Monday, July 18, 2011

Trade talk may be just that -- but it needs to be more

Jeff Mathis, really?

WIth this morning's Pittburgh Trib-Review report that the Pirates are scouting Hunter Pence among others with the trade deadline just 13 days away, maybe it's time to chime in on some of the rumors and give a few thoughts.

1. Any indication that Garrett Jones is headed out of town for the below-Mendoza hitting Jeff Mathis in Anaheim should be old news. When the Pirates were desperate and Ryan Doumit, Chris Snyder and Jason Jaramillo were all hurt, of course the team was hunting for help and willing to overpay. Fortunately, it was Michael McKenry that was acquired, and, despite a weak bat, he has done an excellent job of handling the pitching staff. My opinion is this will be a difficult guy to put back on the bench, despite Doumit's expected return. Remember Pittsburgh fans, defense wins championships.
When you think Jeff Mathis, think Jeff Clement. Enough said.

2. Carlos Pena's power can't possibly be argued. His 19 HRs would lead this team by five. Unfortunately for Pena he really should be a platoon player himself. Against RHP, Pena's .256 in 2011 and .251 lifetime is tolerable with his power. The downside is the .105 in 2011 and .211 career batting avg. against LHP.  Depending on what goes back to the Cubs or how much the Bucs have to pay of the rest of his $10 million salary, Pena is a big bat but not the savior that the fans will expect from a July trade. And you'd still need someone to play 1B against left-handed pitching, which likely would be Steve Pearce. Pearce's past indicates that would be fine but it is another person to carry on the 25-man roster.

3. Kevin Slowey came up, partially because he's a Upper St. Clair native and partially because he could be a MLB-ready pitcher if the Pirates need to part with a current starter to acquire a blockbuster bat. Slowey isn't much of an improvement on Ross Ohlendorf, who returns in August and would be another pitcher in the mix that blocks Brad Lincoln and Justin Wilson in Triple A. Lincoln looked good in his start before the All-Star break and Wilson appears to be a pitch-to-contact arm that is tossign to a 3.79 ERA for Indianapolis. A good PR move maybe, but Slowey isn't any better than what they already have so why trade for the sake of trading.

Matt Kemp, Pretty, pretty please?
4. Money issues appear to make the Dodgers and Pirates trade partners. The Pirates have the money to take on some of the salary that the Dodgers can't afford. They have worked together already, when Neal Huntington fleeced Ned Coletti for James McDonald and Andrew Lambo in the Octavio Dotel deal but that makes up for Andy LaRoche. So there is some history.  Andre Ethier is arbitration-eligible in 2012 and the Bucs would likely have to pay him $10-12 million to get value from the deal. Ethier's power is down this year but his avg. and on-base percentage are up. Another consideration is Matt Kemp, which would be a big splash and eventual financial commitment. Kemp is on-base to contend for a 40-40 season and should be untouchable. But if NH can pull that off, the cost should be Jose Tabata, Stetson Allie and at least another top prospect. That would back up the statement that the minors are there to fuel the PBC. And Ethier Kemp makes the Pirates instantly legitimate across baseball. It makes a statement that the team is here to play with the big boys. I like Tabata but wouldn't you take Kemp-McCutchen-Presley?  James Loney is the other name and if it's required to take him with one of those outfielders, you go for it. But he isn't much of an improvement over Lyle Overbay.

Hunter Pence -- a possibility?
5. Lastly, this morning's Hunter Pence report. Pence is to Houston what Jason Bay was to Pittsburgh. What Kemp likely is to the Dodgers. In a lesser sense, what Derek Jeter is to the New York Yankees. He's the face of the franchise. A team in turmoil and on the verge of sale, it's likely Astros GM Ed Wade would need permission from the current owner, the new owners, the mayor of Houston, the governor of Texas and possibly every single season ticket holder to trade Pence. Pence will have two-plus years with his new team at a price tag of about $25 million through arbritation. Similar to Kemp, it'll take a Pirates' treasure ( to get him but Wade has done this before. Roy Oswalt was the face before Pence and for a lot longer before being traded to Philadelphia last year. Lance Berkman the same. If Pence is out there, the Pirates have to be first in line and willing to do the deal.

Standing pat is not an option. The fanbase is eager for a winner and this group unfortunately has the responsibility to its fans to do every possible to make up for 18 years of losing. The fans asked for a winner, the Pirates and management have started to give them one, the fans started coming back to the ballpark. Your move, Pirates management.

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