With the recent demotion of Pedro Alvarez to AAA, there has been some talk that the Pittsburgh Pirates might pursue a third baseman on the trade market. The two names that get brought up the most, when it comes to speculation on who the Pirates could go after, are Aramis Ramirez and Mark Reynolds. Both are fits for the Pirates due to their large salaries, and the Pirates’ ability to take on payroll. As usual, I decided to take a look at their trade values, to see what it would cost to add either player.
NOTE: The purpose here isn’t to suggest the Pirates are pursuing these players. The purpose is to see their values, using projected values (calculated as [(WAR*$5 M) – Salary]) and Victor Wang’s research on prospect values.
Here is Ramirez’s trade value:
Explanation: Ramirez averaged a 4.4 WAR from 2004-2008 with the Cubs. However, he dealt with injuries in 2009, and struggled in 2010. He’s doing well in 2011, although he just turned 33, so to suggest he will put up the same value as his prime years, and won’t deal with injuries or declining performance in the next year in a half seems a bit far fetched. I feel the 3.5 WAR is appropriate, considering he is playing well this year, but also considering his performance and injuries the last two years. His 2011 value is pro-rated to assume he gets dealt on July 31st. His 2012 salary is an option, with a $2 M buyout. Ramirez has a no trade clause, although he’d be likely to waive it if someone picked up his option, as that seems to be the only way he’d get that $16 M in 2012. He projects as a Type B free agent, although I didn’t include that, as I don’t see a team offering him arbitration on $14.6 or $16 M to get the one compensation pick.
What He’s Worth: Ramirez wouldn’t cost much, mostly due to his high salary. Any trading team would be taking on $4.81 M for the final two months of the 2011 season. A 3.5 WAR performance makes Ramirez worth $5.81 M over the final two months of the season, giving some value. In 2012 his salary would go up, making him worth just $1.7 M. If the Pirates picked up the final $20.81 M owed to him, they could get him for one Grade C pitcher. It’s also important to note that Ramirez has the right to void his 2012 option, although he would forfeit his $2 M buyout. In that event, a trading team would only get $1 M in value, which would be a Grade C hitter. Although it’s unlikely that Ramirez voids his option, and as previously mentioned, he probably wouldn’t waive his no-trade clause unless his option was picked up.
My Opinion: With Pedro Alvarez struggling, and recently getting demoted to AAA, the Pirates have a hole at third base. They could add an upgrade with Ramirez, bringing in a guy who could hit around 25 homers a year, with an average around .290-.300. They would mostly have to give up salary, since his cost over the next year and a half would be about the same as the value he would provide. There are a few concerns for Ramirez. He’s walking in 5.3% of his plate appearances this year, down from his career line of 7.1%. His defense has been good this year, although he’s struggled at third in the past. The big concern would be his recent history of injuries and struggles. He would go from an upgrade at third to being massive dead weight on the payroll if he were to get injured, and at 33 years old, and recent injury problems, that’s a very real possibility.
The Pirates could easily afford his $4.81 M owed to him in the final two months of the 2011 season, as that would take their projected payroll up to just under $52 M. The big crunch would be in 2012, as his $16 M salary would be about a third of the total payroll with a $50 M payroll. The Pirates have a lot of guys who are putting up great production, with close to league minimum salaries. They also have guys like Chris Snyder, Ryan Doumit, and Lyle Overbay coming off the books. Adding Ramirez might mean they get rid of Paul Maholm and his $9.75 M option, although they have replacements for him in Brad Lincoln and Ross Ohlendorf.
Here is Reynolds’ trade value:
Explanation: Reynolds has three years remaining on his deal, with 2013 being an option year. That option year has a $0.5 M buyout, which lowers his overall value to $7.2 M if his option isn’t exercised. He’s barely a Type B player, so I didn’t include that in his total value. I calculated the WAR as an average of his 2008-2010 numbers, along with a 1.4 WAR projection in 2011. It’s possible that the 2.5 could be optimistic, which only lowers his price. For example, if he was a 1.5 WAR player over the next few years, his option wouldn’t even be considered, and he’s be worth $0.6 M for his total trade value.
What He’s Worth: It all depends on his value, and that’s not something that’s universal. If the Orioles have a team that considers his value more in line with a 2.5 WAR a year player, then he would cost anywhere from $7-9.5 M. If his value is only considered to be what we’re seeing this year, a 1.5 WAR a year player, then he’d cost next to nothing. If he’s more on the expensive side, he would cost at least one Grade B prospect, maybe even a guy like Tony Sanchez. I’m not sure I’d give that up for a guy like Reynolds. I’d probably give up any hitting prospect outside of Starling Marte, Sanchez, and Alex Presley. I’m not sure if the Orioles would consider anyone else a Grade B player (Gorkys Hernandez? Brock Holt? Andrew Lambo?).
My Opinion: Reynolds is horrible at defense. You know how everyone can’t wait for Pedro Alvarez to move to first base because there’s a feeling that he might be absolutely horrible at the position one day? Well, Reynolds is at that stage. Defensively, he’d be a massive downgrade. Offensively, he’d be a big help in the middle of the lineup. Of course, with the team’s success coming via pitching, his defense might hurt more than his offense would help.
The Pirates could add an upgrade at third base, and most likely they could do it without giving up much in prospects. My preference would be Ramirez, although there’s a massive salary risk involved. I’d only go with Reynolds if he costs next to nothing (the 1.5 WAR version), and even then, I’d be hesitant to add a guy whose defense is that bad. In any event, the Pirates could trade either player in 2012. They’d probably have to pick up a lot of salary for Ramirez (like $8 M) in order to get a decent return. Reynolds might have some value even without picking up salary, again, depending on what other teams value him as.
The best part about adding a third baseman would be the motivational factor for Pedro Alvarez. The addition of a third baseman in the majors might be enough to push Alvarez, as currently there are no options to replace him and provide the value the Pirates would need from third base. If Alvarez could get back on track from trying to beat out the established third baseman in the majors, then the addition would be invaluable.