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Monday Mop-Up Duty: A free-agent splash in June? And the new Oriole Way

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SOUTH HILLS - Ken Rosenthal reported this weekend that the remaining free agents tagged with qualifying offers might wait until after the June draft to sign when they would no longer be tied to draft pick compensation. Rosenthal also notes these players could also benefit by waiting until after Opening Day to sign. Players cannot be tagged with a qualifying offer if they have not spent an entire season with the club.

From Rosenthal:

“Bean Stringfellow, the agent for right-hander Ervin Santana, said Sunday that the pitcher would consider holding out until after the amateur draft in early June if he does not receive an acceptable offer…..Scott Boras, the agent for shortstop Stephen Drew and first baseman-designated hitter Kendrys Morales, also suggested that his clients might not sign until after the draft, when compensation no longer would apply.”

 

By waiting until after June these free agents theoretically could see larger, multi-year contract offers. Or, perhaps more likely, they’ll be in the market for three-month deals so they can again test the market next offseason without the depressing QO tag. After seeing how depressed Nelson Cruz’s value became, there’s incentive to wait. And the market might improve in June when injuries pile up on contending teams.

 

Here’s the dilemma facing the Pirates, who have spoken to Stephen Drew, according to Jon Heyman, and have kicked the tires on Kendrys Morales, according to Boras. Do the Pirates wait see what Andrew Lambo and Jordy Mercer can do before trying to potentially pick up a Drew or Morales on a three-and-a-half-month deal? Or by waiting until June would they risk being out bid when there’s no draft-pick compensation attached? But until mid June, these players have a depressed value that makes them more affordable to the Pirates. As we’ve written about before, this could be an opportunity.

 

Just for a reference, here is what the industry thought these players were worth back when free agency opened:

 

Ervin Santana

Rated as the No. 10 free agent by Yahoo!, No. 7 by CBSSports.com

CBSSports.com signing predictions back in November: Agent: 5 years, $77M. GM: 5 years, $75M. Heyman:5 years, $75M.

 

Nelson Cruz

Rated as the No. 17 free agent by Yahoo!, No. 9 by  CBSSports.com

CBSSports.com signing predictions back in November: Agent: 1 year, $14.1M (takes qualifying offer). Heyman: 4 years, $60M. Me: 4 years, $64M.

 

Stephen Drew

Rated as No. 17 free agent by Yahoo!, No. 15 by CBSSports.com

CBSSports.com signing predictions back in November: Agent: 3 years, $37M. GM: 2 years, $25M. Heyman: 3 years, $38M.

 

Kendrys Morales 

Rated as the No. 14 free agent by CBSSports,com

Agent: 3 years, $36M.GM: 1 year, $14.1M (takes qualifying offer). Heyman: 3 years, $39M.

 

Do you wait-and-see after the June draft? Do you wait until after Opening Day? Or you ignore all of these guys? Or do you follow the Orioles and jump in now if the prices are depressed significantly?

 

STARTING NINE THOUGHTS

9. In their heyday, The Oriole Way was tried to a philosophy of three-run home runs and elite pitching, intellect combined with talent. Last week the Oriole Way was about going against convention to maximize a window of opportunity.  The Orioles signed Cruz at a major discount, losing their second-round pick, days after forfeiting their first-rounder to sign Ubaldo Jiminez at a modest discount. After after surrendering a first-round pick for one QO’d free agent, it becomes a lot easier for a team to give up a second-round pick for another.

 

8. So if Pirates were willing to surrender their first-round pick for a Drew or Morales, they should be even then more willing to give up their second to sign another QO free agent with a depressed market. It’s unlikely, sure, I get that, but the Pirates could pick up 4-6 WAR in players for well below market value costs. Two, 2+ WAR  players for $16-18 million in 2014? Could it be possible?

 

Four to six extra wins might be the difference between missing or making the playoffs. The Pirates should be a highly-motivated team given their projected placement on the win curve. The Pirates are a club that has to always be searching for opportunities and the Orioles demonstrated last week showed what an opportunity can look like in this strange, artificially-depressed market.

 

7.  I think if you’re Drew or Morales at this point, you are ideally seeking a one-year deal in early April where you can avoid the QO next offseason. Then, with a good season, you’re in line to restore your value and earn a more lucrative contract.  A Cruz-like contract makes sense — if they’re signing it in April.

 

6. The question is this: does 2014 present a special window for the Pirates like it does the Orioles? Baltimore could lose Matt Wieters and Chris Davis to free agency after the season. The Pirates have a healthier system, but they of course have their own group of significant 2014-15 free agents.

 

5. Bob Nutting had this to say earlier in the week: “Certainly nothing is off the table. But at the same time, we need to recognize that a first-round draft pick is a meaningful source of talent for a team like the Pirates. We want to be smart and cautious.”

 

BACK TO MATTERS ON-THE-FIELD IN BRADENTON …

 

4. A weight-lifting injury in July is thought to have contributed to Jeff Locke’s second-half woes. But even before the injury, we all know he pitched way above his rate stats. Moreover, his BB/9 was increasing each month prior to the injury. I have to think Edinson Volquez is the favorite for the 5th spot. As bad as Volquez was in 2013, he has more upside.

 

3. Until Gregory Polanco is cleared of Super 2 status, the assumption is there will be a platoon in RF. Maybe there will be but Jose Tabata has neutral splits for his career. He should be motivated. April and May might mark his last chance at making a case to be an everyday player. Otherwise he’ll be banished to fourth-outfielder status.

 

2. I think Neil Walker could be in for a big year. He quietly improve his walk and strikeout rates last season but fell victim to some poor luck and a few nagging injuries. If he can sustain those gains and add health and luck he could be one of better offensive second baseman in the game.

 

1. Jason Grilli has been nearly Craig Kimbrel-like the last two years. But I’ll be watching his velocity early in spring training. At his best, Grill was 93-95 mph in the first half of last season. At the close of the season, following his return from injury, he was 91-93 mph. Velocity loss for relievers is typically a big deal. Pirates have to hope an offseason of rest did the trick.

 

STAT OF THE WEEK $150 million

Guaranteed dollars in Mike Trout’s six-year deal, according to Yahoo!  Another important number: he’ll reach free agency at Age 28 if the terms are accurate.

 

That makes Andrew McCutchen’s six-year, $51 million deal seem like a pretty solid bargain, eh?

 

HE SAID IT

Jose Tabata on the unrest in his native Venezuela: “I get scared sometimes because you don’t know what’s going to happen. When I wake up some days, I think, ‘Wow, what’s going to happen today in Venezuela?’ It’s difficult sometimes. Thank God, everybody in my family is good right now.”

 

NON-BASEBALL RECOMMENDATION

Like Fish and Chips? Then the Pub Chip Shop on Carson St. is a must visit.

- TS

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Comments

  1. Bizrow says:

    Open Blog Fantasy Leagues
    All on Yahoo
    Lunatics
    12 teams currently two open
    Autodraft, head to head
    League ID 29140

    Dejans Lunatics
    12 teams currently 4 open
    Autodraft, head to head
    League ID 29140

    The PBC Blog Inmates
    12 teams, currently 7 open
    Autodraft, head to head
    League ID 29145

    PBC Inmates
    16 teams, currently 6 open
    Autodraft, head to head
    League ID 29147
    If we can get a league filled and folks choose to change the draft type to live or live auction, we can do it, trouble is scheduling a time where everyone can do it. Autodraft is you simply rank the players and when everyone has done that, the draft is held.

    Any questions, please e-mail me at bisbee1203@verizon.net. Thanks, and Beat Em Bucs

  2. Nate83 says:

    To your point number 8 Travis that 6 extra wins is in a vacuum. That assumes Mercer or whoever at bats Drew would be taking is a 0 WAR. Same thing with Morales. I’m really not sure what production Lambo or any other platoon partner for Gaby will be giving us but I would hope it’s not a negative WAR or 0. I still think the Morales numbers we are seeing are based on him being a DH. His defense would more then likely reduce his WAR I would think.

    As much as I don’t see the added value in Drew I think he is the more likely target of the FO out of the two for the right price. If 7 million brings him here for the final 3+ months I’m all for it. I’m just not seeing the added value for 10-12 per year plus a first round draft pick.

  3. Andrew says:

    Good stuff as always, couple points.

    9) Orioles may lose both Wieters and Davis but they would have up $25 million in payroll to work with assuming they didn’t resign either, and could buyout Marakis for $2 million in 2015. There will still be good players on the roster and they have two top 20 pitching prospects, but it is always tough in that division. (Interesting note, the Orioles were top five in payroll 1998-2000, didn’t win more than 79 games.)

    6) I am of the opinion that “windows” are self-created to a significant degree by signing homegrown players into their mid-30s and free agent spending, something that only a select few teams can do without consequences.

    1) I thought Grilli’s velocity returned in the playoffs, but with the noise coming out of spring training it is something to watch.

    http://www.brooksbaseball.net/velo.php?player=276351&b_hand=-1&gFilt=&pFilt=FA|SI|FC|CU|SL|CS|KN|CH|FS|SB&time=game&minmax=ci&var=mph&s_type=2&startDate=01/01/2013&endDate=01/01/2014

  4. Andrew says:

    Not sure that link worked.
    http://www.brooksbaseball.net/velo.php?player=276351&b_hand=-1&gFilt=&pFilt=FA|SI|FC|CU|SL|CS|KN|CH|FS|SB&time=game&minmax=ci&var=mph&s_type=2&startDate=01/01/2013&endDate=01/01/2014

  5. Andrew says:

    Nor did that one, I’ll stop; if you look at Grilli’s velocity for 2013 by game, his average fastball in the games he pitched in the NLDS, 94.3, 93.2, 93.4.

  6. Nate83 says:

    Andrew I really like your comment that the “window” is self created. It’s an interesting thought and you without consequences comment at the end rings so true. I would hope small market teams never look at anything as being a window of opportunity. It’s like admitting your 2 or 3 years of success will be followed by 5 years of bad baseball. In reality doing things out of character to add 2 or 3 wins is what will more then likely lead you to 5 years of bad teams.

    There is a lot of talk about win curve but isn’t it logical to think if the Pirates can get to 94 wins doing business as they have why can’t they sustain that without taking to large leap of faith or making an all in move. I’m not saying don’t stretch the dollar a little and maybe add a year to a free agent to make sure you get him or trading some prospects to get a needed player. I just don’t know if giving up draft picks to get a player at a position that already has an adequate player in Mercer is the correct course of action. Especially since Liriano could regress just like he has after every good year, Wandy may not pitch much, Cole may suffer some sophomore set backs as the league adjust and a number of other question marks could turn out on the negative side of the coin flip.

    I’d much rather see how things shake out then add as needed later in the year. Maybe that is adding Drew or Morales after the draft. By then we may know that the starting staff is strong and not in shambles and that Mercer can handle being an everyday SS and Lambo was just horrible. The move would then be much more obvious and come with less risk of it being made for no reason.

  7. Jim S. says:

    Excellent stuff, as always, Travis! Best MLB blog anywhere, no doubt!

    I have been speculating that the Bucs will have more interest in Kendrys after the draft pick compensation goes away, and I think you are right that how Lambo performs in the first 60 games or so could go a long way toward determining whether they get active in the market for Kendrys or not. I don’t think they will be alone in bidding for him at that point, but I think they’d have a decent shot to land him.

    I just don’t see them making a play for Drew, although I would applaud it. I believe they feel they have handled SS for this season with Barmes and Jordy. They aslo see Jordy as a contributor going forward, I believe, and in that case I don’t see them paying full-time money x a few years for Drew.

    Remember when Baltimore was a big money team? That was before Washington entered the league, of course. That market seems to be supporting both teams, but Baltimore now appears to be about the same as Pittsburgh from a market size standpoint. I recall that the Balt owner received a hefty payout to agree to Wash getting a team. I also believe he was strong-armed into it. But, there is no doubt that it hurt Balt competitively. I’m not saying it was bad for the league at all – just that it knocked Balt way down the ladder.

    Tabby had better be motivated this season, right from the start. Polanco is coming. I believe NW will have a nice year. He needs to stay healthy, of course, but I could see him finally getting to 20 HR.

  8. Jim S. says:

    “I would hope that small market teams never look at anything as being a window of opportunity. It’s like admitting your 2 or 3 years of success will be followed by 5 years of bad baseball.”

    Could not agree more, Nate. I didn’t like last year when frustrated Pirates fans said “They need to be all in this year because it is their only chance.” A lot of people said that last year, and I was wondering what they meant. They won 94 games, and they have a good nucleus + a great system to compete for several years at least right now. Tampa has proven that you don’t have to do anything out of character to stay competitive. I realize Tampa has not won a WS yet, but once you get to the playoffs anything can happen. The Cards have proven that a few times, as have other teams, without making big splash deadline deals.

    Keep stacking 90 win seasons, and hopefully you break through. Take crazy free agent gambles, or huge deadline deals, and I think your succcess will be more short-lived. The Pirates acted reasonably at the trade deadline, with really the only potentially impact player being traded was Dilson Herrera. I was ok with that much of a gamble. I really don’t like trading away key future assets because I have not seen it as improving your chances all that much in that one season, but it can definitely set you back for the future to weaken your system.

  9. 21sthebest says:

    Yes. And in looking at Pitch/Fx, in only one of his outings did his fastball average 95 during the entire season.

  10. Nate83 says:

    JIm, nice post. I mostly agree with all your points. Completely agree about knowing more about Mercer and Lambo as the year goes on and making appropriate moves at that point. My only worry about Morales is a large market AL team having an injury and willing use Morales as a DH and out bidding the Pirates. Hopefully Lambo rakes and we don’t have to worry about.

    I hope you are correct about NW. That would be a huge boost for this team if he has a healthy and productive year. He seemed to have a lot of hard hit outs the last 40 games of last year. Having him batting second and setting the table for Cutch and Pedro would be great.

  11. 21sthebest says:

    I think that’s nice in theory but the reality is it’s difficult to keep making the playoffs year after year. Teams have to balance short, medium, and long-term goals.

  12. Nate83 says:

    It needs to be fast enough to get away with throwing it high in the strike zone. He seems more comfortable doing that more often then most relievers. He has decent movement on the pitch but lowering to 91 could be playing with fire. His speed in the NLDS is a good sign.

    I think some are making too big of a deal out of his extra days of rest. He’s not young and I have a feeling he would be treated like this regardless. The Tigers are probably doing the same with Joe Nathan (oops I talked about the Tiger bullpen which is a no-no)

  13. Nate83 says:

    Not to speak for Jim but I don’t think neither of us is suggesting making the top 5 prospects untouchable if you can trade for a player of Stanton’s ability and that player is a sure bet to contribute for the next 3 or 4 years instead of a prospect who may or may not turn into an all-star. I just wouldn’t be a fan of a C.C. Sabathia type deal. I know those guys didn’t go on to do much of anything but they could have been used for other trades for more then a 2 month rental.

  14. 21sthebest says:

    I’m just saying I think this depends on many factors and I’d want the front office to be realistic. I do agree that I think we could have a bunch of years of success, but at the same time it’s tough to assume anything in this business so just make sensible deals.

  15. Dan Finnegan says:

    I’ve always thought Neil Walker was the “secret ingredient” in the Pirates offense, when he’s going good, the offense tends to score more runs.

  16. Steelkings says:

    How interesting is that? Rob is reporting that Gaby Sanchez shared ground balls this morning with Pedro at third.

    Kendrys Morales packing his bags for Bradenton?????????

  17. Jim S. says:

    Discussion of the Tigers bullpen is ok here, Nate.

  18. Steelkings says:

    The problem I have with waiting that long is that guys dont just hop off a plane a step up to a major League at bat. They will need to spend a month in the minors getting in shape and getting their timing back. By the time those guys become serviceable players for the Pirates, it might be too late.

  19. Jim S. says:

    I think the Tampa plan is all about balance in the short/medium/long range, 21. Trading away assets to add one player for 30 games plus playoffs rarely puts a team over the top, IMO.

  20. Jim S. says:

    Nate:

    I am optimistic about NW because I think he has gradually become a better hitter from the left side over time. He is more patient now, and even though his average was not where anyone wanted it to be last year, I believe his line drive % was up, and his K’s were in line. He didn’t catch a lot of breaks on BIP, not unlike Cutch the year he hit .259. I think we’ll see Walker in the .280 range this year, with more than a walk for every 10 ABs, close to 20 HR, and in the high 20′s to 30 range for 2b/3b.

    All of this, of course, assumes that he finds a way to stay healthy. I realize that is not a given, but I think he’ll be ok in that regard. I would also like to see his ABs from the right side curtailed quite a bit. Jordy or JHay can play 2b on those days.

    If he does those things, which I believe is highly possible, he is a valuable contributor at 2b whether he’s from Pittsburgh or Alaska.

  21. 21sthebest says:

    But is it too early to talk about baseball? Never!

  22. Jim S. says:

    That’s a good point, Steel. It would be more like a deadline acquisition.

  23. NMR says:

    You’re absolutely right, 21.

  24. NMR says:

    Did the same thing last year, no?

  25. Jim S. says:

    Never here, 21. This is like a baseball sanctuary city.

  26. Jim S. says:

    I don’t want the front office to be unrealistic. I don’t see where I gave that impression. But, Tampa has competed just about every year lately, and they hold onto those prospects pretty rigidly.

    I would like to see the analysis that says adding 1 great player increases your odds of winning so much. I’m not saying they should not ever do it. But, if it is a 2-month rental, and comes at a heavy price that I feel will hurt significantly down the road, I don’t do it. I recognize that other people think it is worth it to go all out every time you are close. I just don’t think it is a slam dunk good decision is all. I always know when it is August that April is coming next year, and the year after, and the year after. Wandering through the MLB wilderness for 20 years made me appreciate contending again. I want a contending team as often as possible. If that decreases my chances of winning it all by, say 5%, one year sign me up. We’ve had this discussion before over on DK’s blog. In fact, I think I brought it up last summer. Everyone has a different opinion. It’s a fun topic.

  27. Jim S. says:

    But, no one described his hands as “supple” last year that I recall.

  28. Jim S. says:

    “Hi, I’m Jim, and I’m a Prospect-Hord-a-holic.”

  29. Nate83 says:

    I saw somewhere else last week that Gaby was willing to do that just to be available to do more things for the team if needed. The weight loss and fitness he added will definitely make him a more serviceable player. The guy isn’t really that far removed from making the all-star team as an everyday first baseman. I know he was an all-star like Locke was an all-star but the point is it is possible for him to become the everyday first baseman if Lambo just isn’t up to task and put up a decent numbers.

  30. NMR says:

    -Neil Walker’s poor “luck” on balls in play just so happens to directly correlate with an increase in pop ups and a significant increase(5%) in fly balls. Expecting him to be a .300+ BABIP guy with that batted ball profile is probably foolish.

    -If Pedro saw a similar increase in fly ball rate he’d be a 40 homer guy without question.

    -Lost in the draft pick / window of opportunity / win curve discussion is the fact that small market darlings in Tampa and Oakland have been well below average in the draft over the last five years, at least. Many more ways to stock the farm exist than first round draft picks. Draft picks are being vastly overvalued.

  31. NMR says:

    hahaha +1

  32. NMR says:

    Jim likes prospects so much, he hoards them in the woom. Guy won’t even give up draft picks, the little embryo of prospects!

    :) :)

  33. Jim S. says:

    I thought I read recently that Walker’s line drive rate had increased last year, or was at least more representative of a guy with a much higher batting average. But, I didn’t see the data. So, if that was the not the case, I stand corrected.

  34. NMR says:

    His line drive rate actually dropped a percentage from 2012, but I don’t think anyone should trust the data to that degree of accuracy for definitive statements of improving or getting worse.

  35. Jim S. says:

    So, his BABIPs the last 4 years were:

    2010 – .340
    2011 – .315
    2012 – .326
    2013 – .274. 2013 looks like an outlier to me.

    His line drive %’s during those 4 years, in order, were 22%, 19%, 21%, 24%. So, his line drive % was his best ever.

    He did hit more fly ball outs last year, but I believe Baseball Reference.com says line drives were part of those fly outs.

    His strikeout rate dropped to 15.4% last year – lowest of his career.

    I’d say there is more than a fair chance he hit into some tough luck last year, and that if he truly is improving his line drive %, he could easily reach the #’s I suggested t his year.

  36. Steelkings says:

    I think the risk of giving up a prospect is much lower this year than many others. Correct me if Im wrong, but teams control the new prospects for three years. After that they have to be added to the 40 man.

    I asked for opinions a thread or two back about how the expiring CBA will effect free agent contract discussions as well as contract extensions, and I didn’t get a response. It seems obvious to me that the expiring CBA has been considered by management when you look at the contracts of the current 40 man roster. Especially when you consider 1/3 of the Pirates current 25 man rosters contracts expires with the CBA.

    So, what I am saying is that if club control expires with the CBA, do those prospects become free agents?

  37. 21sthebest says:

    “I don’t want the front office to be unrealistic. I don’t see where I gave that impression.”

    You didn’t Jim. And I agree with your next paragraph in that post. I just wouldn’t rule anything out and I believe that sometimes a team has to perceive a window of opportunity.

  38. Nate83 says:

    I just remember a lot of running warning track catches made against him late last year. I kept thinking he can’t catch a break. That being said he probably had a bunch of lazy fly balls drop in for hits earlier in the year. It all seems to balance out in baseball.

  39. Jim S. says:

    I think you are right that draft picks can be overrated, NMR. In the wrong hands, they are not worth much. In the right hands (St. Louis, Pittsburgh the last few years, etc.), they are pretty valuable. Not many people are disliking the Pirates 2 1st rd. picks from last year right now.

    But, I get your point. People seem to be getting crazy about the value of 1st rd. picks right now, and the pendulum has probably swung too far. But, if I’m the Pirates, I am probably starting to think I have a system in place for evaluating and drafting that makes picks pretty valuable. I think there is some evidence that they are getting smarter in evaluating talent at all levels. They have made some very good MLB acquisitions, and it appears to me that their Latin system is doing well of late. Their recent drafts have been evaluated as “deep.” These are early evaluations, but I think the evidence is pointing to them being pretty good at talent evaluation right now. Maybe they are getting better at development as well.

  40. 21sthebest says:

    hahaha + 2.

  41. Jim S. says:

    With a .274 BABIP, not a lot was falling in for him, Nate.

  42. NMR says:

    Warning track fly balls are exactly why his BABIP regressed. Nothing unlucky about it.

  43. 21sthebest says:

    Last Rays draft picks to play in the MLB since David Price was drafted in 2008? Tim Beckham’s 7 at bats last September and Derek Dietrich’s 215 at bats last year with the Marlins.

  44. Jim S. says:

    Where I really get attached to them, NMR, is the “draft chick” stage. You know, when they first pop out of the draft eggs.

  45. Nate83 says:

    3 years seems really short. I believe currently high school players are protected for 5 and college players 4 years. This would flood the market with a ton of free agent minor leaguers and rule 5 draft prospects. I’m not sure how teams would manage this. You would need a separate GM just to manage your minor league’s. Roster turnover would be so great I’m not sure how the game wouldn’t suffer in the long run. No continuity.

  46. Nate83 says:

    It will be interesting to see how this effects their team going forward over the next 3,4,5 years.

  47. NMR says:

    Not many teams in baseball dislike their first round draft picks from last year, Jim, as is the case every year.

    And I give way too much respect to the difficulty in drafting players to think the Pirates have found some sort of secret.

    Even the best scouts and general managers fail far more than they succeed.

  48. Jim S. says:

    That’s a good point, 21. I was talking more about their strategy. I don’t see them giving up a lot of draft picks to acquire free agents. But, maybe they should based on what you uncovered.

    As NMR pointed out, there are other ways to build a team. Tampa has been pretty savvy at collecting cast-offs (Loney, etc.).

    Fleecing teams of future stars (Will Myers) always helps, too.

  49. NMR says:

    Not that a BABIP around league average isn’t probable or even likely, but I think it is a big stretch to expect >.320.

  50. NMR says:

    They’re so cute at that age, Jim!

  51. Steelkings says:

    This is the rule….3 years is right. Its all about the 40 man

    *****were 19 or older on the June 5 preceding their signing and this is fourth Rule 5 draft upcoming.*****

    Most Anyone drafted in the next draft will be looking at this

  52. JohninOshkosh says:

    The Dodgers and D-Backs open the season in 26 days!

    Play at the Sydney Cricket Ground. That sounds like a very cool venue, in a British imperialist sort of way.

    Travis, great blog and, at its finest, on Mondays. Always enjoy your Non-Baseball Recommendation.

  53. Andrew says:

    No idea where this will land
    21 it is definitely about balancing short-term and long term it is just when I see “window” I think over valuing short-term, pushing cost down the road, see Reds. Multi-year contracts, >4 years, are all structured like this, value in the first years with the expectation they have an expiration date.

    While I do have a genetic pre-disposition for prospect separation syndrome, if the Pirates aren’t sold on Lambo and it cost, Wilson or Watson for an upgrade I can live with it.

    NMR I agree with what you have below about draft picks, I think teams may be over-valuing their abilities to draft.

  54. Steelkings says:

    Upcoming is key in this regard. At this point that would eliminate drafting college players. Then you run the risk of a HS player saying no, and re-entering the draft.

  55. Jim S. says:

    It will be interesting to see what Walker does this year, assuming he stays healthy.

    I think he’s becoming a better hitter, as I’ve said. His walk % has increased every year, and his strikeout % was his best ever last year. Maybe those 2 things go hand-in-hand for him.

    Maybe he’s just adapting to his ball park, and realizes he’s a pretty big guy who can hit a good # of HR at home. To do that, maybe he is sacrificing some batting avg for more fly balls. Most of the MLB data I have read says that batting avg. on flyballs and groundballs are both below .250, with flyballs being the lower of the two. But, the slugging % of flyballs is so much better than for ground balls that it probably makes it a worthwhile tradeoff to put the ball in the air for a guy who doesn’t rely on his legs much. Walker doesn’t get a lot of infield hits, so why not try to hit more flyballs?

    If the data is accurate that he also had his highest % of line drives last year, that would definitely be a good sign if he could sustain the improvement. In fact, that is a good sign for any player, as the batting avg. on line drives in MLB is in the .650 – .675 range, I believe.

    Now, I don’t think any of this works for him as a righty batter. Very few guys could ever make a living trying to hit for power in LF/LC at PNC. This is all speculation, but, what if lifting the ball is improving him as a lefty but is also the same thing is hurting him as a righty? This is part of why I never thought of trying to have my son be a switch hitter. Getting 1 swing locked and in a groove is hard enough. Doing that simultaneously from both sides of the plate is extremely difficult, and not a lot of hitters in MLB history have been able to master it. Those that do it very well end up with names like Mantle, Rose and Murray.

    Just having a little fun with analysis. Not saying I am on to anything concrete.

  56. Andrew says:

    Thoughts on Walker, I opened up the xBABIP spreadsheet, and it has a .322 BABIP for Walker last year, based solely on batted ball profile.

    The other issue of a potential platoon; if you regress his career splits you get .340 wOBA vs RHP, .312 vs LHP, last year league average hitter had a .318 wOBA. However, Walker’s wOBA against LHP has shown a steadily declined with each season, mainly because he hits with no power versus LHP. That said I think a platoon is a luxury not a need, there are other areas to improve first.

  57. NMR says:

    Thanks for that, Andrew.

  58. NMR says:

    Do you mind running Pedro’s xBABIP?

  59. Jim S. says:

    And, I would say, good teams succeed more than bad teams. But, yes, it is a very difficult thing to judge talent in baseball at the pro level. I think if a team is a very small % better than the competition, it can make a huge difference.

    Are you saying you don’t think the Pirates are improving in this regard? Or, just that they have not suddenly become the masters of drafting?

  60. Jim S. says:

    Thanks, great info. Andrew.

  61. NMR says:

    I don’t think we have anywhere close to enough data to judge whether or not the Pirates are getting better at drafting.

    Huntington has, at most, two drafts under his belt for which we can accurately judge.

  62. Thundercrack says:

    Please stop using that word when describing Gabby.

    :-)

  63. Bizrow says:

    Pirates claim Brent Morel, 40 man move pending

  64. Bizrow says:

    Lets see what they do with No 25, and not a 1 to 15 pick

  65. Thundercrack says:

    ‘That makes Andrew McCutchen’s six-year, $51 million deal seem like a pretty solid bargain, eh?’

    When you compare it to what Brett Gardner just got ($52 mil/4 years) it makes Cutch’s deall look much, much more than a pretty solid bargain. :-)

  66. Nate83 says:

    Just look how differently we view the 2010 and 2011 draft compared to a year ago at this time. It really does take a long time to judge a draft and actually drafting is definitely not an exact science. I agree with you that draft picks are being overvalued but there has to be some value put on one. Especially a first round pick. Although the percent of first round picks that succeed is low the numbers drop drastically as you move into the later rounds.

  67. Jim S. says:

    It is an uncomfortable word, isn’t it? At least, as it relates to baseball.

  68. Jim S. says:

    Best deal in MLB, I would say.

  69. Nate83 says:

    I’m not sure there are many situations outside of baseball where supple doesn’t raise a few eyebrows. I know I would only use it to get a laugh. So in this case that was a good use of the word supple.

  70. Jim S. says:

    Did you guys hear that Greinke doesn’t like going to Australia?

    Fine, Zack. How about keeping your mouth shut and just cashing the ENORMOUS checks. Every time that guys opens his mouth, IMO, he sticks his foot in it. Then, he pitches like a solid #2 at best.

  71. Andrew says:

    Alvarez from 2010-2013

    .284,
    .326
    .335
    .330.

    The formula likes those low IFFB% the last two years, remember it assumes average speed, and base running ability. I found that high BABIP surprising but Pedro does not hit a lot of fly ball.

  72. Jim S. says:

    Fair, Biz. Uncharted territory.

    But, the system was a disaster not long ago, and now it is far from that. Something is being done right, with the draft and international signings I think.

  73. Leo Walter says:

    Nate,while agreeing with most of your points here,I do have one question. Why is it that when the subject of Cole and a chance of the regression known as the possibility of the dreaded ” sophomore slump ” comes up,no one ever mentions that this also could happen to pitchers named Wacha,Miller,Rosenthal or Martinez ? Or a 1st baseman named Matt Adams for that matter ? Just curious.

  74. Jim S. says:

    His HR also get subtracted.

  75. NMR says:

    You realize he was asked a question, right?

  76. Nate83 says:

    Not trying to contradict or disagree with you Jim. Just passing along what I know about Greinke.

    I actually work with a guy who played golf in college with Greinke’s brother and has meant him a few times. He actually said Greinke was very nice and down to earth. However that was before he became a big star so maybe he has changed. He could still be a nice guy that just doesn’t say the right things in the media. I know he had some anxiety problems when he just started pitching in the majors.

  77. Andrew says:

    Cannot blame the shift, at least for last year, BABIP w/o shift for Alvarez .279, w/shift .303, which is counter-intuitive, he was shift 122 times. The average decrease in BABIP for 20 hitters shifted the most was .037. There was a great Hardball Times Annual article on it.

  78. NMR says:

    The 2008 draft is the one that deserves a major mea cupla from many people, IMO.

    Alvarez, Mercer, Wilson, and Grossman is a mighty fine draft.

  79. Jim S. says:

    So, Andrew, are you saying maybe I have been mis-diagnosed? Maybe I have Prospect Separation Syndrome?

    Do, I get a medallion for that if, for instance, I am able to avoid vomiting when Dilson Herrera ends up a fixture at 2b for the Mets in 2 years?

  80. Andrew says:

    Yes Jim the HR are subtracted, that is BIPonContact I think. Big difference with Alvarez and Walker as it pertains to batting average is the K rates.

  81. Jim S. says:

    Gaby and his supple hands can slide back over to 1b full-time, I guess. :-)

  82. Nate83 says:

    Jim, I did see this yesterday but never bothered to look at it until you brought it up. It sounds like he just said he isn’t looking forward to it. There is nothing to look forward to he said. I don’t think it’s really a knock on Australia as much as he doesn’t want to travel anywhere outside of the US. His GM commented that Greinke is very diligent with his workouts and preparation and this will interfere with that.

    I personally have no problem with him answering like that. It’s honest and I would rather that then a fake it’s good for the game answer. If he thinks it gives the Dodgers a 1% chance of losing a game when they come back then the answer is fair.

  83. Jim S. says:

    Also, JHay can begin biting his nails now.

  84. Jim S. says:

    And, yes, I’m kidding. I think JHay is better than this guy.

  85. Andrew says:

    The Rays had like 10 compensation pick/year under last CBA, however I read that went for signability (is this a word) with those extra picks, for what that is worth. Also of note the As had some terrible drafts, not a lot of home grown talent on there roster, until a couple of pitching prospects in last year or two.

  86. Nate83 says:

    4 players for one draft is very rare. Grossman was used to get Wandy and Wilson still may be used to get a key player at some point this year. 2009 has very few players contributing for any teams. I believe there are some really good players but after that not much to speak of.

  87. Jim S. says:

    I know he has some sort of social anxiety, Nate. I get that.

    But, it just seems like all I ever read about this guy is him complaining about something.

    You make much more each game (including the 80% of games you don’t participate in) than 99% of the country makes in a year, Zack. You get to go to Australia, a wonderful place where 99% of the people who pay to watch you play will never get to visit. It is being done in the name of spreading the popularity of the game that is making you extremely wealthy. You may not agree with the strategy, but maybe you could try to suck it up and be a bit more of a team player just this once. This really is not that much of a hardship.

    I’m just tired of his privileged act.

  88. NMR says:

    Thanks again, Andrew.

  89. Jim S. says:

    That really is great stuff, Andrew. But, it makes my brain hurt.

  90. Jim S. says:

    Ok, maybe I went off on Greinke a bit. I think he complains a bit much. I should have left it at that.

  91. Thundercrack says:

    Unless I felt my team was just one player away from being an absolute lock for the World Series, I am not in favor of signing a free agent to a one year deal AND having to give up the #1 draft pick. I want the player for more than one year.

    Using the Orioles as an example, I don’t know why they don’t sign Nelson Cruz for $8 Million, offer a $2M buyout, but include a team option for a second year at $15-17 M. That way if the player produces an elite/above average level they will have the option of having him for a second year – and it takes the sting out of of giving up the pick.

  92. Nate83 says:

    I completely get what your saying Jim and respect that side of it. I try not to bring money into the equation too much when thinking about these guys as people. He is paid a lot of money. He is paid a lot of money to win baseball games. I’m guessing he is extremely competitive. Most that make it to his level are but not always. He isn’t treating Australia as a vacation but a place to go and do his job. He feels as if the trip may keep him from completing his job to it’s fullest upon coming back. I respect his answer. It shows his dedication to his job and his comments didn’t do anything too insult Australia in my opinion. Especially if you see them in there entirety.

  93. JohninOshkosh says:

    His wife is smoking. Saw her once in Milwaukee. So, there’s that!

  94. Nate83 says:

    There’s always that. That can never be underestimated. I love some of these NASCAR guys. If you saw them with their wives walking around in street clothes and had no idea what they did for a living you would get whiplash taking a second look to try and figure out what was going on.

  95. Jim S. says:

    Some athletes should know how good they have things in their professional lives is what I meant. A lot do. Some don’t.

    I also recognize that just because they make millions of $$ does not mean they don’t still have problems. Everybody has problems.

    I don’t think he’s winning any points, though, complaining about anything to do with his job.

  96. Steelkings says:

    What is not to like about a 15 hour flight?

  97. Jim S. says:

    Yes, and he’s been around long enough to know how not to stick his foot in his mouth. I’m not the only one who brought this up. They spent a lot of time on MLB Radio on it this morning. Fans that called in were not so supportive of Zack’s hardship.

  98. Sisyphus says:

    You’re definitely right about balancing goals, but I think that most of fans live in the now. What a ballclub needs to do is cut off a piece of broom handle and use it to prop the window open, and that’s what it seems to me that the Pirates are trying to do. They’re competitive right now, and still have a deep farm system. That’s going to get harder to do as time passes and their draft position falls, but it has to be done. I’m getting older now, and I don’t want to go through any more five to seven year rebuilds.

  99. Steelkings says:

    Jim,
    Until you have to take a helicopter ride home from Philly 2 or 3 times a week to see your wife and kids, you wont know hardship!

  100. Jon says:

    Wait. There’s a real person named Bean Stringfellow????? That’s all I can think about now. Didn’t even finish the blog post.

  101. steelkings says:

    Yeah, Brent Morel..A guy Roto says is a certain cut before they break camp. Oh and the Pirates cut a AAA shortstop to pick him up. They do know SS is a position in Major League Baseball, dont they?

  102. Steelkings says:

    Sis, god love ya!

    Best post today by far. Guys don’t get me around here. Too negative, I think. They dont understand that this is different young and old. I met Manny Sanguillén when he was playing.

    Patients is for young people
    Planning is for young people

    The guys who are flipping the bill for you unemployed lazy whinny bastards who need to get away from your mothers, WANT IT NOW!

  103. NMR says:

    I agree with you completely, Nate.

  104. NMR says:

    Nobody is going to ask whether or not forcing your players to do a three day cannonball run to the literal opposite end of the globe is a good idea in the first place?

    Nobody?

    We’re gonna sh*t on Grienke for being honest, yet say nothing about Selig and the decision to play these games fromt he start?

    Missing the point, in my opinion.

  105. NMR says:

    Those fans are ignorant, and you rant more than anyone on the blog about the blowhards on MLB TV/Radio.

  106. LeeFoo says:

    Historically, the Pirates will not be getting too many All Stars picking in the 20s. The odds are against them. However, I will love it if we keep getting to pick low every year.

    They will have to keep mining their Latin connections for stars.

    They will also have to do what Tampa Bay and Oakland have done and that is: Trade their stars while they can still afford them for good young prospects.

    It remains to be seen if NH can do the latter. He struck gold with McLouth but struck out on Bay.

    When you make trades like that, it is always a crapshoot on both ends.

  107. Nate83 says:

    Leo, I agree completely. I actually posted a while back all the question marks the Cards also have when others where comparing their good off season to the Pirates. The players they picked up Peralta and Bourjos do some things well but also have holes in their games and are not guaranteed to huge upgrades. If they added someone like Ellsbury it would be a different story but they added a defense first CF that still has offensive questions.

    They also lost Beltran and replaced him with a rookie. A very good rookie but they don’t always play great right away. They have a few players do for regression from last year like Carpenter and all those high RISP batting averages.

    I also mentioned their heavy dependence on young pitchers and how some may regress this year. The Cards go into this season with many questions as well.

  108. 21sthebest says:

    I agree with Greinke.

  109. 21sthebest says:

    Agree 100% NMR.

  110. Nate83 says:

    I will assume this means you agree with everything I have ever said since this isn’t in response to anything specific I said.

    I use the same method with my wife. I just always say I agree with her completely and it seems to keep her happy which is always a good thing.

  111. NMR says:

    Oh geez, this is scary! I had Nate on the brain at 6:30 am.

  112. NMR says:

    Hahaha, best comment so far on the Bucco Blog.

  113. Nate83 says:

    The crazy thing is I read the post and read that name without even batting an eye. What is wrong with me. How can that name not make be stop and question it. It sounds like a character that may have committed murder in the library with the candlestick in the game clue.

  114. Travis Sawchik says:

    @Jim, too kind. Thank you, sir. … I also think Morales is more likely to be targeted by the Pirates … though I think Drew still makes sense and would allow for Mercer to be a super sub of sorts and spell Alvarez and Walker against LHP.

  115. Travis Sawchik says:

    Walker’s 23 percent line drive rate suggests he had some bad luck … the infield pop-ups were up, but that could be a one-year outlier. It is something to keep an eye on. Maybe he’s trying to become more of a flyball hitter?

  116. NMR says:

    His IFFB% has increased by at least 1% every year since he’s entered the league, unfortunately.

    The good news is that he’s been remarkably consistant, production-wise, over the last three years despite getting it done in different ways.

  117. NMR says:

    You apparently have not seen d’Arnaud play.

  118. Nate83 says:

    I am much less heartbroken over this move then letting De Jesus walk when the likes of d’Arnaud and Oliver occupied spots on the 40 man.

    On another note anybody who thinks NH’s decision on Morris this year will be clouded because he was acquired in a trade need not look any further then the decision on De Jesus to see it will have zero effect on the decision.

  119. jim kalyvas says:

    How about trading our bullpen strength, say Morris, Sanchez and Mazzaro for Ike Davis and the Mets #1 draft pick (or a swap of #1s, alternatively); or even giving up Grilli for Davis and their #1 draft pick; but not giving them Nick Kingham. I think Melancon will be just fine as our closer, with Watson and Wilson handling innings 7 and 8.

    Davis can bat 5th or 6th and use the shorter right field fences And give us great defense at first base. He was injured last year with the undisclosed ‘oblique’ injury but still hit well in second half of last year.

 
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