(Follow me on Twitter @jim_krug; opening image Giancarlo Stanton, image credit trrsf)
In Part 1, we covered the pros and cons with the Pittsburgh Pirates trading top farmhand SP Jameson Taillon, recently ranked the 12th-best prospect in all of baseball by mlb.com’s Midseason Report. Now, let’s look at a sliding scale of value for the 6’6″ righty, using players that have at least some chance of being moved at the July 31st, 2013 MLB Trade Deadline.
Definitely trade Taillon: OF Giancarlo Stanton, Miami
The Marlins have done an about-face, now claiming that Stanton is no longer being actively shopped. But as we’ve seen, Miami has lied about players before. Having already hit over 100 HR by age 23, the 6’6″ Stanton is the 10th youngest batter in MLB history to do so. (And check out the 9 names in front of him- not shabby company.) After crushing a home run in the Marlins’ series-opening 2-0 victory over the Pirates, Stanton has 12 HR to go with an .831 OPS (126 OPS+) on the season.
Most importantly for the Pirates, Stanton has not even reached his arbitration-eligible years, meaning the Buccos would have him under contract for at least his 3 arbitration years, assuming a long-term deal was not reached during that time. Stanton is a cornerstone of any offense, and the Pirates would probably have to add a package around Taillon to get a deal done.
Many fans- and possibly the Pirates’ front office- may disagree with me here, but if Pittsburgh can acquire an elite-level powerhitter under contractual control for a promising arm that has yet to reach AAA, it should strongly be considered. Both bats have the following in common:
1. Quentin and Encarnacion are both 30 years old, so while they’re clearly in the peaks of their careers, their production shows that they are far from over them.
2. Both are locked into very reasonable dollars, given their productivity. Quentin is signed through 2015, for an amount that works out to less than $9,000,000 per year, with a favorable $10,000,000 mutual option in 2016. Encarnacion has a nearly identical deal with slightly more dollars, earning an average of $9,500,000 the next two seasons, with the same $10,000,000 option in 2016.
3. While both players will be beyond their statistical peaks by 2016, each would guarantee the Pirates an elite-level to well-above average power bat for the next 3+ seasons. In professional sports, anything beyond 2 years or so is considered “long-term” anymore. These players would be long-term components of the Pirates, as opposed to short-term rentals.
4. Both are still highly productive. Even playing in the offensive purgatory of San Diego’s Petco Park, Quentin continues to slug around .500, and has posted OPS+ of 119, 122, 145, and 143 (current) over the past 4 seasons, with his production actually increasing as he moved from the AL to NL. A classic “late bloomer”, Encarnacion has exploded over the past 2 campaigns, after repeated promising signs throughout his early- to mid-20’s. The 6’2″ righty hammered 42 home runs in 2012 (.941 OPS, 152 OPS+), and has already amassed 28 (.905, 143 OPS+) this season. Having played 3B and 1B (and even an OF cameo in 2012), the Pirates would likely park Encarnacion at first base, allowing Pedro Alvarez to remain at the hot corner.
Probably not trade Taillon: OF Jose Bautista, Toronto
The allure of GM Neal Huntington correcting his biggest trade mistake by returning Bautista to black-and-gold is enticing for executives and fans alike. Despite still being a very productive hitter (23 HR, .841 OPS, 127 OPS+), there are some potential traps in such a deal.
1. At age 32, Bautista is 2 years older than Quentin and Encarnacion. That may not seem like much, but in the ridiculously difficult sport of Major League Baseball, it’s the difference between a hitter being at his peak, versus beyond it.
2. Bautista’s statistics bear this out. He was the best hitter in baseball in 2010 and 2011, but the former Pirate has begun to regress since:
2010 54 HR, .995 OPS
2011 43 HR, 1.056 OPS
2012 27 HR, .886 OPS
2013 23 HR, .841 OPS (current)
3. Bautista has missed time with injury, tallying only 92 games during his 2012 campaign (which, in contrast, makes his HR total that season very impressive).
4. The Pirates would be paying far more for an older player. Bautista’s contract will pay him $14,000,000 each of the next 2 seasons, with a $14,000,000 club option for 2016.
I’ve written about acquiring the Mariners’ pair in a previous article, and I still believe Ibanez AND Morales are the ideal deadline fits for a maligned Pirates’ offense. However, the Pirates should never consider moving Taillon, or OF Gregory Polanco (just a notch behind Taillon as mlb.com’s 15th-ranked prospect) for these types of players.
Both are currently very productive (Ibanez 24 HR, .853 OPS, 139 OPS+; Morales 16 HR, .811 OPS, 131 OPS+), but unlike any of the aforementioned players, have the following strikes against them:
1. Age (Ibanez). The elder statesman is 41 years old, making his feat remarkable, but highly unlikely to be repeated.
2. Lack of consistent power (Ibanez and Morales). Both players have had huge seasons in the past, but both Ibanez and Morales have also shared disappointing stretches- rendering them far from production locks. Ibanez had 3-straight sub-.800 seasons before his resurgence with the Mariners in 2013, and outside of his 34 HR season in 2009, Morales has never tagged more than 22 in a season, which is low for the power requirements of first base.
3. Terminating contracts (Ibanez and Morales). Ibanez is a free agent at the end of the season, whereas Morales is a “3rd year arbitration eligible” player, likely to test the free agent waters in 2014 as well. Both would be purely rentals through October at the latest, meaning the only way Pittsburgh could “break even” on such a trade for their top prospect would be to win the World Series, which is unlikely.
Overall, there’s a lot of different directions GM Huntington and the Pirates can explore until July 31st at 4:00PM. Let’s hope they travel at least one of them, and if the Buccos deal only in short-term rentals, hopefully they’ll still have their top prospects to show for it. Thanks for reading.