Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Travis Snider for Brad Lincoln - What does it mean?

The Pirates made a trade the day before the deadline acquiring Travis Snider from the Blue Jays for Brad Lincoln.  Now, I have been a big Brad Lincoln supporter, and I do think that he could still be a starter, but probably not more than a fifth starter.  He will be a great bullpen guy with the possibility of being a closer because I think he throws hard enough.  No matter where you put him in the pen, he will be good.

However, I like this trade.  Snider has control until 2016 when the next wave of Pirates arrive.  He is arbitration eligible in 2013, but probably will not command a ton of dollars.  He is a lot like Lincoln in that he has good AAA numbers, but has not yet shown that ability at the major league level.  He is only 24 making him three years younger than Lincoln.  And if we are trying to win this year, then Snider is who we need.  The bullpen can go with someone else from Triple A or a waiver claim, and the Pirates need a bat with some hits in it.  Snider could be that guy.  He is a lefty, so that could help too.  They had to get a bat some how, and this is as good a way as any.  The fact he has so much control, I think means this is a win for the Pirates.

What this means for the future then is even more interesting.  Snider is a lefty bat making him a bit redundant with Alex Presley.  Let's assume that long term Marte is the answer for one outfield slot.  Right now, Marte may lose playing time to Snider, especially against righties if we want to load up left handers in the line up.  In the future that is not going to be the case.  So, this trade can be seen as admitting Presley is not the long term solution.  Presley does not have that corner outfield power that is expected.  Snider might.
But even more interesting is whether or not this is a shot at Tabata.  They just signed a guy for Tabata's spot with control for years.  Tabata is not doing well in AAA and Presley is playing decent ball in the pros.  So perhaps we ought to be reading this as a sign that Tabata is going to have to earn his spot on the team next year.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Wandy Rodriguez Trade Analysis

I have to say that I think I am against this most recent move despite the fact that it makes us better this year.

Wandy is a good pitcher, and can fit in as a solid number 3 guy behind Burnett and McDonald.  But unlike McDonald, he has done it for a whole season and has post season experience.  It moves Correia to the bullpen, which makes the team better overall.  However, I think the price was too high.

Wandy for Rudy Owens makes sense despite my belief Rudy will make a good 4 or 5 guy for years to come.  Wandy has some years of control left, which makes Rudy's path to the big leagues harder.  Might as well send him on so he can have a shot at the majors.  I can acknowledge the need to add another player to this deal.  Colton Cain was in my top 10 prospect list, which means the Pirates just traded away two of their top 10 guys in my book.  Admittedly Cain was probably going to drop out of the top 10 with his so-so year.  And I guess Cain does not have a lot of room to assume adding speed, so what you see is what you get.  Still Cain has a power fastball, and his secondary pitches can still improve.  His year is a disappointment, but not a loss.  I would imagine he would still move up next year to AA.

The problem I have is adding a third player with the caliber of talent of a Robbie Grossman.  Robbie had a great year last year, and was on fire after a very slow start that could either be attributed to recovering from his hamate surgery or an undisclosed bad attitude that got him suspended for over a week earlier this year.  Since that time, it is hard to complain and his numbers look good from that point on.  He was showing all he could play at the high levels.  His power still needs to come up, but that developing is not out of the question.  If Marte can still have hope of power, so can Grossman.  I had Grossman near my top 10, and sometimes I would put him in it.  I just don't get Wandy as worth three of your top 10 guys (in last year's rankings anyway).

Now, I can see the logic.  Wandy is an upgrade over Rudy and removes your need for him.  And Cain has been passed by Cole and Taillion, so Cain does not need to be in your future plans.  Especially with the show some of the younger guys are putting on this year in Rookie and State College.  Heredia is better than Cain right now, so he is no more than a future 4th starter.  And I can see reasons for sending Grossman.  He would have to be on the 40 man, and with the addition of Rojas and Bell, the outfield has a lot of people, and Grossman is not really needed.  Although one could make the case with Tabata being so bad this year, that maybe he will be needed while those guys move up the system.  I just cannot fathom Wandy being worth all of them.  Clearly the Pirates think more of Kyle McPhearson than I do (which makes Cain lower in importance for the Pirates), but his injury should show the real value of even guys like Cain.  You have to wonder a little if the mid-season suspension of Grossman really soured the Pirates on him.

I hope Wandy proves me wrong.  And I like getting a guy who is under control for next year, and even an option for 2014.  So while I think they overpaid, it is hard to complain too much.  Make the playoffs and all will be forgiven.  His experience their could come in real handy.

Friday, July 20, 2012

2012 Draft Review

It is really too early to tell if the 2012 draft is good or bad, but you really ought to grade it now anyway.  It is a matter of expectations.

First off any draft where you don't sign your number one pick ought to drop the draft a letter grade, and when you are picking in the top 10, it ought to drop your draft two letter grades.  Although getting a comp pick makes the top possible grade the Pirates can receive as C+.

Losing Appel is a major blow to the draft, but can pay off next year.  Getting the 9th overall pick is  going to be good news because this year the Pirates will probably draft in the top 3rd for the first time in a long time.  They also won the Competitive balance draft lottery and will get an extra pick at the end of round one.  Next year's draft the Pirates ought to be able to get a lot.

Still that does not help this year's draft and Appel was the first pick.  He did not sign despite being offered over the slot money.  The Pirates are not completely to blame because their hands were tied.  You cannot give up a draft pick next year for him.  The Pirates knew the risks and took it.  They could have drafted someone else who would have signed.  Appel was the best on the board, but at the end of the day, he is not a Pirate.

The Pirates draft gets worse from there.  The C+ would have still been possible if they had signed the man that they drafted as insurance against Appel not signing: Walker Buehler.  A young high school arm was clearly not going to sign for under 100,000 which is what needed to happen for a 14th rounder.  But when Appel was not going to sign, they should have put a full court press with their 3 million to get Buehler.  Perhaps they should have given up on Appel early enough to try and do this.  I really thought they would.  They did not.  A big failure.

The Pirates hung this draft on Appel.  They did go with quality in the first couple of picks.  Barrett Barns was probably about right for a Comp round and the fact that he signed under is a bonus.  Wyatt Mattheson and Jon Sandfort are good picks.  Failing to sign Brandon Thomas hurt as well, but the pick was not bad.  With the exception Kevin Ross at round 8 the rest are picks designed to save money for Appel.  We signed them, but they are not adding a lot to the system.  DJ Crumlich is killing the ball in State College, so maybe we have something there.

They did get a few guys in the later rounds that have upside, but are still a bit of a long shot.  Max Moroff and Hayden Hurst got extra money to come probably from the Appel failure.  But without Buehler, it is not enough to make up for the loss and the money left on the board.

Of the other late round picks I am intrigued that John Kuchino from Ohio State took extra money to sign.  He seems like a decent reliever, but little else.  The only one who excites me in the later rounds is Jimmy Rider.  Rider is one of the all time hit leaders at Kent State, and did pretty well in the College World Series with a homer and a double off some of the best college pitching.  He is defensively limited being already a 2nd baseman, but he may make it as a back up one day.  I like the pick at any rate.

Overall this draft did not add a lot to the system.  I expect that this draft is lucky to receive a D as a grade and only got that because of the late additions of Ross, Moroff and Hurst, and the fact that the comp pick of Barnes mitigates the loss of Appel somewhat.

Next it is time to re-look at the past drafts.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Second Half

As Pirate fans remember, last year the Pirates were in first place in late July, making moves at the trading deadline, and then completely fell off the planet to not even finish .500.  Now a lot of that had to do with injuries to people like Alex Presley, and especially to Derek Lee right after he was acquired. What can we expect this year in the second half?

First off, do not fear an implosion like last year.  There are several reasons for this.  First and not to be forgotten in the stats is that sometimes teams have to learn how to play in big important games.  The Pirates got a taste last year.  I expect that is vastly important although impossible to calculate.  Second, last year the pitching staff was destined to fall apart.  Kevin  Correia especially was ready to explode and he did.  This year's staff is much more on target.  Last year we were not striking guys out, but still getting them out at an amazingly high rate, a rate you knew would normalize to our detriment.  This year those numbers are more normal mostly because we are striking guys out.  We also have arms in reserve should something go wrong with one of them.  Rudy Owens is ready to go in Triple A and Brad Lincoln is in the bullpen ready to go.  Charlie Morton is on the DL and ought to be back at some point.  So, we ought to be able to keep up the pitching.

Second, we are just a much better team.  I know not a lot changed other than Burnett and Bedard, but those two changes are enormously important.  Also, this year we are playing with Pedro.  Pedro is not setting the world on fire, but he is consistently providing a power threat.  He is second on the team in homers and RBIs.  No small thing despite his still pathetic average, which is climbing.  Add in a power hitting catcher that we did not have last year, and the team is in a much better position offensively.  This of course goes without mentioning the obvious improvement in McCutchen and Walker who both are having excellent years.  More than making up for the fall of in Tabata.  Our bench is also better with some power on it as well.

Third, expect a deal.  I think one thing the Pirates showed last year and in this off season is that they will make deals to better the team.  Nothing splashy, but probably effective.  Last year the moves were solid, but just failed.  Lee actually played great while he was with the team, a bean ball to the hand just limited that to a handful of games.  Ludwick was a bust, but the numbers supported the deal.  Sometimes people just don't play well.  Expect the Pirates to end up with something to help out somewhere.  Probably a corner outfielder again, or a short stop if the right deal comes along.  I expect that Pirates are looking for both.

The Pirates may not make the playoffs or win the division.  A one game lead is not a very secure lead.  And while some players have room to get better (like Pedro), others might fall off some (like McCutchen).  Injuries can always happen.  But it is hard to imagine a situation that would make the Pirates fall under .500.  This is the year the streak ends.  Enjoy the second half.  It is going to be a doozy.