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Price is right? And a modest proposal on how to stretch $15 million

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SOUTH HILLS –  Yahoo! columnist Jeff Passan reported last night that the Pirates are one of seven teams to have interest in Tampa Bay ace David Price. That would shake up fanfest, no? The Mariners are thought to have the most interest in the power left-hander.

 

Any team would have interest in a 28-year-old lefty, who is 71-39 in his career with a 3.38 ERA. Any team would have interest in a former No. 1 overall pick whose control has improved (1.3 walks per nine) and who has rare velocity for a lefty with a plus breaking ball.

 

They Rays are motivated to move him because he is two years from free agency and he could earn $30 million over the next two years in arbitration. The Rays moved another pitcher with two years of control remaining in James Shields last season.

 

Of course the price that Shields fetched, and the fact that the Rays don’t lose too many trades, makes this extremely unlikely for the Pirates to execute particularly given their reluctance to part with prime prospects.

 

The Royals traded an elite prospect in Wil Myers and a very good prospect in Jake Odorizzi for Shields last offseason. This is a clear win for the Rays, who figure to command another ransom for Price. I just cannot fathom the Pirates trading say Gregory Polanco and Nick Kingham  for two years of control. But perhaps the Pirates can’t move off the thought of having Gerrit Cole/Francisco Liriano/Price headlining a playoff rotation. It’s probably unlikely but it’s something to keep an eye on over the next two weeks. Fanfest is Dec. 14-15.

 

HOW TO ADD WINS WITH $15 MILLION TO SPEND

 

Colleague Rob Biertempfel projects the Pirates have about $15 million to spend in free agency. That seems like a plausible number. After all, owner Bob Nutting indicated in October he will increase payroll and president Frank Coonelly said earlier this year the Pirates are attempting to incrementally increase payroll:

 

Here are the payroll percentage increases over the last three years:

 

2013: + 29%  (figure subtracts dollars Houston and New York sent to Pittsburgh)

 

2012: + 19%

 

2011:  +  8%

 

A $15 million limit might also explain why the Pirates are asking AJ Burnett to take a significant pay cut even though he led the NL in strikeout rate and groundball rate last season. (And it might explain why Burnett is balking at returning to date).

 

As we know the Pirates need to be creative in stretch their dollars. Here is one modest proposal in how to do so:

 

Move No. 1: move Pedro Alvarez to first base. Some analysts believe this move is inevitable (Alvarez committed 27 errors last season) and the Pirates don’t have an impact 1B prospect in the upper-levels of the farm system.

 

Moves No. 2 & No. 3: create a new third base platoon on the cheap. Meet, Mark Reynolds who is something of a right-handed Alvarez, offering cheap power that can play on either corner, and veteran Eric Chavez, who committed just one error last season while posting a .850 OPS against right-handed pitching. While Chavez is a shell of what he is, this platoon still might offer a slight defensive upgrade while producing an aggregate .800 OPS. Total cost: $8 million.

 

Move No.4: Sign LHP Chris Capuano. I’ve had to go far down my pitching preference list here, but Capuano’s velocity was up last year and I mentioned earlier week how the Pirates should focus on a left-handed free agent starting pitcher. Cost: $5.5 million,

 

Move No. 5: Sign SS/2B Rafael Furcal. Look, Furcal is a significant injury risk and I’m told the Pirates have not touched base for “a while.:But Furcal would give the Pirates infield depth, some bench speed, and perhaps a platoon partner for both Jordy Mercer and Neil Walker. Cost: $1 million

 

So for $14.5 million the Pirates could create four infield platoons: at 3B (Reynolds/Chaves), SS (Mercer/Furcal), 2B (Walker/Furcal), 1B (Sanchez/Alvarez) and a left-handed rotation option Capuano.

 

That’s stretching dollars which the Pirates figure to have to do this season and every offseason.

 

- TS

 

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Comments

  1. Will Zavala says:

    And what, TS gets the remaining half-mil as a consulting fee?!

  2. Travis Sawchik says:

    Of course!

  3. NMR says:

    Nice blog, Travis.

    Let me preface this post by saying I appreciate any ideas that stimulate thought and conversation, which your $15m topic certainly will do.

    But no, just no. This stretching excercise is exactly how the Pirates wasted millions of dollars prior to 2013.

    Chavez, your primary 3B, hasn’t started 100 games since 2006 and hasn’t graded positively defensively at the position since that year. Mark Reynolds stinks.

    Raphael Furcal hasn’t played baseball since 2012 and hasn’t been worth a full win since 2010. Jordy Mercer is a poor defensive shortstop, hit roughly 20% BELOW league average against RHP last year, and wasn’t good enough to start in the playoffs. Failing to bring back Clint Barmes is asking for disaster.

    Now moving Alvarez to 1B and platooning him with Gaby would be deadly, but unrealistic. Cap could be OK.

  4. Travis Sawchik says:

    It’s not pretty, but that’s the best I could do in stretching $15 million. But don’t worry there’s virtually no chance of this happening.

    I like Reynolds more than most as a potential platoon partner: career vs. LHP .359 OBP/.475 SLG/.834 OPS. A flawed player but the cheapest power you’ll find on the market.

    Chavez still has value against right-handed pitching though he is a shell of his former self. He’s an unlikely target as he lives in Arizona and 22 teams have called on him

    I have no idea if Furcal has anything …. but he’s the top free agent shortstop on the market after Drew. (That’s scary for a team looking for shortstop help).

    This is just meant to be a thought exercise and I do believe the Pirates would be wise to explore platooning every infield position, there’s competitive advantage to be had there and on their current roster are many useful half players.

  5. BostonsCommon says:

    I didn’t go into as much thought as you did here.. But to me, seems like spending $15M, just for the sake of spending it. Just because they can spend some cash, doesn’t mean they should. If you’re not actually getting better, then what’s the point? Seems like an awful lot of work.

    The only way Pedro is moving off 3B is if they trade for a replacement with multiple years of control (Kyle Seager, Nolan Arenado, Headly) because there is no one else in the organization that can play the position.

  6. Andrew says:

    My appraisal is similar to NMR, I like the effort but is Furcal getting 600 PAs? I understand the weakness of the market.

    I do not want join the group of fans that complains about the lack of moves thus far, and infers Pirates are the cheap and do not want to win, but I got a little depressed looking up Mark Reynolds batted ball distance. When all you can do is hit the ball far, these numbers aren’t good.

    from 2007-2010: 309-311′
    2011:, 303″
    2012: 284′
    2013: 292′

    I suggest the Pirates look into Roberto Hernandez, Jason Hammel, with career FIP > 4.30 they are uninspiring but I think the Pirates could get Morton like performance out of them, Morton success was propelled by turning RHH into .220 singles hitters. Both have better career numbers against lefthanders than Morton, if you combined sinkers/two seam fastball with focus on a single breaking pitch it might be possible. (Need to get Hammel’s walks under control, but the Pirates got value out of Locke.)

    Capuano also makes sense.

  7. Travis Sawchik says:

    Acquiring a two-way 3B with no platoon splits, would be ideal for the Pirates. Too bad there’s an incredibly small supply of those guys.

    Hurdle thinks Alvarez improved against LHP last season, though the stats don’t back up that position. And did Alvarez’s defense really improve or was he helped by the more aggressive defensive positioning?

  8. Travis Sawchik says:

    Category ‘digging way too deep’: I wonder how much better the ball carries in arid and somewhat elevated Arizona than say Cleveland or Baltimore.

    Reynolds still posted elite exit velocity and HR distance last season:

    http://www.hittrackeronline.com/detail.php?id=2013_4658&type=hitter

  9. Travis Sawchik says:

    When I look at the Pirates a dream trade fit would be Jed Lowrie.

    Takes the majority of reps at SS and platoons with Walker at second base.

    Lowrie in his free agent year and Addison Russell is going to be ready sooner rather than later.

  10. NMR says:

    The lesson for me, judging from past experience, is that resources should be focused when scarce, NOT stretched.

    Trying to solve all the problems with such limited funds has little chance of success.

  11. NMR says:

    But it isn’t fair to just poke holes in your proposal without offering my own for you to turn into swiss cheese.

    For $15m, strictly on the free agent market, I sign AJ Burnett and Clint Barmes. Front half of the rotation starter and the best defensive shortstop available. Pitching and defense is the only way this team is going to win in 2014.

    If AJ retires, then I (reluctantly) sign James “I wish it was Troy” Loney to no more than $8m per year as the best 1B left and spend the rest on Clint Barmes and Roberto Hernandez.

  12. Jon says:

    I agree, Lowrie would be awesome, but it looks as if Oakland is going #allin for 2014, so I doubt they trade their starting SS. I’m assuming from your 15M/year estimation that signing both A.J. and Loney is unlikely to happen? If so, that’s a bummer.

  13. BostonsCommon says:

    Had to share this article discussing player trade values. Love the description of Cole, who they have ranked as the 26th most valuable trade commodity in MLB.

    “Cole is the bluest and chippiest of the blue-chippers: The no. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft, Cole is a 6-foot-4, 235-pound BAMF who wields four plus pitches and got better as his rookie season wore on.”

    http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/10080878/mlb-trade-value-rankings-part-2

  14. Andrew says:

    “Digging too deep” I accept that, but I my defense I am working with what I have. (Can someone leak the algorithms for Hit/Fx.)

    However, Reynolds has produced little value outside of Arizona. Away from Arizona his contact% is higher he swings less, K% is down, but his BABIP is some .040 points lower. If he cannot produce value in Baltimore how is he going to do it in PNC, where right handed power comes to die. He had a HR every 25.6 PAs in his time with Ceveland (similar RHH park factors to PNC, yes this only captures approximately 1/2 his games at home), elsewhere 19.1 PA/HR.

    He would be inexpensive and obviously better than Pedro against LHP, but why are arguing about Mark Reynolds?

    Good point about Alvarez’s defense, I think the same can apply to Walker.

  15. Andrew says:

    I have posted this elsewhere, from 2012-2013

    David Price: Innings 397.2, K 22.6%, BB 5.5%, AVR against .237, ERA 2.92, FIP 2.04 xFIP 3.19 WAR 9.1
    Doug Fister: Innings 370.1, K 19.1%, BB 5.2%, AVR against .266, ERA 3.57, FIP 3.33, xFIP 3.41 WAR 8.1
    A. J. Burnett: Innings 393.1, K 23.6%, BB 7.8%, AVR against .235, ERA 3.41, FIP 3.17, xFIP 3.17 WAR 7.0

    I do not understand why Price would cost the farm system in a trade, and if so why a team would do the trade?

  16. Nate83 says:

    This 15 million number is very confusing to me. Money comes off of last year because AJ contract was up and Jones leaving and Barmes contract being over. What is the real amount they have ot play with to raise the overall payroll 15 million over last year after raises for some guys and projected arbitration totals.

    Also why 15 million? Revenue was up and TV money coming to every team. There is also that little thing about them being competetive and that would seem to make them a little more aggressive. In my opinion it should increase 25 million at a minimum. Unless they can somehow claim a loss in revenue I don’t see how 25 million makes them not profittable.

    I agree with Boston that money shouldn’t be spent just to be spent but I also don’t think we should relegate ourselves to believing we can’t overpay a little for a guy we do think will make are team better if it’s not a long term contract that could hurt the team down the road.

  17. Nate83 says:

    Are you sure that isn’t the scouting report for the 70′s action hero named Shaft?

  18. Nate83 says:

    Now for a serious comment. That was an interesting read Boston. Thanks for sharing. Cutch being rated 2nd is pretty nice expecially since it’s ahead of Harper who I respect for how he plays but can’t stand. It would be nice to see Marte’s name make that list next year.

  19. Steelkings says:

    Exactly Nate!

    @Travis….What is the Pirate player payroll as the 40 man sits right now compared to 2013′s seasons end? Burnett, Jones, Barmes, Mchenry and what ever they were responsible for in terms of Byrd, Buck and Morneau. Not to mention Farnsworth and McDonald. Got to be 20 mil+. I know they will make up some salary expense through arbitration.

  20. Nate83 says:

    I am a huge no on Reynolds. We do not need a second guy that can and will just disappear for months at a time. It was amazing how quick fans and front office in Cleveland fell out of love with that guy. His stats fell fast after his quick start last year and he did the same in Baltimore.

  21. Nate83 says:

    I’m a believer that errors are a horrible way to judge defensive players. Jon Jay had something like 1 error over the past 2 years but he is not a great defensive player. He’s good but not great. Alverez showed much better range last year and very good hands. He made some spectacular plays that some third baseman couldn’t have that have far fewer errors. He may have had 27 errors but he also probably made 10-15 plays that many third baseman couldn’t have. He’s not Manny Muchada but I think he’s better then his error total.

  22. BostonsCommon says:

    He just missed the cut. Believe they had him at 51.

    Its an interesting read, but I don’t know how much water it really holds. I mean are guys like Jason Kipnis and Jonathan Lucroy really going to command more than it would take to get Marte right now? But thats why they write these articles… for us to debate :)

  23. Nate83 says:

    Kipnis is a very good and young 2B. I get to see a lot of Indians games where I live and I have to imagine he is on par with Marte as far as future value with maybe getting a slight advantage because 2B is a tougher position to find value then Left field. I wonder if Marte’s value would be better if he was viewed as a center fielder which I’m sure most teams trading for him would use him as.

  24. NMR says:

    Seriously?

  25. NMR says:

    A high-end estimate of current payroll (including arbitration) is about $65m.

    If we are to take Coonelly at his word, this means the team will only be willing to put around $5m over last years number.

    You don’t have a pulse if you’re a Pirate fan and this doesn’t infuriate you.

  26. NMR says:

    “And did Alvarez’s defense really improve or was he helped by the more aggressive defensive positioning?”

    Honest question…does it matter?

    Alvarez is clearly more valuable as a 3B, correct? If shifting is what it took to turn him into an average defender, then that should be viewed as a huge success.

  27. Nate83 says:

    Boy do I agree with this comment. Picking up 5 Hinske’s is not a recipe for success. The Pirates are like 1 for 12 in years 2008-2012 on these type of free agents. I’d rather use the money and pick up 2 proven players and fill in with internal options where at least we have a good idea of what we will get. Otherwise you end up with Jeremy Burnitz who just wants 1 last year of getting paid.

  28. Maybe Paul Janish instead of Clint Barmes. He has better range.

  29. National Mart of Records,

    I’m surprised that you are so high on James Loney——last season was his highest OPS of his career and it still was below .780. And the previous season his line was .246/.293/.336 = .630.

    How can Pirates go with a .630 at a corner infield spot? How can they stand a .297 slugging % at 1st Base? You were so down on Justin Morneau and he has NEVER been that low.

    I know Morneau is gone now . . . . so I would prefer Adam Lind from the Jays. I would think he could be had for a couple relievers, which Blue Jays NEED. Or I would re-sign Garrett Jones before committing 3 years and $8 million per year ($24-$25 mill) to James “Inconsistent {except consistently DOES NOT drive in runs}” Loney.

    Use the money on A.J. Burnett, Mr Scrooge!!!

  30. BostonsCommon says:

    Wasn’t trying to bash Kipins. I’m just higher than most on Marte. If he manages to improve his plate discipline, even marginally, I think his ceiling is Cutch. Even if he doesn’t reach his ceiling, he’s already scratching the surface of Gold Glove, All Star… with 2 more pre-arbitration years.

  31. Your first clause of your second sentence is the problem!!!

  32. NMR says:

    Quite the opposite, friend. I may be high, but not on Loney.

    Given the constraints of Travis’ excercise – $15m to spend on current free agents – my first choice was to bring back AJ and Clint. Second choice, one that assumes AJ is not coming back, defaults to the 1B I feel best fits the Pirates needs. I don’t like it, but I’d rather get Loney than upgrade the ski lifts at 7 Springs.

    I think Adam Lind would be a fine addition, and agree that the cost in terms of players would not be steep.

  33. NMR says:

    I must post this quote from Keith Law, because I’m confident it will be the only time I match economic theories with a Harvard-educated man:

    “I hate $/WAR or $/win discussions for two major reasons…The other is that each team has its own marginal revenue product for an additional win and that number will vary year to year as well. We can talk about these numbers in a very abstract sense, but using market averages as a barometer to evaluate or critique deals is a mistake, in my view.”

  34. JimBibbySweat says:

    I don’t buy into the team needing to do something before PirateFest. Maybe when they stood staring at a 100-loss season, but not now. The organization can fete itself next week on the merits of a first winning season since ’92. That cache is there. I think fans are sophisticated enough to realize that the team is already in a better position than past years and that the end of PirateFest Sunday does signify the start of Opening Day 2014.

  35. BostonsCommon says:

    I can just see you pounding your keyboard reading that, “I know!!! I’ve been trying to tell these idiots the same thing!!!”

    Lol. That’s good stuff NMR.

  36. National Mart of Records,

    GREAT. You and I can be the charter members of the Adam Lind Fan Club. You can be President and I can be/do Vice.

    Adam Lind’s contract for 2014 in only $5 million, I think. He has hit over 20 homeruns in 4 of last 5 seasons. He is an excess in present Blue Jay configuration.

    Now . . . . . about Paul Janish instead of Clint Barmes . . . . .

  37. Mr Sweathog,

    Unfortunately the other 29 Major League teams did not get your memo that 2014 starts the last day of PirateFest. The Free Agents are running and the trade-ables are already losing their warranties. If Pirates wait until mid to late December, the only ones left to acquire or talk about may be the out-of-reach David Prices and the Robinson Canos.

    By the way, I heard someone say that the Pirates were looking into Trout from LA. Same chance for him as David Price.

  38. Travis Sawchik says:

    I think Fister was criminally undervalued and I do think rightly or wrongly folks are using the Shields trade as a barometer of the expected return Price will yield. But it’s probably foolish to assume the Shields price is going to set the market for Price because not many GMs are going to give up Wil Myers for two years of control

  39. Jeff King says:

    I love this free agent- trade talk during the off-season. Sometimes it’s just as exciting as the season.

  40. Not many, yes———but it only takes one GM. How would Price look in that Mariner rotation?

    Rays have proven they will be patient and not give away their assets.

    Price is much the better pitcher over Shields.

    Zero chance Price will be a Pirate.

  41. Travis Sawchik says:

    Furcal to Marlins as everyday 2B, per Ken Rosenthal. Thus ends my dream of creating four infield platoons this offseason on $9 million

  42. BostonsCommon says:

    ‘Twas a valiant effort

  43. Steelkings says:

    JBS,
    Thats the wrong way to think. The Cardinals know that the best way to get to the world series is to first win the division. Their weakness was defense and they have done a fine job of fixing that. The Mets, Phillies and nationals all strengthened their teams to Fight for the division and wild card. This just got harder.

    Something has to be said about 2013 being a perfect set up for a team that doesn’t score a lot, with an over achieving pitching staff to make the playoffs. That same team so far has not gotten any better. In fact its much worse.

  44. Steelkings says:

    Marlins are making some moves!

  45. Andrew says:

    I respect Keith Law’s opinions, but NMR you left out the first part of Keith’s response about $/WAR not being linear, which is wrong.

    I agree with your point (Not that my agreeing is important to you or anyone,) if the criticism of $/WAR is that teams have their own internal marginal values of wins and they won’t equal the going rate of wins in the market for all 30 teams. But the internal value will not deviate too tremendously from the average, so the $/WAR is a good starting point.

  46. Travis Sawchik says:

    Ha! … Barmes or bust in SS FA market it appears.

    If it wasn’t for the qualifying offer and the Boras factor — two very imposing ifs — a Drew/Mercer SS platoon would be very attractive

  47. Travis Sawchik says:

    That’s when you know it’s getting late in the party

  48. Does 27 errors qualify as an average defender?
    Pedro’s 2013 fielding numbers–
    Highest (by far) # of errors — 27 — only two 3rd-basemen are in the 20s and the other is at 21 (Zimmerman, Nats). Horrible fielding % — .941 — above only SF’s Sandoval (.940) from MLB 3rd-baggers.
    BUT…#1 in total assists, #2 in total fielding chances, #3 range factor, #5 in double plays.
    So he gets to more balls than everyone except Manny Machado (oh if the Pirates only would have drafted him), turns those chances into more assists than anyone and a lot of double plays, while booting (or throwing) away a game-full of outs.
    So (IMO) he looks like a bad fielder with good range on a team whose pitching and positioning allow for him to get a lot of action.
    I would LOVE for him to become an average defender at 3rd (while still hitting)!

  49. Dan Finnegan says:

    Why not just bring back Garrett Jones for 6 million and put the rest in a good FA starting pitcher, which does not include Capuano.

  50. Steve D says:

    I still think they need to turn around Liriano and get some prospects. His loss will hurt, but if you can get a prospect in AAA that is ready and maybe another prospect like Kingham type, i think it would be beneficial this year and for years to come, which is how NH seems to be running this team. I simply do not trust Liriano to have anything near the year he had last year, tap into that and bring something back to make your team better for years. Rays did it with Shields, why cant the Pirates do it? I am a big Pirate fan, so i understand what Pittsburgh deals with when competing with the likes of STL, NYY, BOS, etc, some fans might not be happy, but it’s the reality in this market….we’re a small market, now it’s time to take advantage of the gambles and make a future out of it.

  51. NMR says:

    I appreciate the response, Rick.

  52. NMR says:

    Haha, I don’t know about the “idiots” part, but I appreciate you allowing me to indulge in a moment of wisdom. They are few and far between.

    Andrew, your agreeing isn’t necessarilly important to me, but your responses certainly are. I sincerely appreciate the time and thought. Care to explain why you think Keith is wrong?

  53. NMR says:

    I disagree, Travis.

    Giving up Myers for Shields wasn’t the mistake. Filling one hole (starting pitcher) by creating another hole (right field) while not actually being close at all to contending for a title was the mistake.

    There is a good chance David Price will be the best pitcher available through trade or free agency in the next two years, and he is truly a game changer. If you are a team that plans on contending for a World Series title, David Price unquestionably increases your chances of success.

    If it costs “the farm” to get him, then your farm isn’t worth much to begin with. Probably should take your shot now, because the future ain’t looking too bright.

  54. NMR says:

    Haha, good stuff Travis. You guys are killing me.

    Here’s to a Furcal deadline trade.

  55. NMR says:

    At the beginning og this offseason I was completely opposed to this idea, and still think those who feel Liriano would bring some massive prospect haul are wildly optomistic. But my mind is changing…

    This isn’t to say, at all, that the team should punt on 2014, but speaking realistically, I’m having a hard time seeing any improvements left that put them even with the National League big boys like St Louis, LA, and Washington. Trotting out the same team as last year, without AJ Burnett, and expecting better results seems highly unlikely.

    I’m far from an expert on these things, but there appears to be two teams looking for front end pitching that match up with the Pirates well, the Mariners and the Diamondbacks.

    If the M’s were to land Cano and Morales in free agency, they could be interested in in Liriano as a poor man’s David Price and may be willing to part with SS Brad Miller and 1B Justin Smoak.

    The D’Backs, likewise, have Major League-ready prospects at 3B and SS (Matt Davidson and Chris Owings) who are blocked by big league players.

  56. BostonsCommon says:

    Pirates are already going to get a 1st round pick for Liriano after this year. I’d take that, and another year of similar production, and be more than satisfied for the $12M that was spent.

  57. NMR says:

    Marte is immensly talented, but I think you’re seriously underselling Andrew McCutchen by saying Starling is a “marginal” improvement away from him. Andrew McCutchen is likely the best baseball player Pittsburgh will see in a very, very, verrrryyy long time.

    Fangraphs has an article up on Marte that presents the realistic challenges he faces as a hitter. It is highly unlikely that Marte can consistantly produces BABIP’s at the level he saw last season, and just as unlikely he can turn getting hit by pitches into a sustainable skill. For a player that only walks 5% of the time and K’s over 20%, this combination makes it just about mathmatically impossible for him to put up anything more than average OBP. And if he can’t get on base, he can’t use his legs.

    I don’t doubt Starling could have a season like Carlos Gomez saw last year, but neither player will be able to consistantly repeat it.

  58. NMR says:

    The draft pick the Pirates would receive would be similar in value to that which they traded for Gbay Sanchez, and it would take a completely healthy and above average repeat performance for the Pirates to even offer it.

    Any of these prospects would represent better return.

  59. BostonsCommon says:

    Yea, the case can definitely be made that it’s the smart move. But I would sign on for another year of similar health and production.

    Either way, they need to find out what’s going on with AJ before they entertain the thought. If he retires, moving Liriano would be tough.

    Need to go into the season with more than Cole, Morton, Wandy, Locke, and Stomly…

  60. Nate83 says:

    If Liriano was traded they would go in with more then that at starting pitching. The move would fill two needs without spending anything but instead gaining money. You don’t have to spend 2 million on Barmes as a backup or 8 million on Loney or some other first baseman. You gain about 4-5 mllion on Liriano’s contract compared to the players coming back in the trade.

    That money can then be used however they want on starting pitching. Maybe 3 or 4 million of it goes to giving Burnett the 15-16 million he wants and then 5-6 goes to Capuano. It’s a differant way of filling the holes but if you are not willing to spend market value on free agents you have to become creative. Liriano would be attractive to some teams because of his relatively low cost compared to his performance. He’s worth nothing to us at the end of this year. He’s gone and we are still left with no depth at SS and no 1B.

  61. NMR says:

    Even leaving Liriano in that rotation, is this really a team that is going to have a legit shot at the NLCS?

    A rotation of Liriano, Cole, Burnett, Josh Johnson/Dan Haren, and Charlie Morton with Barmes and a 1B brought in would’ve absolutely had a chance. Take Johnson/Haren out of the equation and they merely stand pat. Take AJ out and they get worse.

    Without Liriano, they are still a good team. With Liriano, they’re a better team, but not elite.

    IMO, this is the exact situation where you trade 3-4 wins this year for many more than that in the future.

  62. Nate83 says:

    I didn’t take it as you bashing him. I just thought since I’ve gotten to see him play a fair amount I would give you some insight on how good he actually is. He is young and plays for a team that doesn’t get much national attention. I’m sure many are not aware of how well rounded of a player he is.

    I also agree with NMR about setting Cutch as his ceiling is pretty aggressive. That being said I don’t think we knew Cutch’s ceiling was himself 3-4 years ago. Cutch’s hands are so quick and he gets to the ball with power after waiting for so long I’m not sure Marte or many players at all have that ability.

  63. Nate83 says:

    The problem is this is the first time in 20 years you can ask that question. I know it shouldn’t matter but fan perception plays a role. The other issue I have with this is did anyone think the Pirates and Indians would make the playoffs last year and Toronto, New York Yankees and Washington would not.

    The Pirates really didn’t have any crazy career years on offense last year. I know Cutch won the MVP but his stats where almost identical to the year before with less power. Alverez had a good year but it wasn’t much better then 2012. I think a full year of Tabata could definately be better then what they got in RF last year. Walker has better years in him. 1B platoon has to give more production then last year. Mercer and Marte could improve. A full year of Cole won’t hurt.

    I know the cards made some moves to improve but they lost some players as well in Beltran and Freese and they will be relying on some young players to fill holes. I’m not convinced Miller is a top of the line pitcher or Lynn is the answer. You just never know what’s going to happen. Last year the Pirate’s had a 2-1 lead on the eventual representative for the NL in the World Series. Saying the same team isn’t good enough seems negative. I’m not against trading Liriano but I don’t think it should be done as a punting on this year but more just moving around resources while staying competitive.

  64. NMR says:

    “This isn’t to say, at all, that the team should punt on 2014…”

    The “anything can happen” approach isn’t one I hope the Pirates Front Office is taking.

  65. Andrew says:

    Keith has two critiques, first he says that $/WAR valuations are not linear, that a 6 WAR player is worth more than two 3 WAR players because of the limitation of roster spots. This concept is wrong, teams have historically placed a linear valuation on $/WAR, valuing a diversification of assets to the risk of injuries and such. If you want to read more and better written things than my explanation, Dave Cameron has written about this and there are several threads over at The Book blog.

    The second point, which you highlight is partly correct, yes teams have different internal return on wins. However it is understood that the price of a win in the free agent market is valued at what the 85th to 95th wins would bring the highest bidder. Thus teams with that higher return set the price. With this understanding judging $/WAR of contracts against the market average has some value. It is a model and models have limitations, but the $/WAR provides information. Yes certain teams can more easily afford to pay above the market rate, New York with Ellsbery, but no team should be paying $9 million/WAR.

    Any good writer who discusses signings based on $/WAR starts there and then add information on the teams situation and location on the win curve.

  66. NMR says:

    First of all, you simply cannot say definitely that Keith is WRONG. You just can’t.

    You reference Dave Cameron’s (et al) opinion. Let’s make that clear. I, personally, agree with Keith, and don’t believe what teams have done in the past is good justification for anything. Dave Cameron himself makes a living critquing things teams have done in the past that were incorrect. Can’t have it both ways.

    Second, Keith himself says what you did in your $/WAR response. Provides value in an abstract context. But you know darn well that the Fangraphs guys use these numbers in EXTREMELY specific terms, which is where Keith objects.

  67. Andrew says:

    This “One is that the number isn’t linear for the reason you describe – roster spots are finite and using or changing them is not costless,” is wrong, and Tom Tango has discussed it ad nausea. The $/WAR has been observed to be linear, because of the risk profiles of consolidating value into fewer players. A six WAR player should valued at the same as two 3 WAR players.

    My main point is the $/WAR model has value, and one gains more knowledge by comparing free agent contracts/trade to what going $/WAR rate is than by not using it. It provides information, is it prefect? No, because no model is such.

    Kieth seems to be attacking a straw man, the Fangraphs writers do not use $/WAR as the only way to evaluate contracts/trades. Everyone recognizes there are times to pay the free agent market rate; Dave Cameron wrote that $25 million/year was okay for the Cardinals and Pujols but the Angles lacked overall talent to make this an intelligent move.

    If your point is people use the $/WAR value as supreme and final judge or to stop debate I agree, it should be a starting point, and I think the discussion is better when including more information. If your point is that a 6 WAR players is worth exponentially more than two 3 WAR players and MLB teams are irrational in using a linear $/WAR valuation I disagree. Theoretically you could create a situation where $/WAR is not linear but, the models are nominal and are trying to model what is occurring.

    Not sure if this is relevant but I value both Law’s and Cameron’s analysis, both can be sardonic at times, but when the unwashed of the interweb like us can tweet/chat with you at almost anytime I find it natural to be somewhat derisive. If you prefer one to other that’s fine this is sports not politics, I do not get too worked up over it.

    If you have counterpoints I check back for them, I see a Harper/McCuthen argument and Garret Jones signing beckon.

  68. NMR says:

    Always appreciate your responses, Andrew.

    FWIW, you and I were the only ones to bring up FanGraphs, and we both know Keith’s writing well enough to know he doesn’t get into the strawman game.

  69. Travis Sawchik says:

    The Pirates are letting the free agent and trade markets play out as they said they would but I agree that StL, LA and Washington have improved themselves while the Pirates are worse today than they were at the end of the season … but we’ll have to see how the next two months play out

  70. Andrew says:

    Again, my point is $/WAR valuation provides information and a way to evaluate contracts/trades, Keith Law seems to be saying it does not. (I reserve the right to be interpreting this wrong.)

    If the argument is over how much information $/WAR provides we can disagree, but I prefer to read analysis that includes it.

 
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