The other day I reviewed what type of trade value we could expect Joel Hanrahan to have. Since there were some requests for a similar look at Paul Maholm, I figured I would take a look. Before I begin, let me point out something as far as value goes.
Trade values are just meant to display the type of trade return we could expect from a player. With Hanrahan, plenty of people wanted Martin Perez AND Jurickson Profar. The trade value showed that we might be able to expect one of those players in return, but not both. I brought this up in the Hanrahan article, but I’ll say it again: it takes two to make a deal. A swap of Hanrahan for Perez might be fair as far as value goes, but that doesn’t mean the Rangers would be willing to use that trade chip on Hanrahan.
A few people mentioned that Profar would be the easiest to acquire, since the Rangers have Elvis Andrus at shortstop in the majors. I’d point out that Profar is in low-A, so it’s not like he should be expected anytime soon. That said, even if we go with the “he’s blocked” angle, and assume he’s expendable, that doesn’t mean the Rangers have to deal him for Hanrahan. It’s almost like walking in to a store with $20 in hand. You could buy any one item. You’re not limited to a specific item. That’s the case here. The Rangers have far more options than trading with the Pirates. They could use Profar to address other positional needs, or they could just keep Profar and deal a few lesser players that add up to the same value.
With that said, let’s take a look at Paul Maholm’s trade value.
The big thing to note with Maholm would be his inconsistent play throughout his career. He had a great year in 2008, with a 3.71 ERA in 206.1 innings. He fell off a bit in 2009, with a 4.44 ERA in 194.2 innings. In 2010 he had a 5.10 ERA in 185.1 innings. The worst part was that his strikeout totals dropped each year, going from 6.1 K/9 to 5.0 K/9, and his walk totals went up, from 2.7 BB/9 to 3.0 BB/9. In 2009 he had a strong finish to the year in August and September, which brought his numbers down. In 2010 he bombed at the end of the year, which took him from a 4.03 ERA in mid-July, to a 5.10 ERA by the end of the year.
So far this year, Maholm has been pitching well. He has a 3.65 ERA in 61.2 innings. His strikeout rate is back up to 6.4 K/9, which is a good sign. A bad sign is that his walk rate has also spiked, jumping to 3.6 BB/9. However, the increase in strikeouts is helping to negate the extra base runners, plus he’s benefitting from a .276 BABIP (which I would expect to regress toward his career .311 range).
The biggest value for Maholm has been his ability to rack up innings. He’s made 30+ starts in four of his five full seasons in the majors. The only year he didn’t make 30 starts was 2007, when he made 29. His lowest inning total has been 176.0, in 2006. This year he’s on pace for 190+ innings, assuming he stays healthy. That amount of innings provides value, even if Maholm is closer to his 4.43 career ERA. In 2009 he had a 4.44 ERA, but threw 194.2 innings, and ended up with a 3.2 WAR.
Maholm makes $5.75 M in 2011. Next year he has an option for $9.75 M, with a $750 K buyout. The option would be worth it if Maholm continues his current production. When analyzing his value, we have to consider two things:
1. What type of performance should we expect?
2. Is his option year included?
If Maholm pitches like the 2010 version, we could set his WAR to the 2.0 range. That would also answer question number two, as his option wouldn’t be worth it for a 2.0 WAR pitcher. If he pitches like the 2008/2009 version, he’d be a 3.0 WAR pitcher, and the option would be worth it. Considering that he’s currently performing like a 3.0 WAR pitcher, we’ll go with the latter:
Note: The 2011 value has been pro-rated to assume that Maholm will be traded on July 1st. If he’s traded any earlier, his value would increase. Any later and his value would decrease.
Since a trading team would be getting Maholm for a year and a half, and at a high price in 2012, he wouldn’t be worth as much as Hanrahan, even if a starter is more valuable than a reliever. At $10.1 M, the Pirates could expect to receive no better than a top 51-100 pitching prospect, or a top 76-100 hitting prospect. In either case, we’re talking about a value that’s a little higher than Maholm’s $10.1 M.
To give an example of what Maholm would be worth, let’s look at the Dodgers system, since the Dodgers have been linked to Maholm in the past (NOTE: don’t turn this in to a trade rumor. This is just a hypothetical situation using the Dodgers only because of an old rumor). The Dodgers have two pitchers in the bottom part of the top 100: Zach Lee and Rubby de la Rosa. They rank second and third in the Dodgers system. At max value, the Pirates could expect to receive one of those players, although again I’d point out that it takes two to make a deal. De La Rosa is close to the majors, and the Dodgers paid Lee $5.25 M last year in the draft, so it’s unlikely they’d trade either player.
Once again, that’s a completely hypothetical situation, used to illustrate the maximum value that you could expect for Maholm. Of course, if the Pirates paid some of Maholm’s salary, they might be able to increase the value of the deal by up to $3 M.
As far as trading Maholm, there has been a feeling that the Pirates shouldn’t deal away pitching, due to the success they’ve had so far this year. That’s mostly fueled by fear of the unknown. If they deal Maholm, a guy who is currently pitching very well, they have to make the switch to someone like Brad Lincoln, Justin Wilson, or Rudy Owens, who are all unknowns at the major league level as far as performance goes.
David Todd, the host of Extra Innings, wrote an article about how Maholm’s success means the Pirates need to see what they have with Lincoln. The idea is that if Lincoln arrives and has success, it would be easier to deal Maholm away, as it removes the uncertainty that I mentioned above. I shared a similar view last week, when I wondered who should create space for Lincoln. I agree with David that the best choice would be to remove Jeff Karstens from the rotation. Karstens has been pitching well, but he’s not really a starter, since he falls off after 75 pitches. Giving Lincoln a shot in the rotation would allow the Pirates to see if he’s really put it all together, and in turn, would make any decision on Paul Maholm that much easier.
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.