In the next week or two, the Pittsburgh Pirates are going to have some roster decisions to make. The primary decision would be clearing a roster spot for Gregory Polanco. The arrival of Polanco, which I’m guessing will happen sometime next week, will mean the departure of an outfielder. Currently there are two prime candidates for that corresponding move: Jose Tabata or Travis Snider.
Tabata has a .632 OPS this season. The one thing that might keep him on the roster for now is money. He has $9.25 M guaranteed beyond the 2014 season, not to mention the remaining balance he’s due this year, which takes his total money owed to around $11 M. Snider isn’t doing much better, with a .629 OPS. He doesn’t have a long-term contract to keep him secure on the roster. The Pirates seem to like Snider more than his stats would warrant, but I’m not sure if that’s still the case after his struggles this year.
Over the weekend, the Pirates received a competitive balance pick in exchange for Bryan Morris, who seemed to have zero trade value. The pick, which is 39th overall, gives the Pirates an extra draft choice, and an extra $1.47 M in their bonus pool. That could be very valuable if they can draft a talent player and sign him for under slot, which is what they did last year, creating enough money to sign Erich Weiss to an over-slot deal in the 11th round. Weiss is currently the top hitter with West Virginia.
It might be greedy to expect the same from a possible Travis Snider trade. Just like Morris, Snider seems to have zero trade value. Expecting a return similar to Morris might be like expecting lightning to strike twice. I’m not even sure if the Pirates could make a deal in the next two days, getting that extra pick before the draft. But they might be able to get other value for someone like Snider.
I was looking tonight at some of the deals for international bonus money last year. There were several deals which featured bonus pool money changing hands. This isn’t actual money, but the ability to spend money in the international market. So it’s not really an asset, but an ability. Here is a look at some of the deals that just included bonus pool money (leaving out player for player trades that also included pool money).
**Cardinals trade Mitchell Boggs for $206,000 in international bonus pool money. Boggs was non-tendered at the end of the season.
**Mariners trade Alex Liddi for $73,700 in extra international bonus money. Liddi had a .636 OPS in 173 at-bats in his career at the age of 24. He was granted free agency at the end of the year.
**Cubs trade Ronald Torreyes for $784,700 in international bonus money. Torreyes is a marginal prospect, and wasn’t ranked in the Cubs top 30 by Baseball America, or the Astros top 30 after the trade.
A trend here is that these guys dealt weren’t exactly valuable pieces. Boggs and Liddi were released or non-tendered by the end of the year. That’s probably going to be the same path for Snider. If those guys can get bonus pool money, then the Pirates should try for the same thing with Snider, after Polanco arrives.
One of the benefits the Pirates got from the Morris trade was a bigger draft bonus pool. They went from having the 21st biggest pool, to the 13th biggest pool. Most of the extra money will go to the 39th overall pick, but they could find a way to get an extra over-slot player in the process. For a team like the Pirates, the ability to spend money in the draft and international markets is huge. Unfortunately, MLB’s latest CBA makes it so that you are limited with what you can spend, forcing teams to trade for the ability to spend money.
On the international side, the Pirates have about $1.9 M that they can spend, which ranks 26th out of 30 teams. Teams can trade for up to 50 percent of their bonus pools, which means the Pirates could trade for about $950,000 in bonus pool money. That would put them much closer to their former budget of $3 M (before the CBA), and would allow them to spend more money in the international market, where they’ve had a lot of success.
It’s not out of the question that Snider could be dealt for bonus pool money. He wouldn’t fetch $950,000. However, there has to be another team out there willing to gamble on his upside. The international bonus pool money seems to carry a low trade value, based on what we’ve seen in the past year. For a team like the Pirates, the ability to spend more in that market carries a higher value than for most teams. When Polanco is ready to arrive, the Pirates should try to deal Snider for international bonus pool money, similar to their approach with Morris.
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