Monday, December 31, 2012

Pellas: Hanny Deal, Future Trades?

GW commentator Will Pellas weighs in on the Hanny deal and the possibility of another move in the works:

The trade of Joel Hanrahan to Chowdah Nation was one of the more significant deals of GM Neal Huntington's tenure. The Pirates probably did about as well as could reasonably be expected, given Hanny's "Hanrattacks" last season and given that Joel is carrying more than a few extra pounds around his waistline.

Add in the fact that he is in his free agent walk year, and unfortunately there wasn't as much leverage for the Pirates to work with as would have been the case had they traded him last year. If they had done that, though, the natives (probably including both Ron and me, to be honest!) would have stormed the Bastille. So, you win some, you lose some.

Of the players the Pirates acquired in exchange for Hanrahan and overachiever utilityman Brock Holt, I am cautiously optimistic about relief pitcher Mark Melancon and believe he is a good bounceback bet.

It would be great if 1B/OF Jerry Sands became a mirror version of Garrett Jones - and let's all hope that he will - but Sands hits righthanded and isn't able to handle same side pitchers very well (lifetime MLB lines - .314 BA/.904 OPS v LHP; .204/.589 v RHP).

On the other hand, by virtue of hitting lefthanded, Jones is more useful because he can play against "opposite handed" pitchers much more often. So you have two very similar players in Sands and Jones, but unfortunately the younger, cheaper guy is less likely to be on the field than the older, more expensive guy. Jones is arbitration eligible this winter and coming off his best production since his incredible half season debut for the Pirates in 2009. As a result, he will cost more than a player with his respectable but not great career resume should.

I'm not expecting anything from trade throw-ins Pimentel and DeJesus, but Brock Holt couldn't play any position other than second base, and he didn't even do that particularly well. DeJesus at least can catch the ball and he can definitely play shortstop.

Holt brings up another point, though. The real issue with the Pirates' utility infielders is that Clint Hurdle "Ciriaco'ed" not only Ciriaco himself, but also Jordy Mercer. Ciriaco would have been a GREAT help to this team as a utility infielder and he would be ideally positioned to become the Pirates' starting shortstop after Clint Barmes almost certainly leaves town at the close of the 2013 campaign.

But the Pirates blew it with him the same way they've blown it, repeatedly and at great loss to the team, with their, ahem, "evalutions" of many other young players over the years. That happens in all organizations, of course, but such mistakes are greatly magnified in small markets where it's unlikely that the team can just buy a major league ready replacement for such mistakes off the shelf.

At the end of all this rumination and dealing, you would think that another trade is pending. Surely the Pirates can't go into 2013 with all of the part time/platoon 1B-DH-OF types on the roster at the moment. Jones, as previously noted, is getting a tad expensive in arbitration, and Sanchez is arb-eligible, too. MLB Trade Rumor's Matt Schwartz has their arb figures pegged at $4.4M for Jones and $1.8M for Sanchez.

Beyond these two there are Sands and Clint Robinson. Both are guys who were on the same career path that Jones was before he came to Pittsburgh in what must surely be one of the most effective minor league free agent signings of all time. That is, both Sands and Robinson were more or less trapped in the upper minors because their progress in their original organizations weas blocked by established major leaguers immediately above them.

Sands didn't sniff the field at Fenway Park after going to Da Sawx, stuck at Albuquerque until the season's end to remain eligible as the PTBNL in the deal. Boston obviously didn't think much of Sands because they conceded 1B to the distinctly underwhelmling and underachieving James Loney - who ironically was his blocker in LA - instead of taking a look at Sands. They passed him off to the Pirates without giving him a single at-bat in anger with the organization. Another yellow flag for his future in Pittsburgh, perhaps, but he has nothing left to prove in the minors and is at least worth a look.

Turning to the outfield, it's pretty clear that either Tabata, Jones or Presley will leave town this offseason. If I had to guess which one would go, it would be Presley, since as the team is currently constructed, you have Snider and Jones as outfielders who hit lefthanded. I much prefer "The King" to Tabata, particularly for the fourth outfielder role, but Tabata is (supposedly) a little younger and also has a team friendly long term deal in place. Of course that same contract could make Tabata very attractive to other clubs.

Looking at all of this it's hard to escape the conclusion that one more deal, maybe a big one, is very likely in the works. You could get quite a return from a Jones/Tabata/good prospect package. Maybe even the next starting shortstop, since it is apparent that that will not be Jordy Mercer or Chase d'Arnaud as long as the current regime is in charge.

In the aftermath of a trade like this, it would mean a right field platoon of Sands and Snider, with Presley as the fourth outfielder. Hmmm....that would leave the Pirates a bit thin in terms of outfield depth. So, perhaps an additional prospect along with Jones instead of Tabata. There are many possibilities, but I'll make this prediction: maybe not two, but definitely one from among Jones-Tabata-Presley will be traded before spring training.


Anonymous said...

1) Sands was a PTBNL in that trade and didn't become a Red Sox until October, after their seasons were over.
2) Sanchez is first-time eligible for arbitration right now. After next season will be his 2nd time.

Ron Ieraci said...

Anon - thx, you're right on both counts; my bad for butchering the edit. Sands did languish in Albuquerque until the season ended to become eligible as the PTBNL. The way it was written was a bit unclear on that, so we cleaned it up.

Sanchez just missed being a Super 2 after 2011 and reached his three years service in 2012. Dunno how I missed that one, but it's noted in the post now.

I'll try to lay off the eggnog and pay a little more attention in the future; at least that's my New Year's resolution

WilliamJPellas said...

Ron took the bullet for me, Anon, but obviously those were my errors. Thanks for pointing them out. You have my word: in the future I will review the structure of all trades like this one so I don't miss the procedural things you rightly pointed out in your comments.

Having said that, it is still jarring--at least to me--that Sands never played a game in the Sox' system, much less for the big league club. Particularly when the nominal incumbent at the position was Loney (who will almost certainly be replaced, but still), you'd think they would hang onto Sands even if the Pirates asked for him in exchange for Hanrahan.

As for Sanchez, I had no idea he was a Super 2, and thus arb eligible right now. Maybe the Pirates were thinking he wouldn't have any negotiating leverage coming off his worst season--and he won't--but getting a guy like this runs counter to the Pirates' plan to control as many players as possible for as long as possible, as cheaply as possible. Add in the fact that he is probably no more than a short-half-of-a-platoon, 300 at bats guy, and his acquisition becomes even more of a head scratcher. Unless the plan all along was to get rid of Garrett Jones, in which case Sanchez, I suppose, becomes the sort-of starter. If Jones is dealt, that would leave Clint Robinson---a 27 year old Triple A lifer just acquired off the junkheap from Kansas City---as the only other lefthanded hitting first baseman in the organization at present who is anywhere close to the majors. (Robinson does, however, have some pretty impressive minor league statistics if you take them in a vacuum, ie, if you leave out the fact that he has been old for his level all through the minors.)

Anyway, Sanchez would not be a terrible starter, but he is nothing special, and he struggles against righthanders. That spells "P-L-A-T-O-O-N", but if Jones is gone, it would presumably mean Robinson getting the lion's share of at bats, since Robinson hits lefthanded and would face most righthanders. That might work out alright---but dealing Jones, a proven if nothing special big leaguer who has more power than Sanchez, would be risky. It does look like the Pirates have brought in some 1B-OF types in order to replace Jones. That would be the logical conclusion regarding the presence of Robinson, Sands, and Sanchez on the roster all at the same time.

Ron Ieraci said...

Actually, the Bucs dodged the bullet with Gaby. Sanchez is a regular arb guy; he ended up with three years and five days service time. If the trade would have been delayed by a week, he would have been a Super 2.

WilliamJPellas said...

Okay, so Sanchez is or is not arb eligible this offseason?

Ron Ieraci said...

Yes, Will, but as a regular three year arb player. If he had qualified as a Super 2 last year, he would have started arb a year earlier and gotten four years instead, starting last season. As far as team control goes, it makes no diff; he won't be a FA until 2016 either way. His arb clock just started this year instead of last season.

The diff is it keeps his salary down a bit; the Bucs got him in his last season at league minimum, which was probably $1M lower than an arb award would have been. So he'll start his arb years with a $500K base rather than $1.5M base, making it more affordable over the long haul.

WilliamJPellas said...

Okay, but the fact remains that the Pirates acquired Sanchez just as he was heading into his arb years--regardless of whether we're talking Super 2 or Conventional 3. In other words they'll be in arbitration with him every single season he remains with the team unless they offer him a long term deal that buys out his arb years. That would seem highly unlikely given that he is probably going to be a platoon / bench guy in Pittsburgh. Again, I'm scratching my head over why, exactly, they got THIS guy, and at the time in his career that they got him. It's not that he's a terrible player or anything, but if he's not going to be the starter at first base, why bring in an arb-eligible part timer? Surely there are any number of junkheap righthanded hitting 1B's in various places. I'm not getting this one, Ron.

Ron Ieraci said...

I would guess, Will, that it's because they don't have a MLB ready first baseman in the system, so they thought they'd get someone that was rather than overly expose Jones to lefties. He's cheaper than an FA, and an upgrade over Matt Hogue.