Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Trade Part II: Holt for Melancon & DeJesus

Well, the Hammer fell in part one of the Bucco-Bosox swap. Now for the second act. The Bucs sent infielder Brock Holt, more accomplished with his stick than his mitt, to the Red Sox for RHP Mark Melancon and IF Ivan DeJesus.

Holt .292 in September with the Bucs, but his glove limited him to a bench role. He was going to be in a battle to break camp with the big team. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports thinks he's a good grab by Boston, saying "The Pirates didn’t want to trade him, but they evidently considered him more of a second baseman than a shortstop, and Holt wasn’t about to supplant Neil Walker."

The 25 year-old DeJesus, like Jerry Sands, came to Boston from LA in the big August Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett deal. He's a good glove guy with some pedigree in the minors (he was a second round pick in 2005), putting up career .298 BA and .370 OBP, though without much power. In 2008, De Jesus hit .324 with an OBP of .419. DeJesus was named to the All-Star Futures Game and Baseball America's All-Star second team. But he broke his leg the next season and hasn't had the same panache since.

Sox Prospects tabs him as a utility infielder., and DeJesus has lived up to that projection in a very small, 80 at-bat sample. He's hit just .205 in a couple of MLB stays, and Boston DFA'ed him in November (while keeping Pedro Ciriaco). At least DeJesus doesn't count against the 40-man roster, which needs cut down by a player. (EDIT - later in the day, the Bucs announced that RHP Chad Beck was DFA'ed.)

RHP Mark Melancon came into the league as Mariano Rivera's heir apparent in 2009; last year, he found himself tossing BP in the AL East and ended up back in AAA. Sox Prospects thinks it's the neighborhood, with this report: "Late inning reliever with a 92-95 mph fastball with decent movement and a plus low-80s curveball. Has shown success in small market of Houston, but mental toughness is still a question mark."

The snowball effect may be the mental jello they're referring to. Melancon's ERA was blown up by five beat downs out of 41 appearances when he gave up 21 of his 31 runs and six of his eight homers. Without them, he pitched to a 2.14 ERA. Good and bad outings all count the same in the stat book, of course, but show the volatility of judging a reliever's effectiveness by ERA alone.

He can touch 97 with a cutter and a curve, and even with a dismal 2012 line of 0-2/6.20, he struck out 8.2 batters and walked 2.4 per nine with a 50% ground ball rate. His problem last year was the long ball; he gave up eight in 45 IP while the rest of his peripherals were well in line. So the FO is betting on 2012 being an outlier season, and the metrics agree with them.

Melancon's two years in the NL Central with the Astros were strong (20 saves in 2011), and that's the guy the FO was looking at. The Bucs will give him every opportunity to be Jason Grilli's Tonto and be the set-up guy in 2013. He's 27, but controllable as he doesn't hit arb until 2014.

The Pirates couldn't get the Red Sox to surrender two guys prominently hyped as their targets, LHP Felix Doubront or SS Jose Iglesias. So the debate will go on whether they may have gotten a better haul if they waited until camp or even the deadline and dispelled the questions regarding Hanny. That was apparently a risk they didn't care to take in his walk season. Additionally, it avoids a round of musical chairs in the bullpen.

The FO was said to have also been in talks with Tigers, Royals, Rangers and the Dodgers before dealing Hanny to the Red Sox, so it seems like there just wasn't a robust market for him, at least for a big-time prospect. So they got a set-up guy and some kids. It's unfortunate, but the Bucs' big payoff for Hanny would have been at the last deadline, not 2013's; that August/September Pirate nose dive cost more than pride.

Still, it's probably fair value. Rosenthal's article header is "Pirates, Red Sox both score in deal," although the Bosox picked up a frontliner, which is more than it appears the Buccos did.


WilliamJPellas said...

Yeah, they probably did about as well as could reasonably be expected given Hanrahan's "Hanrattacks" last season. In addition, Joel is carrying more than a few extra pounds around his waistline. Add in the fact that he is in his 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 would have stormed the Bastille. So, you win some, you lose some.

I am cautiously optimistic about Melancon and believe he is a good bounceback bet. It would be great is Sands became a righthanded version of Garrett Jones---and let's all hope that he will---but Sands hits righthanded and isn't likely to be able to handle righthanded pitchers very well. Jones, on the other hand, by virtue of hitting lefthanded, 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. Unless Sands is better than I think he is. We'll see.

I'm not expecting anything from 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. The real issue with the Pirates' utility infielders, though, is that Clint Hurdle "Ciriaco'ed" not only Ciriaco himself, but also Jordy Mercer. Ciriaco, as you and I discussed, Ron, would have been a GREAT help to this team as a utility infielder. 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, 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 off the shelf.

Ron Ieraci said...

I do like Melancon; I think he'll stabilize the back end of the pen and gives the Bucs an insurance policy if Grilli stumbles as closer.

Sands, I'm guessing, is an outfield platoon guy, which puts both JT and Presley in no-man's land (he's supposed to be statuesque as a 1Bman but capable, ala Jones, in the pasture).

DeJesus looks like organizational depth, and Pimentel is toolsy, but only has one year to get it together before being out of options. Still, it is about as much as you can expect given Hanny's contract situation and late season blahs.

WilliamJPellas said...

It's pretty clear that either Tabata or Presley will be traded 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, 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 trade is very likely in the works. You could get quite a return from a Jones - Tabata - plus a prospect package. That 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. I'll make this prediction: maybe not two, but definitely one from among Jones-Tabata-Presley will be traded before spring training.

Ron Ieraci said...

Agreed that another move is likely, Will. Also some housekeeping, bringing in a couple more bullpen guys to compete and maybe a vet bench infielder.

It is a little disheartening to see the upper minors so devoid of position help, though. Those prospects in A ball will certainly get every chance to fast0track their careers.