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Being Sellers But Not In The Cellar – Observations At The MLB Trade Deadline

There is a small town market where I live. It sells a lot of produce and basic pantry goods. The pantry goods are marked up due to the convenience, but the produce is dirt cheap. They also have a small bakery and bake bread every day which comes out of the oven around noon. When I go there I normally buy some Gala apples, bananas, baby carrots, some spinach or romaine, some onions/garlic and two boxes of cereal for my kids. I don’t buy the local dairy milk because we have a milkman that comes weekly. I don’t buy the fresh baked white bread because we’re a strictly whole wheat house. I don’t buy any of the other fruits because we don’t eat much beyond apples. The other vegetables are often past their prime and I let them go.

This grocery store kind of reminds me of the MLB trade deadline. There are things I value at the store, but not many, but the price is cheap and it’s convenient so I do it.

The Pirates are now officially sellers whether anyone wants to believe it or not. We have some things of value, but not many. The price is cheap so a deal will probably happen. We also have payroll… but more on that later.

9 statements of FACT that might affect the MLB trade deadline

  • Rental players carry value that will be gone at the end of the season.
  • Tony Watson and Juan Nicasio (and John Jaso) are Free Agents after the season.
  • The Pirates saved $7.5M in from the Marte and Kang suspension and Jared Hughes being let go.
  • Prospect Nick Kingham is out of options after this season.
  • Adam Frazier has poor fielding metrics at every position.
  • Gregory Polanco is on the DL for the 2nd time with a hamstring injury.
  • Austin Meadows is playing RF in his rehab assignments.
  • The Pirates have ZERO catching prospects in their updated Top 30 prospects.
  • All of the Pirates core players are signed for next year.

These will all be referenced in the thoughts below.

The trades of Pirate players that could happen

Juan Nicasio and Tony Watson have value. It’s not a lot of value, but they could realistically help a playoff team win a game or two. Watson, especially if he’d assumed a super-LOOGY role could strikeout an Anthony Rizzo or Jose Ramirez of the Indians and it could determine a pennant. It also helps that both are good teammates that would be welcome in a locker room. All of their value will be gone when they reach free agency, so the onus is on trading them now.

There is really no other impending FA with any real value and let’s pretend the megatrades of Cole and McCutchen won’t happen.


The other asset the Pirates have to give up is money in the form of extra payroll space. The extra $7.5M needs to be re-invested in the club in some way or the fanbase will not let it die. I’m a Neal Huntington homer and even I think I’ll be upset if something isn’t done to assume more payroll. This could be in form of an extension but I’ll ignore that now. I said we’re selling so why would be assuming payroll? It would be for a 2018 asset or a prospect. So let’s look at our potential trade partners and players with rental contracts we could assume:

Teams in playoff race that we ?d trade with (no MIL/CHC) Teams that would value salary relief of certain rental contracts AND have them
Yankees Oakland Rajai Davis -$6M
Astros Phillies Benoit – $6M
Indians Miami Tom Koehler – $6M
Red Sox Mets Reed -$7M, Bruce -$13M, Grandson -$15M
KC Toronto Baustisa – $18M, Montero -$14M, Liriano – $13M
Tampa Bay Baltimore Ubaldo – $13.5M, Tillman – $14M

Naturally there are no teams that would want a Watson or Nicasio who would also have the need to salary dump. The teams that are in the race naturally wouldn’t be prone to having many bad contracts so we can’t pull a reverse Liriano trade in combination with a reliever to assume a better prospect.

I still think one or both relievers might be gone and Neal could get creative to do it.

Other tradeable assets

Two guys who I think who could be trade chips are Adam Frazier and Nick Kingham.

Starting pitching prospect Nick Kingham is involved in every visit to Children’s Hospital and seems like a overall great guy. Due to his pedigree he was added to the 40 man roster early and has battled back from Tommy John surgery, but hasn’t done enough to separate himself from the pack in AAA. He also has burned his third option this year and needs a ML contract next year or must be placed on waivers. He’s the right type of prospect that a team likes having a lot of because by next spring he could emerge as a 5th starter or long reliever for the league minimum.

Adam Frazier is a wonderful hitter who might eventually have a batting title to his credit, but he really doesn’t have a position. He’s an infielder without hands and a outfielder without instincts. The good thing is that some teams would ignore Frazier’s defensive warts to have his bat. Frazier would also be loved by a playoff team to have a bat to PH for the stretch run. In our organization there are plenty of infielders coming through the system that would be able to pick up the slack starting with the slick fielding Max Moroff down through Kevin Kramer who will start next season in AAA and including Cole Tucker and Kevin Newman. A utility player needs to be a good glove and Frazier just doesn’t have it.

With Gregory Polanco having his hamstring issues and the Pirates seemingly not trusting Frazier in RF anymore, we might eventually see Austin Meadows man RF in PNC before the end of the season.

Trade targets

Neal Huntington’s two biggest fears are:

  1. snakes
  2. lack of catching depth

For all the poor timing of suspensions and injuries of this system the Pirates still have one of the best 40 man rosters in baseball with a strong farm system especially if you know about the next crop of Dominican prospects hitting the mainland. There is one exception — the Pirates’ catching depth.

Catching is weak in all of MLB, but I don’t care about other organizations. Francisco Cervelli is a tier one starter and Elias Diaz shows promise as the catcher of the future, but if you know the organization it is barren once you get past spot starter Jacob Stallings in AAA. Plus Cervelli is only signed through 2019 with no options afterward.

The problem is that most teams will cling to their catching prospects like we cling to Eliaz Diaz. I do see two clubs that have and would part with a catching prospect: the Dodgers and Yankees.

Donny Sands of the Yankees system and Keibert Ruiz of the Dodgers are players I’d bet Huntington is asking for but couldn’t be had by merely Watson and/or Nicasio. Hence some of the other options I’ve discussed.

Now the non-waiver (and waiver) MLB trade deadline might pass without much action due to the needle threading Huntington might need to do get value, but we do have some assets that could be useful.

About Michael Bradley (62 Articles)
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.
Contact: Twitter

1 Comment on Being Sellers But Not In The Cellar – Observations At The MLB Trade Deadline

  1. Jim Krug // July 31, 2017 at 7:48 AM //

    1. Snakes

    Hahahahahaha awesome. Neat article with the side-by-side team breakdown. I HATE years like this, because when NH feels like he’s stuck between contending and rebuilding, he usually tries to do both at the same time (like last season).

    Nice job as always. Liked the West End Market analogy too!

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