Wednesday, July 16, 2008

WHYGAVS/Bucs Dugout crossover: Dream Deals

What's cooler than a cross-over? After doing some collaborations for various sites in the past, Charlie from the Bucs Dugout and I have decided to try and run a regularly irregular feature where we discuss and maybe even debate the Pirates. Today, as the trade deadline approaches, we talk about our dream trades for Neal Huntington and company and why they might or might not work. Keep in mind that this is almost entirely speculation on our part, and we're talking about what we want to see from the front office, not necessarily what the front office is going to do.

1. Jack Wilson to the Dodgers for Matt Kemp.

Bucs Dugout: There aren't many young hitters in the game as promising as Kemp, who hits for average and power, steals bases, and has a cannon for an arm. PECOTA compares Kemp to Chili Davis, Andre Dawson, Sammy Sosa, Ellis Burks, and Vlad Guerrero. Like Davis and Sosa in their youth, Kemp struggles to control the strike zone, but also like those two players, his other skills are so strong that he may learn to draw walks later in his career. If he does, he'll be amazing. He's far from a sure thing, but his upside is stratospheric. That the Pirates have a surplus of outfielders, and that they don't have a ready replacement for Wilson, shouldn't stop them--they should be acquiring all the high-end talent they can right now. They can shape it into a real ballclub later.

Kemp might be available because Dodgers GM Ned Colletti isn't the brightest bulb in the lot, has a meddlesome owner breathing down his neck, and is desperate to acquire a shortstop. Also, Kemp has been repeatedly and probably unfairly blamed for Los Angeles' inability to contend. The Dodgers are begging to have their pockets picked.

It's possible the Dodgers wouldn't want to trade Kemp not so much because they like him, but because they don't have enough reliable outfielders for their stretch run. In that case, the deal could be expanded to include Xavier Nady or even Jason Bay, perhaps for Kemp and a prospect. That's a lot to give up, but Kemp's worth it.

WHYGAVS: I like Kemp a lot. I was really excited when the prospect of him being included in some kind of trade for Jack Wilson popped up, no matter what kind of basis is behind it. The reasoning for that is Colletti. For years we've watched other GMs take advantage of Dave Littlefield's panic and for once, I feel like we're in the same position of power over someone else.

That being said, let me play devil's advocate here a bit with the idea of a Wilson AND Nady/Bay for Kemp deal. Let me frame it this way: we know Bay's going to be very valuable on the market this year and he should bring in a top prospect by himself. Nady will probably have a decent amount of value (not necessarily on the same level as Bay, but close). If you've got the chance to trade all three of these guys separately, say Wilson to the Dodgers for James McDonald and Andy LaRoche or Chin-Lung Hu, Nady to the D'Backs, and Jason Bay to the Rays for some of their impressive minor league talent, aren't three deals for young talent better than one or two when your system is as bare as the Pirates' is?

Bucs Dugout: Well, I did say Kemp and a prospect. But I take your point. The A's did well, for example, by getting a bunch of players from the Diamondbacks for Dan Haren. When you're trading for prospects, you can increase your chances of scoring simply by taking a lot of shots.

It depends on the players involved. If I were the Pirates I'd love to have McDonald or Hu in my system, but I'd be reluctant to restructure a couple of trades in order to get more players like that and fewer like Kemp.

2. Jason Bay to the Rays for David Price.

WHYGAVS: If we're trying to strike while the iron is hot, I'd be looking to Tampa when shopping Jason Bay. Shouldn't the goal here be Bay for David Price and whatever else we can get? I mean, Tampa's got tons of pitching both in the minors and on their roster and they can use hitting NOW. When you throw in that Bay's signed for next year, I think he's got to be one of the most valuable guys out there and the return for him should be huge. Now, I understand that Friedman's a smart guy and he's got a pretty clear vision of what he wants to do in Tampa, so maybe Price isn't a realistic return for Bay (or anyone, for that matter). Still, isn't this something we should be asking about? I guess we might not get Price, but there's always Reid Brignac, Jake McGee, Jeremy Hellickson, Wade Davis ... geez, I could go on forever with the Rays' farm system.

Bucs Dugout: I seriously doubt the Rays would give Price up, although it rarely hurts to ask, and I think you're right that the Pirates and Rays should be talking. Tampa has gotten good results so far from Eric Hinske in right field and Cliff Floyd at DH, but I think they're too smart to believe that standing pat with those guys is the right thing to do. Putting Bay in right and letting Hinske, Floyd and Jonny Gomes split time at DH would be a nice upgrade for them, for the rest of 2008 and for 2009 as well. Also, surely Tampa could build a heck of a PR campaign around a player named "Bay."

Even if Price isn't available--and Hellickson, whose numbers this year just jump off the page (83 strikeouts and five walks at Vero Beach? Yikes), might not be either--the Pirates and Rays would be a good match because of the Rays' surplus of pitching talent. McGee and Davis, who have both been mildly disappointing in their transitions to AA, might be good buy-low candidates.

3. Xavier Nady to the Yankees for Austin Jackson and Dellin Betances.

Bucs Dugout: Let me begin by saying that, although the Yanks are reportedly interested in Nady, I have no idea what they'd be willing to give up. This is pure speculation. I think this would be a good haul for the Pirates, though, despite the excellent season Nady is having. Jackson is a toolsy centerfielder with a good performance record. He has probably been a minor disappointment in Class AA this year, but he's still only 21, and there's little to dislike. I'm including Betances here not only because he's interested, but because I'm positive that if the Yankees and Pirates have serious talks about Nady, Huntington will ask about Betances. He's only 20, he throws hard, he's enormous (6'8", 245), and... wait for it... he has control problems. If he can iron those out and avoid injury, he'll be ridiculous. Those are big ifs, but remember: right now, it's all about upside.

This may be a bit much to ask for Nady, who Pat and I both had all but dismissed last offseason, but Yankees fans would do well to check his numbers before sharpening their pitchforks--he's got 37 extra-base hits and a 138 OPS+ right now.

WHYGAVS: Ahh, Nady. We come back to him time and time again and he's been great this year, no doubt, but I wonder how many GMs really believe he's a different hitter based on a good first half. I mean, you four seasons worth of evidence and now that the guy's 29 he's suddenly going to "get it?" I mean, maybe he is but that .351 BABIP is awfully suspicious to me. That said, the Yankees are a great fit for him because Cashman has to be on the brink of getting fired by Hank the Terrible and guys like Jackson and Betances seem like they'd be a good return for Nady.

4. Damaso Marte for...?

WHYGAVS: I'm honestly not sure I have a fourth trade to put down here, other than to say that I hope that Huntington is actively shopping Marte. Everyone seems to be interested in Brian Fuentes and George Sherrill and Marte is definitely better than both of them. If I were him, I'd be pressing John Mozeliak hard in St. Louis. He's a new GM who's suddenly found himself in a pennant race and their bullpen is AWFUL, as we saw this weekend. He might be someone that can be forced into a panic deal with the Cardinals and Cubs arming up for the playoffs. I suspect he's smarter than that, but Wayne Krivsky looked like a good GM for almost six months in Cincy, so who knows? If we can't make a trade for him, offering him arbitration and taking the draft picks is a great fall-back plan, especially for a reliever, but I hope Huntington is exploring all his options here.

Bucs Dugout: Me too, and I certainly would shop Marte, but I don't think the Cardinals have a whole lot to offer, except Colby Rasmus, who they'd have to be crazy to deal for a reliever. I would be happy to just let Marte finish the year as a Pirate and collect some draft picks for him. He's likely to be a Type A free agent, and Damaso Marte and a couple million bucks for two top draft choices sounds like a very good deal to me.

In fact, if I were in charge of a team with a terrible farm system like the Pirates', I might investigate the possibility of collecting relievers just to flip them for draft picks. The rules say that the free agent types are based on performance relative to position, so a good reliever relative to other relievers returns the same draft picks as a good starter relative to other starters. Since a good starter is far more valuable than a good reliever, that's a big loophole.

WHYGAVS: I've never looked at it that way before, but that's an interesting plan. It's why the Xavier Nady deal was really a fleecing, because in addition to giving up Perez and Hernandez for one player, we lost the two picks that Hernandez represented when he became a free agent the ensuing winter.