I just ran across this article (insider) on the network where Bowden advocates "blockbuster" deals each team should make. For the Pirates, Bowden suggests they trade Polanco, Kingham and Mercer for Rios and Ramirez from the White Sox. Call me crazy but if I'm Huntington, I wouldn't make that deal in any universe.
Rios: WAR of 2 (Fangraphs) for the season thus far. Let's assume best case scenario he matches that performance for the second half of the season considering he put up a WAR of 4.1 last season (but -1.2 the year before). He is signed through next year with an expensive team option of $13.5 M for the following year.
Ramirez: WAR of 1.5 for the season through today. He's playing ahead of projections and well ahead of his 2012 performance. Should he suddenly revert to 2010-2011 level of play, we could expect him to outperform this level the second half of the season but that seems unlikely as he's now 31. He is signed through 2015 but for roughly $10 M a year and a team option for another year at the same cost.
It seems fair to say that Rios and Ramirez have played about as well or better as could be expected through the first half of this year. To expect a repeat performance for the second half from both would not be impossible but probably unrealistic. Both upgrade the lineup but at what cost?
What the Pirates give up:
Mercer: by most accounts, Mercer rates as a league average shortstop. He's put up a WAR of 0.7 so far this year. Depending on your view of Mercer, you may think he's outperformed. Let's assume he puts up half of this number for the remainder of this year.
Polanco: #2 prospect in one of the best farm systems in baseball as recently rated by Baseball America. He's a 6-4 21 year old who has put up an OPS of over .825 in his last two minor league stops with good strikeout numbers, and decent walk rates. He stole 44 bases last year in Bradenton and has already swiped 25 this year in Altoona. In the words of BA who rates him as their 13th overall prospect in baseball, he "Keeps getting better and might be a five-tool center fielder."
Kingham: #8 prospect and 3rd best pitching prospect. He's a 6-5 21 projectable year old that has put up a K/BB of over 5 at Bradenton and 4 in AA Altoona. His stock has been rising.
So, all in all, I don't think anyone would argue that the Pirates wouldn't improve immediately with a trade like this. RF is clearly a vacuum currently and moving a bat like Tabata onto the bench would clearly be an improvement over the current options. However, giving up a major league average but young and cheap starting shortstop, a 5 tool potential future all star outfielder and one of the farm system's rising pitching prospects seems unbelievably short-sighted for what would likely equate to 2-3 wins above existing levels this year. Further, the addition of two players like this would increase payroll by $20-23 M per year over the next year or two. Better options exist for likely a lot less. For a team like the Pirates, who are looking to build long-term and manage salary, this deal as described makes absolutely zero sense to me. Thoughts?