Earlier tonight I wrote about how Adam Lind wouldn’t help the Pittsburgh Pirates. In the article, I mentioned that my initial reaction was that they should add Lind, figuring that anyone could help the offense. I’m sure that’s the same thought that initially crossed the minds of a lot of Pirates fans, and probably still sits in the minds of some fans.
The idea that anyone would upgrade the offense is somewhat true. It’s not hard to upgrade over the production that someone like Nate McLouth is providing, for example. When Gorkys Hernandez looks like an offensive upgrade, that says something. But that desperation, combined with the “grass is greener” view of outside players could lead to some bad decisions.
Take Lind, for example. If they claimed him, he would be owed $12.2 M, and they’d get him through the 2013 season. Even if he cleared waivers and Toronto dealt him for salary relief, he probably wouldn’t provide much value. Toronto would have to pick up $7.5 M just to get zero value in return, and that’s assuming he puts up a 0.5 WAR each year with the Pirates. That’s a big assumption considering his struggles this year. Keep in mind that Toronto plays in a very hitter friendly park, so it’s not like he was in an unfavorable environment.
Let’s remove ourselves from how much Lind costs and just look at the player. Outside of his outlier 2009 season, he looks like a .700-.750 OPS player. By comparison, Jake Fox put up a .756 OPS last year off the bench in Baltimore, and has a career .714 OPS in 489 at-bats in the majors (with 20 homers).
Then there’s Jeff Larish. He wasn’t exactly a popular addition last week, and it didn’t make much sense seeing him added with Fox, Matt Hague and Jeff Clement on the roster. But in 245 at-bats in the majors he has a .688 OPS.
Then there’s Hague. He’s not hitting well this year in Indianapolis, with a lack of power being the big downside. I’ve constantly said that he profiles as an average first baseman at best, and feel he could put up numbers similar to James Loney and Casey Kotchman in their careers, which is in the .725-.750 OPS range.
In a dream scenario, Lind clears waivers, and the Blue Jays deal him away, picking up $7.5 M of his salary, making him a $2.4 M a year player. Then he rebounds to his .700-.750 OPS numbers from the majority of his career.
If you remove the idea that you have to go outside of the organization for any help, and you remove the idea that money equals talent, then it would be foolish to add Lind. Jake Fox is a better bet to put up a .700+ OPS off the bench than Lind is right now, and Fox would cost a lot less money, without having to deal with Toronto picking up salary. If you want a left hander you can get Jeff Larish and his career .688 OPS. The difference off the bench isn’t going to be huge. Or you can give Matt Hague a shot, and see if he can recover some of that magic from Spring Training.
All of those options would make more sense than adding Lind. You’d have a shot at the same production, and you could save that money for a better player. The Pirates spent about $5.5 M at the deadline last year to add Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick. Lee was amazing in the time he was healthy. And as bad as Ludwick was, he put up a .671 OPS, which is almost 100 points higher than what Lind is putting up right now. And those two players only cost half the price of what Lind would cost on waivers, or the same price if Toronto picked up salary in a trade.
The Pirates need upgrades to their offense, but going with a “anyone would be an upgrade” approach usually leads to desperate decisions. Would Lind be an upgrade? Probably. But he’d be a horrible waste of resources. They could get the same production from one of the guys in Triple-A, save a ton of money, and use that money to seek out a much bigger help for the offense later in the season.
Links and Notes
**The Pirates beat the Tigers 4-3. Andrew McCutchen hit two homers, driving in all of the runs for the Pirates. Kristy Robinson’s notebook looks at how McCutchen’s power is just fine.
**Prospect Watch: Good starts from Nick Kingham and Tyler Waldron, and homers from Mel Rojas and Jose Osuna.