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2016 Pirates’ Trade Value Rankings — #3 to #1

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Continuing with our trade value rankings of the Pirates organization, today we’ll look at #13 to #8.  You can read the primer and #25-21,  numbers #20-14, numbers #13-8, and yesterday’s #7-#4 to catch up.

In the US Navy the term “High Value Unit” is often used.   These are the assets most critical in a given formation and in the Carrier Battle Group it is always the aircraft carrier with its 100 plus aircraft and 5000 troops.

Today’s players are the Pirates’ High Value Units.

On to the rankings:

3.   Gerrit Cole (25, MLB)

4 years of control — 1 pre-arbitration and 3 arbitration years     Trade Value Score – 100.0

How much would you hate Gerrit Cole if he was a Yankee?  His confident meathead persona pitching in the pinstripes wouldn’t be fun anymore, it would be really annoying.  Well, Cole grew up a Yankees fan and then was drafted by the Yankees in the first round out of high school in 2008.  He obviously didn’t sign and headed to UCLA and the rest is history.  Thank goodness.

The best thing with Cole is that he’s so young and green, yet he dominates.   He dominates with the 2nd Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 9.40.45 PM
hardest average fastball velocity among starters (only Yordano Ventura is higher) and a slider that can be downright nasty.

Cole’s high ranking in the trade value series is due to a lot of things but don’t discount leverage.  Cole sees what happens with young pitchers and he wants a long term contract.  There’s a big difference between his $6M signing bonus and $60M+ guaranteed.  Now the question is will the Pirates pony up the money with all the pitching prospects on the way.

2.  Andrew McCutchen (29, MLB)

2 years of contract ($2 yr/$27.5M) and one option year in 2018 for $14.5M

Trade Value Score – 100.0*

I can’t conceivably write much more about Andrew McCutchen’s skills.   I can talk about his ranking at #2 and how you could argue that hence the *

Using my formula, which I won’t tell you, Andrew McCutchen tied Gerrit Cole for #2 with 100.0 even (scoring their 100’s different ways FWIW) but I included an asterisk on McCutchen because with him it’s 100 point floor.

Andrew McCutchen is much more than a collection of skills, he’s a household name.  He’s Lionel Messi, he’s Serena Williams, he’s Bodie Miller.  Andrew McCutchen even in tiny little Pittsburgh has become the most recognizable and conceivably most popular player in baseball. Part of it is because he’s really good, part of it is that he’s a really good dude, part because he’s African-American in a sport that desperately wants more prominent African-American players, part because he’s funny/does impressions/dances, etc.  Long story short, he’s the pretty girl at the high school party, everyone wants to be around him.

As far as trade value goes, the asterisk only means more for certain teams, teams where marketability matter.  The Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies would pay much more than the small market teams would for Cutch because he’d dominate their local ad markets.   Teams like the Braves, Rays, White Sox would also pay more for Cutch due to the fact that they are searching for an identity and Cutch could give them one.   On the contrary, a team like the Brewers, Indians or Tigers wouldn’t overpay because they aren’t in the same type of media market and/or don’t need a new organization face.

That all being said, Cutch could range from 100 to who knows for a team like the Yankees.  This gives him at least the #2 spot in the rankings and conceivably #1 to certain counterparts.

1.  Starling Marte (27, MLB)

4 yr/$28.8M contract through 2019, with two options for 2020 and 2021     Trade Value Score – 120.0

During Marte first’s game I was watching via Slingbox on my computer.  I called my wife in before his first at bat.   I gave her Marte’s backstory and then “pow” Marte hit it out on the first pitch and she just assumes it happens all the time. [Editor’s Note — I was doing the exact same thing with my wife at the time — KC]

Marte’s tenure with the Pirates started very strong and it might last a very long time.   Marte was signed for a mere $85,000 back in 2007 at the age of 19.   Real talented players like Marte do not normally last until they’re that old but Marte had a disadvantage, as he was dirt poor and malnourished.   Marte’s mother died when he was 10 and dad was never in the picture so his grandmother raised him and his sister.  When Marte had the chance to get signed he jumped at the opportunity.

This makes you realize the predicament a player like Marte would be in the first time the Pirates start talking extension.  Marte’s had no money his entire life, gets to the Majors and is getting $500k a year and then you get offered a $31M extension; of course you accept.

Marte’s skills are known:  great hitting ability, power to all fields, great speed on baseballs and in outfield, great defensive instincts and a rifle arm.  Other than plate patience he has everything you’d want in a baseball player and he’s converted those tools into success at the highest stage.

Marte will probably hover right around 4 Wins per season for the next several years but there is a chance we could see an explosion into a 6 WAR superstar.   Marte’s only real knock is that he is injury prone and misses games with his all out style and his crowding the plate.   That would be the only way I’d see him busting is if he’d get hurt and miss a lot of time.

Marte’s contract is truly what puts him at #1 on this list since McCutchen is still the better performer.  The Marte deal of 2014-2019 with two options gave the Pirates a tremendous value and one that could keep them on the championship path.

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Michael is a Pirates contributor to The Point of Pittsburgh. Michael is former submarine officer and Naval Academy grad. He now runs a small consulting firm and does veteran related job fairs. He is a SABR member and regularly attends Altoona Curve games to scout the Pirate prospects.