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Johnson off the market but Polanco is close


Updated: Early Tuesday afternoon I caught up with Josh Johnson‘s agent who said his client had the Pirates as one of ‘three of four’ finalists for his services. Unfortunately for the Pirates, late Tuesday night the Padres turned out to be the finalist. ESPN  reported around midnight that Johnson had agreed to a one-year, $8 million deal with the Padres. The deal carries $1.25 million in incentives.


Johnson’s is coming off a down year, but has upside: See his 3.58 xFIP vs. 6.20 ERA and a 9.2 strikeout rate. Johnson was seeking for a pitcher-friendly home ballpark and for a ticket back to the National League after a disastrous year in the AL East.


The Pirates have a run-depressing park and have revitalized the careers of Francisco Liriano and AJ Burnett in recent seasons. It’s not surprising they were on each other’s radar. It’s a fit that would have made a lot of sense. But San Diego and San Francisco were thought to be his favorites from the beginning as they  closer to his Las Vegas home.


The Pirates are calling on other high-upside starting pitchers as we reported last week, but Johnson was perhaps the most attractive upside play on the market.


Johnson looks a lot like Liriano of 2012. Johnson’s ERA was ugly but like Liriano in 2012 he still had an elite strikeout rate, low-to-mid 90s velocity (92.8 mph in 2013 same as 2012) and a swing-and-miss slider. Johnson posted his best swinging-strike rate (9.3 percent) since 2010.


The good news is for the Pirates is Johnson and his agent realized the Pirates’ defensive plan made a difference last year. Other pitchers and agents see this, too. They also saw September’s raucous crowds and the 94 wins,


“I think Pittsburgh was considered at one as a total no go as a destination for players,” Johnson’s agent Matt Sosnick said. “I think that Neal and his group there have changed that and that mindset.”


Had Johnson signed with the Pirates, the Pirates’ financial flexibility to sign AJ Burnett could have been hindered.




Polanco is tearing up the winter league and Pirates Latin American scouting director Rene Gayo is there to see him:


“He’s playing very well,” Gayo said. “He is very close to being ready.”


And it’s not just Gayo who is impressed, it’s also outside scouts, according to a report by Peter Gammons.


22-year old Pirate outfielder Gregory Polanco —6-4, Devon White speed, big arm. After jumping to double-A this season, he’s leading the Dominican with four homers, has an OPS close to 1.000, and while the Pirates—whose organization is developing into one of the best in the game—feel he needs to start the season in triple-A, by August they can see this five tooler in a three center fielder outfield with Andrew McCutchen flanked by Polanco in right and Sterling Marte in left.


Coming to right field and a perhaps lead-off spot near you in 2014. But how early in 2014?


– TS




  1. Nate83 says:

    After all the grief he gave you about saying Polanco could debut in the summer of 2014 Groat won’t like that report about Polanco. It’s all in fun but he was pretty relentless.

  2. Foo says:

    If we don’t pick up a RF in a trade or via FA, I could still see a scenario where he is brought north in April, especially if they don’t think Lambo is a viable RF Option.


    I’m disappointed that we didn’t get Josh J. hopefully, our OTHER bounceback candidate, Wandy, does indeed bounceback.

  3. Foo says:

    ‘He’ meaning Polanco. Gosh I wish we could edit our own posts….

  4. NorthPirateFan says:

    You know what they say about being careful what you wish for, you might just get it. This one of the last areas of the Trib website that isn’t using Facebook posting which if they move to it will preclude a large number of us from participating in the discussions.

    It would be nice to be able to edit, but it’s nicer just being able to post.

  5. Jim S. says:

    I think Polanco will be brought up by mid-season. I see almost no circumstances where he would start the season in Pittsburgh. But, I guess “never say never.” I do believe Tabata/Lambo will be given some time to produce in RF to start the season. Hopefully, Polanco will be leading off and playing RF by the AS Break.

  6. Jim S. says:

    Josh Johnson would have been a great get, and it is disappointing that the Pirates did not get him. It appears that he took less money to go with San Diego. For anyone that has ever been to San Diego, it is hard to fault anyone that wants to play in those perfect conditions. Throw in the fact that Petco is a pitcher’s park, and the appeal is obvious. Still, though, I wish he had chosen the destination with the best chance of the three of landing him in the playoffs next October.

  7. NorthPirateFan says:

    So is everyone, including the Pirates apparently, just giving up on Snider? What a completely pointless trade that looks like at this point … why did they even acquire a guy they never intend giving playing time to?

    Given the problems at first base the Pirates have and the players already available to them right now, a smarter move would be (assuming Garrett Jones is non-tendered as most seem to expect) might be to move Lambo into a platoon with Sanchez at first and platoon Snider and Tabata in RF and make sure the lefty hitters actually start against every right handed starter while they wait on Polanco.

    Even if Snider doesn’t fit into their long term plans, again why did they acquire him in the first place, why wouldn’t they want to try and build some value into him for a possible trade by putting him in the situations he’s most likely to succeed in?

  8. NMR says:

    Hey, I held out more hope than anybody that Snider had turned the corner, but it just didn’t last. Never made enough contact, and there was just no justification to keep giving him time once Tabata came back from injury and started hitting.

    I won’t say that 300 PA’s is enough to definitively say he’s a bust. That’s still a relatively small sample. But the team has better options, and thats all that really matters.

    The trade was absolutely the right idea, though. Just didn’t work out.

  9. Nate83 says:

    Like NMR I also held out hope on Snider a lot longer then most did. He just doesn’t seem like he will ever turn that corner. It was a chance worth taking in my opinion and they gave up very little at the time. They made the most of Lincoln’s 3 good months as a baseball player and at least got a high upside player. It didn’t work out but either would have Lincoln in the long run.

  10. NorthPirateFan says:

    The total amount time Snider got is less important to me than how he got the playing time he did. He was never, not from the opening games of the season or at any point in the season, given consistent starts against RHP as he should have been and even when he got starts and performed he was put right back on the bench while right handed hitters like Tabata and Sanchez got them. His usage pretty much followed to a T the same pattern Brandon Moss got and look at the result he saw just by getting regular playing time.

    Hitting is about timing, timing comes with repetition and the reality is most hitters don’t perform at their best coming off the bench as Snider was doing only sporadically all season long.

    The Pirates are never going to know what they have in Snider if he isn’t given the playing time to show it and if they don’t want to find out then fine, cut him loose and I have no doubt someone like the A’s or the Reds or the Red Sox will find a place for him.

  11. Travis said Polanco would/could be the rightfielder in June.

    I stand by what I said. Even Peter Gammons says August above as a possibility.

  12. NorthPirateFan says:

    Again, as I pointed out in an earlier discussion, opening day 2013 RHP on the mound and Travis Snider the left handed hitting “starting right fielder’ was on the bench. Same thing the very next night and so on and so forth through out the entire season.

    I’ll say it again, while everyone is busy heaping praise on Clint Hurdle for 2013 his handling of Travis Snider’s playing time is a big, glaring example of one of his failures.

    Whatever Travis Snider’s true level of ability is, we’ll never know if he’s only ever getting sporadic starts and coming off the bench, just as was the case with Brandon Moss. I have no doubt what so ever that if the Pirates released Snider tomorrow he’d land on a roster with a team that will be happy to let him start against every right handed starter at the very least and demonstrate whether or not he’s capable of producing in the majors or not.

  13. NO, NO, NO chance Polanco will be here in April.

    1/ He has less than half a season at AA
    2/ He has NO TIME at AAA, where the big boys pitch
    3/ No way BMTIB starts his Eligibility clock, using up a full season by starting out season in Pittsburgh
    4/ No way BMTIB starts his Arbitration clock before mid to late June, so as not to make him a Super Two (the way Gerrit Cole was held in AAA until June last season to stop Super Two
    5/ Remember Starling Marte won the AA Batting Title and they still made him play over half a season at AAA

    Ergo, let Jameson Taillon and Gregory Polanco marinate and season properly in AAA, so they hit the Majors READY, as Cole was last season . . . . . rather than rushing them because we need another starter or we are weak in right field.

    Batting .318 with 4 Homeruns in the Dominican League doesn’t exactly make Polanco Ken Griffey or Mike Trout

  14. leefoo says:

    I think Snider got more than enough ABs to show that, while he is an above average RFer, he is a below average hitter.

    He may find it some day, like Moss did, but I’m not up for putting him out there everyday. I wouldn’t mind him as a Tabby defensive replacement and bat off the bench, but that is it.

    If one of those teams you mentioned want him, I’d trade him for whatever I could get.

  15. Josh Johnson’s agent said Pirates were in the mix, negotiating to have him in Pittsburgh.

    THAT’S a believable story. ‘Cuz agents never lie . . . . never exaggerate . . . . never negotiate in the newspaper.

    No way Pirates were going to give that guy $10 million as reported in yesterday’s Trib story, or even $8 million plus.

  16. leefoo says:

    Well gee…Machado had ZERO ABs in AA A and he did okay.

    I’ve already read that many scouts think he could make the jump, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he did.

    The BMTIB (and I mean that in a good way) know what they’re doing. (I’m not sure if you meant that “BMTIB” derogatorily, as has been the case for tooooooooooooooooooooooooo long)

  17. leefoo says:

    NorthPirate….you mentioned in yesterday’s blog that Martin, as a defensive backstop only, is overpaid.
    “So while his signing turned out to be more helpful than most people thought it would be, 10 million a year for a defensive back stop is not something the Pirates should be considering. Indeed the 8.5 million they’re already paying him next year is more than his actual value to the team at this point”

    I beg to differ…his influence on the pitchers and his pitch framing ability (bested arguably by only Molina) cannot be understated. Fangraphs had an article on how many runs his framing saved, with the difference almost 5 wins by their estimation. Also, helping to start a count 0-1 vice 1-0 (as happened to often with other catchers in recent history) was immeasurable, imho.

    I think teams are starting to realize just how important a defensive catcher is to a pitching staff.

  18. 21sthebest says:

    Brandon Moss had a bad knee, had surgery, and then couldn’t lift weights for 9 months following the surgery which probably zapped his bat speed. Different situation than Snider’s.

    I agree with what you’re saying about the difficulty of coming off of the bench. But you still have to take advantage of those opportunities with quality at bats

  19. leefoo says:

    21s….agree. I would’ve loved to have seen Snider make it. I truly thought he could be another Giles.

  20. leefoo says:

    I gotta get this ‘reply from email’ thing down.

    My comment above is about Polanco. I think he might have a chance of going north in April.

  21. 21sthebest says:

    As I said above, I think Moss’ situation was different. I’m also not sure where anyone is heaping praise on Hurdle for his handling of Snider. Snider made his own bed, IMO. And I think his swing is awful.

  22. NMR says:

    Last night neatly provided justification for not extending AJ Burnett a $14m qualifying offer.

    In one night a pitcher of similar talent and an upgrade in right field were signed for exactly $14m in 2014.

    Josh Johnson at $8m guranteed and David Murphy for 2 years and $12m would’ve absolutely upgraded the Pirates more than just AJ. Unfortunately, the Pirates were not on the giving end of either of those deals.

    Which starts to beg the question…what ARE they going to do with their free agent money? Most arbitration estimates have them about $10-15m short of what last years payroll finished at. We all know that at least SOME additional revenue will be received through TV contracts, and one could logically conclude that rising tickets prices and attendence will provide even more revenue. Seems very likely the team will have at least $20m to play with.

  23. NMR says:

    Give us a shred of evidence to support anything you’ve just said, Groat.

    This one is whackier than your normal ramblings.

  24. leefoo says:

    and, again, if there are so many teams out there willing to let him start on a regular basis, I smell a trade opportunity.

  25. NorthPirateFan says:

    Absent from your calculus of Martin’s value is the fact the Pirates paid a premium last year just to get Martin to sign in Pittsburgh. Nobody, including the Pirates, actually thinks Russel Martin is actually worth 8.5 million next season or even the 6.5 million they paid his this past season. Those numbers are merely a reflection of what the Pirates had to pay to sign another free agent who was reluctant to sign to play in Pittsburgh, not the real market for the skills of someone like Martin.

    In 2011 the Yankees were only willing to pay 4 million for a defense oriented catcher with little offense. In 2012 they settled on 7.5 million to avoid arbitration and in 2013 they opted not to sign him at any price due to his continued decline.

    Even if it’s what you say is true about the value of defense being higher it’s irrelevant. If Martin becomes a free agent after 2014 and another year of decline at the plate, the market he’ll be entering into will be based on what OTHER teams are willing to pay for his skills, not the premium the Pirates had to pay to get him to sign in Pittsburgh and that market is not more than the 8.5 he’s getting this year.

    And the Pirates would do well to remember that if they choose to pursue another of his services and not get caught up in bidding against themselves and paying another premium solely because they had to last time.

  26. 21sthebest says:

    If Snider is still on the 40 man tomorrow morning, I don’t think you get much of anything for him.

  27. NMR says:

    I’d be hypocritical if I pretended like I didn’t say some of the same things you are while they were happening, North.

    But I just don’t personally believe it would’ve mattered enough to make a big difference.

  28. BostonsCommon says:

    He’s north of 2 full season of PAs (1,117) against RHP and has only managed .245/.309/.407/.716..

    In his two yeas as a Pirate, with 90% of PA against RHP, he’s .226/.295/.332/.627

    What has he done to earn or deserve more starts? I think it’s a fair question.

  29. NMR says:

    That is just wrong, North.

    Martin is worth every penny of his contract.

  30. 21sthebest says:


  31. Nate83 says:

    They offered Edwin Jackson 10 million per for 3 years. I find it possible they would offer a deal approaching 10 million after incentives for Johnson for just one year.

    Don’t forget they become much cheaper at catcher after next season and if the pitching developes like expected the starting pitching staff will start to become even cheaper. They could possibly have 3 starting pitchers making the minimum in 2015. They have some money to work with now and over the next 3-4 years because of their young outfield, starting pitching that is coming and catcher.

  32. NorthPirateFan says:

    Why trade for a player the Pirates have so clearly given up on and is destined to be available for nothing sooner rather than later?

    Travis Snider is only 25, was first called up in 2008 and the rules of the contract are going to force the Pirates to crap or get off the pot as they say wrt to Snider.

    If the Pirates aren’t going to play him someone is going to get him on a waiver claim or as free agent not to long from now.

  33. leefoo says:

    agree to the amen

  34. leefoo says:

    And God Bless Travis and his BBQ grill when someone claims him. Because he is definitely going to get DFA’d.

  35. leefoo says:

    I assume that means they crapped him out? :) :) :)

  36. NorthPirateFan says:

    “Worth” or value is in the eye of the beholder so to the Pirates, perhaps he is. But anyone who thinks there’s another team in major league baseball who’s going to pay him 8.5 to 10 million in 2015 is kidding themselves.

    The biggest money teams like the Yankees weren’t willing to pay nearly that much in 2010, 2011 or 2013 so why would they suddenly be willing to after next year?

  37. NMR says:

    By your logic, nobody in baseball thinks Francisco Liriano will be worth his contract next year since the Pirates were the only one to offer him that much.

    See where this fails?

  38. 21sthebest says:

    I agree with your first sentence. If a team wants a player badly enough they’ll pay what they think they have to pay them within their budget to get that player. I don’t see anything wrong with that. We desperately needed a good defensive catcher. It worked in this case. What another team would have paid for Martin is irrelevant, IMO.

    And sometimes players are underpaid. That’s just baseball. Remember both league’s MVP’s in 2006? Combined salary – $790,000. Marlon Byrd in 2013? $700,000.

  39. NorthPirateFan says:

    Exactly, north or 2 full seasons of at bats … over six major league seasons. That alone is clear indication he’s never started on a regular basis.

    It’s not a matter of whether he deserves it, the question is why did the Pirates bother to trade for him and then declare him the starting right fielder in spring training then not give him the playing time? What was the point of all that?

    Travis Snider has no options left, if the Pirates keep him on the roster they need to play him to at the very least build some value for a trade. If he’s not kept on the roster he is not going to make it through waivers without getting claimed.

  40. NorthPirateFan says:

    No, because Liriano has a quantifiable value if he goes to free agency, it’s right there in his strikeout totals, ERA, WHIP, Wins and Loss etc… starting pitchers with those numbers have a value in the market.

    Likewise, Martin’s defensive skills have a value as well, it just that the value is far below what the Pirates had to pay him to sign in Pittsburgh. Now if Martin had come in (or in 2014 still does) increases his offensive production (which is the corollary to what Liriano did) then his value would increase and we’d be having a different discussion…

    But he didn’t, he saw another of decline at the plate, posted a .704 OPS and that ain’t going to earn him a 10 million dollar contract outside of Pittsburgh.

  41. BostonsCommon says:

    “It’s not a matter of whether he deserves it”…

    We’ll if we’re just handing out jobs as starting RF in MLB, can I have one of those too?

    I’ll agree that he’s never started on a regular basis. But what has he done to suggest that he should be given that opportunity?

  42. 21sthebest says:

    Snider had a nice April going .300/.382 and then it was all downhill from there. Maybe the injury started way back then. But he was given a decent shot.

  43. 21sthebest says:

    Martin’s batting average, on base percentage, and OPS+ all increased. I think he improved at the plate. And his value isn’t below what the Pirates had to pay him. A contract between two parties implies the value.

  44. NorthPirateFan says:

    It’s not a matter of whether is wrong or not, the Pirates had a perceived need, they were forced to pay a premium to address it due to their circumstances, fine.

    What we’re talking about now is someone’s suggestion that the Pirates should seek to add a third year to his contract at a value of 10 million dollars … and I’m saying that would be foolish.

    The Pirates may want to sign Martin for another year, fine but offering another year at a premium on top of the premium that his 8.5 million dollar 2014 salary represents would be foolish because with his performance thus far he ain’t getting any 10 million a year offers as free agent in 2015 … and if he thinks he is let him try.

  45. NorthPirateFan says:

    That’s seems a good question for the Pirate front office, and that’s why I’m asking it, since they’re the ones that went out and made a trade for the guy and declared him the starting right fielder.

  46. Jim S. says:

    His agent said he was only looking for one year. Presumably, then, he wanted to max out for that one year. If the Pirates feel AJ is a lost cause for next season, I could see them offering a 1-year outlay of $9 million or so + $1 million in incentives.

    And, yes, agents use teams as leverage when negotiating with other teams.

  47. 21sthebest says:

    Revenues are going up for everybody but I keep reading complaints about contracts like the one Hudson got or Johnson’s and it seems to me that people aren’t consider that these contracts are relative to where team revenues are going. $10M for Martin in 2015 might be a good deal but I don’t see the need to extend him at that price this offseason.

  48. NorthPirateFan says:

    You’re only underscoring my point. Snider did have a nice April, in terms of his results, .300/.382/.417 – .799 (that sure looks like a lead off candidate to me) and yet, he only got 68 plate appearance, not the numbers of a starting right field, not even the numbers of the left handed side of a platoon …

    As I said, playing time was clearly not being dictated by performance as even he performed he didn’t play regularly.

  49. NMR says:

    And he was clearly hurt by PNC park, as well. -51 ISO leading to -43 BABIP home vs. away.

  50. Jim S. says:

    I felt like Snider got his chances, and he did not seize them nor did he stay healthy. He had a few key hits, but Tabata is the one who eventually seized his opportunity. I don’t know that I would want Snider to get all 75% of the at bats vs RHP to start this season, as Tabata hits approximately the same vs. RHP and LHP, I believe.

    I hear you that the lightbulb could come on with Snider elsewhere, a la Moss. But, that is also what Toronto had to be thinking when they sent him here and it did not happen. He’s been around for about 6 years now. I don’t see him in our plans.

  51. Jim S. says:

    I should clarify. I mean I would not want Snider to get all of the at bats vs RHP, which would be 75% or so of total at bats.

  52. NMR says:

    You forgot the little part where he was then given 87 attemps in May, which is what you’d expect for a platoon, and went on to slash .225/.287/.388.

    Oh, and then given 77 attempts in June, just for good measure, and slashed .171/.247/.229

  53. Jim S. says:

    North Pirate, did you happen to notice what the very old Ruiz just got from Philly? Believe me, I’m not saying Amaro, Jr. is anything approaching astute, but his 3/$26 (I think) deal shows exactly how the winds of change are affecting catchers’ values.

  54. 21sthebest says:

    He got hurt at the end of April. Oblique. And his playing in time in May was looking good but he wasn’t hitting. And he does a lousy job of taking a walk. We won 94 games and had a great year. I’m not seeing the issue here.

  55. NorthPirateFan says:

    Not sure what numbers your looking at , his average “improved” from a dismal .211 to .226, his on base from .311 to .327 but his power dropped from an extremely poor .403 slugging to and unacceptable .377 and his OPS declined from .714 to .704

    He was a far below average hitter by any measure.

  56. Jim S. says:

    In fact, I would be angling to extend him for a year right NOW!

  57. Jim S. says:

    Offense for catcher is a nice bonus. Guys like Martin are paid for their defense, and his defense is as good as it gets in MLB.

  58. Jim S. says:

    The Pirates did not pay a premium for Martin, though, is the point. Last winter, maybe teams thought they paid a premium. A whole lot of those teams then realized the Pirates knew something they didn’t know.

    There is a huge gap in value between the defensive performance of the top catchers and the ordinary ones. The Pirates recognized this long before most other teams.

  59. NorthPirateFan says:

    Indeed, I did and it reinforces my point. 26 divided 3 is 8.7 million (about what Martin is earning) and Ruiz is not only a much better hitter not only over his career than Martin (.770 v .745 OPS) but Ruiz has a .934 OPS as recently as 2012 .

    Ruiz’s contract reflects his status as life long Philles, but again no 10 million per year out there for any of these types.

  60. NMR says:

    False. He was league average: 101 wRC, .315 wOBA.

    If you prefer traditional statistics, league average for catchers was .246/.308/.383.

    And again, that is playing half his games at PNC.

  61. NorthPirateFan says:

    Not saying they shouldn’t, just that it shouldn’t take anywhere near 10 million per year to do it as was suggested.

  62. NorthPirateFan says:

    Sure, but not 10 million a year.

  63. NMR says:

    Except that part where Ruiz turned down a 2 yr $20m deal before signing with Philadelphia.

  64. NorthPirateFan says:

    Nonsense. Martin like most every other free agent the Pirates approached the last 5 to 7 years did not want to play in Pittsburgh and was entertaining offers to play for less elsewhere. It’s not even a point of debate, there was no secret that the Pirates paid more for him than market to get him to come here and they were widely criticized for doing so.

  65. NMR says:

    You really, really need to learn how to use the reply button.

  66. 21sthebest says:

    “He was a far below average hitter by any measure.”

    Now you’re moving the goalposts. You said he had another decline year at the plate and only cited his OPS. You clearly have some type of an agenda.

  67. NorthPirateFan says:

    Except that was complete BS that his agent was claiming while trying to get him signed. Joel Sherman reported at the NYP that Ruiz’s agent was TELLING teams the Rockies had an offer on the table for 2 years 20 million on the table but the Denver Post reported that sources in the Rockies front office said their offer was 2 years at 15 million and they wouldn’t match any 20 million offer for Ruiz if it existed.

  68. NorthPirateFan says:

    And his slugging declined as well. He declined, albeit a small one but a decline none the less.

  69. 21sthebest says:

    Using your logic, every player which gets what is regarded as a large contract is getting more than market value.

    If two parties agreed to a contract, that’s called market value.

    In retrospect, is there something you wished the Pirates had done instead of signing Martin at that price?

  70. NorthPirateFan says:

    I am using the reply button i don’t know why it’s coming up that way.

  71. NMR says:

    Thanks for that, North.

  72. NMR says:

    Exactly!!!! That first sentence is so obvious it blows my mind that it needs stated.

  73. BostonsCommon says:

    If you want to criticize Neil for making the trade, ok. I’ll buy that, and you can throw the Lincoln/Snider move in the same pile as others that have not worked out.

    But don’t blame Hurdle for not playing him when nothing suggest that he should start everyday, or even be platooned. Guy has done absolutely nothing to warrant such a role since he’s been with the Pirates, or in MLB for that matter.

  74. 21sthebest says:

    Martin’s slugging declined going from Yankee Stadium to PNC Park? That’s shocking.

    His OPS+ was the highest it has been since 2008.

  75. Jim S. says:

    Much better hitter? Ruiz experienced a big offensive decline, which is not unusual given that he will be 35 in January. And, he plays in a hitter’s park, while Martin plays in the park with maybe the most extreme bias against hitters in LF/LC in all of baseball. Martin, for comparison reasons, turns 31 in Feb. But, the point is no one in MLB can possibly think Ruiz is near the defensive catcher that Martin is, and he’s 4 years older. And, catching is about defense. Russell Martin was an incredible value for the Pirates at 2/$17M, and it would not be signing him at a premium to extend him for an extra year at $10M.

  76. BostonsCommon says:


  77. NMR says:

    SLG% Home: .336
    SLG% Away: .419

    How can you state that Russell Martin’s skills declined without at least entertaining the thought that PNC Park was the actual cause of his drop in slugging percentage?

  78. NMR says:

    And nobody has even bothered to mention that 2013 decline came after being suspended for using PED’s.

    Nobody knows how good Ruiz is anymore.

  79. NorthPirateFan says:

    Not talking about what they did, responding to a suggestion what they should do in the future. They had a need, they signed him, they paid substantially more than what he was being offered elsewhere to get him to change his mind about not playing in Pittsburgh … it all worked out as well as could be hoped for them.

    None of that however would serve as a basis for extending him at 10 million per year. The Pirates broke the cycle of loosing and despair that was keeping free agents from considering Pittsburgh as a destination, even made it to the playoffs. The days of having to pay substantially over market value for mid-level talent just to get them to sign and/or players taking less to play elsewhere, should be over now.

    If not then they may have bigger problems than anyone can fix.

  80. Jim S. says:

    I don’t want it to seem like we are ganging up on you, North Pirate. I appreciate your goodwill in fighting this battle on what seems like 3 flanks. I just happen to disagree with you vehemently on the value of Russell Martin now, and at the time the Pirates signed him last winter. I also believe that a lot of teams probably came to the conclusion as the year went on that they would have liked a “do over” on trying to acquire Martin. The Pirates place a very high value on the importance of defense for catchers. They are filling their minors with as many young catching prospects as they can. More teams are going to be doing that going forward, I believe.

  81. NMR says:

    Anybody want to actually discuss free agency or Gregory Polanco?

    Raise your hand if you woke up this morning expecting a debate on Russell Martin’s value and anything at all about Travis Snider.

  82. Jim S. says:

    You are starting to sound like me, with the park adjustments NMR. :-)

  83. NMR says:

    Let me second those first two lines, Jim. Well said.

    Can’t say I even slightly agree with you, North, but this conversation has remained about as civil as it can be.

    Thank you for that.

  84. Jim S. says:

    I like unpredictability. The Martin argument was fun. The Snider argument … not so much. But, I enjoyed it all nonetheless.

  85. 21sthebest says:

    When your overall payroll is in the lower third (or lower) of the league and probably always will be, if you have to pay more than what other teams might be willing to pay a player because you have a very specific need and think that player is the answer, I don’t see that as a bad thing at all.

  86. 21sthebest says:

    +1. But that made me laugh NMR.

  87. BostonsCommon says:

    You think Scott Kazmir figured things out last year? Any chance Hunnington takes a flier on him. He got pounded by righties last year (.275/.339/.455/.794), but you would expect that drop drop in PNC. Is he Liriano lite?

  88. NorthPirateFan says:

    I don’t discount the effect of PNC on right handed hitters, in fact I rail against the wisdom of trading for and/or signing the light hitting variety every time their names come up.

    The problem with Martin is that there are multiple factors to consider. Sure he’s slugging better on the road than home as we should expect, but I expect that any hitter moving from the AL to the NL to see a bump in their numbers as well … call it the reverse Pujols effect for lack of a better term … so when I see a .411 slugging on the road compared to his .403 number of 2012, while it’s an numerical improvement I still regard it as a decline is skills.

    I don’t know if you caught the line in the article about Johnson and his desire to get back to the NL, but agents and players (and some front offices I suspect) are starting to realize that the AL and NL are not equal in terms of over all talent and numbers player results are being affects by nothing more than the switch in leagues.

    Burnett and Liriano benefited from the switch as do most established players going from the AL to the NL Pujols is probably the best example of someone suffering from moving in the opposite direction.

  89. Jim S. says:

    That’s an interesting one, Bostons. Facing mostly righty-dominated lineups in PNC should be helpful, as should just simply getting to face a pitcher and generally a weak-hitting SS in NL lineups.

    Didn’t he average less than 6 innings per start? That scares me a little, but I also assume the tougher AL lineups might have had something to do with it. The Cards definitely struggled vs. LHP last year.

  90. Joe says:

    So we traded for Duke Welker… He made such an impact last time he was here I can’t remember him!

  91. NMR says:

    No chance. I bet you Kazmir will get paid more than Johnson and for at least 2 years.

    The only guys out there right now I see at being relatively close to Burnett/Liriano type pitchers are Dan Haren and Roberto Hernandez. And I don’t think Haren will stay in the east.

  92. BostonsCommon says:

    IP were low, as were IP/Start. But I don’t think that is surprising given he was coming off a year in Indy ball. He logged 158 innings last year and racked up 162 K’s…

  93. NorthPirateFan says:

    The main difference between Ruiz and Martin is that while their career totals are a bit different, all of Martins best years were at the start of his career and he hasn’t sniffed a .750 OPS since 2008, where as Ruiz has followed a more typical career path and been a much better hitter of late.

    Most teams tend to focus on the most recent results when trying to assess what will happen after they sign a player.

    Ruiz is objectively a better hitter than Martin over their careers, while he’s a MUCH better hitter than Martin the past five seasons. The last three seasons, 2011-2013, Ruiz hits .295/.365/.432 – .797 Martin .225/.321/.395 – .716

  94. Jim S. says:

    I think you are right on the money regarding pitchers switching leagues, North. Pitchers generally see an improvement coming to the NL because they get to pitch to AJ Burnett instead of Big Papi every nine hitters. And, the DH has tended to foster an attitude of “offense first” baseball in the AL, while the NL tends to prioritize defense more. So, I think NL teams tend to look a little more for defense at positions like SS than AL teams. This also makes pitching in the NL a better proposition for your stats.

  95. NMR says:

    You’re confusing hitters and pitchers, North.

    Pitchers would obviously rather pitch in the NL because the get to face a pitcher instead of a designated hitter.

  96. NorthPirateFan says:

    Why bother discussing free agency when the Pirates don’t seem to be serious players again? And I think we all pretty much agree that Polanco is going to be something special and can’t wait to see him in Pittsburgh, don’t we?

  97. NMR says:

    More typical career path??? Come on man!!

    Ruiz, a catcher, had his best offensive seasons after age 30 and was popped with a PED suspension following his career year.

    There is absolutely nothing typical about his career path.

  98. Jim S. says:

    But, don’t you have to take away some of Ruiz’s overall performance based on Citizen’s Bank being a hitter’s park? And, then some more based on his age, 35? He’s getting in the very old range for catchers. Plus, I don’t think he is anywhere near the defensive catcher that Martin is, and that has been my point all along – catching is a defense-first position. I believe the Pirates probably weigh 75% of Martin’s value on defense and 25% on offense.

    I respect your thoughts, though. It is a good discussion.

  99. NorthPirateFan says:

    Feel free to gang up, doesn’t bother me since I know I’ll be vindicated in the end, I always am :-)

    I just hope it doesn’t come at the expense of someone like the Reds snatching Snider off the wires , plugging him in the lead off spot and NH doing a face plant after he realizes how he let Clint Hurdle screw that particular pooch.

  100. BostonsCommon says:

    I don’t know about that. I think most GMs would be hesitant to give to years to a guy with a checkered past in terms of injury and performance. I was actually even thinking a deal like Liriano’s might do it. Two years, with some incentives..

  101. Jim S. says:

    I think there is a very good chance Polanco is going to be a very good player, yes.

  102. NMR says:

    Liriano got that deal BEFORE breaking out. And there’s enough smart GMs out there to realize that Kazmir did indeed break out last year.

    Guy is only 30, has his velocity back, and stayed healthy. In this market, he’ll get two years easily.

  103. Travis Sawchik says:

    ESPN also reported the Pirates were in contention for Johnson and that one of the suitors – Giants, Pirates, Royals – had offered more than the Padres.

    The Pirates are likely going to pay Liriano $8 million in 2014, and the 2013 Johnson seems like a fairly reasonable comparison to the 2012 Liriano.

    So I doubt dollars were at issue. I think it was more about pitching in Petco (living in SD) and being near his home in Las Vegas. His wife is also from SoCal, apparently

  104. BostonsCommon says:

    I don’t think I’d call his 2013 breakout… His health and velocity earned him another contract. But lets not kid ourselves and think everyone is going to hand out contracts like the Giants.

  105. NorthPirateFan says:

    My own personal opinion is there’s a talent gap between the leagues on both the defense and offense sides of the game, it just more obvious with the pitchers when they don’t have to face a DH and earl Weaver style baseball day in and day out.

    How else do we explain Albert Pujols, or who is the last established NL hitter to switch and still find success?

  106. NMR says:

    3.51 FIP vs. 3.46 from Hudson, and just about everybody believes the Giants paid market value.

    If Kazmir was going for less than two years or $8-10m per season, why wouldn’t the Indians resign him?

  107. NMR says:

    We explain Pujols because he’s old and injured, which old players are wont to do.

    Shane Victorino improved his OPS going to the AL by 100 points just last year.

  108. NorthPirateFan says:

    More typical in that it followed more closely the bell curve we expect in most players, producing more as he approached the typical peak of 29 and now he’s on the other side of the curve. Did juicing produce his 2012, perhaps but I’d still wager Ruiz has a better chance of posting a .750 OPS in 2014 than Martin does.

    Martin on the other hand is completely atypical. He had the three best seasons of his career in the first three years of his career, in an extreme pitchers park no less, and he’s never been the same since.

  109. Nate83 says:

    I have to imagine he is target number 2 after Johnson. He may require a two year commitment because already had his “bounce back” year. I know he has been my second choice all along. Maybe 2 years 18 million gets it done. I know that sounds like a lot but that is what the market is on average pitchers.

  110. Nate83 says:

    I actually posted mine before reading all of NMR’s comments. Mark this day in history as the first time that we agreed on something (Kazmir’s free agent value).

    We actually agree on a lot of things involving the Pirates we just don’t bother to discuss those because that is no fun.

  111. Nate83 says:

    Didn’t he stop switch hitting or am I thinking of somebody else?

    Should Walker stop switch hitting? Doesn’t seem to give him any advantage.

  112. BostonsCommon says:

    He should probably be platooned before he stops switch hitting. Gotta think facing tough LHP and lefty specialists from that side of the plate is going to be harder for him that doing from the right side of the plate.

  113. Jeff King says:

    If the Pirates were willing to sign Johnson does that mean they have no intention of signing Burnett?

  114. Jim S. says:

    That last part weighed heavily, I think, Travis. Wives make the decisions.

  115. Jim S. says:

    Wow! 2 guaranteed years for Kazimir? I don’t know for sure, but it doesn’t seem like he proved himself completely in 158 innings. But, it would not totally surprise me.

  116. Jim S. says:

    The more I think about the Kazimir thing, the more I like it. I’d go 2 years of Nutting dollars for him. He might need to replace Wandy this year, and would still be here after FL presumably leaves next off-season. If they can get him for under $20 million, it might not be a bad gamble.

  117. Jim S. says:

    Pujols may have just flat run out of gas. He’s old now, and his body seems older than its years. Big guys tend to go down hill really fast, while the Toriiiiii Hunters’ of the world are timeless.

  118. Jim S. says:

    And Martin’s defense has remained strong, if not gotten better as he has aged, North. The argument of Ruiz, or any catcher, vs. Martin really has to be about defensive value.

  119. Jim S. says:

    Unfortunately, you are not thinking of Neil Walker stopping switch hitting, Nate.

    Beat you to that one, NMR!

  120. BostonsCommon says:

    Kaz and Hudson are NOT the same pitcher. Hudson has had a FIP <3.83 in 6 of the last 7 seasons, and 11 overall. Kaz has 4, and before last year hadn't done it since 2007.

  121. BostonsCommon says:

    My bad, that was supposed to fall under NMR… But I’m closer to your line of thinking here. I think Kaz pitched himself a new contract. But I doubt there are going to be many GMs ready to give him anywhere close to 2 years $20M, let along the $23M that Hudson got.

    If he gets it, more power to him. I’m just not sure he’s going to.

  122. leefoo says:

    Jeff….not necessarily. As 2013 showed us, you can never have too many SPs.

    Right now, we have, for certain:


    Those ???? could be filled by Wandy, Locke, AJ, a FA, a ‘tradee’ or someone from our system.

  123. NMR says:

    Hahaha, I like you, man.

  124. NMR says:

    Never said they are the same pitcher, Boston. Just used that to argue that Kazmir DID “breakout”, at least in 2013 terms.

    Nature of the business, gents. Rarely will a free agent pitcher get signed for less than $8m anymore, and at 30 years old, a two year contract will almost certainly be available.

  125. NMR says:

    Think about it this way…

    I’ve seen many Pirate fans call for up to a 3 year extension for Charlie Morton. Do you really think baseball values Scott Kazmir much less, if at all, than Charlie Morton?

  126. NMR says:

    Haha, all I’m saying is that it’s been done, and it has worked. This horse is dead and beaten.

  127. Jim S. says:

    According to a Travis tweet yesterday late afternoon, it does not mean that at all. He says Huntington says signing a significant free agent pitcher does not preclude them from signing AJ.

    That tells me they want AJ to know he is still very much wanted.

  128. leefoo says:

    Jim S….isn’t that what I just said? :) :)

  129. leefoo says:

    Here’s another reason I think Polanco could go north with us….
    A coupla quotes from a coupla different places.

    Winter League ball “It was the seventh double of the season for Polanco. He struck out in the sixth inning, ending a streak of 34 straight plate appearances without a strikeout.”. (He has EXCELLENT plate discipline)

    “His defense along with his baserunning ability will be worth 2-3 WAR over a HALF SEASON!” (Imagine what it would be over a FULL season! No flyballs could get through that OF).

    Now I would love to see Lambo get a shot, but I think he should be a platoon partner with with Gaby and Polanco should open in RF for us in April.


  130. NMR says:

    Mind telling us who actually said that second quote?

  131. leefoo says:

    NMR…I can’t locate it at the moment, but it was on either Bucs Dugout, Pirates Prospects or FanGraphs. It might’ve even been Keith Law or Baseball American. I would have to go back a few days and do some digging. Right now, am in the middle of something. I just copied and pasted from my blog entry on PBCAsylum (former PGPlus guys).

    When (If?) I find it, I will post it. I am definitely not making it up, because I was impressed when I read it and it stuck in my mind. They (whoever wrote it) put him on a par with Marte for Fielding WAR.

  132. leefoo says:

    I did some quick looking and DID find some video on him here:


    I still haven’t found that quote, but I haven’t looked long….sorry.

  133. NMR says:

    Don’t bother looking for it on Fangraphs or from Keith Law. Those guys are reputable.

    2-3 WAR in a half season from only defense and baserunning from a right fielder is damn near impossible.

  134. NMR says:

    Thanks, buddy! Lord is his swing sweet.

  135. leefoo says:

    It must be a WHOLE season. I know what WAR is, but defensive WAR isn’t my strong suit. I might’ve misquoted or misextrapolated or just misremembered (smile). AND, I read soooooooooo much Pirate stuff.

    I’ll take your word on that ‘impossible’. Do you know what Marte’s WAR was for this year? I remember reading about it somewhere. I have read that GP could rival Marte. He is new to RF so he is only going to get better.

    I’m glad you enjoyed those videos. He DOES have a sweet swing. It ALMOST rivaled my fast pitch wiffle ball swing.

    Also, quit replying to my stuff…how am I ever gonna get any work done? :) :)

  136. NMR says:

    Hahah, I have the curse as well. Can’t help letting good baseball talk go silent!

    Believe me, I’m not near proficient at WAR stuff, but consider last year Fangraphs had Marte at 4.7 WAR for the season, of which roughly half can be attributed to fielding and baserunning. As we know, Marte was pretty phenominal at those two aspects of baseball last year. Doing that in only half a season would be something approaching an Andrelton Simmons/Billy Hamilton clone. Ok, maybe not that extreme, but you get the point.

  137. Jim S. says:

    Sorry, foo. If you said it, I missed it.

    Regarding the topic of Polanco’s defensive value, I read just yesterday that there are scouts who believe he may very well be better defensively than Marte because he covers so much ground and has a rifle. Actually, those exact things can be said about Marte. So, if he’s better than Marte … wow!

    I agree with you that he could probably be effective in April in Pittsburgh. But, they just don’t operate that way. I think it will be mid-season or whenever the threshold is for the extra year of control.

  138. Steelkings says:

    Travis????? Lance Berkman…Spill….

  139. Steelkings says:

    Travis????? Lance Berkman…Spill….Does lance have grand children?

  140. Andrew says:

    I do not have any real burning opinion of Martin’s value or Ruiz, but I have found these projections for Polanco scattered throughout the interweb

    Streamer: .258/.313/.390, low projected PAs 101 (but the projection people will tell you they do not project playing time)
    ZiPS: .262/.310/.393 +10 DEF 2.8 WAR (I assume this DEF and WAR is for CF, and it’s like 400-500 PAs)
    Oliver .254/.306/.395 +13 DEF (I believe for CF)

    Here are the projections for Marte from 2012, not a similar player but a reference point, a Pirates player with similar MiLB experience.

    ZiPS: .279/.320/.421
    Streamer: .264/.306/.392

    Everyone criticizes how projection systems handle prospects because they are conservative, however I think this is the 1) Mike Trout effect, everyone assumes top prospects explode onto the scene, 2) survivor bias everyone forgets how high the bust rate is for top prospects. Travis Sinder was Baseball America’s #9 coming into 2009, and he puts up a .241/.328/.419 -0.3 WAR. The projection are in no way infallible but they are a starting point.

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