One outfielder showed more offensive production. The other showed good enough offense, paired with plenty of defensive value to make up the difference.
They both have shown higher WAR production in the past than the most recent season. They’ve averaged about 3-3.5 WAR per season to date.
Both outfielders have two years of control remaining with the Pirates, at a time when a new GM is taking over. The best approach going forward would be building for the future, rather than trying to win now.
The two outfielders are also the biggest hope the Pirates have to accelerate their rebuild, as they’re the most valuable trade pieces for their new GM.
Oh, and they’re separated by about 12 years.
Starling Marte and Jason Bay aren’t similar outfielders at all. Bay had more offense, but didn’t have much defensive value, actually getting negative marks throughout his career. Marte doesn’t have the offense, but more than makes up for that with his defensive value and his speed.
Bay had two years of control remaining with the Pirates heading into the 2008 season, which was the first year under new GM at the time, Neal Huntington. Marte also has two years of control remaining heading into 2020, the first year under Huntington’s replacement, Ben Cherington.
The Pirates didn’t get much of anything from trading Bay. They made a three-team deal with the Dodgers and Red Sox, getting Andy LaRoche, Bryan Morris, Brandon Moss, and Craig Hansen.
LaRoche was the big return in the deal, aimed at being the third baseman of the future. He put up a 2.2 fWAR in his first season with the team, showing some promise. He was below replacement level in his other years, and was quickly out of the system and out of the league.
Morris was in A-ball when he was acquired, but eventually developed into a reliever in the majors who was mostly below replacement level for parts of six seasons. Craig Hansen suffered a nerve issue and didn’t pitch after throwing 6.1 innings in 2010.
Brandon Moss was the best return in the deal, eventually having three seasons of ~2.5 fWAR production, and looking like an average starter in the majors for about five years. Unfortunately, that all came with other organizations, as the Pirates let him go after two seasons of below-replacement level value.
The Pirates traded Bay at the deadline in 2008, rather than the prior offseason after Huntington took over. That wasn’t for a lack of trying. There was a reported deal that offseason that would have sent Bay and Ronny Paulino to Cleveland for Cliff Lee, Franklin Guttierez, and Kelly Shoppach.
Lee went on to be one of the better pitchers in baseball. He had a 6.8 fWAR in 2008, which would have been his first year with the Pirates if the trade went through. He didn’t drop below a 6 WAR until 2012, and didn’t drop below a 5 WAR until 2014, in his final season in the majors.
Gutierrez was an average starting outfielder, but had one standout season in 2009, posting a 6.1 fWAR. Shoppach had a 3 WAR in 2008, then spent the rest of his career as a backup or split-starter, posting about half a WAR or better for three seasons.
On the surface, the Pirates would have been way better off with the Indians trade. This does assume they would have gotten the same production from Lee, Gutierrez, and Shoppach. That’s not a guarantee, since the Pirates didn’t show a good history at getting players to their upside. You don’t have to go further than the actual Bay trade to find an example. All you need to do is look at Brandon Moss as just one example of a trend that happened a lot in Pittsburgh.
The Indians trade was killed off, reportedly by Frank Coonelly overseeing Neal Huntington and saying it wasn’t enough of a return.
Fortunately, Ben Cherington doesn’t seem like he’ll deal with that issue. Huntington was a new GM, but Cherington has experience in the job, and it seems like he’ll have full control over the baseball side from day one.
Looking back on the Bay situation, you wonder what things might have been like if the Indians trade went down. Perhaps the players received would work out just as they did with the Indians. Maybe that speeds up the rebuild process to where the Pirates have a real shot in 2012 or even 2011.
The Pirates are in the same situation now with Marte. We don’t know how they’ll do at developing young guys for the majors. We don’t know what type of trade returns to expect.
We do know that the Pirates aren’t ready to contend in the final two years with Marte, and that Marte provides their best chance at getting a big return to boost their chances in the future. One of Cherington’s biggest tasks this offseason should be finding a trade partner for Marte, and kicking off the rebuild in Pittsburgh — while hoping that Marte’s return can make that rebuild a much shorter one.
SONG OF THE DAY
THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY
By John Dreker
Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date
Octavio Dotel, relief pitcher for the 2010 Pirates. Went 2-2, 4.28 in 41 appearances, with 21 saves. He played 15 seasons in the majors, making 758 appearances and picking up 109 saves. Dotel played for 13 different teams.
Mike Ryan, catcher for the 1974 Pirates. Hit .100 over 15 games in what ended up being his last big league season. He was a .193 hitter over 636 games and 11 seasons in the majors. Known for his strong arm, he threw out 44% of base runners in his career. Pirates acquired him from the Phillies in an even up trade for Jackie Hernandez.
Cholly Naranjo, pitcher for the 1956 Pirates. He went 1-2, 4.46 in three starts and 14 relief appearances at 21 years old, in what turned out to be his only big league time. Naranjo played a total of ten seasons in the minors. He turns 85 years old today.
Jim Waugh, pitcher for the 1952-53 Pirates. He’s one of the youngest players in team history, debuting five months after his 18th birthday. His big league career was done before he turned 20 years old. Waugh went 5-11, 6.43 in 142.2 innings, making 18 starts and 28 relief appearances. He pitched a total of six seasons in the minors for the Pirates and was out of pro ball by 22.
Ben Wade, pitcher for the 1955 Pirates. He made one start and ten relief appearances, posting a 3.20 ERA in 28 innings. He had a 19-17 record over five seasons in the majors, seeing time with four clubs. His brother Jake Wade pitched eight seasons in the majors, playing with six different American League clubs back when there were only eight teams in each league.
Jim Weaver, pitcher for the 1935-37 Pirates. He won 14 games in each of his first two seasons with the Pirates, then went 8-5, 3.20 in 1937. He threw a total of 511.2 innings with Pittsburgh, going 36-21, 3.76 in 62 starts and 47 relief appearances. Weaver spent a total of eight years in the majors, seeing time with six different teams.
Jimmy Woulfe, outfielder for the 1884 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. He began the season with Cincinnati, but was released after eight games. The Alleghenys signed him soon after and he batted .113 in 15 games. He made 14 starts in center field. Woulfe had no other big league experience and his time in minor league ball was brief.