Could the Pirates Still Get a Comp Pick For Derrek Lee?

Over the off-season, the Pittsburgh Pirates offered Derrek Lee arbitration, only to see the first baseman turn down the offer, which would have guaranteed him at least $8.5 M. Lee has yet to sign with another team, although he also hasn’t officially retired. The Pirates would have received a compensation pick for Lee had he signed a major league deal with another team. That pick has since been written off, although there’s now talk that Lee could sign a deal.

The Milwaukee Brewers saw Prince Fielder depart over the off-season. They replaced Fielder with Mat Gamel, who recently went down for the year with an ACL injury. That opens up a spot at first base, with a lot of rumors saying the Brewers could pursue Lee to fill that void.

The Pirates would get a compensation pick for Lee if he signed with the Brewers prior to the draft. This pick wouldn’t come from the Brewers, so there would be no need to delay the signing on their part. The disclaimer is that Milwaukee would have to sign Lee to a major league deal.

That’s an important disclaimer at this point in the year. Typically, when players are signed at this point, they’re signed to minor league deals. This allows the player to treat the minors as a sort of Spring Training. Eventually the player becomes ready for the majors and the club calls him up. This is currently happening in Tampa Bay’s system with Hideki Matsui. If Lee were to sign a minor league deal, the Pirates wouldn’t receive compensation. If he was added to the major league roster before the draft, the Pirates could lobby for a pick, although that’s not a guarantee. The Red Sox, for example, lost Dan Wheeler on a minor league deal. Wheeler was added by Cleveland to the Opening Day roster. Yet Boston still didn’t get a pick for Wheeler, even though he cracked the majors out of Spring Training.

There’s a small chance that the Pirates could get a pick if Lee signs, but for that to happen, Lee would have to sign a major league deal. He’d have to be in excellent shape to make that happen at this point in the year, and even if he’s in good shape, his swing would have to be up to speed to immediately step in against major league pitching. So even if he does sign, odds are he would sign a minor league deal, making it nearly impossible to get a pick.

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About Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He is a credentialed media member with every team in the Pirates’ system, including the Pirates themselves. He’s a regular guest on Extra Innings on 104.7, and makes regular appearances on ESPN 970, 93.7 The Fan, and TribLIVE Radio in Pittsburgh, as well as ESPN 1430 in Altoona and ESPN 1450 in State College.
  • Lee Young

    Tim….did you see this from Bob Smizik? Doesn’t say much for our over slotting…

    http://communityvoices.sites.post-gazette.com/index.php/sports/bob-smiziks-blog/32888-overslot-underperforming

    I wonder how other teams are doing with their over slotting?

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      I didn’t see it, up until I clicked that link.

      My response to the over-slotting players is that it is too early to be concerned with a lot of these players. There’s reason for concern with some of them. For me, scouting reports matter more in the lower levels than numbers. These guys are working on new pitches, focusing on their fastball, making minor adjustments to their delivery. It’s not really about the numbers, but it’s about getting them developed.

      Two examples I could give are Zack Dodson and Ryan Hafner. Both have poor numbers this year. In the Prospect Guide I said that Hafner could be this year’s version of ZVR, because he doesn’t throw with consistently high velocity, and has a tendency to leave a few balls up in the zone. So when I see his .295 BAA and two homers in 11.2 innings, there’s some concern.
      Dodson has great stuff that can dominate lower level hitters. We saw that last year. But despite the numbers last year, his command struggled at times, and he was inconsistent. It just didn’t show up in the stat line. He could put up strong numbers again, but he wouldn’t be making the changes to put up those strong numbers in the upper levels.

      It’s kind of like the situation with Jameson Taillon last year. I saw him a lot, saw that his stuff could easily dominate that level, and said on a few occasions that I felt if he just pitched and didn’t focus on development,
      he’d have an ERA below 2.00. This year he’s incorporating his secondary
      stuff more, and he’s also seeing improvements on his fastball command.
      Because of that, we’re seeing those dominant numbers.

      In short, the numbers don’t tell the story with a lot of these guys. If
      they didn’t worry about making adjustments you’d see some excellent
      numbers. But you also wouldn’t see those numbers as the players moved up
      the ladder, since they would have been focused on dominating A-ball
      hitters, rather than developing their game to work at the upper levels.

      • http://twitter.com/jlease717 John Lease

        The guy who retired already, is beyond concern. The Pirates inability to draft and/or develop talent hasn’t gone away.

        • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

          Way too early to make that claim.

      • Lee Young

        Thanks Tim…

        I appreciate the writeup…

        • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

          No problem.

          One other example I thought of after posting. Last year ZVR was hammered in the first half, then had success in the second half. That was a prime example of what I was talking about. The only thing that changed was that ZVR started pitching off his curveball in the second half, which is a very good pitch. That led to his success, but he didn’t show improvements with his fastball command, which led to the first half struggles. And that’s why he’s currently in extended Spring Training, because he still hasn’t fixed those issues, and he can’t pitch off his curveball forever.

  • szielinski

    Pirates luck = offering Lee arbitration, having Lee refuse arbitration, seeing Lee sign with the Brewers and not getting a compensation pick for Lee.