Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Pirates Stove Heating Up

After a slow and incredibly boring start to their offseason that culminated with the signing of Ramon Vazquez, the Pirates look as though they are finally set to make some moves to get things jumpstarted. And that is at least a little bit encouraging for us sickened Pirates fans.

Obviously the big highlight is the contract extension signed by Ryan Doumit yesterday. The contract for Doumit is a pretty nice on in my eyes. The deal should really only be evaluated on its 3 year amount, as I've always thought its pretty foolish to base any deal on the options because its so difficult to say what the state of Doumit and the state of the Pirates will be 3 years from now. Plus, if Doumit performs like the Pirates hope, the last year will likely be irrelevant, either because the team has turned itself around and the Bucs sign him to a new extension before that sesaon, or because the team still hasn't turned around and they deal him for spare parts (God I hope not!).

The three year deal has guaranteed money of 11.5 million, which is a pretty reasonable base pay for a catcher capable of becoming one of the 2 or 3 best hitters in the bigs at his position. If Doumit were to play all 5 years here and reach max incentives (highly unlikely given some of the clauses) the deal could reach 27 million, but if he does reach max incentives, then this deal is pretty much highway robbery for the Bucs it'd be so good.
The curious, and perhaps creative, thing about this deal is that the option years are triggered or declined at the same time. I can't recall seeing this type of deal anywhere else, though it's probably been exercised somewhere. So this essentially amounts to a 3 year contract and then a 2 year contract if the Pirates want it to be. The options are for at least 7.25 and 8.25 million per season (they go up if he reaches some clauses), so that second contract would be quite lucrative for Doumit and quite expensive for the Pirates if they choose to exercise it.
Some other moves the Pirates are making or considering:
-It appears neither Paul Maholm or Nate McLouth are going to get extensions done with the Pirates. Not too surprising, and in all honesty, I'm not too upset about either case. It may not be a popular view, but I think McLouth is headed for a regression season in 2009. Don't get me wrong, I like Nate, but to pay him based on his 08 season is folly, and I want to see it again from in 2009 before I am a firm believer. Never before in his career had he really performed anywhere near the level of last season, and I was also concerned by the major drop-off in his numbers following the all-star break last season. His OPS fell by over 100 points between his great pre-break numbers and his only a little above average post-break numbers. I do think he is definitely a nice starter around which the team can certainly build, but I don't see the urgency to lock him up. The same goes for Paul Maholm. I think Maholm is also a good piece to build upon, but I don't view him as much more than a 3 starter and think he could also be headed for a regression. He rarely gets any bats to miss, which isn't what you need from a top starter if you look at things from a statistical standpoint.
-The Pirates lost out on the Daniel Cabrera sweepstakes (oh darn...) but apparently were willing to bid quite a bit of money for his services, more even than the team Cabrera ended up signing with, the Washington Nationals, who gave him an exorbitant 2.6 million dollars. Really? The Pirates were going to offer him more than 2.6 million dollars? Who the hell thought that was a good idea. Sure the guy's got some skills, but look at these numbers! What part of those statistics offers encouragement to baseball people? Why are they constantly so enamored with Cabrera? I mean, maybe, just maybe, he just needed a change of scenery and his absolutely dreadful 2008 season was just the result of that, but is is worth 2.6 million dollars to find out? Absolutely not! This guy should be coming into major league camps on a minor-league deal, at best. If teams keep throwing this kind of dough at him, where's his incentive to improve?

-It appears as though the Bucs are more than willing to head into 2009 with Jumpin' Jack playing shortstop. Not exactly a shock at this point. And truth be told, I'm not too upset about this development, as clearly any prospect return would have been pretty minimal. My question, though, is this: Why not similarly offer to trade Freddy Sanchez? I know the Pirates just gave him an extension last offseason, but it's not like he is badly overpaid. And second base, for whatever reason, has become a much more scarce position in MLB nowadays than shortstop. Granted, they'd be trading Freddy at his lowest value in a couple years, always a no-no, but at least there are several teams out there that think he can at least return to 07 form if not his award winning 06 form. In 07, he had a .785 OPS, with a respectable .343 OBP. There are several teams with holes at second base right now where Freddy would be an upgrade at those numbers: Major upgrade for the Mets, White Sox, A's, Cardinals, Blue Jays, Royals (hard to say if they'd really be interested though), and Padres (unlikely because they're rebuilding, but still), and slight upgrade for Arizona, Cleveland (only slight because Asdrubal Cabrera is much younger and still has upside), the Twins (I'm not at all sold on Alexi Casilla and I doubt they are either), the Dodgers (Blake Dewitt has a nice upside, but is coming off a solid but unspectacular rookie campaign for a team that wants to contend now), the Giants (unlikely because they are rebuilding and have some in-house prospects). That's an awful lot of teams that Neal Huntington should be spinning his web to, and, while behind the scenes he may be, it certainly isn't a widely known fact, which makes me think it probably isn't a very active front.
-Denny Bautista will be brought back on a minor-league deal, and Chris Bootcheck was similarly signed to a minor league deal. Nothing too exciting at all on either one of these fronts, and let's hope both don't have to put on the Pirates jersey at any time after March.

-The Pirates are apparently after Rocco Baldelli, which is a surprising twist that I certainly didn't see coming. I mean yeah Baldelli has a load of talent, but he's been hurt how many times over the years, and is still dealing with the bizarre disorder that is plaguing his body and has caused him to miss a ton of time. Unless this is a very low-commitment deal, I don't like what I'm hearing. With Brandon Moss on the mend and little else in the way of outfield talent besides Nate McLouth looking major league capable (sorry I'm not at all a Nyjer Morgan fan), I'd rather put our resources elsewhere (like bringing back the now lost Jason Michaels) then pinning hopes on a deal with the enigmatic Baldelli.

-Hyzdu Headquarters has a rundown of the top 10 prospects in the Pirates system according to Kyle Stark on a recent FSN piece. I was a little surprised to see Andrew McCutchen ahead of Pedro Alvarez, but suspect that's mostly just because Stark hasn't seen enough of Pedro as a pro to fully grasp his abilities. I was also a little surprised to see Neil Walker all the way up at 6 given his struggles of the last two seasons, but then again, who else would be ahead of him? Also interesting was that Stark noted the two guys on that list to watch out for in this coming season are the two McCutchens, the aforementioned Andrew and the unmentioned Daniel. I suspect Daniel will probably not make the opening day rotation but will be among the first one or two called up when the inevitable ineffectiveness/ injury hits a starter early in the season. But I was much more excited to finally hear someone in the Pirates organization openly admit that Andrew McCutchen is close to big-league ready. Again, I don't think he is given much of a chance to make the opening day roster, but remember 2 years ago when he had a phenomenal spring and many in and around the franchise were claiming he could be up by mid-season 07? Yeah...so much for that. It seems like Cutch has been our top prospect forever, yet he just recently turned 22 years old. I think that, given the alarming lack of talent in the outfield, McCutchen will be all but forced into the bigs by the June or July when the team finally gives up on Nyjer Morgan as a everyday guy. To me this makes a world of sense, because he will be able to work out a lot of the kinks that typically plague rookies for these few months, and then should have an excellent footing established for the 2010 season. Not that any rational team would plan like this, but it would also enable the Pirates to get Jose Tabata time in Center Field in AAA, as he figures to be ready about a year after McCutchen, maybe slightly less.

1 comment:

Peter said...

I don't see any way anyone wants Freddy Sanchez. His contract ties him up for too long, and he might be on the decline. We'd be lucky to give him away right now.