I thought about starting this piece with a goofball take on the Pirates’ front office as actual pirates using actual players to fish for sharks but luckily for the readers:
1) I’m not that cheesy
2) I don’t feel like hating myself tomorrow morning
Regardless of how the piece begins, every fan needs to accept that in order to get something at the trade deadline, you need to give something of value up in return. To put it in hockey terms, Beau Bennett, Brian Dumoulin and a 4th round pick does not equal Brandon Saad. You can’t trade spare parts, busts and trash and expect a solid return like you can playing some EA game.
The Pirates are in a great position ahead of the August trade deadline thanks to depth in both the minors and at the major league level to make a real splash. That’s not to say that they will, but they can. Here’s a look at a few names I would consider trading. In a future post, I’ll look at who I wouldn’t trade.
5 Players To Trade
Let me make it clear. I like Josh Bell and he’s one of my favorite prospects right now. With the emphasis on the shift, I like the idea of a line drive hitter who can just put the ball in play by spraying it to all fields. I also want a guy who can reliably put the ball in play in the middle of the order, as I believe Bell can. The power output right now is not ideal for first base, but there is a dearth of pure hitters in the league. He seems like a nice reliable security blanket that you just don’t need to worry about.
However, he could be well regarded on the trade market for teams looking for a near-ready bat and the return could be considerable. He might also be somewhat expendable if the Pirates feel confident they can land another Korean slugger in Byung-Ho Park. If the Pirates want to make a big move at the deadline, they’ll need to move a big prospect and Bell just might be the guy.
Let’s be honest — Neil Walker’s days in Pittsburgh are numbered. An extension hasn’t materialized and with the smoother-than-expected transition to North America for Jung-ho Kang, the steady, but not spectacular progress in the minors by Alen Hanson and the breakout of middle round over-slot prep player Max Moroff, the need to keep him around dwindles with each passing day.
We’ve seen more and more selling teams over the last two seasons looking to buy established players. Walker could be attractive for a team down on their luck in 2015 that can to rebound quickly in 2016 like the Oakland A’s or one that incorrectly thinks they can like the Chicago White Sox.
From some people, this might seem like a scraps for treasure proposal. However, I’ve been one of a handful that wasn’t so quick to give up on the Shark this season despite the early velocity drop and his slow start. By slow start, I mean one blown save and a couple of hairy outings made closer than they needed to be. He’s rebounded considerably and put himself into a position to pitch the ninth in of the All Star Game for the National League.
Of course, now might be the right time to strike up a deal. Melancon heads into his final year of arbitration already making $5.4 million this season. With Tony Watson, Arquimedes Caminero, Jared Hughes and even Rob Scahill looking like late inning options, there wouldn’t be much need to keep Melancon on the payroll at $7-8 million next season. Do you trade him now when you get more value in the return or do you trade him later after you get more value on the field?
While MLB GM’s seem to be wising up about the returns they’re willing to shell out for a reliever in trades, this could be a great opportunity for the Pirates to trade strength for strength with another contender or simply replenish the system hurt by players they lost in other deals. Personally, I’d prefer they hold out on the latter option until the offseason, unless the buying team is willing to massively overpay with the Angels, Rangers and Rays all looking like suitable dance partners for the former.
Sampson’s not a guy that any rebuilding organization is going to build their rotation around, but he could provide a useful building block that can eat innings now and later at the back end of a contending rotation. He pitched 167 innings last year between AA and AAA and sits in the top five in the International League this season for innings.
Problem is, there really isn’t anywhere for him to go in Pittsburgh. Vance Worley could come out of the pen if needed and Clayton Richard has likely supplanted him on the depth chart. He’s probably a coin flip with Casey Sadler for the eighth man right now and really that might depend on what day of the week it is. On top of that, there is the looming return of Jameson Taillon who will skip over everyone once sufficiently recovered from Tommy John surgery. Sampson had a two week window at the beginning of May where he had a real shot at sneaking into a major league debut, but that moment has passed and he’s buried again.
Just because he can’t help the Pirates doesn’t mean he can’t help anyone else. While he won’t land Cole Hamels, he could slide into the Phillies and a couple of other rotations tomorrow. He might also be a year or so away from helping a couple of others.
This might be an example of selling low, but it also might be an example of recovering some value from a sunk cost. McGuire’s an interesting case study. He’s showing outstanding defense in the early part of his career throwing out 31% of the runners who attempt to steal on him at a level where pitchers aren’t known to pay much attention to runners. He’s also showing excellent contact skills by only striking out 9.5% of the time, good for 5th best in the FSL. Problem is, he owns a .275 BABIP and has hit for virtually no power. While he’s got some time to save his season, there’s not a lot of success stories of guys who OPS around .600 in High A, outside of Martin Maldonado.
That said, McGuire is still young and has time to turn it around. Trade partners might be enticed by the combination of age, defense and contact and might bet that the rest of the package will develop. McGuire has shown the ability to spray the ball to all fields and he has hit a fair amount of line drives. The Pirates likely won’t get top 100 value for him, but it’s not out of the question that some organizations will see him as a B- bat with potential to develop into a solid option every third day.
In the end, the Pirates will need to make a package to complete any significant move, but the above choices could factor in. Some have more significant value than others, but each has something to offer partners. The moves could also turn into ones the front office will regret later, but you need to give something to get something.