As we all try to recover from the hangover that followed the wild party that was our brief (but scintillating) flirtation with Giancarlo Stanton, we start to enter the doldrums between year-end trades and the pre-Spring-Training surprise deal. Maybe. (Grab a snack - this post may last a while.....) Last year the FO gave us AJ Burnett - this year, who knows? With an Opening Day starting rotation that seems to be (roughly) in place (pending the late-breaking news on Liriano's injury), a bullpen that seems to have enough resources to go around, and a fair amount of stability at most of the field positions, it's time to take a late look at moves that the FO is still hinting at making, moves that other teams need to make (where the Bucs may actually have a piece to fit), and miscellaneous 'what-ifs' (and the Suggestion Box is indeed "open"). In terms of what pieces we may be willing to part with that other teams might need (sometimes its more productive to get inside the heads of other parties first, figure out what they want, THEN figure out if there's a mutually-satisfying deal to be had), not a lot to offer from the Bucs side, but there could be some interesting matches out there. I'm not saying that the Pirates are completely set and can totally rely on their situation in a lot of spots, but I'm willing to think positively about: Marte having his breakout; Snider and Sands both meeting their potential and having a productive platoon in RF; Cutch not dropping off too much from his 2012 - he will, I just hope it's not a nose-dive; Walker's back holding up; the 1B platoon meshing well; and keeping my fingers generally crossed on AJ, Wandy, Pedro and Martin maintaining form, and JMac, Liriano, Barmes and our 5th starter not going completely in the tank. Other than that, I'm totally confident :-) If you look at things like the WAR stats for this team in 2012, you'll notice that there were 11 position players and 9 pitchers whose WAR value was actaully NEGATIVE or ZERO. In simplistic terms, another way to say that is that 19 players who appeared at some point on last year's roster ended up contributing virtually nothing to the Pirates win total in 2012 or, worse, actually cost the team runs/wins (in theory). But you'll also notice that 16 of those 19 have now been let go or traded, including some sub-zero WAR names like Hanrahan, Holt, Cruz and Barajas, etc. (you can see the others at Fangraphs). As a lot of coaches know, it can almost be more productive to improve the bottom of a team as opposed to bringing in another piece up top (while keeping the same bottom) That seems to have been one of the steps taken by the FO along the way, and the Bucs may see some upward win movement just based on the off-loading of almost the entire contingent of zero-to-negative WAR contributors.....we'll see. (and, of course it depends on who they're replaced with, right?) That means there's three of those folks remaining - Jose Tabata (whose name is tossed into every possible trade scenario, and his ongoing under-performance/WAR contribution is likely the reason), Chase D'Arnaud (who continues to un-impress in limited exposure, likely leading to another year in AAA, or whatever), and Jared Hughes. However, middle relievers kinda get a pass on WAR - they all seem to fall in that 0.0-0.5 range (WAR's not a great stat for that position). But trades obviously don't get done/valued/analyzed on past performance alone - many will try to divorce themselves from the past data, particularly the recent 'one bad year' element and focus more on projections and other more subjective analysis. Given that (and I think with more focus on the latter, i.e. future performance projections) the Pirates seem to keep whispering that several spots could be considered candidates for an upgrade (shortstop, 5th SP, 5th OF, the bench, etc.) or a relatively modest 'sell-high' opportunity (Garrett Jones and maybe a mid-level prospect or two). So I'm going to assume that, with Stanton in our long, lost memories, (and with it, any notion of including Jameson Taillon in any deal for any player not named Giancarlo) that the following are the pieces that the Bucs would have some willingness/interest in letting go, if the return was, of course, relatively worthy. Places where they have a need to upgrade or have a perceived surplus of options include: Jose Tabata, Clint Barmes, every OTHER middle infielder except Walker (D'Arnaud, Harrison, Mercer, etc.), Alex Presley, one of Locke/McPherson/Wilson, Garrett Jones, mid-level prospects (think #s 15-50). On the influx of new guys (Sands, Oliver, etc.), I think they'll want to see for themselves what they've got first, and would be more inclined to hold onto those new guys for awhile at least, either in the MLB or AA/AAA. So, I'll start (and try to explain my rationale to avoid a bunch of back-and-forth), but feel free to throw in your comments or other trade suggestions. First up: Bucs/O's ---Bucs get: SS JJ Hardy and IF Brian Roberts ---Orioles get: 1B Garrett Jones, IF Josh Harrison, SS Clint Barmes and #10 Bucs prospect (per Jon Mayo/MLB.com) 1B Alex Dickerson OK, just wait, before you cry "dump!" or "fantasy trade".....Putting on the O's hat first.......they have one of those things we wish we had, a much-less-than-ideal (but still manageable, I guess) logjam at a key position - a good player and maybe a better prospect, in this case Hardy and Machado at SS (kinda like Andrus and Profar in Texas). There's an opportunity to finally put Machado in his natural position instead of forcing him into the lineup at 3B, and with Hardy in the last 2 years of his contract. Also, the O's lost Mark Reynolds at 1B, and will move Chris Davis there, who should really be focused on just being the DH. They like the idea of Davis at 1B so much they've been seriously considering paying Adam LaRoche $13+ mil/yr to play there instead. GI is a much more affordable starting 1B solution, and can also do some DH and RF. JHay just gives them some cheap, multi-position back-up, which they can use w/Hardy & Roberts gone. Dickerson is thrown in as a potential bonus, and a longer-term solution for them at 1B. I know that might seem like a big give-up, but the Mayo #10 ranking seems inflated to me (unless you're an O's fan reading this, then it's dead-on :-), and some of the reports on this guy question power, etc. (to the point where in, say Pirates Prospects' view, he's only the #33 prospect (and in the 20's under Sickels' and other rankings). It's not like you can get away with hiding that stuff these days, but if you could somehow 'sell high' on Dickerson as a Top 10 prospect, have at it. The Barmes piece is really a side-car to this JJ Hardy-plus deal - clearly not an attractive thing to send, particularly at $5.5 mil next year. However, he coud provide a nice veteran shadow to Machado for 1 year in case he goes off the rails, or they just need a stellar defender to back him up. But it's REALLY only in there because the O's have another, bigger problem to "solve" - the even-less-attractive final year of Brian Roberts' contract - $10 million (!). So.....before you get the torches-and-pitchforks, here's the thing - if you want to roll the dice, have a little faith, etc., you can look at a 2013 projection like, say, Bill James', who has Hardy rebounding in the form of the equivalent of a 4+ WAR or so (22HRs, 71 RBI, .254/.306/.422 slash, with his usual stellar defense), and Brian Roberts coming out of hibernation to put in around 250 plate appearances, and generating a little over a 1 WAR out of that (.268/.345/.397 slash). Conversely, GIJ is expected by Bill James and others (as some of us fear, thinking we've just seen his best) to fall off of his 2012 numbers (probably why the Bucs are still whispering his name). In fact, James' projections would put Jones at something like less than one-half WAR (0.5 or less) next year (NOTE GI was only a 1.9 WAR in his 'career year' of 2012. I love him, too, but.....). Barmes could be at 1.5 to 2.0 WAR again, with an uptick in offense and his usual phenomenal fielding (I lovelovelove Barmes as a fielder). With Harrison thrown in, that group probably generates 2.5 WAR total in 2013, assuming they all put in as much time as they did in 2012. Hardy/Roberts are projected to put up more than double that. Hardy/Roberts combined WAR "value" would be about $25+ million next year ( I think.....I'm just using about $5 mil/WAR,sound right?); Jones/Barmes/Harrison, about $12.5 mil. But Hardy and Roberts will have to be paid (gulp) $17 million total next year and our guys only about $10.5 mil. However, if you're a real WAR-guy and are drinking the projection kool-aid, then you've probably already made your decision, without any more horse-trading: the "surplus value" of Hardy/Roberts is about $8 million (the $25 minus $17); the surplus value of GI/Clint/JHay is only about $2 mil. In theory, you can generate another 2-3 wins with this trade and have a $5-$6 million surplus of value on top of that to, um, 'value' as you will. But given that the "Roberts problem" is so bad ($10 mil), I WOULD continue to trade that horse, and look for the O's to even that 2013 salary gap out a bit with a little cash and/or a prospect. (BTW, I'm not sure how to value Dickerson in this equation - anyone have a thought on a guy like that?). One other consideration, maybe a bigger strategic one long-term: having a veteran 2nd baseman next year might allow you to start test-driving/migrating folks around in the direction of places they may land in your longer-term Pirates strategy. If Roberts could take more reliable reps at 2B, it could allow for some work at 3B by Walker, as that may be his ideal future spot (at least that's what some presume is inevitable). That move then also allows for reps by Pedro at 1B, for the same strategic reasons. In addition, you've got a big overall upgrade at SS in Hardy thru 2014, at which time, theoretically, some other middle infielders like Alen Hanson, Dilson Herrera and, who knows, Ngoepe, Moroff, etc., begin to arrive. Hmmmmmmm................. Second deal is Bucs/Yankees: ---Bucs get: Phil Hughes (1 year left), maybe a mid-prospect) ---Yankees get: Michael McKenry, Jose Tabata Yanks' hat on first - as comical as it seems to me and any other small-market fan, the Yankees apparently can't afford to spend any more money, so they let their catcher go (to us), which they apparently now regret, and have no real MLB catcher to start the season with, and won't find a decent one via free agency or trade. They are also pretty vocal about being stuck with their all-lefty OF, and are broadcasting a need for any right-handed hitting 4th or 5th OF. OF first - since they drafted him, they may have a lingering interest in plugging someone like Tabata into that support role, with years of control and a very affordable contract (with potential performance upside). The C piece is tough. The Pirates, for all intents and purposes, have made an all-in committment at catcher for the next two years with Russell Martin. You have to assume (pray?) that he will perform, and he will take most of the 'snaps'. Given that (bear with me here), Michael McKenry will never be worth LESS to the Pirates than he will over the next two years. To some extent you have already rolled the dice on an $8 mil catcher thru 2014, so maybe you 'sell high' on McKenry to the one team that has a unique need to fill, and where he would be viewed as an upgrade over their alternatives. And you throw T. Sanchez into the fire once and for all, sink-or-swim (if I'm not mistaken that was at least one cliche/metaphor over the limit for one sentence :-) In exchange, you get a very good 3rd/4th/5th starter in Hughes at a still-reasonable price for that slot, and who the Yankees will be likely letting go after next year anyway for no return (which is why they are whispering about him going now). Also very good projections for 2013 (again, per Bill James, 3.76 ERA, 3.97 FiP, 1.23 WHIP, 3.26 Ks/BBs, 176 strikeouts projected). But given the years of control we're giving up, I would try to grab one of their prospects in this deal, maybe a Jose Campos or comparable, but I'm not the expert on their prospects - maybe one of you are. I'll just leave it at those two deals for now, given that most of you - if you made it this far - are either too exhausted or too annoyed to reply, or have passed away. Any thoughts on those or other trade ideas - the exchange is open!
This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of the managing editor (Charlie) or SB Nation. FanPosts are written by Bucs Dugout readers.