Friday, October 31, 2014

Contract Decisions 2015

The Pirates have quite a few decisions to make regarding their roster construction for 2015; four guys are free agents and another 14 are eligible for arbitration. Here's a capsule of the moving pieces:

The free agents (Qualifying offers must be made by 11/3; players get a week afterward to accept):

Russ Martin, C - Martin is looking at a multi year deal and one last big payday, making it unlikely for him to return to the frugal Pirates. Charlie Wilmoth of MLB TRade Rumors suggests "For Martin, a three-year deal in the range of $12MM-13MM per season might make sense, or possibly a four-year contract worth slightly less per season." We think that may be a tad low; he's the only top gun on the market and $15M/year doesn't seem out of line. For the Pirates, the length of the deal is the sticking point because of Martin's age (he's 32). They're likely to extend a qualifying offer of $15.3M; Russ isn't looking for one year, and the Bucs will get a draft pick if he finds greener pastures.

Francisco Liriano, LHP - Frankie is an interesting guy to try to evaluate. He's been pretty consistently excellent except for a stretch when pitching through an injury, but that's the rub - he's hurt a lot. That background (he's only pitched 323-1/3 IP in two years) could hurt his quest for big free agent money, and if the Pirates make a qualifying offer, he could accept it to try to rebuild his value for another run at a big deal in 2016, although the talk is that he could land a contract for 3 years/$40-45M. We think the QO is worth the risk whether he stays or goes. It's also been reported that he and Neal Huntington are at least communicating, so perhaps there can be a middle ground found.

Edinson Volquez RHP - Eddie is another tweener. His counting stats were excellent, but his deep stats show he's the same old Volquez, with fewer walks, fewer K and a better D behind him. He signed a bargain basement $5M deal this past season. A two year deal worth $16-18M should be in his ballpark, and the FO has to decide between making that offer with its current thin staff or trying to bring in another reclamation project to replace him.

Clint Barmes, IF - Barmes inked a $2M contract last year; he'll come back if he's willing to drop that number down a bit in 2015.

Here's an alpha list of the Bucs' arb-eligible players, with their service time, Matt Schwartz's MLBTR arbitration estimates for 2015 and a brief outlook (The tender deadline is 12/2):
  • Pedro Alvarez, 1/3B (4.085): $5.5M - First? Third? Trade bait? Lotta options available for El Toro this off season, especially with two remaining years of team control.
  • John Axford, RHP - DFA'ed. Tempting because he had a couple of options remaining and back-end experience, but he also carried a $4.5M contract with him.
  • Ike Davis, 1B (4.155): $4.4M - Will he stay or will he go? His future hinges largely on what the Bucs decide to do with Pedro and the FO's view of Andrew Lambo as a platoon option.
  • Jeanmar Gomez, RHP - DFA'ed. The Bucs have several long-man candidates, and Gomez started eight games as a spot starter in '13, but none this season, dropping his value by limiting his role.
  • Josh Harrison, 3B (3.033): $2.2M - Extension candidate after breakout year.
  • Jared Hughes, RHP (2.162): $1.1M - His stat line is probably unsustainable, but his counting numbers earned him Clint Hurdle's trust and a bridge role from the pen.
  • Mark Melancon, RHP (4.098): $7.6M - The Shark is in line for a nice (and well earned) chunk of cash, and along with Tony Watson's development, that could spell a trade.
  • Brent Morel, IF, (2.001+): league minimum - A back-up third baseman who is out of options and probably a roster spot.
  • Gaby Sanchez, 1B (5.025): $2.7M - He could swing either way as far as a tender goes; the Pirates don't have a RH first baseman in the system if they continue to platoon.
  • Travis Snider, OF (4.091): $2M - Finally showed some of his stuff this year, and his ability to hit same-side pitching makes him a valuable 4th OF'er.
  • Chris Stewart, C (4.091): $1.3M - He's a lock to get tendered. Chris' offense was an outlier, but he's a good glove guy and the equivalent of anyone left on the market not named Russell Martin.
  • Neil Walker, 2B (4.166): $8.6M - Unlikely extension candidate; he'll make his money through arb and is under team control through 2016, so neither side has a real compelling reason to talk.
  • Tony Watson, LHP (3.101): $2M - Keeps getting better and is Mark Melancon's heir apparent.
  • Vance Worley, RHP (2.139): $2.9M - The Bucs are short on pitching right now, and the price is right for a guy that can supply back-of-the-rotation innings.

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