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Evaluating Pirate Trade Values: Controllable Players

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MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

We have already examined the potential returns for the Pirates’ rental players, but if they decide to blow it all up, what could they get back?

Once again, I want to reiterate I do not have any scoops from insiders that say these are actual offers, if this really is what the Pirates could get for each player or if the Pirates are even serious about trading anyone listed. If they are, I want to show you the thought process behind these fake deals though so you can get an understanding of what a potential return could be. Making fake trade proposals are fun, and hopefully this can be a tool to help you make more educated shots in the dark.

In case you need a refresher, here’s how I calculate trade value:

I’ll be using surplus value and future value to make these trades. For example, let’s say a major league player is worth 1 WAR at a salary of $5 million. One WAR is valued at $9 million today, so his surplus value would be $4 million. We can take an educated guess at how much WAR a player will be worth down the stretch and compare it to how much he’s owed.

For prospects outside the top 100, we’ll use FanGraphs’ future value formula and their scouting reports. Their prospect board can be found here.

Here’s how they value prospects based on FV and position:

$8 Million- 45+ POS

$6 M- 45+ P, 45 POS

$4 M- 45 P, 40+ POS

$3 M- 40+ P

$2 M- 40 POS

$1 M- 40 P

So if you were selling a major league hitter and could get a surplus value of $6 million, you could either get a 45+ grade pitcher, a 45 grade hitter, or a couple lesser prospects that total $6 million. If you want six 40-grade pitchers, well, you can theoretically get it.

Since we’re going to be working with larger amounts, we’re also going to be using the top-100 model, courtesy of Kevin Creagh and Steve DiMicelli at The Point of Pittsburgh. Their model uses $8.5 million per WAR. Once converted to $9 million per WAR, here is how valuable a hitter or pitcher is, based on where he ranks on Baseball America’s Top 100 list.

1-10: Hitters- $86.2 million, Pitchers- $77.7 million

11-25: Hitters- $69.5 million, Pitchers- $48.6 million

26-50: Hitters- $39.8 million, Pitchers- $34.1 million

51-75: Hitters- $25.5 million, Pitchers- $20.9 million

76-100: Hitters- $21.4 million, Pitchers- $16 million

So now we have our totals. If you haven’t read part one or part two, there they are. Let’s see what the Pirates’ big fish could fetch.

Keone Kela

2019 Stats: 3.68 ERA, 5.07 FIP, 23.8 K%, 7.9 BB%, 0.0 WAR in 14.2 IP

Remaining Contract: Appx. $1 million of $3.175 2019 arbitration deal; one additional arbitration year for appx. $5 million

Projected WAR: 0.2 in 2019; ZiPS projection of 1.0 WAR in 2020 ($10.8 million)

Surplus Value: $4-$5 million

The Pitch: I’ll start by saying trading Kela now would be really dumb. He’s missed most of the season with injury, hurting his value. Also, it seems the only reason the Pirates are “more than willing” to trade him is because of the incident that led to his two game suspension. A bad reputation can negatively effect a potential trade for him. I didn’t take either into account while calculating his trade value, but other teams surely will. He is more valuable as a Pirate than as a trade chip.

But if the Pirates do go forward and try to deal him, they are selling a hard throwing right-hander who has worked to a 3.16 ERA and 3.37 FIP since 2017. He can slot into the back of just about any bullpen and make it better.

Good Fits: Washington- Mike Rizzo! Darling! Baby! You need relief pitchers, right? Let ol’ uncle Neal take you under his arm and tell you about your new set-up man, Keone Kela. And it will only cost you *insert name of 2021 All-Star pitcher.*

Philadelphia- The Phils’ 4.75 ERA and 5.02 FIP from relievers is not going to get it done. The clock’s ticking on if they want to get back into the playoffs this year or not. Perhaps you would prefer a package deal with Corey Dickerson or Melky Cabrera as well?

Los Angeles- Ok, so you’re not willing to give up your first born for Felipe Vazquez. You still have a combined -3.94 WPA from your bullpen. If you don’t address that, you’ll probably fall short of getting that ring once again.

Projected Deal: Keone Kela to the Nationals for RHP Will Crowe

The Nationals get a big arm to help stop the bleeding at the most glaring hole of any contending team. In return, the Pirates get Crowe, a 6’2”, 240 pound 24 year old AAA starter who has four above average pitches.

Starling Marte

2019 Stats: .283/.322/.492, 17 HRs, 60 RBI, 2.2 WAR in 427 PAs

Remaining Salary: Appx. $3.5 million of $10.3 million in final year of guaranteed contract; $24 million in option years through 2021.

Projected WAR: 1.1 in 2019; ZiPS projections of 2.6 WAR in 2020 and 2.3 in 2021 ($54 million)

Surplus Value: $25-30

The Pitch: Marte is one of the game’s most underrated center fielders, consistently posting 3-5 WAR a year. This season is no exception. He can play a good center field or a Gold Glove caliber left. Best of all, he’s on a team friendly contract for two more years.

Good Fits: Philadelphia- I feel like I’ve written about the Phillies’ outfield depth enough already. Here’s the short version: they need an outfielder, preferably one who can play center. If they make the trade, they can keep Andrew McCutchen in left for 2020.

Cleveland- Another team with well documented outfield problems. Marte would easily be the best outfielder on the Indians. The concern is whether they would pay the price for a controllable piece when it appears they are an offseason or two away from a rebuild.

Los Angles- The Dodgers have gotten plenty from Alex Verdugo in the center, but the rookie has cooled off considerably in July. They’ve been attached to Marte in the past. Perhaps they make another run at him now.

Projected Deal: Starling Marte to the Dodgers for either C Keibert Ruiz or C Will Smith

Wild card! Ruiz and Smith have been connected to Vazquez rumors, but Marte could potentially net one of them, too. That is, of course, reliant on if the Dodgers are looking for outfield help and if they are still enamored with Marte.

Felipe Vazquez

2019 Stats: 1.87 ERA, 1.96 FIP, 38.2 K%, 6.2 BB%, 1.6 WAR in 43.1 IP

Remaining Salary: Appx. $1.5 million remaining on 2019 salary; $13.5 million guaranteed owed through 2021; $20 million in option years through 2023.

Projected WAR: I’m going rogue on this one. ZiPS projects him to be a little over 1 WAR in 2020 and 2021. Considering he is well on his way to his third straight season of over 2 WAR, I think that is way too low. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll say he’s worth 9 WAR over the remaining life of his contract: roughly 2 WAR per season, with a little extra down the stretch in 2019. ($81 million)

Surplus Value: $45-$50 million

The Pitch... And The Only Fit Worth Discussing: Los Angeles- Remember the 2017 World Series, Dodgers? When you lost with Brandon McCarthy on the mound in extra innings in game two and then lost the lead three times in game five before falling in extra frames again? How about last year, when you turned to Ryan Madson out of the bullpen in the fifth inning of games one and two, losing both times? Or how about blowing a four run lead late in game four?

No, this trade will not make a lot of sense for you. In fact, the deal I’m going to offer is far more than Vazquez’s surplus value. That’s because the Pirates are in no rush to trade Vazquez. But remember this: you would have won both of those World Series if Felipe Vazquez was in your bullpen. Are you willing to risk losing a third one because of a couple minor leaguers?

Take It Or Leave It Deal: Felipe Vazquez for two of the big four. (These are reportedly the Pirates’ demands.)

The Dodgers have four super prospects at the moment: Ruiz (#51 on Baseball America’s top 10), Smith (#55), RHP Dustin May (#26) and SS Gavin Lux (#10). Assuming one of those prospects coming back is a catcher, then the return would either be for Lux (appx. $110 million in combined surplus value) or May (appx. $60 million). While the May package is an overpay, it kind of makes sense for the Dodgers if they truly love Vazquez and are desperate enough. Lux and a catcher instead would be a Tony Pena trade haul. In fact, a one-for-one trade of Vazquez for Lux would bring back more projected value than May and a catcher.