First Pitch: Rosenthal’s Article and Another Call to Trade Relievers

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

**The Pirates beat the Cubs 10-4. Kristy Robinson’s notebook looks at the bats breaking out for a season-high ten runs. Jose Tabata left the game early with a leg cramp.

**Prospect Watch: Jameson Taillon struggles, while a trio of Indianapolis hitters homer to spark a comeback, leading to a seven run ninth inning.

**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.

**Jared Hughes is thriving in the bullpen.

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.
  • szielinski

    The Pirates also should not ignore putting together a pitching package for the right player or players. The Pirates have only two credible position player prospects in the high minors who we believe can hit: Marte and Grossman. Both, unfortunately, are under-performing this year. There is no defensible reason for the Pirates to refuse to trade Hughes or Cruz for, say, Matt LaPorta if the FO believes Hague will not hit ML pitching or will never hit with power. The team can replace either pitcher. LaPorta might not produce while playing for Pittsburgh, but, then again, Jones and McGhee haven’t produced much this year.

    The Pirates should not sit on their hands and should not limit their focus to the 2012 season. The team is under .500 and performing much better than its Pythagorean projection. The time is not now.

    • Lee Young

      Laporta MIGHT not produce? Howabout, ‘in all likelihood’ will not produce? He is a classic AAAA player. The Indians got rooked when they traded for him.

      However, if Cleveland wants to trade him for Resop or DMac, I’d do it. Otherwise, they can keep him. We’ve had enough AAAA hitters (Pearce, Moss, Marte, Clement) for my taste.

      I want someone who I KNOW can hit at the Major League level.

      • http://twitter.com/rinsana11 Ross

        I do like LaPorta as a potential deal because I actually did talk about acquiring him a week ago in an article on my blog. saying he could come cheap because he is not even in the top 5 on the Tribe’s depth chart at 1st base. and yes, LaPorta has produced alot better in the bigs than the guys you have brought up like Pearce, Moss, Marte, Clement. 2010 he hit 12 bombs in 376 at bats and then 2011 he put up solid numbers with 11 bombs, 53 RBI, .412 slugging, and a 97 OPS+. yeah his batting average and on base percentage is not high like everyone wants out of their guys. but if people want that “one bat” and LaPorta comes at a cheap price when he is only 27 years old, I would take him in a heartbeat

        • Lee Young

          If a career .397 SPct in 1008 PAs gets you excited, then, you’re welcome to him. I want nothing to do with that kind of ballplayer.

          • szielinski

            I guess we’ll just have to settle for the awesome production Jones and McGhee are giving us….

          • Lee Young

            Unfortunately….hopefully Hague will help in that dept. I like how Hurdle said that the current platoon would go on “Pause”. Matt L definitely wouldn’t help.

            Sure would’ve been nice if we’d have grabbed that Matt Adams fella from Slippery Rock. Why is it the Cards always get these kinds of guys? Sheesh.

          • Lee Young

            good to see Discus is “burping” again….lol

          • Lee Young

            Unfortunately….hopefully Hague will help in that dept. I like how Hurdle said that the current platoon would go on “Pause”. Matt L definitely wouldn’t help.

            Sure would’ve been nice if we’d have grabbed that Matt Adams fella from Slippery Rock. Why is it the Cards always get these kinds of guys? Sheesh.

          • Lee Young

            Unfortunately….hopefully Hague will help in that dept. I like how Hurdle said that the current platoon would go on “Pause”. Matt L definitely wouldn’t help.

            Sure would’ve been nice if we’d have grabbed that Matt Adams fella from Slippery Rock. Why is it the Cards always get these kinds of guys? Sheesh.

          • Lee Young

            Unfortunately….hopefully Hague will help in that dept. I like how Hurdle said that the current platoon would go on “Pause”. Matt L definitely wouldn’t help.

            Sure would’ve been nice if we’d have grabbed that Matt Adams fella from Slippery Rock. Why is it the Cards always get these kinds of guys? Sheesh.

  • Kevin_Creagh

    In Rosenthal’s article, he lumps Barajas in with Barmes and McGehee as a “resounding bust”.
    Barajas is batting .230/.288/.398 (686 OPS, .292 wOBA). His career line is .237/.284/.413 (697 OPS, .298 wOBA).
    He’s right at his career averages. If anyone expected him to be batting .280/.330/.460, then he is a bust, but that’s not what anyone thought.
    I guess that didn’t fit the narrative that Rosenthal was trying to weave in the story, though. That’s OK…it’s fun to slam the Pirates (especially on Pirate-themed websites) rather than offer constructive criticism to look for ways to improve them.

  • Matt Beam

    how about Hanny and potentially another player to the D’Backs for Matt Davidson (AA 3B) or Paul Goldschmidt (1B platoon in Arizona)? or the same to the Red Sox for Bryce Brentz (AA OF)? All 3 are considered power hitting prospects, albeit top 75-100 type guys, as we won’t get a top 25 type guy for that price.

  • Remember92

    Wouldn’t mind seeing NH pick up the phone and give the Padres a call on Carlos Quentin. His contract this year is only 7 million and yes he will be a FA next year. But he would be great protection in the 5 hole behind Pedro. Plus that would still leave you The Hammer to deal to a contender for another piece. Put him in right field and let him rake since he now appears to be healthy again.