The Pirates were rather active around the deadline making 3 trades in the last 16 hours or so and giving fans and columnists a whole lot to talk about. The trades have will likely have varying level of impact and I will give my opinion on them. First let’s start with the last two deals of the day the two minor ones.
Pirates Get: Gaby Sanchez, Kyle Kaminska
Pirates Give: Gorkys Hernandez, comp pick
On the surface this doesn’t look like a bad move. Hernandez has little vlaue to the Pirates right now and as an all defense guy has little trade value. Kaminska is a minor league pitcher who has put up some good peripherals but who also has a lack of value. This really comes down to the comp pick for Sanchez. I really like Gaby Sanchez and is a guy I profiled as someone I would like to see the Pirates make a move for to help the team next year. However as we would find out later the Pirates didn’t pick up Sanchez to help out starting next season.
Pirates Get: Chad Qualls
Pirates Give: Casey McGehee
This one I don’t get. McGehee isn’t super valuable but Qualls is a pretty bad reliever. With Juan Cruz coming back from the DL and Bryan Morris appearing ready in AAA trading for a guy like Qualls seems very odd. He doesn’t improve the club. As far as losing McGehee that is not a huge blow but replacing him with Sanchez for this season seems a little odd.
To me these two trades essentially boil down to McGehee and the comp pick for Sanchez. I was fine with Sanchez for the comp pick as he hit for a nice .260/.334/.419 line over the last 3 seasons. He was a great guy to platoon with Jones next season and he would have came at a very cheap price with a chance as regaining his form as a functional starting 1B. However throwing McGehee into this trade makes it less impactful. At best Sanchez is going to be as good as McGehee this season. Not a huge deal but very odd.
Pirates Get: Travis Snider
Pirates Give: Brad Lincoln
This was one I wasn’t sure of as first as I’m now very worried about the bullpen next year as it appears possible that none of Lincoln, Grilli or Hanrahan will be a part of it. However relievers even one as good as Lincoln has been are relatively easy to replace where as power hitting corner outfielders are hard to find. In his time in the majors Snider has posted some decent but not great numbers (.735 career OPS) even with those numbers he would be an upgrade over Presley and Sutton. However at only 24 years old Snider has a lot of room to grow and looks like he may be turning a corner having posted good numbers in AAA this seasons and good numbers in his limited time in the majors. This definitely hurts the bullpen a lot next season and basically makes it a must for the Pirates to resign Grilli and add another good arm before next season but it comes with a huge possible upside.
These aren’t moves you traditionally see contenders make but as a small market the Pirates need to act differently and acquiring a good bounce back candidate for next year in Gaby Sanchez and a high risk high reward guy like Snider for basically one very solid relief pitcher and some spare parts are moves that make sense. Now as far as moving McGehee for a player likely to be DFA’d when Cruz returns I’m not sure of the thought process there.
Andrew McCutchen: The face of the franchise. As anyone who is reading this probably knows McCutchen is hands down the best player on the Pittsburgh Pirates. There is absolutely no reason not to expect another great season from him. In fact with a hopefully slightly improved offense around him his numbers should even be better. The sky is really the limit for McCutchen; it should surprise no one if he was to put up an OPS over .850 this season all while playing stellar defense in center field.
Brandon Boggs: The Pirates signed Boggs to a minor league contract this offseason and while I do believe it contains a clause that he can go to Japan if he doesn’t make the major league roster I expect him to spend at least some time in AAA. Boggs will be given a chance to make the major league roster but that seems like a remote possibility at this point. He can play any outfield position and will likely either serve as the starting RF or 4th outfielder (depending on where Lambo is placed). Essentially he will serve the role as the veteran OF in AAA who will only be called up in an emergency situation to cover a rash of injuries. So really not much is going to be expected of him this season.
Starling Marte: With all due respect to Josh Bell and Tony Sanchez, Starling Marte is the best position player prospect in the Pirates system. After putting up a strong season in AA in which he started to show a little power Marte will start this season in AAA and will face high expectations. He is still a little raw with some strike zone discipline problems that need to be corrected but Marte has the potential to be a McCutchen like outfielder. With the exception of plate discipline Marte does everything well and if he can fix that one last issue he could be in the majors as early as June but due to the Pirates rather strong outfield situation he will probably be given more seasoning in AAA. I am expecting a big season from Marte including a very solid major league debut in August or September.
Gorkys Hernandez: Hernandez is often overlooked in the Pirates system but he still as a lot of potential. He is the best defensive outfielder the Pirates have in the majors or minors and he has terrific speed; his problem is that he is a weak bat. Hernandez will probably be given a chance to win a bench role in Spring Training but the signing of McLouth greatly diminishes his chances. So he is likely to start off in AAA and with Marte there as well he will probably split time with Marte between LF and CF. At this point unless his bat greatly improves Hernandez looks like nothing more than a 4th outfielder but with his good speed and defense he can be successful in such a role. I am expecting Hernandez to have a solid season in AAA and get a chance in the majors at some point. He won’t have a great showing because of his bat but the rest of his tools will make the favorite for the 4th outfielder job in 2013.
Mel Rojas Jr: Rojas is another one of the Pirates fine outfielder prospects who has 5 tool potential. He was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2010 draft and while he hasn’t put up eye-popping numbers he has shown progress during his pro career. Rojas is very raw and is just a project at this point but he has a high ceiling and could become a very good major league outfielder one day. As far as 2012 is concerned Rojas will likely be the starting CF in A+ and since he will be playing in a good hitting environment this would seem like the logical year for him to take a big step forward and I expecting just that. Rojas should have a big year this season in A+ but I expect the Pirates to be conservative with him and leave him at that level basically all season.
Summary: The Pirates have no position that looks more set for the present and future than center field. Andrew McCutchen is a legitimate All Star in center field and will hopefully be in Pittsburgh for a long time to come. Should for some reason McCutchen not be in Pittsburgh long term the future still looks fairly bright with Starling Marte waiting in the wings. Having both of these guys in the same outfield would be amazing and hopefully we will see this some time this season. Outside of the strong duo of McCutchen and Marte the Pirates have great depth with Hernandez, Rojas and even some others I did not list. The immediate and long term future of the Pirates as a whole is uncertain but at center field it looks nearly as bright as it could possibly look.