Deadline Comments- Part 3- A missed opportunity? And a flight of fancy!
This is a more speculative post than others, and in the spirit of Pirate fans who are finally starting to see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, I am going to finish with another bit of “what the Pirates can do”, and how they can move closer to contention. Of course, the blogosphere hasn’t waited for me. Tim at PiratesProspects.com has a post suggesting that the Pirates could try to sneak Dunn away from the Indians with the intention of landing 2 picks in a deep draft.
That is probably not a good idea for a team that needs to rely on its farm as badly as the Pirates do, but it might behoove Neal Huntington to make a call and find out what they may want. The main reason behind this as far as I am concerned is that the Pirates have a logjam in RF that I wrote about recently, and Pat at WHYGAVS discussed since too. If Dunn can be had with players that are part of this logjam, and Tim has another post about the roster crunch regarding the 40 man roster, I’d think about it. Think something on the lines of Adcock and Moreno, or maybe Presley or Negrych could come in there too. But I’d venture to guess that the Nats would turn this down and either reach a long-term contract with Dunn or take their 2 draft picks. Dunn should be worth at least someone like Owens plus another good prospect at a lower level maybe, but he doesn’t have that value to the Pirates who cannot afford to lose their pitching depth at AA. In any case, I expect this to not happen, but I just threw it out there.
Realistically though, the Pirates need to get pitching, since that is the potion that drives playoff races. And they need top of the line pitching, front of the rotation starters. In 2 years, I d guess we’d have a strong back end of the rotation, but its the front that’s going to be a major problem. Where do they get their No. 1 from? The hope, of course, is that Bryan Morris develops into one, but even if he races through AAA, it’s not fair to expect him to be one before 2014 at the earliest. The same goes for the rest of the pitchers at the AA level, who may turn into studs someday but not in the next 2 years. Meanwhile the clock on McCutchen, Alvarez and Tabata keeps ticking. I’ll have a wild suggestion on where to get a No. 1 before this post ends.
Before that, though, one final look at the deadline that went past. The Pirates didn’t have many valuable trade chips, but they traded the least valuable ones, holding onto Maholm, Duke and Doumit. Duke and Doumit had their values nuked by recent injuries and stints on the DL, and I m guessing there wasn’t much interest in Doumit anyway. But what did the Pirates leave on the table with Maholm?
We will never know of course. But, if we insisted on a young starter as Dejan at the Post-Gazette says we did (I can’t find the link right now, darn!), then we might have shot ourselves in the foot. If we are not planning on contending over the next 2-3 years, and there isn’t much reason to think we might be, we should be asking for high ceiling pitchers at the A-levels, 2 or 3 at a time, and try to develop the missing ace. Two things might have happened in between though, that might have sabotaged deals for our starting pitchers anyway.
First, Dan Haren got moved at an unbelievably cheap price. Second, Matt Capps got moved at an unbelievably high price. The first lowered significantly what we could get for Maholm, and the second significantly increased what we could get for our relievers. I’d imagine Huntington would have been happy to consider Lambo and McDonald as fairly central to a Maholm trade, although I expect he’d want to replace Lambo with Dee Gordon for Maholm. In any case, it seems likely that the market decided Maholm’s future with the Pirates.
Other than that, Matt Capps. He could, and should, have been a Bucco, and we might have got Wilson Ramos for him. And no, Dotel could still have been a Pirate if Capps was here. But given how many uncertainties there are in that hypothesis, I’ll let this one slide, since it seems to me that Capps is the main reason we got what we did for Dotel. That, and probably Mike Rizzo’s stubbornness on what he’d take.
However, now that Maholm is with the Pirates and can be till 2012, we have a solid #3. Duke could be a great #5. That leaves spots 1, 2 and 4 in the rotation to fill. It’s not entirely stupid to hope that Lincoln can be a reliable #4 in 2011, and I don’t think many would take too strong a stand here. But then, where do we get our #1 and #2 from?
I’d first take a good long look at the 2011 FA pool. What names stand out? Cliff Lee, Jorge de la Rosa, Jeff Francis, Jon Garland, Aaron Harang, Javier Vazquez. Forget the first immediately- we can’t get him. The rest may all be in play though. De La Rosa will command a 4-5 year salary in the $12M range though, and I’d be willing to give him that. He’d be a real #2. The rest are all somewhat uncertain, but could be had on the right deals for under $10 M. Ideally the Pirates want to avoid giving any of them more than 2 year contracts. Francis and Garland would both be middle of the rotation types, but Harang and Vazquez could both be legitimate #2 pitchers, although age might catch up with them.
But that still leaves out that 1 guy, at the top of the rotation who can put up about 5-7 wins above replacement. Where do we get him from? The answer might just lie with Boston. Wha…?
Let’s think of the marquee free agent pitcher on the market- Cliff Lee. Let’s presume 3 teams can go farther than the rest- the Yankees, Mets and the Red Sox. The Yankees can go the farthest. Those are the assumptions. Now, the rest assumes those are true (and if you don’t buy that, you might as well stop here; and there are good reasons not to buy it). Who wants to see Lee go to the Yanks least of all? The Red Sox. They can do something about it, but they may not be able to take on another $20M plus contract for 7 years, even though Lowell and Varitek and Martinez come off the books. In that case, they might just be willing to trade one of their big contract starting pitchers.
I am thinking Josh Beckett here, for 2 reasons. He has $17M per for the next 4 years, and let’s face it, there’s no way the Pirates get someone like him on the FA market at that price. He’s coming off a mediocre 2010, which might lower his value, and the return he commands. And finally, the Sox might just want badly enough to keep Lee away from the Yanks that those $17M per year might become a factor in making the upgrade.
There is a side that you need to balance. What caused his bad 2010? He’s had some injury scares, and the loss of control might portend a major injury stint coming, one that has been in the works for a while. While his 4 year contract extension was being negotiated, Joe Pawlikowski wrote the following:
Beckett’s right shoulder hasn’t been a problem in nearly a decade. In 2000 a doctor told him that labrum surgery was inevitable, but Dr. James Andrews opined that the surgery could be avoided. He instead rested and rehabbed, and hasn’t had an incident since. An MRI in 2007 confirmed an optimistic outlook, though the Red Sox still appear leery of signing Beckett through his age-35 season.
Clearly, this might have had something to do with his performance in 2010, although there’s not enough reason to not believe the simple explanation which is that he hit a rough stretch, as David Golebiewski wrote. If such a thing were to be possible, the Pirates would need to examine Beckett very carefully.
That, then, was my fanciful notion of the day. What will it cost the Pirates? This is hard to say, and might depend on many other factors, but I am fairly certain it’s going to cost Bryan Morris. Given the injury potential, that alone might make it not worth the trade, but let’s worry about that later. If we end up in this hypothetical world, and the Pirates believe Beckett’s shoulder will stay attached, he would be well worth the price.