We’ve heard a lot of talk about how the Pittsburgh Pirates will be buyers this year at the trade deadline, and how they are likely to make moves where they take on payroll, rather than giving up top prospects. So far we’ve heard a lot of speculation on fits to that approach, but we haven’t really heard the Pirates actually linked to any player.
Two of the biggest perceived needs are first base and third base. Pedro Alvarez was recently optioned to AAA where he will try to get back on track, while Lyle Overbay has struggled at first base this year. That has led to a lot of speculation about some possibilities for the Pirates. The perfect match for them might end up being the Chicago Cubs.
In the past month I’ve detailed the trade values of two of the Cubs top trade possibilities. The first is Carlos Pena, who is under a one year, $10 M deal. The second is Aramis Ramirez, who is making $14.6 M this year, with a $16 M option in 2012. Ramirez has a no-trade clause, although he might be tempted to waive it if his 2012 option was guaranteed. I profiled Ramirez yesterday, and concluded that he had $2.7 M in trade value if a team was willing to eat his entire salary over the next year and a half.
As for Pena, when I first profiled him, I calculated his salary as $10 M, with an estimated $3.3 M owed to him over the final two months of the season. Pena has a unique deal which pays him $5 M in 2011, with $5 M of his deal deferred to 2012. I originally thought his deferred salary would be split with the Cubs, although it’s recently been announced that any team that acquires him will also be taking on the $5 M in payroll for 2012.
That change really alters Pena’s value. He goes from being owed $3.3 M in the final two months of the season, to being owed $6.65 M for two months of service. That seems like a ridiculous price for Pena, and the price shows in his trade value. Entering in the updated salary figures, along with a 2.5 WAR in 2011, Pena’s value comes up to be -$2.5 M. Even if the Cubs paid $2.5 M of his salary, the Pirates wouldn’t have to give up anything to add him.
That could create an opportunity for the Pirates to add both Pena and Ramirez. If the Pirates added Pena, and took on all of his salary, his negative value would off-set the positive value that Ramirez had. The Pirates would have to cover $0.2 M in value, which is one Grade C hitter. It would basically be a salary dump for the Cubs. There are three questions in this deal.
The first question is whether Aramis Ramirez would agree to waive his no-trade clause. It would be hard to imagine him passing up the chance to make his 2012 option guaranteed, as he’s unlikely to make $16 M in 2012 through free agency.
The Cubs Needs
Will the Cubs just be looking for salary relief, or will they be looking for prospects? Current speculation says they’d be looking for salary relief, and this move would save them $6.65 M from Pena, and $6.81 M from Ramirez (his remaining 2011 salary and his $2 M buyout in 2012).
The Pirates 2012 Payroll
If the Pirates added Ramirez and Pena in 2011, they’d be adding about $6.5 M to the payroll. That would take them up to around $53 M this year, although they could reduce that number if they found someone to take Lyle Overbay’s contract off their hands. The big issue would be the 2012 payroll. Would the Pirates be able to afford $5 M for Pena, who would likely be playing elsewhere, all while paying $16 M to Aramis Ramirez?
It’s unlikely that the Pirates would be able to make a move like this, and pick up Paul Maholm’s $9.75 M option for 2012. They could deal Maholm, and replace him with either Ross Ohlendorf, or Brad Lincoln.
From there, the Pirates would have to also cut ties with Chris Snyder and Ryan Doumit, going with some sort of combination of Eric Fryer, Jason Jaramillo, and Michael McKenry behind the plate.
Pena would be gone, so first base would have to come down to someone from the group of Garrett Jones, Steve Pearce, and/or Matt Hague. The Pirates could also choose to bring Alvarez back up, and move him to first base, with Ramirez playing third.
Overall, the Pirates would be spending $6.46 M in 2011, and $21 M in 2012. That’s $27.46 M for two months of Carlos Pena, and a year and two months of Aramis Ramirez. Because of the high salaries, they wouldn’t have to give up anything as far as prospects go. So would $27.46 M be worth the short term additions of Ramirez and Pena?
The Stretch Run Lineup
The biggest appeal to this type of move would be the boost it would give the lineup. You’d add a 25 home run hitter and a 40 home run hitter to the middle of the lineup. When paired with Andrew McCutchen, that would be a powerful offense. Looking at the projected starters:
C – Michael McKenry
1B – Carlos Pena
2B – Neil Walker
SS – Ronny Cedeno
3B – Aramis Ramirez
LF – Jose Tabata
CF – Andrew McCutchen
RF – Alex Presley
The Pirates would have a great combination of power and speed. They would be able to move Neil Walker to the six spot, rather than having the young second baseman trying to carry the lineup. The addition of two bats would also provide the Pirates with a huge boost to their pitching staff, providing some run support for their starters to work with.
Again, there have been no names connected to the Pirates in their role as buyers this year, so this is just simple speculation. It’s looking at a team that is rumored to be selling, looking at two players who are rumored to be on the block, and matching those players with needs that the Pirates have. The move matches up well on paper, but it’s far from a guarantee. That said, it’s not far fetched, and a great idea for the Pirates if they want to make a deal without giving up any significant prospects.