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Were the Pirates winners or losers at the deadline? What would count as an “insane” offer for Giancarlo Stanton?


SOUTH HILLS COMMAND CENTER – So the Pirates did nothing at the trade deadline. All that fuss for nothing. Fewer newspaper to sell. Sigh.


National writers immediately came out with deadline grades last evening, documenting who they felt were the winners or losers at the non-waiver trade deadline.


Like Yahoo!’s Jeff Passan, the consensus,  nationally, was the Pirates missed an opportunity despite the tight market. The acquisition of Robert Andino just didn’t move the needle.


Wrote Passan:

Pittsburgh Pirates: Rarely do you see a trade deadline go by with the best team in baseball sitting on its hands entirely. While the Pirates have reached that point where it’s difficult to doubt their viability, the same criticisms as always remain: Namely, can they hit enough and how is their bullpen going to hold up? Already closer Jason Grilli is on the disabled list, and their efforts to add a bat fell short. There is August, though having the best record does have its disadvantages: So long as the Pirates are on top, every team can block them from claiming a player.’s Scott Miller also labeled the Pirates as a trade deadline loser:


PIRATES: Some clubs should take note of Dombrowski’s aggressive deadline moves, colleague Danny Knobler correctly writes, and one of them is the Pirates. You can argue that the team with the best record in the game is OK standing pat. When that team is the Pirates, who haven’t won since 1992, you’d like to see them add another weapon or two.


However, there were voices that applauded the Pirates’ lack of inaction, because of the tight market and steep asking prices, like Mr. Brian Kenny.



So after sleeping on it are you happy with what the Pirates did, or rather, did not do?


Or are you in a rage this morning?




Pirates GM Neal Huntington said adding bats was the No. 1 priority. He said he made offers that made  him “uncomfortable.” He failed to suppress grins recently when asked about Giancarlo Stanton. I asked Huntington if he was willing to give up multiple top 50 prospects for an impact player. Huntington wasn’t willing to go there. But as I understand it, he was willing to give up multiple elite prospects.


Huntington said he was willing to make a “stupid” trade just not an “insane” one. It’s the best sound bite I’ve heard from Huntington. So it would have taken an insane offer to land Stanton.


What would constitute insane?  He was probably willing to give up two, just not three or four top-50 type prospects.

I’m trying to think about the most insane deadline trade in modern history that involved an impact player. I go back to the Indians’ 2002 deadline deal with the Expos.


In 2002, the Expos acquired Bartolo Colon, who was a free agent to be and a 20-game winner that season, for Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips and Grady Sizemore. Phillips, Lee and Sizemore all went on to play in All-Star Games. Colon left as a free agent. Phillips and Lee are still playing at high levels, Sizemore looked like an MVP candidate until his knees betrayed him.


Now, that was a unique situation because the Expos were in contention and knew they were relocating to Washington under new ownership. The front office thought ‘Hey, we’re done, let’s make a run at this thing regardless of the cost.”


That was an insane trade.


An insane trade offer would have been Jameson Taillon/Gregory Polanco/Tyler Glasnow/Alen Hanson for Stanton. Maybe the Marlins really won’t trade Stanton under any circumstance this year. But I think that kind of offer would have been impossible to turn down.


And I’m not even sure it would be that crazy for the Pirates.


Yes, you want a deep system. Quality comes from quantity as Branch Rickey once noted. But most prospects fail – see Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin for Miguel Cabrera – and Stanton has 3+ years of club control remaining and is a potential Hall of Fame talent. He’s not a rental. He has rare power, he’s improving as a hitter and he’s a good defender.  He’s the kind of player who could tip the balance.


Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins

The more I think about it the more it would have made sense to ship the Altoona roster to Miami.


But fear not, oglers of Stanton, Baseball America’s Ben Badler writes the door might not be closed on the Pirates acquiring Stanton.



Coming to a ballpark on the North Shore in the summer of 2014? Giancarlo Stanton? It could happen. Your dream isn’t dead yet, it’s just on pause, perhaps.


– TS





  1. BostonsCommon says:

    A trade like that sounds crazy…. because it is. Jameson Taillon/Gregory Polanco/Tyler Glasnow/Alen Hanson is 24 years of control and a TON of prospect value, and on the surface seems like a huuge overpay. But the unique thing about this would-be trade, is the 3 years of control of Stanton. That three years becomes your window to win.
    But that three year window is also your time frame to replace the talent that you’d be giving away and build the system back up.
    On the surface, you wouldn’t need to replace Polanco immediately, because Stanton would be in RF. But you now have 3 years to get one of Bell, Meadows, Urena, or some other unknown prospect to Polanco’s current level at AA. That seems reasonable, although a consensus top 25 hitting prospect is no joke.
    Hanson could be difficult to replace, just because shortstops that can hit are hard to come by. But does Dilson Herrera eventually become a top 50 middle infield hitting prospect? I would think that is possible, and its certainly not a consensus that Hanson will even remain a SS.
    Glasnow is a great prospect with an Ace ceiling. Those are nothing to sneeze at, and the thought of replacing him should not just be excused. But he’s also one of MANY projectable prep pitchers that have been drafted under Huntington, he’s just managed to break out (similar to Nick Kingham). Now for every Glasnow or Kingham, you might get 5 or 6 guys like Dodson and Von Rosenburg that don’t break out. But this practice has been employed by the Pirates long enough, and we have seen results, that I feel comfortable predicting that in the next three years there will be another prep pitcher that breaks out in this mold and makes it through Low A with dominant numbers. There might even be one there already there in Clay Holmes.
    Taillon is the hardest one of these guys to replace. The Ace ceiling prospect, ready to jump to AAA, who will be in the majors next June. This is the guy the Pirates have been bringing along for years, waiting for him to make an impact. He also represents a huge investment of time and money by the organization. The last thing you want to do is spend 5 years getting this kid ready to dominate, and then ship him to MIA. I would personally try to make the trade without Taillon, but that’s probably not going to happen.
    Is Kingham going to replace his value? Probably not because he doesn’t quite have that ceiling. Could another one of the prep pitchers break out and make it to AA within 3 years, and become a top 15 pitching prospect? That’s probably asking a lot. You might just have to look at Taillon as the cost of doing business, because this deal isn’t getting done without him.
    The bottom line is that you don’t have to replace these guys immediately. You get possibly the three most productive years of a future Hall of Famer’s career, paired with Cutch, and Marte in the OF. Yes you’re giving up 24 years of control for 3 years of control, but you also have 3 years to replace those prospects.
    When I think about it like that, it seems much more reasonable.

  2. Skip says:

    Regarding trade deadline deals, how many times have Ray Shero and the Pens been declared the winners? Virtually every time for the past six seasons. They’ve won one Cup and been to another final – the other seasons have been major disappointments, especially this past season when seemingly everyone thought Shero was the big winner.

    The only name I heard mentioned for the Pirates that really sounded good was Trumbo (other than Stanton). That would have been a great pick-up. Or course, we’ll never know what the price would have been.

    The other guy I thought made sense was Raul Ibanez, but apparently Seattle wasn’t a seller (for whatever reason).

    So in the end I’m okay with the Pirates standing pat

  3. Mistah Common,
    Excellent analysis!
    I enjoyed everything you had to say, except the “24 years of control” accentuation.
    A “prospect” is still a prospect. Prospective years of control of prospects is similar to talking about how beautiful a rainbow looks——then trying to capture that color in a box to save for later. Only the present matters.
    Stanton’s 3 1/2 years of control is real and tangible. He is NOW versus MISTY.
    I have no problem holding onto these “prospects” versus discarding too many for one product, but 24 years of control has nothing to do with it.
    Well thought out presentation!

  4. WVBurghFan says:

    Count me among those happy we didn’t acquire Stanton, and someone who doesn’t want to give up the farm this summer, either. He’s clearly talented, although it’s not clear based on 2013 that he’s “improving” (other than when playing against the Bucs).
    Yes, he’s under control for three more years, but those are all arbitration years and if he does continue his trajectory then the awards could be astronomical. Let’s say he hits a Ryan Howard like $10 million in his second year – that means for 2015 the Pirates have $23 million tied up in just Stanton and McCutchen. By even the most optimistic estimates, that would be about a quarter of the entire payroll, with Alvarez also in arbitration years and Marte on the horizon.
    From an overall perspective (considering talent and payroll), the Pirates remain much better off building from within and having Polanco at league minimum while Cutch makes huge dollars and Marte hits arbitration. Then Marte gets a big deal, Polanco is in arbitration and Josh Bell joins at minimum wage.
    Huntington has proven he knows how to balance a tough spot, and he should be trusted to keep moving forward.

  5. BostonsCommon says:

    Thank you sir…
    To your point, you’re probably correct in regard to thinking about prospective years of control. You’re probably better off thinking about prospects in terms of value based on their current grade and ranking. Tim and the guys at Pirates Prospects do some great work in that regard.
    In this scenario, the Pirates would be giving up north of $70M-$80M in prospect value. Tim’s actually got another analysis where he compares prospect value to the projected value Stanton would create over the next three years. You can check it out, and its a good read if your interested.
    I guess the whole point I wanted to make is that you don’t have to replace the prospects immediately. You’ve got three years to do that, and can reasonably expect to have all of them replaced but Taillon.

  6. NMR says:

    Great post, Boston.
    Another thing I always see when talking prospect trades is people ONLY mentioning a players ceiling. I guarantee Front Office executives don’t operate like this.
    Tyler Glasnow has an ace CEILING. Absolutely. But he also currently lacks a second plus pitch, let alone a 3rd average one, and has serious control problems. Nobody ever mentions his FLOOR is a hard throwing reliever.
    Alen Hanson has the CEILING of an All Star shortstop. Sure. But he’s already in AA and doesn’t have good enough defense to play the position at the big league level. His FLOOR is an solid 2nd baseman.
    Even Taillon has yet to show a good enough fastball to reach true ace territory, just like Cole.
    I still don’t think I would trade those four for Stanton due to his huge arbitrated salary, but the prospect package itself isn’t insane, if you ask me.

  7. BostonsCommon says:

    Stanton’s salary is certainly something to consider, and that’s ultimately something Mr. Nutting would have to sign off on. I wanted to keep my focus on the Pirates ability to replace the prospects.
    But if you want to start to consider Stanton’s salary, then you’re looking at an analysis like Tim’s. Basically if Stanton is a 5 WAR player each of the next 3 years, that’s a value around $75M-$90M. Is that, less his expected arbitrated salaries ($10M, $14M. $20M ?) enough value to cover the departed value of the prospects?
    In this case it probably isn’t, and that’s indicative of the sellers market. But would you be willing to overpay for a shot at the World Series for the next 3 years? Knowing that you probably have the ability to replace all sans Taillon…
    I’m not saying I would or would not, but thinking about it like this makes it seem much more reasonable, and not quite as “insane”.

  8. BostonsCommon says:

    And just as a side note….
    Cutch is on pace to have back to back seasons approaching 7 WAR (6.8 last year, on pace for 6.9 this year)… Even in his option years, when his salary will be at its highest, he will only being paid as a 3 WAR player… The Pirates look like they got unbelievable value on his extension.

  9. NMR says:

    Since you brought it up, maybe you can help explain…
    How is that $/WAR value analysis applicable to the Pirates and other low payroll teams?
    That analysis appears to assume the value of a dollar is equal among all teams. That is clearly false, given the enormous payroll disparity in major league baseball.
    If the Pirates were to get 1 WAR per $5m spent, they would be an awful team. Simply cannot, by my understanding, use that as a valuation of potential moves.

  10. NMR says:

    Absolutely the best contract in baseball.

  11. BostonsCommon says:

    That’s a good point. $/WAR is basically market rate, and the Pirates, and other small market teams cannot afford to pay market value on premium talents (which is another reason why that McCutchen extension is so important to them).
    I don’t know that it cant be used to evaluate potential moves though. I think its at least a good starting point. I’m sure the Pirates (and most teams really) have a model they use that makes sense to them and factors in goals and financial limitations.
    Something like, “given that the market rate for 1 WAR is $5-6M, we need to try and pay less than $2M.” or “The Cardinals spend $1.2 per win, we need to be at half that number”.

  12. Travis Sawchik says:

    Stanton’s compensation is something to consider, but as you note his arbitration years will still be bargain rates compared with his actual value.

    And if you believe this is a three-year window, Stanton becomes all the more valuable. Teams are not operating in vacuums in regard to contention windows.

    Russell Martin, Jason Grilli, AJ Burnett and Francisco Liriano are not under contract in 2015. Pedro Alvarez has only three years of club control remaining.

    For the Pirates to continue this level of performance they’ll have to keep hitting the bargain bin free agent jackpot and hope many of their prospects come near reaching their ceilings.

    The system is good, maybe it’s great. But is it enough to sustain?

    I’m not sure, prospect attrition rates are staggering — which makes Stanton more valuable if you want to fly a flag at PNC.

  13. Travis Sawchik says:

    Great contract, and the Pirates should be talking to Starling about a similar deal. Impact LF — even at his current level of performance. His defensive range is huge at PNC Park

  14. NMR says:

    Sounds like we’re all in agreement.
    Now somebody distract Jeffrey Loria with a $100 bill while Huntington makes the trade.

  15. BostonsCommon says:

    I think there is potential for Stanton’s arbitrated salaries to be a HUGE value. A 5 WAR player is probably conservative for this guy. If he stays healthy and plays 145-150 games/year I think hes going to be closer to Cutch around 7 WAR, and maybe even higher.
    I mean in his age 22 season he put up a line of .290/.361/.608/.969 with 37 HRS in 123 games. Imagine what he could do hitting between between Cutch and Pedro for a couple seasons…
    You’re absolutely right about 2015. But you didn’t mention that staff will be lead by Cole and Locke, possibly Morton or Cumpton, and probably Kingham. I’m not worried about Grilli or the bullpen. There are plenty of arms in Altoona and Indy that will slowly make their way there. Grilli is really the only one back there who will be leaving. You might see Melancon traded in a couple years when his value and salary rises with arbitration. Hopefully T. Sanchez transitions behind the plate.
    There are some question marks remaining at 1B and SS, and maybe another starter or 2. And they will always have to search the scrap heap for FA value, but I think Huntington is getting better in that regard as evidenced by guys like Liriano and Grilli.
    1. Marte
    2. Walker
    3. Cutch
    4. Stanton
    5. Alvarez
    6. 1B
    7. T. Sanchez
    8. SS
    That’s a tremendous lineup, even with questions at 1B and SS. In theory, Cutch and Stanton will battle each other for MVP for the next three years.

  16. NMR says:

    I’m all for talking to Marte about an extension…as long as it happens on the same timeline as Cutch’s.
    Cutch had over 1800 professional at-bats before the team risked $50m on his future.
    Marte will finish the season with under 750, and has far more red flags than Cutch did. Bucs cannot risk spending $15m on defense at one position. Marte has to prove he can be a consistant bat.

  17. RobertoForever says:

    I sure do enjoy these debates about how to make the best team in baseball even better. For what is worth, I too would have like to see an upgrade for a rh-bat.

    But I don’t see it as a tremendous failure, like it was portrayed last year.

    Looking forward to meaningful baseball in August or Sept.

  18. RobertoForever says:

    By the way, I haven’t seen NorthPirateFan posting here the last couple of days. Hope he’s OK after all that Pirates success against those superior Cardinals ;)

  19. Travis Sawchik says:

    I don’t think it’s a tremendous failure either. But they need to figure out RF (Lambo?)

    But, man, selfishly I’d have liked to seen Stanton play – and take batting practice – every day

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