Recently, I looked at players the Pirates should consider trading at the deadline this year. Now I’ll look at players who I think they should keep. A couple of things to keep in mind on this list. First, everyone’s on the table for the right deal in my opinion. If the Cubs offered Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo (they won’t) for Andrew McCutchen, I’d happily pass along my thoughts on the best italian beef in the Windy City. There are simply guys I’d need a little more value to move than the average bear. Second, they’re also guys you might think are on the table. Clearly, the Pirates aren’t shopping the bulk of their major league core right now and there is no sense in writing about it.
For those of you who regularly read The Point of Pittsburgh, you might be surprised to see my inclusion of Jameson Taillon on the list of players to protect after I wrote how the Pirates should rush him to the majors because his elbow is a ticking time bomb. My opinion hasn’t changed in the last two weeks, but I’m looking at the situation from a very different lens.
Right now, Taillon’s trade value has never been lower despite the fact that he could potentially pitch in the majors this season. In the short run, his contributions on the field will likely be greater than what the Pirates can get for him on the market. He offers more value as a player than as a chip at this point.
At some point, there will be a tipping point where the risk of a re-injury, along with his rebounding trade value, will outstrip his on-the-field value if he reaches just 70% of his potential. Until that time, the Pirates should take the quality innings he gives them before eventually trading him at a point in his career that feels uncomfortable. By that point, they’ll be able to maximize their return for him after having enjoyed several years of cheap control.
He’s only got about 100 plate appearances under his belt in Bradenton, but Harold Ramirez might just be breaking out in a big way. After OPS’ing in the mid to upper .700’s the last two seasons, Ramirez is beating that number by nearly 200 points. Some of that is caused by a BABIP-inflated batting average, but he’s also increased his walk rate while slightly decreasing his strikeout rate. In the end, he’s making solid contact, putting the ball in play and making the most of his opportunities.
I don’t think anyone knows what Ramirez will become, but it might make sense to play wait and see with him. Even though he’s outperforming other former top prospects at a younger age in A+ during his first 100 PA’s, he still isn’t capturing the attention many of them did. While Ramirez received a $1M bonus on the open market, I’m not sure he’d carry the same kind of trade value as even his struggling Bradenton teammate Austin Meadows at this point. The Pirates should wait to see if he establishes himself rather than sell on him before he maximizes his value.
While many would probably place Polanco in the core of the team, it’s getting hard not to notice his less than ideal production at the plate in 2015. Polanco’s been excellent when he gets on base, but his mid .600’s OPS simply isn’t getting the job done for right field and he hasn’t established himself as the long term solution at the position. In truth, there is a greater need to improve in the short term at the position now than there was in 2013 when the Pirates added Marlon Byrd to play over Jose Tabata.
An opportunistic GM might try to work him into a deal since he’s not living up to his potential at the majors in the early going of his career, hoping the Pirates might be willing to share the risk on him. I’m not giving up on him and I hope the Pirates’ front office doesn’t either. He’s just not ready and another minor league stint for him might be helpful at this time.
Let me make it clear. I don’t expect Pedro Alvarez to be a Pirate for much longer, but at the moment they don’t have a clear succession plan at first base. If he doesn’t get traded, Josh Bell is the heir apparent while Korean Byung-ho Park is a potential offseason splurge. Neither will likely be ready to be the leading option by opening day 2016, hence the need for more Pedro.
The glove on the other side of the infield still isn’t working for Pedro and his bat played better at third. However, they’re getting more production from the left side of the plate at first than they have in all but one of the last five years. Alvarez is not the ideal solution, but he’s not been a complete loss over there either. He’s good enough to be a place holder even if the Pirates need to do better long term.
Let’s run a real quick check list:
Does a pitcher have 6+ years of control? Yes
Does a pitcher reach the mid to upper 90’s with his fastball? Yes
Has the pitcher shown improving control, even if in a small sample size? Yes
Has the ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing arm always been in his elbow? Yes
Had Glasnow elected to go to college, he’d have returned to the draft last year. Given the same development trajectory, it’s not out of the question that he’d have become the first pitcher off the board. Most of the time prep players are right to take the money. Tyler Glasnow is the rare exception.
Like any prospect, Glasnow is not a sure thing to reach his ceiling, but his ceiling is so high. He and Gerrit Cole have the potential to be the best 1-2 punch in baseball after Glasnow establishes himself. Barring major injury, the worst we can expect from Glasnow at this point is late innings relief help. He’s the right combination of ceiling and floor where he’s very likely to help another team beat you down the road and the cost to replace him with another similar player if he reaches his potential would be astronomical.
Again for the right deal, the Pirates should part ways with any of these players and the right deal would be more realistic than the one I noted above for McCutchen. However, they should not be the ones introducing the above names into the conversation.