I missed the Q&A last week due to a common problem in Spring Training: I forgot what day it was. It was around 6:00 that I was driving home from a busy day at Pirate City and suddenly it hit me “Oh yeah, today is Friday. I didn’t do the Q&A.” It wasn’t going anywhere. Some of the questions from last week were answered throughout the week. Here are some of the best questions from this week.

Rob Wheeler: Hey Tim. I have been thinking about an article you wrote a couple years ago ever since the Royals made their big run last October.

You made a point that their trade of Wil Meyers to Tampa for Shields and company was not something the Pirates should do, and not something a small market team should do – that it more or less created a “window” of opportunity, versus the Pirates stated goal of a continual championship quality team.

Any thoughts on revisiting those thoughts in light of what the Royals were able to accomplish, along with where both teams are at this point? I know Meyers disappointed, but the point was really about the Royals and not the Rays. Does it appear they enjoyed their window to its fullest but are now destined to move forward without both Meyers and Shields as a mediocre team?

Thanks! Great job with the site!!

As you may know, I’m against the idea of creating a window like the Royals did. Maybe Shields helped put them over the edge to reach the playoffs, but look at the shape they’re in now. Shields is gone, they don’t have Myers, and they don’t have Jake Odorizzi, who was also traded in that deal, and who put up outstanding results with the Rays last year.

Odorizzi was worth 2.2 fWAR, while Shields was worth 3.3 fWAR in 2014. One win would have put them tied with Oakland, and they won the season series against the Athletics, so the Wild Card game would have still been in Kansas City. Shields also didn’t help much during their playoff run, so I doubt their outcome is changed for the worse without him in the post-season. There’s also the Wade Davis factor here, although the Royals might have had enough bullpen depth to overcome his absence as well.

In hindsight, I’d rather have the Rays side of that deal, if only because of Odorizzi. I’d rather have him for six years, even if it means a slight decline in production in 2014. But I don’t think you need hindsight for this. Myers was the big ticket, but the Royals traded a lot of prospects for Shields. Prospects are unknown. The big ones might not pan out (although I’m definitely not closing the book on Myers yet) and some of the lesser ones surprise you. If you look at what the Rays got (Odorizzi, flipped Myers for a good return), and look at what the Royals have now, I’d say the Royals made a mistake, and I don’t think the trade really helped them last year.

I thought I’d ask my friend, who is a Royals fan, about his thoughts following the post-season run. Here was his response.

“We still have a huge hole in right field and we gave up seven years of control for a short-term rental. Don’t get me wrong, I loved every minute of the ride. But I think it really hurts us long-term. That move reeked of desperation because of [Dayton Moore’s] inconsistency in developing major league pitchers.”

Joe Sweetnich: Do you have concern over Gregory Polanco’s spring performance?  He does not seem to be making solid contact and looks more like the Jul-Sep 2014 Polanco than the one we grew to love previously.

I don’t, but then again I never really get concerned with any Spring Training performances. There have been so many times in the past where guys have looked horrible in Spring Training, and it all goes away when the season starts. Then there are times when guys are crushing the ball in Spring Training, and it all disappears during the season. If Polanco is still struggling in June, that’s when I’ll be concerned.

Dan Bruni: Would you rather have Austin Meadows and/or Reese McGuire, or Mark Appel? Under the old CBA, the Pirates would have certainly signed Appel, and added another potential ace and depth option for 2015.

That’s a tricky question, because I’m not sure which scenario you’re presenting. If this is under the old CBA rules, then the choice is simply Appel or Meadows, since they would have still had their McGuire pick in 2013. I’m much more familiar with Meadows, so that would alter my choice a bit, although we did follow Appel closely, for obvious reasons, and I don’t think he could be considered a potential ace. I think I’d go with Meadows, just because I like his power potential, and hitting prospects come with much less injury risk than pitching prospects.

If it’s under the new CBA, then it’s no question that I take the Pirates side. In that scenario, it’s not just Meadows and McGuire or Appel. It’s Meadows, McGuire, Blake Taylor (used to acquire Ike Davis), Cole Tucker, and Mitch Keller. That’s four of the top ten prospects in the system, plus Taylor. Of course, all of this assumes the Pirates would have gone over-slot to get Appel, while forfeiting all of those picks. And you can see why no team has considered that yet.

Clint Knowles: Is there any possibility that the Bucs will trade Walker this season in order to make room for Alen Hanson, trade Walker and put Kang at second, or keep Walker and use Kang off the bench?

I really don’t see Walker being dealt during the season, unless the Pirates somehow fall out of contention. Even if Kang and Hanson are performing well, it would make more sense to deal Walker next off-season, so as not to weaken the team during a playoff push. There’s no reason why you can’t have Kang or Hanson on the bench performing like starters.

Eldon Yeakel: Why do the cubs only have to send Kris Bryant down for two weeks to gain a year of control, when the pirates had to wait until mid season to bring Marte and Polanco to gain a year of control?

There are two separate issues here. The first is getting an extra year of control. You have to keep a player down for a few weeks to get that, which is what the Cubs are doing. The mid-season date is for Super Two, which gives the player an extra year of arbitration. The Cubs don’t seem to care about that with Bryant, and they have the resources where they can afford to pay the extra money associated with six weeks of additional production for a rookie. For a small market team like the Pirates, it would be foolish to pay extra in the long-run just to get six additional weeks of a rookie. We saw exactly why last year, when Polanco struggled in his first run through the majors. Marte also struggled initially. That’s to be expected with rookies.

Finally, a question from Twitter that I’ve received twice in the last day:

https://twitter.com/Foot33/status/581426500676751362

If the Pirates would want to take him after Tommy John surgery (and I think they would, considering his upside), then I’d have to think one of the teams before them would want to take him for those same reasons. I don’t see Aiken falling to the Pirates at all. I’d be surprised if he fell out of the top ten.

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51 COMMENTS

  1. I think Polanco was reading this- immediately hitting homers in back to back games. So much for that question…..

  2. The Pirates were close to getting David Price last year. NH seems willing to move some of our elite prospects for rental players. He is very picky as he should be in regards to what rental players he targets. Getting a player like Price for the playoff run last year and the entire 2015 season would have been worth it IMO. Of course the Rays chose to not take prospects so no one really knows who would have been included in that trade but I would have traded anyone but Glasnow to get Price who I think would have carved up the NL Central.

    I know its a huge gamble touching our elite guys for trades but this Pirate team just seems like its missing a player or two. The Bucs would be scary with a true ace and a legit power bat that can give Cutch the protection he has never had.

    • You are absolutely correct Kenny and we saw last July that some of the teams in baseball with attractive assets seemed to view promising prospects as overvalued and were more interested in major league ready players who were good, but didn’t have exceptional pedigrees. Will be interesting to see how this year plays out. Obviously some of that has to do with the fact that teams like the Redsox feel they are perennial contenders. But many would have guessed the Rays would have been more amenable to accumulating lower level prospects.

  3. I’ve been hoping for a more detailed response from Tim on Gregory Polanco. I was hoping maybe he had some insight on what Polanco is looking like in ST, thinking maybe he could ease my nerves about him with some positives despite the numbers. It’s fine though I guess we will have to wait for the season to start to see if we have anything to worry about. Hopefully he’s just working on getting his timing back after finally taking some significant time off. I have been of the opinion GP has the highest upside of any Pirate outfield and it might take him a couple years like it did with McCutchen to start realizing that potential. It took McCutchen nearly 2,000 PA to become a 300+ hitter. I’d like to see a .260-.270/.340-.350 15 Hr 20-30 SB Season from Polanco

    • I think Polanco’s bat will be fine eventually, I’m still not as sanguine about his defense yet. I know he is a rookie and still learning the position but his plays saved was not only negative for deep balls but for shallow balls as well in his debut. The arm is a rocket but I hope to see more efficient routes this year. Many point to Cutch having similar problems as rookie which isn’t exactly true. While he did have a clear learning curve for deep balls he was much bettter on shallow balls than Polanco as a rookie.

    • In the games which have been televised, Polanco’s looked a little better recently, and I do think it’s mostly a timing thing. He drove a ball deep to center the other day, and then yesterday he crushed a home run. He’s starting to get there with his timing, and the talent is obviously there already.

  4. From my perspective, I feel like the Royals far and away won this deal, at least as of now. Personally, I would much rather use BBref’s WAR for pitchers over a full course of a season. Maybe it’s negligent on my part, but I prefer to look at actual runs allowed over a full season for WAR.

    Anyhow, under BBref’s WAR the Royals have gotten 8.9 WAR over the past 2 seasons from Davis and Shields.

    The Rays have gotten 2.5 out of Myers and Odorizzi.

  5. If the Pirates had a better history of developing hitters, I wouldn’t think anything of Polanco’s spring struggles. I could care less about the numbers, but a continuation of such terribly soft contact has to be concerning for a kid who used to be able to barrel up everything.

    Yes, he has ridiculously long arms, and no, he’s probably never going to be great at turning on the inside fastball. But that still leaves an awful lot of pitches to jump on, and he hasn’t done that for quite a while now. I want him focusing on his strengths and not worrying about his weaknesses. Something I think the club generally does a poor job teaching.

    • “If the Pirates had a better history of developing hitters…”

      Cutch, Marte, Walker, Harrison, hell even Pedro won a HR crown. All of these guys were developed by the Pirates. And all of them, except Pedro, are top tier hitters at their positions.

      I would vehemently disagree with your assessment of Pirates ability to develop hitters NMR. Unless of course your talking about Pitchers ability to hit. In that case you’re right on the money.

      • I’d actually have to agree with him. We HAVE struggled to develop hitters. You can’t call ALvarez a success at all based on the scouting reports we got on him draft day. this was supposed to be a sure thing high power AND high average hitter. Walker took forever to develop and we had basically given up on him when we ran out of choices for 2nd base, Harrison was never really supposed to amount to anything, and we obviously didn’t expect him too either, so using him really makes no sense either. The only hitters you could say we developed well would have to be Marte and Cutch and maybe Mercer. On the other side, weve had quite a high failure rate on top prospects whom haven’t been pitchers, but its hard to compare that to the failure rate of other teams, so idk

        • Tough to have Walker as a negative because he “took forever” when he ended up being a solid 2Bmen that spanned across 2 org in development.

          You say maybe Mercer….even though he is a fine hitter at SS developed by this team….and then excuse away the team developing Harrison because his expectations were low. So it makes no sense to use him as proof of development because he wasnt drafted high? That makes it even more impressive they were able to take a low expectation guy and help him become a legit starter. Fair to say some hitters on the team have flaws, but last year we had a top 3 offense in the NL with 5-6 home grown options.

          I dont argue they are amazing with offensive talent, they have had guys fail like any team will. But Mercer and Harrison and Marte are huge pluses for their development abilities and Cutch/Walker/Pedro are proof they dont ruin guys and have been able to let talented guys thrive.

        • Talk about cherry picking who the Pirates did and didn’t develop.

          Every player drafted by Pirates who makes the ML roster was developed by the organization. And as I said before, many of them have been amongst the best at their position the last couple years.

          Even Martin had a rebirth with bat while in Pittsburgh.

          Give credit where credit is due.

    • I actually see no reason to think PIT has struggled to develop hitters. Aside from the obvious 1st round guys in Walker, Cutch, and Pedro….Mercer and Harrison were developed either entirely or mostly in PIT and both being solid regulars is solid development job. Marte also represents an at least adequate job of developing raw talent into ML solid. For all the great young arms we may have soon, the offense has largely been built from within and into a really solid group. I think PIT has actually been just as good to this point in developing hitters as it has pitchers.

      Polanco may continue to struggle, but i dont see it as indicative of the larger PIT development process. I also think saying “he hasnt jumped on pitches for quite awhile now” is using SSS and ignoring everything else. He made solid contact for a portion of last year, with a portion being weak contact. His AAA stuff was fine, so its early to say he hasnt been hitting the ball hard for awhile.

    • Not to go all pollyanna but what would better history of developing hitters look like? I don’t necessarily disagree, outside Jordy Mercer (who still cannot hit RHP), there aren’t any later round success stories.

      I don’t know the answer and sure as heck hope the Pirates haven’t somehow ruined Polanco between this spring and last.

      • I figured this one wouldn’t be popular, and admittedly this is mostly a feeling since as you allude, “successfully” developing hitters isn’t exactly easy to define.

        I just haven’t gotten the feeling out of the bat-side of the Huntington era that they have done a good job getting the most out their talent. Learning all the way back from the Bautista fiasco, I’ve always had the feeling that they’ve tried to make guys into a prototype instead of helping them maximize the talents they *do* have.

        Probably exacerbated by the fact that they are *so* good at doing just that on the pitching side of things, but regardless, never have I thought to myself “oh good, the org should really be able to help Player X”.

        • That’s fair and I mostly agree, just not overly confident in the idea. Tim said awhile back the Pirates seem to be focusing on pitching in the draft and hitting from Latin American or at least that is how the process is playing out whether it is intentional or not.

          The one counter point to Bautista is Brandon Moss credits the Pirates, Branson in particular, for helping him develop, but that leads to the question why was he let go to waste a season in the Phillies AAA system.

  6. I’m curious what the pirates would have done in the Astros situation had they drafted aiken and received potentially foreboding medical information about him. It seems like the Astros have gotten a lot of negative press about it (despite them being vindicated and hindsight being 20/20, etc.), but I’m not sure the bucs fo would have done anything different.

    • I’d hardly call that “vindicated”.

      They still offered the kid $5m. Would we really be calling them any smarter now for going back on their agreement if Aiken had signed? Of course not.

      Don’t forget about Jacob Nix getting screwed as well.

      • NMR: Yessir, hardly vindicated when you lose two top SP’s in the process. I doubt the Pirates ever would have fallen into a situation where they “lost” communication with an agent or the player. The Stro’s needed to make that deal happen, but their GM somehow let the discussion hit the table with a loud thud. The agent may have been an ass, but sometimes a GM has to recognize that and go 60-40 or 70-30 to make a deal happen regardless of the other guy’s stupidity.

        • I hate to take away from the original post, and hope my comment didn’t kill any conversation since I thought it was an interesting topic, but I do think how one interprets what happened in hindsight plays a factor.

          If they would’ve come out and said the deal is off because they’re opposed to drafting damaged goods, fine. Still wouldn’t have agreed with it, but at least they have a point. Instead, they come off as just plain cheap in trying to get Aiken for 50 cents on the dollar and as you said, lost two good players in the process.

  7. I think it is more of a “Who would you rather have…Meadows or David Dahl?” The Pirates were all set to draft Dahl (they had him signed) when Appel fell into their lap.

    They then drafted Meadows with the pick they received when Appel didn’t sign.

    • Not that I’m criticizing the move now or at the time, but drafting Dahl instead of Appel would’ve probably still been the right move in hindsight.

      • NMR: Disagree. First, because a team like the Pirates always has to draft top level pitching, therefore should never pass up a possible 1/2 Rotation guy. Also, trying to find or replace pitching on the open market is too expensive. Second, because the Pirates were and still are loaded with Outfielders, and a team never has enough Pitching.

        In hindsight, they got better with Appel/Meadows than Dahl because Meadows has a higher power upside than Dahl and is a year younger – we got very lucky that Meadows fell to us.

        • Very much agree, and you won’t find a much bigger pitching and defense guy than me; but my thoughts on *where* and *when* to draft that pitching have changed.

          For instance, is Appel’s likely role in the Big Leagues really *that* much better than, say, Nick Kingham? Ceiling, sure, but MA was never the can’t-miss Gerrit Cole-type stud. More and more, I’d rather chase position players with those ultra-high picks and use the lower round selections for projectable arms, as the club did last year.

  8. I don’t know why we still call it Tommy John when all these guys are basically obtaining bionic arms. Seems like guys are trying to push themselves as early as possible in order to undergo the surgery as soon as they can get it out of the way.

      • There is a very good article in the current BA that points out that ligament replacement surgery success rates are declining.

    • Except you can have multiple TJS’s, even on the same elbow. The reason more pitchers seem to be having them I believe is their uncontrolled in high school and college. I believe for the majority coaches don’t care about the health of these players arms and for that matter neither do some players. Look at Tim’s in depth article on Jameson Taillon. In it Taillon says in high school he didn’t care so much about form as he dis velocity because that’s what gets prospects noticed. Its easier to teach form than velocity and players know that. Any coach will tell you that bad form leads to TJS. Add on how players are throwing harder younger I truly believe we’ve only seen the beginning of a potential TJS epidemic.

  9. Aiken may fall to the Pirates. Giolito fell to the Nats because of his surgery. The Pirates have the resources to gamble on an injured pitcher. Those resources: A young ML team and a still strong farm system. With Free Agency declining as a significant source of top-shelf ML talent, Draft Picks become that much more important for every organization. Teams will not want to waste a Draft on a high-risk, high-reward player like Aiken. Of course, it only takes one team that picks before the Pirates that has the ‘gamble’ needed to take Aiken. But this Draft class allegedly is a strong one and Aiken may still want a large bonus. So….

    • I think Boston will grab Aiken. They have loads of $$, a great farm system, a high draft pick and can afford to take big risks like drafting Aiken because if it doesn’t work out, they’ll just sign a very high-priced Cuban, or a free agent, to make up for it.

        • Excellent points by both of you – Aiken has already been through the system once – it failed, and then he had to go to a JUCU/IMG to qualify a second time for the draft in 2015. His results this year in school were not much. I agree he will want Top Draft Pick dollars, but his bargaining position has been seriously damaged by losing at least one year, and now the surgery means he will miss most, if not all, of 2015. I doubt his camp would want to risk another wasted year waiting for a 3rd chance to be drafted, and a second straight year of no results to analyze. I think they will be very reasonable.

  10. Shields had multiple years of control which made him expensive. A one year rental obtained in March is less expensive and we could even sen d major league players.

    • On top of that he’s leaving out the contribution that Wade Davis made to that team. The Royals don’t make it to the WS without Wade Davis in the 8th inning

        • I don’t know if it swings the deal completely, but it absolutely must be considered in the analysis.

          ESPECIALLY if you’re gonna tout Jake Odorizzi on the Rays end of the deal.

        • Its a difference factor, but even then i think the Royals made a clear “all in” move. At that point, you basically argue the merits of that ride vs. the longterm consequences of no Myers/Odorizzi. I lean toward liking the Rays side more, but the result seemed good for both sides in the short term (and Moore is thanking the heavens it did).

          • Difference factor… are you guys kidding me. Tim glosses over Wade Davis and the guy was worth 3 wins last year FFS. His WAR was on the same level as Aroldis Chapman. Between him and Shields that’s about 6.5 wins those 2 alone got them. To act as if the Royals could have overcome not having one of the premier closers in baseball(35 shutdowns) is intellectually dishonest. The guy was basically THE best closer in baseball. The Rays control Odirizzi who looks to be decent and got nothing out of Will Myers last year and traded him for Souza and some lower level prospects. I know Tim loves prospects and I understand both sides of the argument here but let’s not let agendas get in the way of facts.

            • You cant get credit for being the best closer in baseball when you arent closing, thats intellectually short. He was a very effective reliever that helped make them potent in the playoffs. He matters in the trade, and was big in the run they made. But you weigh that against losing the talent they lost, which you clearly are biased against if you think “Odorizzi looks to be decent” which is vague enough to make it seem like he will be a mid rotation arm (even if he is, its 6 years of him). Its also stupid to say they got nothing for Myers.

              You get all sanctimonious about not letting agendas (which no one here has other than their opinion) get in the way of facts….and then do way more via the way of having a clear agenda on this trade than anyone else. Fair to think the Royals made fine on the trade or “won” the trade, but Tim didnt ignore Davis and to act like Davis makes the trade clear either way is potentially “letting some things get in the way of facts”. Royals lost 6 years of a SP, 6 years of a starting OFer for a WS show. So its basically arguing if you think being in the WS is worth losing a lot of years of control over multiple quality players.

              • Please reread what I said before you start using terms like “stupid” or work on your reading comp. I said they basically got nothing from Myers last year. He accumulated 0.0 WAR LAST YEAR. I don’t have an agenda on the trade. I don’t even know if think Royals won the trade. What I do know is that saying “I don’t think the trade really helped them last year(Royals) is utterly preposterous when it was worth 6.4 wins between Shields and Davis.

                • The difference between Shields and others has been made obvious already, so basically you are arguing Davis was so much better than his replacement that it made a huge difference. Fair enough, but arguing the trade is to argue if that one year payoff was worth a trade that has longterm consequences. Was 1-2 wins more last year from Davis and that playoff run worth it over the entire span of this deal? Clearly KC won the trade in a one year spanshot, but if they dont reach the playoffs for 3-5 years and what they gave up does well….its a big deal.

                  I dont hate the move for KC, but it was clearly sacrificing longterm talent for a short window of opportunity. I’d be upset, even now, as a KC fan and i know more than a few that are wary at this point.

      • I don’t know who your referring to as the person that left Davis out of the conversation… But the person who asked the question mentioned him, along with Tim in the answer….

        There is no way the royals wouldn’t take that trade back if they could rewind for the reasons stated in the answer.

        • I worded that badly… When saying the Royals had the bullpen depth to overcome not having Davis, I thought that was minimizing the contribution Davis made to the team. Davis had one of the all time great seasons for a reliever. Glossing over that by saying the Royals had the bullpen depth to replace him is wrong imo.

          • You have to include Davis (who the Royals initially tried to
            make a starter again.) I still hate the structure of that trade from the Royals side, ultimately it got them a 3rd place and 2nd place finish with a wild card spot. They made the most of the wild card spot so in hindsight I cannot really be critical. And maybe Dayton Moore realized that the Royals cannot develop hitters and the opinions on Myers were inflated.

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