Earlier tonight, Ken Rosenthal wrote about the Pirates’ need for hitting, and their pitching depth. To read what he had to say, click here. I noticed a ton of talk on Twitter about the article, specifically Neal Huntington’s comment at the end about making an deal if it’s the right move.
To sum up Rosenthal’s comments:
**The Pirates have starting depth, although he’s not suggesting dealing James McDonald. He mentioned Kevin Correia, noting that Correia wouldn’t get much of a return.
**The Pirates shouldn’t consider dealing Jameson Taillon or Gerrit Cole.
**The Pirates have a great bullpen with depth in Triple-A. This was the bulk of his focus.
That last point is something I’ve been saying for a long time. The Pirates need to deal from the bullpen. You can find closers and good relievers fairly easily. Look at the top relievers in the bullpen right now.
Joel Hanrahan - Acquired for Sean Burnett as the second part of the Nyjer Morgan for Lastings Milledge swap. This part of the deal was supposed to even out the trade in the Nationals’ favor.
Jason Grilli - He was pitching well for the Phillies’ Triple-A team last year. Anyone who wanted him could offer him a contract, and if the Phillies didn’t match the deal, they had to release him. The Pirates took advantage.
Juan Cruz - He’s just a few years removed from being one of the top set-up men in baseball, getting a big deal from the Royals. He had a decent season last year, but still signed for a minor league deal this year in January.
The Pirates have depth behind these guys. It seems like everyone in the system throws in the mid-90s in relief situations. I talked about a few of those options the other day, noting the potential late inning/closer prospects in the upper levels. Trade one of the three guys above, and you can call up Bryan Morris, who throws 94-96 MPH with a cutter that looks outstanding when you consider Morris just learned the pitch this year. Or you could move someone like Brad Lincoln in to a late inning role. Or maybe just go with Jared Hughes, who isn’t getting a lot of strikeouts this year, but gets an extreme ground ball rate, and can touch 96 MPH with his sinker.
For whatever reason, teams still pay ridiculous fees for bullpen help. And if there’s one thing the Pirates do better than anything else, it’s find good relief pitching. That just seems like the perfect match. The Pirates would be smart to establish themselves as the relief pitching store in the majors. You want a top reliever? We’ve got one right here for you. That will be one “Josh Reddick/Chris Davis” type hitter. Jimmy, can you bring some more relievers up from Triple-A to re-stock the shelves?
I don’t think other teams are totally clueless on relief pitching. If you look around the league you’ll notice that most teams look to their internal options before seeking outside help. Kyle Farnsworth goes down, and the Rays turn to Fernando Rodney. Jordan Walden struggles, and the Angels turn to several options, with the current one being Ernesto Frieri. Mariano Rivera goes down for the year, and the Yankees turn to David Robertson, then to Rafael Soriano.
One thing has been established the last few years: when it comes closer to the trade deadline, teams start paying for relievers. Look at the Rangers last year. They gave up Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter for Koji Uehara. They gave up Robbie Erlin, a top 50 prospect, in a two player return for Mike Adams. And then they dealt Pedro Strop, who currently has a 1.40 ERA in 25.2 innings, with a 22:13 K/BB ratio, to get Mike Gonzalez for two months.
The biggest trade chip the Pirates have is Hanrahan. He’s been a dominant closer for the last two years, and he’s got a year of control remaining after this season. I often get asked “what could Hanrahan bring in return?” That’s a difficult question to answer without speculating on real players. The easiest thing to do would be to point to some of the previous deals that have been made. Boston paid Josh Reddick and two other prospects for Andrew Bailey and Ryan Sweeney. Bailey had more years of control, but was a big injury risk, which didn’t work out well for Boston.
You’ve got to think that the Pirates could get a Josh Reddick type player for Hanrahan, even if it means they don’t get other pieces included. Reddick was the seventh best prospect in Boston’s system heading in to the 2011 season, and he didn’t have much of a track record prior to this year, with a .280/.327/.457 line in 254 at-bats in the majors last year. The roll of the dice seems to have worked for Oakland, as Reddick is hitting for a .271/.333/.548 line in 177 at-bats this year, with 13 homers.
If the Pirates want to upgrade their team in the short term, without sacrificing their long term goals, the best plan would be to deal from the bullpen.
Links and Notes
**Live game reports: Wilbur Miller covers the Altoona Curve.
**Prospect Notebook: Alen Hanson is over-shadowing another breakout prospect in West Virginia, and Nick Kingham is rebounding.
**Baseball America released their second mock draft, once again with Deven Marrero going to the Pirates.