This offseason hasn’t been the spectacle many thought it would be. A few years ago, McCutchen, Harper, Machado, Donaldson, Kershaw, Price, Fernandez, Harvey, Keuchel and Kimbrel were some of the star-studded names set to become free agents in 2018. Now, that list is much smaller due to some of the names losing their luster and some players regressing quicker than expected. Despite that, this is still a very talented free agent class. There are big names still left out there, namely Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Bryce Harper isn’t a need that the Pirates have and, well, even if it was, it’s not realistic. Same goes for Manny Machado, no matter how many times I tell myself that ‘it’s not too crazy’, it still is too crazy.
There are some free agents that do fit a need and aren’t too crazy, though. We all know the Pirates biggest need is shortstop. There are more needs than just shortstop, but none are as glaring as the shortstop position. Right now it appears as though it will come down to a competition between newly acquired Erik Gonzalez and 25-year-old Kevin Newman. But based on the following quote, I’m fairly certain the Pirates would like to add another option before next spring.
Huntington: "If something better comes along, we ?ll entertain it. But between [Kevin Newman and Erik Gonzalez], we like where we ?re going at shortstop."
— Bill Brink (@BrinkPG) December 11, 2018
Which then begs the question, what’s something that’s better than might come along? So far, we’ve heard it all.
Pirates Have Shown Interest In Nick Ahmed https://t.co/GPArUdyFzw
— Tim Dierkes (@mlbtrdbacks) December 14, 2018
— New York Post Sports (@nypostsports) December 16, 2018
— Sporting News MLB (@sn_mlb) December 18, 2018
Rumors are flying all over the place. The Pirates have been connected to many SS this winter. Let’s compare the options.
Nick Ahmed is currently a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks. He hit .234/.290/.411 last year as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Arizona has been an excellent source of offense for quite a while. However, the recent (last year) addition of the humidor has made it a more even playing field. His offensive numbers won’t scare anyone, but if he can hit better than Jordy Mercer…
ZiPS is still being rolled out, but Arizona was one of the first teams to be featured on FanGraphs during the offseason. That means they are one of the few teams that already have their ZiPS projections published. ZiPS projects Ahmed to hit .246/.297/.413 next season. Exciting? Not really. Better than Jordy Mercer? Eh, maybe. The part that really stands out, though, is the defense. He’s projected to finish with 11 defensive runs above average next season, which is what he had in 2018, which resulted in a Gold Glove. The bat might not play as well at PNC as it does in Chase Field, but Gold Glove-caliber defense plays anywhere. And with a Bell, Frazier, Moran infield, a Gold Glover wouldn’t be the worst addition.
Why should you want Nick Ahmed?
Do you want Gold Glove defense with a Jordy Mercer-sized bat? Then look no further. And, oh yeah, he’ll be under team control through the 2020 season. It is worth noting that, similar to Jordy Mercer, Ahmed performs much better against left-handed pitchers than against right-handed pitchers.
Why shouldn’t you want Nick Ahmed?
He’s not a free agent. It’s going to cost a couple of prospects to get him. Maybe this isn’t a bad thing, but I’d imagine that trades are typically costlier than free agent acquisitions. But I’m just guessing. I don’t really know. But I do know he can’t hit. Which really sucks when you remember half of the Pirates lineup can’t hit, either.
Freddy Galvis is a free agent. He is remarkably similar to Nick Ahmed. Last season, Jordy Mercer had a higher wRC+ than Freddy Galvis. Last season, Freddy Galvis had a higher DRC+ than Jordy Mercer. Who is the better hitter? Both aren’t good hitters. Who cares. Defensively, Galvis is better than Mercer but worse than Ahmed. Not much worse, but enough worse to make him the less desirable option of the two. In every sense of the imagination, Freddy Galvis should be Plan B behind Nick Ahmed. He’s a switch hitter, though, which always adds some versatility. Even more so nowadays with increased relief pitcher specialization.
Why should you want Freddy Galvis?
Did the Diamondbacks block Neal Huntington’s number? Then I guess go get Galvis.
Why shouldn’t you want Freddy Galvis?
Are you tired of Plan B? Demand more than Galvis.
Troy Tulowitzki is a free agent. He is remarkably different than Nick Ahmed and Freddy Galvis. Troy Tulowitzki has been the ‘my goodness, if this guy could ever play a complete season…’ guy for quite some time. Last year, he wasn’t even able to start the season, let alone finish it. The nagging injuries, as well as Father Time, have all caught up to Tulo. But even with the injury history, even with the increasing age, it’s still Troy Tulowitzki. We all remember who he once was, and we all wish that he could be a fraction of that for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
At this point though, it seems unlikely that Tulowitzki is going to be an impact player. But once upon a time, he was an impact player. Signing Tulo, whether it’s at a 1 million AAV or a 10 million AAV, will get the attention of some of the fans that the Pirates have lost.
Below are the ZiPS projections for Tulowitzki in a Pittsburgh Pirate uniform. They aren’t great, in fact, they are pretty bad. Signing Tulo is like getting the Snickers bar out of the vending machine. You remember the last time you had a Snickers bar, how much enjoyment you got out of it, then you select it, pick it up, and read that it contains 50 grams of sugar. Do you take it anyway, because maybe it doesn’t give you diabetes? Or do you leave it because you aren’t any fun?
The projections aren’t any good. They are no fun. But live a little. What if?
Why should you want Troy Tulowitzki?
Are you crazy? Yeah, me too. Ahmed and Galvis sound nice, but they are nice pieces to the puzzle. If Tulo is healthy, if Tulo is healthy and good, the Pirates got more than just a piece to the puzzle. They got a game changer. But those are gargantuan sized ifs.
Why shouldn’t you want Troy Tulowitzki?
You’ve read this.
Erik Gonzalez and Kevin Newman are most likely going to be the guys next year. However, Galvis, Ahmed, and Tulowitzki will be talked about until they sign or are traded somewhere. Heck, even Jose Iglesias might enter the picture again. Maybe the Pirates are seriously considering adding one of these guys, there are just so many rumors at this point, it’s hard to gauge just how serious the Pirates are about adding another option at SS. When I asked the people of Twitter, they said that if money was no object, they’d prefer Tulo over the others. What do you think?
Money is no object. I'd rather the Pirates have:
— Cannonball Corner (@CannonballCrner) December 18, 2018