Friday, June 26, 2015

Brief recent history of Pirates first basemen, the future?

The Pirates need for a first basemen is great. The Pirates haven't had a good first basemen to start the season since Adam LaRoche in 2009. Adam was a good hitter with 20+ home runs and a decent average. He was also pretty good in the field, in fact he went on to win the Gold Glove in a great defensive season in 2012, though he wasn't that good while on the Pirates team.

Our next first basemen was Garrett Jones. Garrett had(has) good power potential and was hitting at a decent average. He wasn't the worst at first but he wasn't great either. In 2011 he didn't play many games at first due the Pirates getting Lyle Overbay. (next) Again, while he wasn't hitting as good he was 'okay' at first but surely not the best. In 2012 and 2013 we have more of the same fielding is consistently nothing exciting Not anything special but won't lose many games. In his career with the pirates he has gotten over 15 home runs each season flirting with 30 once and over .270 average twice.

In 2011 the pirates signed Lyle Overbay to play first and moved Garrett to the out field most of the time. While generally a better fielder than Garrett everything else was not as good. This along with his salary lead to his release in the following off season.

Before the 2012 season started the Pirates traded Jose Veras to the Brewers for Casey McGehee. Casey had a couple great hitting seasons with the brewers and it seemed the search for a first basemen was over. Casey was great at fielding the first base position compared to what we have been used too but couldn't do anything at the plate struggling to stay above the Mendoza line. Casey was traded at the dead line that year to the Yankees for Chad Qualls. Casey was then granted free agency at the end of the year.

2013, remember 2013 oh yeah things are looking up now. Gaby Sanchez started the season for us at first. Gaby is a good first basemen. Pretty steady and doesn't make many mistakes. His problem is his bat. There was early hopes that he would be able to live up to his early hype but there was no such luck. It was bad enough they they traded for Justin Morneau at a fairly high cost to the team. Justin ended up playing 25 games for the Pirates at first and fielded really well. Justin did not resign with the Pirates after the season and won the NL batting title the next year.

In 2014 the Pirates started the season with a Gaby Sanchez and Travis Ishikawa platoon at first. It didn't work at all and this was known early in the spring. In the first few weeks of the season the Pirates traded for Ike Davis from the Mets for two prospects. It wasn't much better offensively but defensively it was okay. Ike was moved to Oakland in the offseason.

In 2015 we have Pedro Alvarez. To Pedro's credit.. he is trying really hard but it is coming slowly. Pedro can hit the ball as far as anyone, when he hits it. He is learning plate discapline slowly but surely but to call him a good or above average hitter would be a reach i'm not willing to take right now. Maybe in a year or two if he keeps improving. Pedro's defensive skills at first also leave something to be desired. He may one day be a gold glover at first but it will take a lot of work and a lot of luck.

The Future?

In the future the Pirates have little in the way of options internally. At one point Tony Sanchez was tried at first in the minor leagues but that idea was dropped. Right now Josh Bell is being taught first. Josh is hitting the ball rather well, though with limited power right now. We could see him at first at the end of the 2015 if not then probably 2016 sometime.

There are few first basemen that are available in trade that would be a significant upgrade to Pedro that is cost effective. Ryan Howard is a bit better defensively and right now is hitting the ball fairly well. Like Pedro he will strike out a lot though. While he would be bit of an upgrade his $40 sum million left on his contract (with buy out) is far to cumbersome for the Pirates. Even if the Phillies eat all but $10 Million it still isn't a large enough upgrade to justify.

Mike Napoli may also be available trade target. He has shown in the past he can hit and hit with a bit of power. He has also shown he can get on base at a decent clip. Mike is also a fair first basemen compared to what we have been working with. Mike is in the last year of his contract due a total of $16 million If Boston would eat half of his remaining contract it wouldn't be the worst deal ever. With the way Mike is playing right now it is more of a side grade than an upgrade.

Justin Morneau seems to be the best target. He didn't do well in his time in Pittsburgh but he doesn't cost much more than Pedro, has a mutual option for 2016 and better than Pedro in pretty much every way at first base except for maybe power. The big issues with Justin are that he probably will not take up his option making him a rental and that he is currently on the DL. If his health checks out and Colorado can talk him into accepting the option this would be a great deal to give Bell another season to learn first.

Chris Davis. Not going to happen. Baltimore won't trade him in the middle of a playoff run unless they feel that Matt Wieters will be better served at first. It is doubtful but the way Caleb Joseph is coming on it is a remote possibility. Chris's salary is fairly high for the Pirates to swallow but he can field well and has shown he can hit in the past and has some monster power like Pedro. Over all Davis would be a stat for stat upgrade over Pedro especially on defense. Also Chris would be a rental, Like Pedro he is a Boras client and probably would not be resigned.

This is an internal option, but last on my list. Neil Walker. Of all the players currently on the everyday line up Neil would be the best choice to move to first. Neil is a ball player not a catcher, third basemen or even second basemen. He will just play and do a fair job at it. This makes the most since if Pedro is not on the team because they could move Josh Harrison to second and insert Jung Ho Kang at third.  This also frees up a spot to bring Alen Hanson up when he is ready.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Trading Jordy Mercer, Naa.

The Pirates have a bunch of infield talent in their system as I talked about in a previous posting. Neil Walker, Josh Harrison, Jung Ho Kang, Sean Rodriguez and Jordy Mercer to cover the second base, third base and shortstop positions (and some out field too)

In the Minor Leagues you have Alen Hanson working his way up probably in late July or August. In upcoming seasons you have Cole Tucker ( ETA 2018) and JaCoby Jones (ETA 2016). Who maybe able to stick at shortstop. In the 2015 draft the Pirates picked two shortstops and two third basemen in the first 8 picks. Two of which in the first round. Okay so like with Walker, there is a log jam of player talent that could be pushing him out of a job.

So... why keep Mercer?

First and probably most importantly he can play some defense and do it fairly well. He hasn't shown to be a gold clover, at least not any time soon but he is better than average. In fact in 2014 he lead the NL in Total Zone runs at short, second in Assists and 4th in Fielding Percentage at short. So far in 2015 he isn't far off from those numbers again. Really he is the lone bright spot on the Pirate infield so far in 2015, defensively speaking.

Second he can hit decently. Yeah you might think I am crazy. But Mercer is a late bloomer every season so far. For his career the first half of the season he is .237/.286/.338 and in the second half he is .280/.337/.454. That leads to a career .254/.306/.383. While it is not a stat line that takes you to the hall of fame his second half numbers are better than average while his first half numbers are really pulled down by very poor March/April/May where he hits for a .208 average for his career. If you take out March/April/May from his batting stats he hits for ~.274 in his career. That is nothing to shake a stick at, especially at the short stop position.

Third and probably most importantly for the front office... he is cheap. Only making about $540,000 this season which is sure to go way up after he is eligible for arbitration. If I had to guess a team with a need for a decent short stop who can hit he is worth $8-10 Million a year, but that is just a guess.

Lastly he has low value right now because he is a slow starter. His value is increasing game by game, hit by hit and by the deadline many teams would be interested.

Why Trade him?

The first reason to trade Mercer would be to clear up some room for more playing time for Kang and later Hanson. This problem could be partially solved by trading any one of the infielders though. It could also be reduced by keeping Hanson down until September. Though Hanson's bat may press the issue.

Second, as the deadline gets closer Mercer should be hitting much better and his trade value should be much higher. With an expected better than average bat, a good glove and on top of that dirt cheap with control he will have a high value. Maybe not as much as a healthy Hamels but still pretty high.

If a contender needs a shortstop here is your guy. If a team is rebuilding and needs to shed some salary, here is your guy.

As the Pirates I wouldn't shop him around specifically, I would tell other teams that we have extra infielders and if they want one of them push Walker instead. That is unless they come back with a crazy offer for Mercer.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Trading Pedro Alvarez, finally?

Pirates fans have a love/hate relationship with Pedro Alvarez. He is one of the streakiest players in the majors who generally strikes out a ton and hits the ball for a mile. In the field there are few that try harder but trying and doing are two different things.

Pedro as a third basemen has been a disaster. I had hopes that an upgraded first basemen would make Pedro better but it didn't. Now Pedro is at first, while he is doing okay for a player that has hardly played first base it hasn't been great. Too often his puppy dog syndrome from playing third all those years kicks in and he goes after balls he shouldn't leaving first uncovered. Once he gets past that issue I think he will be a slightly below average first basemen that is acceptable to have in your starting line up provided he is hitting.

Calling Pedro streaky is an understatement. He will go 2 months with out doing much of anything then get on a 2 week roll hitting the ball so hard that Jose Canseco has to stop him and ask what he is taking. So when you look at his stats when he tied for the NL Home Run lead it really isn't too surprising to see he batted .233/.296/.473 with 36 HR and league leading 186 strike outs.

There is an upside. It seems Pedro is improving. So far this year Pedro has only has 52 strike outs which would be a career low if he keeps that pace. He is starting to punish teams hitting the other way when shifting on him but not enough to make them stop doing it. As we know with Pedro everything is a slow process with him. I predict that when he is 31 he will be similar to Jose Bautista.

Okay so why trade him? First it will be near impossible to sign an extension with Boras with his agent. Pedro makes close to $6 Million as a reward for being near the league leaders in strike outs per at bat.

In my opinion there are a couple reasons why he is still on the team. First we like Pedro and want to give him every chance to succeed as we can. Second we have no other real options at first base besides Corey Hart and Sean Rodriguez. No one needs a sub par fielding third/first basemen or a DH right now. Lastly the Pirates don't want to sell him 'low' hoping he will get better which he has shown signs he is.

The Pirates have been grooming Josh Bell for the first base role. We should get to see him in the fall. Bell will hit for average but not much in the way of power. Other than that there is not much excitement in the minors for anyone else playing first.

If the Pirates make any moves at the trade deadline for a first basemen expect to see Pedro gone by next spring training.

Trading Neil Walker sooner than later.

The Pittsburgh Kid, Neil Walker has been one heck of a better than average player for the Pirates since he came in to the majors. He is a solid if not unspectacular fielder he makes nearly all the plays he should and every once in a while pulls off a gem or blunder. He is a solid if not one of the better hitting second basemen in the majors. He could also be an emergency catcher if it ever go to that point.. luckily it hasn't.

So why trade him? Again, as with many roster moves it comes down to money. This year Walker is making $8 million via arbitration and if he has a similar season expect that number to be over $10 million next year. That number is bound to keep increasing until 2017 when he is a free agent at 31 years old. While still a fair deal for a good hitting catcher turned third basemen turned second basemen it is still a good portion of the Pirates budget and the Pirates have other options.

As of right now the Pirates have Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer, Jung Ho Kang and Sean Rodriguez who can all play Second, Third and Short (and some Outfield too). All 4 of those players make about half or less than Neil. All of those players have also been fighting for playing time. Harrison and Kang should also have similar effectiveness from the plate. Only from the right side of the plate instead of Neil's switch hitting.

In the minors you have Alen Hanson working his way up probably late this summer. Comparing Alen's and Neil's Minor League stats Alen is working his way through much faster, is a better bat but not as good defensively as Neil was in the minors. Alen is also a switch hitter if he can improve is defense and keep up the effort....

Also in the line to come up the next couple years, Cole Tucker and JaCoby Jones. Again like the outfield there is a log jam of talent. If you can save $5 million and get similar performance then you do it.

As much as I like Neil Walker and want to see him retire in the black and gold, in my opinion the only way Neil Walker stays a Pirate after this season is if he takes a substantial home town discount on an extension and signs for less than $10 million buying out arbitration.

Trading Andrew McCutchen.. Say What?

Yeah I know really. Trade Andrew McCutchen? It won't happen any time soon and if it did I would be marching up to the Pirates front office with a pitch fork looking for the witch that is controlling their minds. Cutch is a superstar.. well would be if he was in a larger market.

But lets look at this for a minute from a money stand point. Andrew costs $10 million this year. Starling Marte (assumed to be Andrews replacement) won't cost $10 ($3.3 million next year) million until 2019. Andrew has about $42 million left for 3 more years counting options. Marte has about $51 Million left for 6 more years. Both contracts end in their early 30's . Andrew is about near his peak, While Marte is still getting better (though his strike outs this year are scary but pen that up to his new role). There is about a 1 Game Win above replacement (WAR) difference for last year.

It almost makes sense to sell Cutch when he is high assuming he finishes the season strong. It especially makes since when you have a cheap replacement in Marte and a log jam of talent in the outfield. Assuming the minor league talent pans out in September....

So what can you get in trade for an Andrew McCutchen? Pretty simple really.. anyone not named Mike Trout to any team in search for a superstar out fielder that is relatively cheap. Given the Outfield talent available in the minors and in free agency and a glaring hole at first base it would be crazy not to explore the option. It would be even crazier to act on it.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Pirate trade targets

The MLB Amateur Draft has passed which means the All-Star break is not too far away. This also means that the trade deadline is right around the corner. There are few players pegged as trade candidates that the Pirates should defiantly make a run for. The most glaring need is a starting pitcher.

Cole Hamels PHI : Cole Hamels trade talk has been around for a while now but the asking price has been way too high along with his $95.5 million salary through 2019 after this season (if option vests) make any trade very unlikely. However it was recently noted that the Phillies are willing to take on a portion of his salary. If this is true and if they would take on $5 million or more per season the Pirates may want to reconsider. Hamels is an ace in his prime. It is not very often players of his caliber are available. His salary for his ability is not totally unreasonable. Considering they are paying $13.5 million for Liriano, paying $15 Million for Hamels would be a great bargain.

The big reason I can see to go all in on Hamels is that once you got him you have him for years to come unlike most other trade candidates

Johnny Cueto CIN : Johnny should be a relatively cheap rental. Whatever team gets him needs to understand that unless they open the check book he will be gone after the season. He is a great pitcher and also really good in PNC Park, not counting the wild card game. He is a career 10-2 with a 1.91 ERA and .951 WHIP in PNC. By the time he is traded he should be owed around $5 million seems like a decent price if he is able to give you 10 decent starts in the regular season. Also with stats like that in PNC park he might be more inclined to resign but I doubt the Pirates would give him the $22-25 Million/year he will likely fetch

Mike Leake CIN : Mike is another rental who also pitches well in PNC. He isn’t an ace like Hamels or Cueto but he has fair stuff at the back of the rotation who should be a pretty good inning eater while keeping the team in the game most of the time. He has had a fairly rough start to start the season so his price might be lower than one would expect.

Aaron Harang PHI : Aaron has been doing great his first third of the season with a 2.02 ERA and a 0.995 WHIP which are better numbers than Hamels so far. Harang’s cheap $5 million contract could make him a trade for him the best trade if he finishes the season anywhere near the pace he is on now.

Dan Haren MIA: Dan is over all is doing pretty well this season with a 3.03 ERA and 1.043 WHIP is pretty attractive over 10 starts. His $10 Million in salary is paid by the Dodgers so it might be hard to pry this one way

Bartolo Colon NYM : Bartolo’s Wins, K’s and Whip are all pretty good however his ERA is well above 4 almost 5. The Mets are still in the race despite their injuries. I have my doubts the 42 year old right hander will be available. If the price is right it is worth a look but I have a suspicion the Mets will be in the race until September.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Russell Martin vs Francisco Cervelli better value?

Over a quarter of the season has passed so it is time for the inevitable Russell Martin and Francisco Cervelli comparison.

Of course the big thing to note about the players is that Martin is making $7 Million this year (first year of an $82 Million 5 year contract) while Cervelli is making $1 Million this year entering arbitration next year.

Martin is Batting .267/.353/.473 with 7 HR€™s, 11 doubles a triple 24 RBIs, and 29 Runs over 190 plate appearances. If he was doing that in Pittsburgh I would be extremely happy.

Cervelli is batting .314/.385/.393 with 1 HR, 8 doubles 14 RBIs and 15 Runs over 157 plate appearances. While I would like some more power.. I a€™m very happy with that with the associated price tag comparison.

Martin has a .997 fielding percentage with 1 error in 345 chances in 383 innings. He also leads the AL (and MLB) in the number of players caught stealing at 18 at 50%. Pretty amazing, he also played a couple innings at second base this year€. I a€™m sure Russell loved that.

Cervelli is .994 fielding percentage with 2 errors in 343 chances in 348 innings. Cervelli is also among the league leaders in caught stealing with 13 but with only a 28% rate. League average is 28%. This is pretty run of the mill for catchers. Base runners are testing him for sure, they will continue to do so until he proves he can throw them out.

Offense is kinda a wash right now, with Martin having more power and Cervelli better average but Martin is clearly a superior defensive catcher.

The real question who has the better value? Over this year probably Martin so far (given $7 Million) but if you take in to account the length and overall cost of Martin'€™s contract Cervelli gets the win here. Cervelli is still in his arbitration years and will probably hit a max of $5 million next year and under $10 million for 2017 assuming he keeps up this pace and does not get injured. Next year Russell Martian'€™s contract goes to $15 million and then $20 million a year in 2017 through 2019.

I love Russell Martin, I wish he would have stayed in the black and gold, but so far Cervelli has provided better value.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Best Home and Small office switch for the money.

Absolutely has to be the NetGear Business-Class and ProSafe switches.  These little blue all metal wonders are cheap, reliable and constant.    I’ve been using various models and revisions of these for about 10-12 years between the 4port and 16 port range in various applications and they just work.

You buy one.  That’s it, you won’t buy another because you won’t need to replace it under normal circumstances.  I still have a 10/100MB 8 port I purchased many many years ago in my closet as a spare.  If you do need to replace one it is almost always because you need more ports or are upgrading to a new/different technology (Fiber, POE, 10GbE, etc..)

The metal housing helps dissipate any heat generated.  Due to there basic flat squared of shape they are easily mounted most anywhere I have even seen one model welded to the side of a case for a LAN party server. The activity lights are fairly bright but not overly and can be easily masked.  These little buggers also are silent as well.

Newegg and Amazon often has sales on the 5 port version and you often seem them for $19.99 after promotions.  Prices scale up with more ports, anything over 16 ports you are probably looking for a more enterprise type switch.

If you just need a basic switch, for the price there is nothing better.