First Pitch: Giving Some Perspective to Trade Rumors

It’s hard to imagine, but the MLB Trade Deadline is two weeks away. We’re starting to get some actual rumors connecting teams to players. We’re even getting the Pirates connected to players like Matt Garza, Alex Rios, Nate Schierholtz, and Kendrys Morales.

The rumors surrounding the trade deadline can be fun. It can be exciting to think about what players could be on the move, what prospects rebuilding teams could get, and so on. But it’s important to keep perspective about the rumors. In a lot of cases, the trades that happen are the ones we don’t hear about, while the rumors we hear are deals that never came to be.

Wandy Rodriguez Pirates
No one was talking about Wandy Rodriguez to the Pirates until it happened. (Photo by: David Hague)

Last year we heard about Justin Upton, Chase Headley, Shane Victorino, and Hunter Pence. We didn’t hear about Wandy Rodriguez, Travis Snider, or Gaby Sanchez. In 2011 the talk was about guys like Carlos Beltran. There wasn’t much talk about Derrek Lee or Ryan Ludwick. It’s not that the trades the Pirates actually made were bad. They were just unexpected.

That’s not to say that hearing about Kendrys Morales now means the Pirates have no chance of landing him. In fact, it’s saying the opposite. We’re going to hear a lot of things in the next few weeks. We will hear that the Pirates had a scout watching a player. We will hear that the Pirates inquired on a player. We’ll hear about the Pirates strongly pursuing guys. We might even hear very specific things like “the Pirates have made an offer for Player A” without knowing what the offer is.

The thing to remember is that the trade deadline can be very vague. “Inquiring” on a player can be as simple as asking if a player is available. Strongly pursuing a player could mean the team found out the guy was available, and started discussing what it would take to get him. We might even hear that an offer has been made, although that doesn’t mean a trade is on the way.

Everyone loves trade rumors, but the truth behind them is that they might not always be reliable information. In a lot of cases, rumors could be teams negotiating through the media. As an example, if you wanted to drive up the price of someone like Garza, you could leak that six teams were strongly pursuing him. I don’t know that this rumor came from the Cubs, but it was reported in Chicago, and the Cubs are the only ones who benefit from people knowing that several teams (including a few with loaded farm systems) are going after their big trade chip.

There’s probably a reason you don’t hear rumors about the trades that actually get made. Those deals are obviously a situation where the two teams are in agreement on the values being exchanged. Thus there would be no reason for one side to play games and try to get the other side to increase their offer.

The next two weeks will be filled with rumors about specific players being connected to the Pirates in some way. It’s entertaining to pencil those guys into a lineup and think about how they could improve the team. It’s also possible that the Pirates could acquire one or two of those players. But based on previous years, it seems more likely that the Pirates will acquire someone we’re not even thinking about today, rather than someone we will be talking about as a possibility for the next two weeks.

Links and Notes

**Download the newest episode of the Pirates Prospects Podcast: P3 Episode 13: What Are the Needs For the Pirates as the Deadline Nears?

**Episode 3 of the Pirates Roundtable can be viewed here. This week’s episode features James Santelli as the host, along with Ed Giles of In Clemente WeatherMichael Waterloo of Pittsburgh Sporting NewsSteve Petrella of MLB.comCory of Three Rivers Burgh Blog, and Brian McElhinney of Raise The Jolly Roger.

**2013 Pittsburgh Pirates International Signing Tracker.


**Prospect Watch: Dickerson and McGuire Keep Putting Up Multi-Hit Games.

**Pirates Have Four Fangraphs Mid-Season Top 50 Prospects.

**DSL Prospect Watch: Regalado Has Been Dominating With Impressive Control.

**Minor League Schedule: Glasnow and Kingham Tonight.


**Pirates Are One of the Strongest Pursuers For Matt Garza.

**Trade Values: Matt Garza.

**Trade Values: Kendrys Morales.

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Nuke Laloosh

I don’t disagree with you belan, but the offense as is will not cut it unless someone, hopefully Walker and Jones, perform well above their first half numbers. Tabata is an improvement over Snider, I agree, but is that the production you want out of a corner outfielder?

How long do you wait to see if your low risk is going to be a high reward? I highly doubt the Blue Jays would have traded away Snider for a 7th inning reliever if they thought he was going to be a productive player. These teams know what they are giving up and what they are getting.

Our bench is proving to be as bad as it was last year. An upgrade there would not hurt either. That may come from within the organization if Dejesus or Lambo were given the chance. Otherwise, moves need to be made. I am not suggesting selling off the farm but at least one move needs to be made that will help this team now.


Like the Blue Jays knew what they were giving up with Snider, we knew what we were giving up in Lincoln. At the MLB level and throughout the orginzation, the Pirates are loaded with middle relievers, even starting pitching.

The low risk, Lincoln was expendable. Especially considering players like Jeanmar Gomez and Vin Mazzaro have produced better or equal to Lincoln, and both were brought in for next to nothing.

The high reward, Snider lives up to potential and filled the glaring hole in RF.

I think the FO is done waiting for Snider’s potential to peak and are just about ready to move on at this point. I truly feel his days are numbered as a Buc.

“Tabata is an improvement over Snider, I agree, but is that the production you want out of a corner outfielder?” Since his return, he’s started all 11 games – .333/.378/.476/.854. He’s gotten on base in every game but Sunday. (Though he did reach on an error and got a SB). He’s been productive. I think the next few series could answer questions the FO might have on how sustainable they feel his production can be. I feel the never ending health issues is probably the bigger concern with Tabata.

Bench: I feel Tony Sanchez needs to replace Fort sooner rather then later. I also feel adding a Mike Morse (if/when healthy) type player or even the Nate Schierholtz type provides more depth and more quality ABs for PH situations. Alex Rios at the right price gives us Tabata to work with off the bench as well.

Either way the FO choses to go, clearing the dead weight off the bench and getting more quality ABs will continue to help the team.

Nuke Laloosh

bbelan, you are correct on Fort, nice guy, but nice guys don’t help win championships. Tabata has played well since coming back, but it is a small sample and you hit the nail on the head regarding his injuries. Either way, I am not convinced he is are answer as an every day RF. Harrison, Fort and Inge make me cringe as bench players.

Jeremy J Stein

I have no interest in trading away top prospects.
Teams that win world series don’t trade away their top prospects. They trade C potential prospects for rental players but they never trade away their A and B potential prospects.
When a team starts trading away their top prospects for quick improvements to the major league club it never works out and that team more often than not fails to even make the playoffs for 4 or 5 years after the trade.
Teams that are patient and hold onto their top prospects in order to grow the core are the teams that win the world series. Look at the Cardinals and Giants. Both teams have won two world series in the last 8 years.
Would the Giants have won in 2010 if they decided to trade Buster Posey away in 2009 because they were 56-47 at the trade deadline. They had a chance to win the division or get a wild card spot if they could just add a big impact player by trading away their top prospect. No, the Giants were smart in 2009, trading Tim Alderson to the Pirates for Freddy Sanchez who was a big upgrade at 2B for them, in the off season they signed Aubrey Huff to play 1B, Juan Uribe to play short and Pat Burrell to play left field while the home grown draft picks (Posey, Sandoval, Schierholtz, Cain, Baumgarner, Lincecum, Jonathan Sanchez, Biran Wilson and Sergio Romo). What big trades did the Giants make? They dumped Bengie Molina and traded John Bowker and Joe Martinez for Javier Lopez.
If you want the Pirates to trade away top prospects then you want the Pirates to suck for another 20 years. I personally want the Pirates to contend for a world series, so IMO the top 10 prospects are untouchable.

Cato the Elder

“What big trades did the Giants make?”

They traded Zach Wheeler for Carlos Beltran in 2011, but seeing as how they failed to even make the playoffs that year (despite winning the world series in ’10 and ’12) this is a the prototypical “exception that proves the rule.”

Jeremy J Stein

Thank you!
That is another great example. Beltran played well for the Giants in 2011, but it made little difference to the outcome that year. At the time of the trade the Giants were 61-44 (17 games over .500) but would end up finishing 86-76 missing the playoffs.
The Giants would have been better off never trading for Beltran and keeping Wheeler because who knows, Wheeler could have been a key to a 3rd World Series win for the Giants 3 or 4 years from now.
This isn’t hindsight is 20/20 vision, it’s history. History shows that trading away top prospects for a big impact player in order to make a playoff run NEVER WORKS OUT. Well in recent history anyway (like the last 10 to 20 years).


“Teams that win world series don’t trade away their top prospects. They trade C potential prospects for rental players but they never trade away their A and B potential prospects.”
Only true for small market teams unfortunately…

Jeremy J Stein

I’m not sure if that’s true. Even big market teams don’t just trade away top prospects for a big impact player during the season. Usually it’s a fairly even swap (Soriano for Rodriguez or Ian Kennedy and Austin Jackson for Curtis Granderson). The key difference for a big market team is even if they make such a trade they have confidence they can throw enough money at the trade target in the offseason to re-sign them.
I guess the Yankees traded Tabata for X Nady and Marte in 2009 but they didn’t really need to do that (neither made meaningful contributions to the championship run). Also, the Yankees and Pirates probably had a good idea that Tabata would end up being the type of player he is now, sure there was hope that Tabata would develop power but that was never a guarantee.
The Yankees didn’t trade away Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera in the early to mid 90’s or Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera in the mid 2000’s.
The lone exception might be when the Yankees traded for Chuck Knoblauch in the 97/98 offseason. The Yankees traded prospects Eric Milton and Cristian Guzman to get an everyday second baseman.
The Yankees were smart with their trades in the 90’s getting Tino Martinez for practically nothing since the Mariners knew they couldn’t afford him. They also got Chad Curtis and Paul O’Neill for basically nothing.
There are examples of big market teams trading away top prospects for big impact players, like the Dodgers, but the Dodgers haven’t won a world series since 1988.

Wilbur Miller

I think Tim is right — probably some move(s) will get made, but it’ll be players nobody has talked about.

I’ve been convinced for a long time that about 3/4 of the trade rumor stories we see are GMs who like to negotiate in the media, trying to pump up their players’ values, or lower other teams’ expectations by getting the message out that their team doesn’t really need to deal. The Pirates’ FO seems to be much more inclined simply to keep their mouths shut, so we see relatively few rumors about them. Then when something happens, more often than not it comes out of the blue.


Another + 1

dr dng

Tim (or others),

Remember, I am an amateur at this but I wonder if Detriot would have any interest in someone like Jose Contreras now that it seems that he is healthy. Wouldn’t he be a nice part of a package with some other players?

What would be the Pirates plan for him?

Indy also has some other decent bull pen folks for
several other bull pen starved teams who are nearly contenders.

(OK. Hope I have not made a fool of myself.)


Detroit could have had Contreras when the Pirates released him outright. There were no takers, so the Pirates resigned him to a minor league contract. The Tigers would be an interesting trade partner, but they would certainly want something better than Contreras.


Apparently he doesn’t have trade value as the Pirates released him. Look for the Tigers to try to sign him.

dr dng

Contreras finally seems to be healthy now and from the numbers I have seen I would think several teams are kicking themselves that they did not jump when the Pirates DFA’s him.

Do the Pirates have plans for him?
They did re-sign him.

Who might have an interest in him.

Does he have any trade value?

What about some of our other AAA and AAAA pitchers at Indy?

Indy is so loaded with AAAA players in general. Do any of them have trade value?


Good article, Tim. What would be interesting to see would be to have a computer search for all of the phrases that you mention above (“interested”, “strongly pursuing”, etc.) and then compare that to the actual trade deadline deals that are made.

The other thing to forget is that, relatively speaking, there aren’t a ton of trades made. Looking at last year’s transactions on the page, there were 31 total trades in July of last year. (And that includes ALL trades, including the Pirates trading Brian Friday for Christian Marrero – which turned out to be a two month rental of Marrero!!, as he became a free agent at the end of the year, and went back to the Braves org.)

Nuke Laloosh

I think making a move just to make a move is silly and last year we did exactly that. We didn’t give up much but we received no one that was a difference maker offensively and in fact got players who are now dragging the offense down. I would much rather see the Pirates give Lambo a shot in right than keep putting Snider out there against righties. If the Pirates are going to make a move it has to be a big move; one that will seriously help this offense. The pitching continues to carry the load and have experienced too many tough luck losses because of the pitiful offense. Like it our not the offense has to be upgraded. Pitching wins championships but not if you lose games 1-0 or 2-1.


The players aquired last season were not just rentals. Travis Snider was brought in low risk/high reward and given the shot in a new scenario to reach full potential. It didn’t work out. Worth the risk, IMO. Gaby Sanchez and Wandy Rodriguez (until injured) have held up to their expectations. Sanchez is being asked to hit LHP, which he is doing (.961 OPS vs LHP). The only reason he is getting so many looks against RHP is b/c the bench has performed so weak, CH doesn’t have any other options.

Since Tabata has returned from the DL, Snider hasn’t “been put out there against righties”. Without looking it up, I don’t think he’s had one start since Tabata’s returned. Though he could have possibly when Cutch or Marte had a day off. He’s getting some PH appearences, but again, it’s b/c the bench has underperformed.

The team needs some offensive upgrades, I agree. But what NH and the FO did last trade deadline made sense. The “going big route” either wasn’t an option last year, or was too costly by his/their standards (like Marte++ for Upton) and they stayed away. At reasonably low cost, they improved the depth of the MLB roster for 2012 and beyond.

If they can’t make the “big move”, I expect they’ll make more moves similar to what we have seen in the past. If it’s a frontline starter to improve 1B, SS or RF, great. That pushes Jones, Sanchez and/or Tabata into bench roles and improves the team.


bbelan : + 1 !

Nathan Swartz

The names we aren’t hearing? Sweet. Aoki and CJ Cron here we come!

As for a reclamation project, Dustin Ackley or Mike Moustakas would fit that. I’m all for trying to get some of the underperforming Royals guys as fixer uppers.


Left out of all discussions at this stage is the fact that there is an awful lot of poker being played. One typical scenario:

Cubs to Pirates – “We can get Martin Perez for Garza from the Rangers, so any deal we make with you has to include Taillon.”

Pirates – Taillon is not on the table.

Cubs trade Garza to Rangers for a package of A-ball prospects, not including Perez.

Steve Dimmick

what about Ross or Parra from ARI? Now that they got Eaton back and Pollock not playing too bad, they seem to have a surplus in OF with Kubel also Prado can play out there. I said this last year and i’ll say it again, Parra is a good player and hits righties well and he’s got the arm for right. He’s the under the radar type of guy i hope they can get, a good ball player

Nick A. Capernicus

Also we got a player blocked to the majors last year in Snider and that didn’t work out. Goal us .500 goal is playoffs once you get in anything can happen with good arms

Nick A. Capernicus

Me and my buddy have been talking Castro all day according to kierjkin Hanson would bring us a star back. So I think Hanson and guy like Holmes could get it done. Castro I think is sick of losing and needs a bolt to get him going.

Matt Beam

In that vein, Starlin Castro for Hanson, Heredia, and 1 other prospect… Cubs are sick of his attitude and what looked like a good team contract has them rethinking what life with him until 2020 looks like… Pirates love the reclamation project but the difference this time is that he’s really good (when he wants to be)

Probably won’t happen in the division but I can dream…


Matt ?? Didn’t we already suffer through Ronny Cedeno ? Castro is the EXACT same kind of SS,with a little better power. ” If he ever learns to consistently play that position as it has to be played in MLB blah blah blah….” and it NEVER happens !


Yeah, maybe Heredia or Hanson for Castro, but certainly not both. Even then I would ask the Cubs to pay part of his salary or throw in a minor leaguer. The Pirates are in a position of strength. They don’t have to make any trades, so why weaken a very strong minor league system? If the Cubs made a mistake, let them pay for it, not the Pirates.

Steve Zielinski

You want to trade two A-grade prospects and another unspecified prospect for a player performing poorly, who is a hacker and who has an attitude problem.

Dehn Unterzuber

Interesting options out there. Maybe I am in the minority but I don’t see this particular team being championship contenders. This is a great opportunity to make a trade that lands us a prospect in Triple-A that is blocked at the major leagues by another player. Quick and powerful way to improve the team plus you end up with more than a two month rental player. You end up with a player who has years of control and a high upside. Finishing over .500 is important and I think we will. But there is no reason to not consider solidifying the team for the next 3-5 years.

Chris Hale

I like that. That’s what I NH is trying to do. I think that’s what he tried to do last year when he landed Travis Snider. They thought he had a chance to solidify that position for a few years. Turns out he missed on that on. I saw it from the beginning with Snider’s average bat spoeed and inabilities to hit the ball where it is pitched. If I know how NH thinks I’m guessing he’s looking for a young SS to come in and lock down that position. He might get a rental for RF or 1B but he knows that Polanco isn’t far away so he can live with a rental. We also have Lambo who can serve as the next Garrett Jones when he leaves as a 1b/RF and Dickerson not far behind Lambo . That is if they are still here of course. both could become useful in landing a rental. The Lambo’s and Dickerson’s of your farm are the ones you want other teams to value higher and ask for. We can deal with losing those guys. It’s the Polanco,Taillon’s,Kingham,Glasnow’s you don’t want to lose


So, here’s a hypothetical trade situation.. Would you trade Jason Grilli to the Tigers Nick Castellanos ?? I don’t think there would be any other pieces on the team that could retrieve Castellanos from the Tigers. Maybe Melancon, but I don’t see a bundle of prospects getting the job done.

But straight up for Grilli, there is no question I would have to turn down this trade down. Grilli is too important to the team with his morale. Any other season, yes, but I don’t see how this wouldn’t cripple team chemistry.


You may be correct on that, but if you pull yourself back a bit and think about it, how ridiculous does it sound to turn that down? That’s too tempting to pass up


Player for player it makes a lot of sense. Grilli can’t offer much more production then he’s currently providing, and he may not produce “lights out” the same way the rest of the season. But Grilli brings so much morale and confidence as a leader to the team, he couldn’t be replaced.

The culture of the team has changed so much since the start of the 2011 season. Playing significantly meaningful games is finally apart of this franchise. Buying in, instead of selling out. And if NH sold out on Grilli, the leader of the BP and the “Shark Tank”, that sends such a shocking direction to the team that Castellanos couldn’t erase, regardless of how he produced.

IF it could get done with a package built around say someone like Justin Wilson and a future closer Black or Welker, it would seem to make more sense on our side. Though, Castellanos is highly touted and I’m not sure how the Tigers would take it. But not at the cost of our closer. I would think the Pirates hold Grilli as untouchable as any other player on the 40.


That is going to be ridiculously expensive.

Dehn Unterzuber

Not necessarily. Trading with a competitive team is the trick to keeping the cost down.


I disagree on both comments. If they have a shot at the post season, at least a wild card. Then they have a shot at a championship. Anything can happen in the playoffs, especially when they have the best pitching in the league at this time. Second, why would they look for a prospect to help the future when they already have the top farm system right now. I would not mortgage the future to upgrade but I would trade a few middle to lower prospects to upgrade now.

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