Everything about the Francisco Liriano trade has been weird. The actual trade itself was unconventional. A lot of the opinions following the deal have been strange, because there are so many pieces and layers to this deal, but it seems most want to make the discussion as simple as possible.
It also might be one of the most extremely polarizing moves I’ve seen in a long time. If you don’t say that this deal is a total disaster and has no chance of ever working out, then you’re apologizing for the Pirates, or trying to spin the deal. If you think that Drew Hutchison has any chance of being a good pitcher, then you’re trying to spin the deal. If you don’t scream about a salary dump on a daily basis, even if you’ve said it was a salary dump, you’re trying to spin the deal.
I’ve constantly written the same thing about the deal: The Pirates overpaid, they shouldn’t have given up Reese McGuire, their position on having catching depth totally ignores what happened this year with the catching situation. But I’ve also said that I do like Hutchison and see some signs that he could be a good pitcher, and I’ll wait to see how or if they spend that money before complaining, while also saying that there are no excuses if they don’t spend it.
Somehow, that is considered apologizing and spin. Saying a move is bad, could be horrible, but might have some redeeming value. Basically, if you even give this move a chance, you’re an apologist. The only position that is safe is all the way to the extreme, acting like this is the worst deal in Pirates history.
Meanwhile, I’ve been noticing a trend outside of Pittsburgh. All of the national outlets have lower grades on Reese McGuire and Harold Ramirez than we do. We did lower the grade on Ramirez in our mid-season update, and I’ve written many times that we’ve got McGuire rated higher than anyone else, because I personally pushed him up in the rankings. I actually continued to do that in my trade value of the deal, giving him top 100 prospect value, even though he’s not a top 100 prospect, and thus increasing Toronto’s return to show how it was an overpay for the Pirates. You know, for the spin.
Anyway, I’ve been hesitant to talk about the rankings outside of this site, because this whole topic has been a minefield. I know that if I post these rankings, it’s going to guarantee that I’ll get a response saying I’m talking about this in an attempt to spin this trade, apologize, defend, downgrade the prospects, and other BS that ignores that I’ve got these prospects rated higher than these other outlets, which isn’t the right approach if you’re trying to provide spin.
I didn’t want to talk about the other rankings for that reason, but that’s just because I’m already sick of this topic. It’s my job to provide information, especially on prospects. And it’s my job to give my honest opinion, even if people don’t like it. In this case, I think it’s useful to see how these prospects were perceived outside of Pittsburgh (the information), along with why I had them ranked different (my opinion).
This might be the biggest difference in opinion. I mentioned many times that I pushed McGuire’s value up, both before and after the trade. The McGuire situation is incredibly strange, because a week ago, any discussion I had with Pirates fans about McGuire involved me explaining why he wasn’t a bust. A lot of the people I’ve seen complaining about McGuire were writing him off or complaining about him up until the trade. So his value definitely went up among Pirates fans this week.
But the value seems to be much lower outside of Pittsburgh. FanGraphs gave him a Future Value (FV) of 40, which is an impactful bench player. The big complaint was on his hitting, with this summary from Eric Longenhagen:
“I don’t think he’s going to hit enough to play everyday and he profiles as more of a back-up catcher or low-end starter than as an average everyday player.”
Keith Law wrote that the entire deal could pay off in Pittsburgh, making a lot of the same points I made after the deadline. Here was his summary on McGuire:
“Reese McGuire, the team’s second first-round pick in 2013, is a strong defensive catcher who has no power and doesn’t make enough hard contact to project as an everyday player, but I feel confident he’ll get a lot of big-league time as a backup catcher.”
And finally, Baseball America had this to say about McGuire:
“While his defense has remained sharp outstanding receiving and framing skills and a quick, accurate arm, his lefthanded swing has just never developed. … His projection is starting to change to that of a defense-first, backup or time-share catcher in the majors, not what was hoped for when he was taken right ahead of Braden Shipley, J.P. Crawford and Tim Anderson in the 2013 draft.”
That’s three evaluations saying the same thing, that he’s going to be a strong defensive catcher who will be limited to being a backup. We had him rated as a 5 (or 50) for his likely upside, which is a grade above FanGraphs. That’s saying he will be an average starter. The reason we were higher, and had him as a starter, was that we weren’t writing off his hitting. He has a line drive stroke, and makes solid contact at times. He has just lacked consistency, not because he’s been over-matched, but because he’s been too selective.
I could end up being wrong, and the above opinions could be right. The only difference is the prediction on whether his bat will develop, and no one knows that right now either way. I’ve never been afraid to stick to a different opinion on a player, even when every other outlet is higher or lower. I’ve been watching McGuire since he made his debut in the GCL, so I’m going to trust what I’ve seen, which has been flashes of good hitting ability.
Ramirez is another guy where we had a higher opinion on him, although I wouldn’t say the opinion was drastically different than the national outlets. Here is a summary, with the same links as above.
FanGraphs (40 FV): “Even if you think Ramirez is a future plus hitter (I don’t but acknowledge it’s a possibility, Ramirez is really unique and a tough eval as a result), there won’t be more than 40 game power here unless he drastically alters his approach — and that offensive profile doesn’t play in left field without good defense, something I’m increasingly skeptical Ramirez will be able to provide.”
Law: “Harold Ramirez can hit for average, above .300 all three years he has been in full-season ball, rarely striking out, but he also has below-average power and doesn’t project to get past average. He’s a poor runner and is limited to left field, so using scouting’s 20-to-80 scale he’ll have to end up with a 70- or 80-grade hit tool (with batting averages near the top of the league) to end up as a regular.”
BA: “A line drive hitter with above-average speed he is still learning to use, Ramirez uses the whole field and consistently makes hard contact… He plays center field well, but could shift over the left if needed. His arm is not strong enough to profile in right, and the lack of power as he climbs the ladder was slightly unexpected.”
Baseball America focused more on the tools, and Ramirez being blocked in Pittsburgh, rather than giving an opinion on his overall upside. The general feeling was that Ramirez probably wouldn’t be a starter in the big leagues. Everyone was in agreement that his hit tool was his best, but he hasn’t developed power, and wouldn’t have the defensive value to make up for this.
We actually dropped Ramirez in our rankings, due to concerns that he won’t hit for power, and could lose some of his speed as he grows and fills out. We had his upside as an average starter, but added the disclaimer that he could see a decline after a few years, and might end up as a bench player. We had his floor below a bench player, in between that and a Quad-A player. As for his ceiling, we had that in the same range as Alen Hanson, Clay Holmes, Yeudy Garcia, Taylor Hearn, and Steven Brault, who all ranked lower than Ramirez.
If the deal would have been Ramirez and one or two guys ranked lower than him, I would have liked it. Ramirez is a guy who was definitely blocked, and his potential to make it as a long-term starter is very questionable, more than McGuire’s potential for the same thing.
My opinion on the deal remains that the Pirates gave up too much, with the problem being the inclusion of McGuire. That comes with the disclaimer that I’m much higher on him than everyone else, as we see in the evaluations above. And perhaps before the deadline, when Pirates fans would say McGuire was just another Chris Stewart, and I said he could be a starter, they were the ones who were correct. If that’s true, then it’s too bad they’re now on my side, looking at losing him as something which could really hurt the Pirates in the long run. According to the national outlets, they could have been right.
**Austin Meadows Finishes His Rehab, Heading to Indianapolis Tomorrow. Good news out of Morgantown, as Austin Meadows finished his rehab tonight.
**Prospect Watch: Brault Gets Roughed Up in Return to Indianapolis. My live report from Morgantown is in this, which is pretty much a small feature on Stephan Meyer. He’s not a true prospect, but he’s interesting enough for about 600-700 words in a recap of his best start of the year. That’s the thing I love about the Prospect Watch. We could just write a bunch of small articles and recaps and notebooks, but we put it all in there, giving an article each night packed with info.
**Impact of the Reese McGuire Trade on Altoona’s Staff; Jin-De Jhang’s Turn. Sean McCool gets the reaction from the Altoona clubhouse of McGuire leaving, and looks at Jin-De Jhang, who will now get more time behind the plate.
**Vogelsong Activated from Disabled List, Boscan Released, Moroff Optioned. Vogelsong had a good start tonight in his return. If you read Sean McCool’s article a few weeks ago, then you’d know that it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.
**Austin Meadows and Eric Wood Recognized Among the Eastern League Best. I’m a bit surprised that Eric Wood got the best defensive third base honors.
**David Todd Podcast: Recapping the Pirates’ Trade Deadline. David and I discuss the trade deadline this week.
**Morning Report: The GCL Pirates Have Quite a Rotation Set for this Week. A lot of really good pitching options down there.
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.