker and a player to be named later in to two months of Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick, plus a first round compensation pick.