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Crazy Pirates Trade Idea Corner — OF Carlos Gonzalez

The rebuilding Rockies are looking to move Carlos Gonzalez. He'd slot in well at cleanup and RF. Photo by Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports

The rebuilding Rockies are looking to move Carlos Gonzalez. He’d slot in well at cleanup and RF.
Photo by Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports

The true part of the hot stove season has barely started, but it feels like one of the most pivotal offseasons in recent Pirate history. This offseason seems like there’s a sense of urgency amongst the fanbase to bolster the Pirates and ‘go for it’. The 2015 squad won 98 games, but due to what has to be overwhelming odds, finished behind a team that won 100 games. The Pirates ran into a scalding hot pitcher in Jake Arrieta and had one wild card game to show for six months of hard work.

Add in the rise of the Cubs and the metronome-esque precision of the Cardinals and it looks like the Pirates will be in a dogfight all season in 2016 in the NL Central. To further add to the sturm und drang, Andrew McCutchen’s contract has two more guaranteed years in 2016/2017 and then a club option in 2018. A scenario exists (and will be discussed in a future TPOP article) that the Pirates will need to trade McCutchen after 2017 to reap the most potential future value.

So all of that preamble brings us to this potentially odd suggestion for the Pirates to trade for Colorado Rockies’s RF, Carlos Gonzalez. It’s no secret that the Rockies are rebuilding, especially after trading franchise cornerstone Troy Tulowitzki to the Blue Jays last summer. Aside from Jose Reyes (who they received back from the Blue Jays), the only other salary commitment the Rockies have past 2016 is Gonzalez. By trading him (and I’m sure Reyes, especially in the wake of his domestic violence allegations), the Rockies can start with a clean slate — similar to what the Phillies will have after 2016.

Gonzalez has two years remaining on his deal — $17M in 2016 and $20M in 2017. That’s a lot of money, but hang in there with me and I’ll get to that. First we have to decide what Gonzalez is worth. His last three years of WAR are: 2.4 in 2015, -0.5 in 2014, 4.7 in 2013. He’s all over the place. But if you use a 3-2-1 weighted average on those three years, you come up with a 3.6 WAR average. That seems about right.

(**Editor’s note — actually it isn’t right. My idiot self didn’t divide by the weighted 6 seasons, so he’s actually 1.8 WAR. I’d still trade for Gonzalez, as his defensive deficiencies suppress his WAR and can be hidden in PNC Park. Glasnow would be off the table, though. KC — 11/29/15)

So Gonzalez could potentially generate 7.2 WAR over the next two seasons. At (conservatively) $6.5M/WAR, that’s $46.8M of production. Subtracting his $37M salary, you’re left with $9.8M of surplus value. That’s not a lot — basically a pitcher ranked #51-100 from our MLB Prospect Worth article. It’s hard to see the Rockies making that deal.

But what if the Rockies ‘bought’ some bad contracts from the Pirates in order to get themselves a better return? This also works for the Pirates to help offset the cost of Gonzalez in 2016. If the Rockies take on the contracts of Charlie Morton ($8M in 2016) and Michael Morse (total $8.5M in 2016, with the Pirates sending the $3.8M from the Dodgers also, so a net savings of $4.7M to the Pirates), the Rockies essentially bumped Gonzalez’s surplus value up to $22.5M ($9.8M + $8M + $4.7M). That is roughly either a pitcher ranked #11-25 (Glasnow) OR a hitter ranked #26-50 (Bell). So a potential deal could look like:

Rockies get:

  • RHP Charlie Morton
  • 1B Michael Morse
  • RHP Tyler Glasnow OR 1B/OF Josh Bell

Pirates get:

  • OF Carlos Gonzalez

How it helps the Pirates

  • By trading the dead money of both Morton and Morse, Gonzalez only costs the Pirates $4.3M in 2016.
  • As long as he’s healthy, Gonzalez can hit 25 HR’s rolling out of bed. Last year, he hit 40.
  • The Pirates would have a legit cleanup hitter finally. In 2015, Gonzalez hit .320/.347/.610 (957 OPS) with 18 of his 40 HR’s in cleanup.
  • Gonzalez’s power will replace the power going out the door with Pedro Alvarez’s probable departure, with the added bonus of a real option to protect McCutchen in the order.

How it helps the Rockies

  • If they go for Glasnow, the Rockies continue to stockpile young power arms, with Glasnow being the best of the bunch. Tyler Glasnow, Jon Gray, and Jeff Hoffman would represent quite a troika of live power arms to potentially front a rotation for the typically pitching-awful Rockies.
  • If they go for Bell, they get a prospect that I’m personally not as high on, but one that would have the potential to replace the offensive value of Carlos Gonzalez if he clicks in that environment. Bell wouldn’t be tied to 1B in Colorado, either, as he could man a corner OF spot for them, unlike in Pittsburgh.

But wait a minute…where’s Gregory Polanco in all of this? In 2015, Polanco put up a 2.3 WAR. He’s an average starter in MLB. But at times it felt like a grind with him in the lineup. He has a world of potential and I would be content to run him out to RF in 2016 if the Pirates didn’t (and most likely) make this trade. In fact, trading him in lieu of Glasnow or Bell would be too much return for Gonzalez, in my opinion. So instead, Polanco becomes the best 4th OF in baseball. Polanco represents a great insurance policy against a potential Gonzalez injury (usually a yearly occurrence) or when Marte/McCutchen need a rest. He gets to catch his breath at the Major League level a bit.

Carlos Gonzalez, of course, has his quirks. As mentioned, he is injury prone. Also, he has greatly benefited during his career from Coors Field. His home line of .324/.382/.604 (986 OPS, 137 wRC+) dwarfs his away line of .255/.310/.441 (752 OPS, 101 wRC+), but it’s not like he’s atrocious outside of Coors. Plus, the inviting RF porch in PNC could appeal to Gonzalez.

Now adding Carlos Gonzalez’s $20M in 2017 is a touch problematic for the Pirates’ payroll. They would then have about $64M of commitments to six players with six additional players in arbitration, including Gerrit Cole for the first time. It’s not as pricey an arbitration class as this current class, but it would still be approximately $30M. Assuming the 2017 payroll continues to rise over the projected $105M of 2016 that I’m forecasting, you can still see that the Pirates won’t have a ton of wiggle room potentially.

That 2017 season would be a real make-or-break season for the Pirates, as Gonzalez would depart as a free agent after the year and the Pirates could be trading McCutchen after the season, as well. But the silver lining is that by keeping Polanco, he can slide back in to a full-time starting spot. Additionally, OF prospect Austin Meadows should be ready to debut full-time in 2018, so the Pirates can still have a strong outfield. And that doesn’t even factor in what the returns may bring in a McCutchen trade.

This would be a win-now/win-in-2017 move. Essentially, the Pirates would be adding extra lottery tickets to the raffle drawing that is the MLB postseason for the next two years. Yes, losing either Glasnow or Bell would sting, but you have to give something to get something. Glasnow could probably help the Pirates in 2016 and would definitely help them beyond that, but all pitchers are injury risks themselves and he would have to endure growing pains and adjustments to the Majors. Gonzalez can step right in and mash.

The Pirates are attempting to build a sustainable model of a franchise, similar to the Cardinals, that is consistently in the postseason hunt. This move would be outside of what Neal Huntington has shown to date, in terms of parting with high end talent and bringing in name-brand players. But with McCutchen’s tenure on the team possibly coming to a close, it’s time to make a bold move to maximize this current window.

About Kevin Creagh (240 Articles)
Nerd engineer by day, nerd writer at night. Kevin is the co-founder of The Point of Pittsburgh. He is the author of Creating Christ, a sci-fi novel available on Amazon.

28 Comments on Crazy Pirates Trade Idea Corner — OF Carlos Gonzalez

  1. Harry Schade // November 24, 2015 at 9:51 AM // Reply

    Are you trolling for respondents? Indeed a crazy idea if you are giving up that much talent and control. Not a crazy idea if you replace Glasnow or Bell on that list with one or two lesser prospects.

    • Kevin Creagh // November 24, 2015 at 1:57 PM // Reply

      Every word I write is how I truly feel, whether people agree with it or not.
      I laid out the “why” of the trade:
      Pirates have a certain window thru 2017
      Need another offensive threat
      Need a bonafide cleanup hitter

      To get those things, you need to give up talent. Rockies won’t go for a pu-pu platter of scraps.

      My feeling on Bell are pretty well known (short answer — not enough power). Glasnow would be a loss, but Flags Fly Forever and if the Pirates can win in 2016/17, I wouldn’t miss Glasnow at all.

    • Absolutely no way I give up Glasnow for Gonzalez. Too many question marks for me (and only 2 years). I wouldn’t be opposed to Bell in this scenario, though… and for that reason, I don’t see Colorado pulling the trigger for Bell and spare parts.

  2. Issue I see is that he is that, as you alluded to, he’s pretty average away from Coors field. That’s a lot to give up for a guy who wouldn’t be that significant of an upgrade over Polanco judging by his numbers outside of Colorado.

    • Kevin Creagh // November 25, 2015 at 7:41 AM // Reply

      I am always leery of the Coors Effect, but FWIW Gonzalez’s career split in PNC Park is .284/.295/.568 (862 OPS) with 6 HR in 78 AB’s

  3. I don’t like it only because I believe Polanco is young and his improvement is imminent. It’s crazy though. The Pirates have a hole at 1B, more than likely 2B, and in the starting rotation. I would like them to sign a top 5 starting pitcher. Spend money in free agency instead of fretting about losing prospects. Zac Greinke is the top of my list. Depending on what you can get for Neil Walker, keep him / trade him. Leaning toward keeping him if the return sucks for one year of control. Trade Pedro for whatever you can get, or let him go. Trade Charlie Morton for whatever you can get. Maybe nothing. Pay Greinke with the saved money. So who’s on first on either of our scenarios here? Beats me. The Korean guy would have been a nice addition. I hope this comment doesn’t sound too negative as I enjoyed it and this team needs some crazy things to happen to make me feel it can dominate next year. Competing just isn’t enough anymore.

  4. I’m not a Pirates fan or a Rockies fan, but I don’t think that trade gets done. If I’m Colorado, I need more. Cargo is almost an elite talent. Yes, there are injury concerns. But when he’s right, you’ve seen what he can do, even if it is Coors Field aided.

    To take on Morton and Morse, you’d have to give up either Glasnow AND Bell or Glasnow and Polanco. There’s no way I’m trading a potential .330-hitter / 35-Homer outfielder for two unwanted, overpriced pieces and only 1 potential future piece.

  5. I disagree with this for a ton of reasons, but I’ll limit my reply to pointing out that I think you did the weighted WAR estimate wrong.

    (2.4 * 3 + -0.5 * 2 + 4.7) / 6 = 1.8 WAR

    That’s what his Steamer projection is as well. It’s lower than Polanco’s projection.

  6. You calculated cargos weighted war incorrectly, which kind of kills the idea. At a 3-2-1 weighting, you’re looking at 1.8 in 2016. I’m guessing you still divided by 3 instead of 6.

  7. Congrats, this is as dumb of an article regarding the Bucs as I’ve ever seen. But you got mentioned on MLB Trade Rumors, which broght me here. I read a variety of Bucco Blogs. But your thoughts are so idiotic, I’ll never waste another second here.

    Trade our only decent 1B prospect to fill a non-existant hole in the OF with an overpaid declining asset? World class! I just can’t overstate how stupid this is.


  8. You know that the dodgers are paying all of Morse’s contract for 2016. It would seem that 9.5(8.5+2017 1 mill buyout) wouldn’t be that much for Colorado to eat especially with CarGos salary off the books. Therefore they can probably get a better package.

    • Kevin Creagh // November 29, 2015 at 2:52 PM // Reply

      It has never been stated what the amount is. Cots has it as $3.8m which offsets what tabata was to make this year…morse=tabata’s deal

      • Michael Morse 1b-of
        2 years/$16M (2015-16)

        2 years/$16M (2015-16)
        signed by Miami as a free agent 12/17/14
        $1M signing bonus
        15:$7M, 16:$8M
        annual performance bonus: $0.25M for 550 plate appearances
        acquired by LA Dodgers in trade from Miami 7/30/15, with Dodgers responsible for remaining $10,524,590 on contract ($2,524,590 in 2015 and $8M in 2016)
        acquired by Pittsburgh in trade 7/31/15 after being DFA by LA Dodgers 7/30/15, with Dodgers paying Pirates an undisclosed amount of cash in the deal
        1 year/$6M (2014)

        • Kevin Creagh // November 30, 2015 at 5:35 AM // Reply

          “….with Dodgers paying Pirates undisclosed cash in deal…”

          Click on the link on Pirates page for 2016-21 spreadsheet and look at bottom. You’ll see the -3.8m assumed from Dodgers

  9. The author of this article seems to be unaware that the Pirates need to field a starting rotation in 2016. Trade Morton and take on Gonzalez’ salary, and you’re left with Cole, Liriano, Locke and …

  10. The trade actually makes some sense if the prospect included is Meadows or Ramirez. The Pirates have ridiculous depth at OF in the organization, and very little depth at SP and 1B. It makes no sense with Glasnow or Bell.

    • Kevin Creagh // November 29, 2015 at 2:49 PM // Reply

      I agree that it makes organizational sense for the OFs, not sure if Ramirez gets it done. Meadows might, especially w the lower revised surplus value

  11. Recheck your math on the weighted average WAR. I get 1.8/year.

  12. Interesting and creative idea, but risky. Injury prone, big $, and Pirates just seems like a really bad combo. I’d much rather they stick to the long range plan. Twice the Pirates were knocked out in a one game playoff by a top notch starter. That’s baseball. I want them to keep making the playoffs and taking their shot. I say upgrade 1B, that’s the biggest hole. I would never give up a Glasnow for such a short term high money risk. Pitching is too hard to find, especially for a small market team.

    • I agree about pitching as a commodity, but I think they need to make a bold move. Likelihood of this happening is less than 2%. I would deal Taillon in a second in lieu of Glasnow, but his value is down.

  13. If Glasnow and Morton goes the Bucs really need to get pitching from somewhere. With Morse and Pedro gone the Bucs need to find someone to play first too. I also think it would be hard to have Polanco as a 4th outfielder. Need to hope he breaks out this year with around 20 homers and hit at least 270.

    • Yeah, I think the likelihood of this happening is slim, but the Bucs have a window of ’16 and ’17 before they will need to trade McCutchen, so this maximizes those chances of impact.

  14. You should probably double-check your math before suggesting that a team give up an elite prospect for a guy with negative trade value.

  15. “A 3-2-1 weighted bias puts more emphasis on the recent season (3 times) and then lower back. It doesn ?t divide by 6, but rather the number of seasons (in this case, 3)”

    It divides by six because you’re essentially counting six seasons: the most recent season three times, the second most recent twice, and then the third most recent. 3 + 2 + 1 = the denominator, which is 6. If you divide by 3 after multiplying his more recent WAR, you’re essentially just giving him credit for a 7.2 win year in 2015, which he didn’t have.

    • Kevin Creagh // November 29, 2015 at 1:54 PM // Reply

      Pitnick (and Andy) –
      You’re correct. I made a math error, which if you know me is inexcusable in my book. His value is 1.8 WAR/yr, which changes the tenor of the trade. Colorado would have to kick in $$ and Glasnow goes off the table, probably. However, I would still trade for him as his offensive value (wRC+ of 114 last year, 146 year before) outweighs his defensive deficiencies that suppress his WAR and can be hidden by PNC’s smaller RF.

      I’ll make an editors note. Thank you both.

  16. Stop. smoking. crack.

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