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A quick roundup of the players being talked about, how well each would mesh on the Pirates- and whether or not a move is likely. (Opening image Carlos Quentin; image credit trbimg)
OF Carlos Quentin, Padres– Fit: A+ Likelihood: D-
The Baltimore Orioles have apparently discussed Quentin, meaning other teams are sniffing around the righty slugger as well. But despite the Padres’ being mired at the bottom of the NL West, they don’t seem to have even sent out feelers on the outfielder, knowing that he’s productive, and under cost control for 3 more seasons.
1B/3B Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays– Fit: A+ Likelihood: D
It’s anyone’s guess to what degree- if at all- Toronto decides to tear down their faux contender this season, but even if they do, it’s highly unlikely that Encarnacion is part of the firesale. Like Quentin, he’s only 30, highly productive, and under cost control for 3 more seasons.
SS Jose Reyes, Blue Jays– Fit: A+, Likelihood: D+
Reyes would solve three pressing needs for the Pirates: elite top-of-the-order hitter, speed, and most importantly, shortstop. But like Cliff Lee, Reyes has a prodigious salary awaiting him, with a contract paying him up to $126,000,000 through 2018, which would clearly deter Pirates’ ownership.
OF Jose Bautista, Blue Jays– Fit: A, Likelihood: C
Bautista certainly makes sense for the Pirates, and the Blue Jays may be more willing to part with him than some of their other big names. But he is 32 already, and the former Pirate is still owed $14,000,000 a season through 2015, with a 2016 option. Pirate ownership would likely balk age the age/dollars combination, even though Bautista should remain productive throughout the remainder of his contract.
1B Adam Lind, Blue Jays– Fit B, Likelihood: B+
A lefty, and with 3 straight team option years ahead of him, Lind offers a combination appealing to the Pirates. But given his highly erratic production history in the past, Lind would be a real roll of the dice production-wise, at least compared to his established Toronto teammates.
OF Raul Ibanez, Mariners– Fit: A+, Likelihood: B
The resurgent Ibanez would be a perfect 1-year rental for the Pirates that likely wouldn’t cost them a top prospect; but the Pirates have yet to be mentioned in any concrete rumors with the Mariners- not that it always matters.
1B Kendrys Morales, Mariners– Fit: B+, Likelihood: B+
The Pirates may find the switch-hitting Morales even more appealing than Ibanez, due to his age and the possibility of re-signing him to a long-term deal. However, Morales does not offer the elite power presence of Ibanez, and instead would be similar- albeit more productive- to current Pirate Garrett Jones.
OF Alex Rios, White Sox– Fit: C, Likelihood: A
I hammered Rios’s fit grade, because the towering righty has dropped to a .752 OPS (101 OPS+)- a far cry from Rios’s .850 OPS campaign of 2012- meaning he’s just more of what the Pirates already have: potentially productive hitters mired in the .700-OPS range. Still, the Pirates appear highly interested, and GM Kenny Williams was rumored to be in attendance at a AA Altoona Curve game last week, potentially scouting prospects for a trade return.
SS Alexei Ramirez, White Sox– Fit: F, Likelihood: A
Ramirez is nearly as terrible as current roster deadweight Clint Barmes, but because he is surficially appealing (usually double-digit home runs, 15-20 stolen bases), the Pirates may get snookered into taking him as part of a package for Rios. Hopefully Ramirez’s nearly $10MM salaries through 2015 (2016 option) scare the Pirates off.
SP Cliff Lee, Phillies– Fit: A, Likelihood: D
Despite Lee being mentioned as a hypothetical addition by a few national writers, the cost prospect-wise (at least Jameson Taillon)- not to mention the $77.5MM owed to Lee through the 2016 season- makes a deal highly unlikely for the Pirates.
OF Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins– Fit: A+, Likelihood: F
As I’ve written about here, Stanton would be a perfect, long-term cornerstone of the team for all of the right reasons. But the Marlins have at least publicly backed off of dangling the impact 23-year old, and considering that Stanton hit winning home runs in both of the Marlins’ recent victories over the Pirates, he’s shown Miami’s ownership that he can still single-handedly win games at the plate while the rest of the young lineup develops around him.
1B Logan Morrison, Marlins– Fit: B+, Likelihood: C
Morrison has yet to be mentioned in any trade articles that I know of, but don’t be surprised if the Fish are quietly shopping the 25-year old lefty. Morrison could easily be part of a rebuilding effort, but the Marlins have an ugly history with the firstbaseman, who filed a grievance against his team for a 2012 demotion. Given his erratic production history, the Marlins may try to deal him while his bat is hot, and his value is high.
OF Nate Schierholtz, Cubs– Fit: C+, Likelihood: A-
The Pirates are said to highly covet the former Giant farmhand, and unlike the Milwaukee Brewers, the Cubs seem far less averse to dealing within their own division. With an .869 OPS, the lefty Schierholtz is a more appealing production option than the more highly-regarded Hunter Pence. However, Schierholtz also has an extreme L/R platoon split (.506 OPS vs. LHP, .909 OPS vs. RHP), and the Pirates are already saddled with two rather dramatic platoon split players in Jones and Gaby Sanchez, hence the lower “fit” grade.
OF Hunter Pence, Giants– Fit: B, Likelihood: C-
The Super-Two free-agent eligible Pence is widely considered to be on the move, as the defending World Series Champion Giants have sunk to 12 games under .500, 10 games back in the NL West. However, the asking price is rumored to be high, and like 1B Kendrys Morales, Pence provides some nice peripheral stats (123 OPS+), but is lacking in the core power areas (.778 OPS, 14 HR) where the Pirates really struggle. The cost for Raul Ibanez would likely be less, and he would address the Pirates’ needs more.
So could other names not mentioned here find themselves in the black-and-gold come August 1st? Absolutely. If anything, it’s probably more likely the Pirates wind up with player(s) not on this list, as that’s how it usually works. With closer Jason Grilli sidelined for at least the first two weeks of August, it’s highly likely that GM Neal Huntington also pursues bullpen options, even though some of the best available arms have already been traded. (The Pirates did watch an open audition from former Giants’ closer Brian Wilson this past week.)
But one thing is certain: if this team hopes to avoid the record-setting collapses of 2011 and 2012, they need reinforcements. The pressure is on Huntington to make a serious impact move that does not leave the minor league cupboard bare. Thanks for reading!