This trade deadline has looked like it could be a seller’s market for a long time. That’s what happens when you add an extra Wild Card spot in each league, and leave a lot of teams believing that they’ve got a real shot at making the playoffs this year. But there was some belief that the starting pitching market would be a buyer’s market, due to all of the available names out there.
This just hasn’t happened. The prices paid so far for starters has been high. Johnny Cueto fetched Brandon Finnegan, Cody Reed, and John Lamb. That’s three power pitchers, with Finnegan being a top 50 range prospect, or up in the top 20 in some rankings. David Price landed Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd, and Jairo Labourt — three left-handed pitching prospects with Norris being a top 20 guy heading into the season.
Price and Cueto are both rentals, and the current rules for compensation say that their new teams get nothing when they depart as free agents. Giving up top 20-50 prospects and more is a lot for two months, even if the pitcher is a number one starter. I pointed out the other night that the equivalent return for Cueto’s deal is probably something that would include Jameson Taillon, Josh Bell, or Austin Meadows, and then two guys the equivalent of Lamb and Reed.
Let’s take the same approach with the Price trade, comparing the pre-season Baseball America rankings of the traded players with similar players in the Pirates’ system.
Daniel Norris: BA rated him a 60 upside with medium risk. That’s the exact grade given to Josh Bell.
Jairo Labourt: He got a 50 upside and high risk. Guys who got that pre-season: Cole Tucker, Mitch Keller, Harold Ramirez, Elias Diaz, Willy Garcia, JaCoby Jones (traded for Joakim Soria today), Trey Supak, Buddy Borden (traded for Sean Rodriguez pre-season).
Matt Boyd: The lowest ranked guy, but still in Toronto’s pre-season top 30 with a 45 upside and high risk. Comparable for the Pirates: Gage Hinsz, Stetson Allie, Wyatt Mathisen, Connor Joe, Luis Heredia, Chad Kuhl, Tito Polo.
Keep in mind that these are pre-season rankings that could change. I don’t think Allie and Heredia still hold those values, and other players may have gone up and down (including guys in the deal). But for two months of Price, the return would have been a top five prospect, a prospect around the 8-15 range, and a prospect around the 25-35 range in the Pirates’ system.
And it’s not just the number one starters getting this type of return. Mike Leake was traded tonight for two players. One was rated a 55 upside and high risk pre-season. The other was rated 45 and medium. The Pirates didn’t have anyone rated 55/high, but they did have Reese McGuire at 55/medium and Nick Kingham/Alen Hanson at 50/medium. The only 45/medium they had was Stolmy Pimentel. Again, a lot has changed since the pre-season, but it seems the return here would have been a guy 5-8 in the Pirates’ system, plus a guy just inside the top 30. And that’s for two months of Mike Leake, who has never put up a WAR greater than 2.2 in a season.
Then there’s the Cole Hamels trade, which is really complex with all of the exchanged salary and moving parts. The prospects acquired were graded as follows.
Jake Thompson: 60/medium. Josh Bell is the only equivalent.
Jorge Alfaro: 60/high. No similar players, although Reese McGuire is closest at 55/medium.
Nick Williams: 60/extreme. Again, nothing similar except Bell and McGuire. So you’re probably now talking Meadows or Taillon at 65/high.
Alex Asher: 50/medium. Nick Kingham and Alen Hanson both had those ratings, and I think Hanson is probably the only one who keeps it.
Jerad Eickhoff: NR. This would probably just be a guy competing for the number 50 spot in the organization. Not a big piece.
The Rangers got some salary relief in the form of $9.5 M, plus getting rid of Matt Harrison. And they got Hamels for several years. But that’s a big price. You’re talking three of the top five prospects in the system, or four of the top seven, plus a throw in, and you’re still paying about $15-20 M per year on a pitcher who is over 30.
I think adding a guy like Tyson Ross would make all the sense in the world for the Pirates. I’m not as concerned with their starting pitching depth this year, even with A.J. Burnett’s current struggles. I think if Burnett has this type of bad stretch at the end of May, no one panics and demands a trade (he did, by the way, over two starts). And while Morton and Locke have been inconsistent, they’ve been on this team most of the year, and have led to the Pirates having the fourth best rotation.
I like the idea of adding a starter more for the post-2015 impact. Adding a guy like Ross, or anyone else with control beyond 2015, gives the Pirates a nice boost when Burnett leaves and they’re waiting on Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon. But looking at the prices above, the cost could be huge. Getting the extra production in 2015 is just a bonus for one of the best rotations in baseball.
I estimated Ross at just over $21 M in trade value. I estimated Price and Cueto around $5 M, and they each got about four times that. Leake also got about four times his value. Hamels got around two times his value, although again, it was difficult to pin down an exact figure here. I don’t know the markup for Ross, but I can imagine it would be at least double, due to his years of control (through 2017), and estimated low salaries. So you’re probably looking at two of the top five prospects in the system not named Tyler Glasnow, and one of the guys around the ten spot. And I don’t think it’s going to be any better for any other starter (multi-year guys like Andrew Cashner, or rentals like Jeff Samardzija, Yovani Gallardo, or Ian Kennedy).
Getting a starter would be nice for the Pirates. But I’m not concerned with their 2015 rotation enough to the point where I think they should be paying these high prices. And while they need a starter for 2016, I think they can take care of that over the off-season.
**Prospect Watch: Gage Hinsz Shows Why He’s a Top Prospect. We had live reports from Altoona, Bristol, and the GCL. My report from Bristol was basically an article on Gage Hinsz, who had his best outing of the year tonight. I know that this is the trade deadline, and all of the attention goes to the transactions and rumors. But this is one of the top 20 prospects in the system, and a lot of people were wondering why he was rated so high, despite poor numbers. This gives some insight into the early season struggles, and why he’s still a top guy. Also, you’ll notice a change, as we added our Top Performers section. More changes to the Prospect Watch are coming this weekend after the deadline.
**Pirates Acquire Joakim Soria For JaCoby Jones. Full breakdown of the trade, including my report on JaCoby Jones, thoughts on the advanced metrics for Soria being so poor, and quotes from Neal Huntington.
**Pirates Outright Gorkys Hernandez, Promote Logan Ratledge to Morgantown. We’re hearing about a lot of moves throughout the system, with several guys moving up as a result of recent trades and promotions. Expect a lot of activity to be announced tomorrow, either when we confirm the moves, or when they’re officially announced.
**Huntington: Pirates Don’t Plan to Add a Starting Pitcher Via Trade. This could change if the prices change, but Neal Huntington said they aren’t looking to add a starter. It’s not a bad decision.
**Pirates Trade Justin Sellers to White Sox. Minor deal here, most likely for cash considerations. I’m guessing this was a move to give him a better opportunity.
**Pirates Designate Vance Worley For Assignment. A lot of debate about this move today, and why they sent out Worley instead of Deolis Guerra. I’m guessing that Guerra is the next to go after the addition of Soria. As for the Worley/Blanton debate, it seems they’re more comfortable with Blanton in shorter outings. I do know that Worley has never really been comfortable in short relief outings, based on my conversations with him after he came over from the Twins (who tried making him a set up man), and his comments on being a reliever this year. The Pirates will see if someone wants him as a starter, and if not, they’ll stretch him out in Indianapolis.
**Morning Report: A Sleeper Pitching Prospect in the GCL. John Dreker takes a look at Luis Escobar, who is having a nice year, and has been hitting the mid-90s in his jump to the US.