The basic premise of this article and others to follow throughout the offseason, is that I believe the Pirates should make an honest attempt to field a playoff-caliber team in 2018. That involves retaining key players like Gerrit Cole and Josh Harrison, picking up Andrew McCutchen’s 2018 option and keeping him, and properly funding the 2018 payroll to a level commensurate with the revenues they generate. Yes, revenues will be down in 2017 based on poor attendance, but the Pirates have been underfunding the team for years based on previous revenue numbers.
Is this a terrible assumption on my part ? Most likely. But I can’t help but believe that the bones of a 2018 playoff team are in place (as I’ve mentioned in previous articles). Why would Clint Hurdle come back to willingly watch this team get dismantled right away ? If the team is properly constructed but is not looking playoff-worthy in July 2018, then by all means start the rebuild. We’ve seen how teams can turn around quickly with good trades and drafts, in the form of the Cubs and Astros.
Besides, I would go crazy if I had to do a series of doom-and-gloom articles dismantling this current edition of the Pirates. Maybe I’m naive.
Anywho…there are a group of teams this offseason that, for various reasons, are going to need to shed payroll. Today’s kickoff article looks at the Arizona Diamondbacks.
I already alluded to the Diamondbacks’ financial plight in last week’s Chris Iannetta article. In short, they have a lot of committed salary ($60.5M) to just four players — Zack Greinke’s $34M, Yasmany Tomas’s $13.5M, Paul Goldschmidt’s $11M, and Jeff Mathis’s $2M. Let’s get this right out of the way, straight off the top…no, the Diamondbacks are not going to trade Goldschmidt to anybody, anytime soon.
Add in to the mix that the Diamondbacks have a huge arbitration class of players. Here’s the list of guys along with their potential award numbers, via MLB Trade Rumors estimates:
- Patrick Corbin (5.105) ? $8.3MM
- Randall Delgado (5.100) ? $2.5MM
- A.J. Pollock (5.052) ? $8.5MM
- Shelby Miller (4.166) ? $4.9MM
- J.J. Hoover (4.153) ? $1.6MM
- Chris Owings (4.027) ? $3.8MM
- Chris Herrmann (4.001) ? $1.4MM
- T.J. McFarland (3.165) ? $1.0MM
- Taijuan Walker (3.142) ? $5.0MM
- David Peralta (3.120) ? $3.8MM
- Nick Ahmed (3.054) ? $1.1MM
- Jake Lamb (3.053) ? $4.7MM
- Andrew Chafin (3.020) ? $1.2MM
- Robbie Ray (3.007) ? $4.2MM
That totals up to $52M in potential arbitration salaries. If you take the 4 salary commitments and the 14 arbitration players, then add in 7 minimum-scale players at $550,000 each on average, you get a rough Opening Day payroll of $116.4M. Considering that the all-time franchise high was $112.3M in 2014 and that the Diamondbacks have a history of financial debt in their franchise, it becomes apparent that some payroll is going to get re-allocated. Then consider that no team ever comes back without some modification of some sort and that the Diamondbacks may want to upgrade here and there, especially if they want to make an offer to team talisman, J.D. Martinez. In short, they need some wiggle room.
The easy answer is to trade Greinke. His monstrous $34-$35M for the next four years is not an albatross, because he’s a great pitcher, but it is a hindrance to how they need to operate in their financial environment. The Pirates aren’t going to be interested in that salary, of course, so let’s look for what the Pirates may be interested in taking off the Diamondbacks’ hands.
A.J. Pollock would be nice to have, but there are a whole host of things to consider. If the Diamondbacks don’t ask for Polanco back in return, which would be a huge overpay for a player with only 1 year of control even if Polanco hasn’t developed as hoped, that would put Polanco on the bench. I’m alright with that, as Pollock dealt with some injuries in 2017. Additionally, you have to consider that this isn’t 2015 A.J. Pollock we’re talking about. He hasn’t rebounded from his 2016 elbow injury that cost him virtually all of that 2016 campaign. His 2017 line of .266/.330/.471 (103 wRC+, 2.1 WAR, 14 HR/20 SB) isn’t a huge enough upgrade over what Polanco can do next year to warrant giving up significant assets.
And then there is where to play him. McCutchen should be in RF and Pollock in LF, with Marte in CF, in this scenario, but you know that’s not happening again. So Pollock will be a hugely overqualified RF if there were to happen. I wouldn’t make a move for him.
Randall Delgado has long confounded scouts, front office personnel, and fans alike. He should have had a much better career to this point, but due to injuries and ineffectiveness at times, it hasn’t been that spectacular. Even last year the Diamondbacks still gave him 5 starts over the course of the season. At this point, he’s a reliever.
More accurately, he’s a cheap reliever. Sure, the Diamondbacks could (and should) keep him for their own, but if they want to shave some sheckels off the tab and pick up a prospect or two, they may consider it. Delgado has a nice fastball/changeup combo that could be well-suited to a setup role with the Pirates. Delgado has 1 year of control remaining, so if the 2018 Pirates stumble, they could flip him at the deadline and recoup a little of what they lost potentially.
Besides…when was the last time a Diamondbacks reliever failed as a Pirates’ setup man anyway?
This is the guy I really want the Pirates to look at. Everyone is very content with how Chad Kuhl and Trevor Williams closed out the year. Jameson Taillon is Jameson Taillon and isn’t going anywhere. People want to ship out Gerrit Cole, but that’s an overreaction at this point. I’ve even heard some fringe websites pushing to trade Ivan Nova, which is pretty crazy, too.
All five of them had good to great stretches throughout the year, but none had a great stretch for the whole year. And in the case of Kuhl and Williams, they certainly didn’t do enough to merit not even considering the need to upgrade over them. Williams surprised me last year, but ultimately his lack of a true out pitch may hinder him. Kuhl adjusted in the second half of the year, but I still believe that he could be a devastating multi-inning reliever that could put out fires in the middle innings and bridge the gap to Felipe Rivero at the back end. And by the way, none of 2017’s starting five are lefties, if that’s something you subscribe to.
Patrick Corbin is a lefty and he’s a very good one. Prior to his Tommy John surgery in 2014, Corbin seemed like he was on the verge of being an upper tier pitcher. His recovery in 2015 and 2016 was slow and spotty at times, but last year he came back in a big way. His final line of 189 IP with a 4.03 ERA/4.08 FIP resulted in a 3.0 WAR, making him a very standard #3 pitcher, exactly what I think the Pirates could use.
Corbin could slot behind Cole and Taillon and ahead of Nova to form a potent quartet. His walk rate of 2.89 last year was great and his 50.4% ground ball rate fits nicely in with the Pirates’ aesthetic. Even though he has only 1 year of control, there may need to be an outlay of prospect capital for him. Let’s assume he has a rough $20M surplus value over his projected $8.3M salary. That’s roughly equivalent to a #51-100 prospect (either hitter or pitcher) or a hitter with a 50 FV or pitcher on the 55 FV side on the Fangraphs/TPOP model. That equates to someone like a Kevin Newman. Maybe they could be lured by Tyler Glasnow.
Some prospectors may feel that’s too steep a price, but I’m of the opinion via our research into prospects that the bust rates are too high to warrant hanging on to every prospect under the sun. I’d happily move Newman or Glasnow if Corbin meant the Pirates could challenge for a playoff position in 2018.
ABOUT THE OTHERS
Some of the other players listed above aren’t going to available by the Diamondbacks because they are too good and have too much team control left, like Robbie Ray and Jake Lamb. Andrew Chafin would be great to pick up for the bullpen, but he’s going to cost next to nothing and still has 3 years of control left for them. Shelby Miller would be an intriguing pickup, but I don’t really want the Pirates to pick up another reclamation project on top of trying to fix Daniel Hudson and Tyler Glasnow.
I’ve liked Chris Owings for a long time. I think that, depending on Kang of course, he could be an interesting pickup for the infield. If Harrison moved to 3B full-time, Owings could job share with Max Moroff at 2B, plus be available to backup at SS and in the outfield, too. His $3.8M projected salary isn’t prohibitive for a super-sub player, either. His bat isn’t anything special, but it’s a heck of a lot better than Phil Gosselin.
I’m hoping that the Pirates are a touch more opportunistic than they have been in the past. I want to see them extract the carrion from the body of another team like a vulture. Whoa, this got dark quickly. I’ll just end it now.