First Pitch: Pirates Should Be Smart, Not Desperate

Earlier tonight I wrote about how Adam Lind wouldn’t help the Pittsburgh Pirates. In the article, I mentioned that my initial reaction was that they should add Lind, figuring that anyone could help the offense. I’m sure that’s the same thought that initially crossed the minds of a lot of Pirates fans, and probably still sits in the minds of some fans.

The idea that anyone would upgrade the offense is somewhat true. It’s not hard to upgrade over the production that someone like Nate McLouth is providing, for example. When Gorkys Hernandez looks like an offensive upgrade, that says something. But that desperation, combined with the “grass is greener” view of outside players could lead to some bad decisions.

Take Lind, for example. If they claimed him, he would be owed $12.2 M, and they’d get him through the 2013 season. Even if he cleared waivers and Toronto dealt him for salary relief, he probably wouldn’t provide much value. Toronto would have to pick up $7.5 M just to get zero value in return, and that’s assuming he puts up a 0.5 WAR each year with the Pirates. That’s a big assumption considering his struggles this year. Keep in mind that Toronto plays in a very hitter friendly park, so it’s not like he was in an unfavorable environment.

Let’s remove ourselves from how much Lind costs and just look at the player. Outside of his outlier 2009 season, he looks like a .700-.750 OPS player. By comparison, Jake Fox put up a .756 OPS last year off the bench in Baltimore, and has a career .714 OPS in 489 at-bats in the majors (with 20 homers).

Then there’s Jeff Larish. He wasn’t exactly a popular addition last week, and it didn’t make much sense seeing him added with Fox, Matt Hague and Jeff Clement on the roster. But in 245 at-bats in the majors he has a .688 OPS.

Then there’s Hague. He’s not hitting well this year in Indianapolis, with a lack of power being the big downside. I’ve constantly said that he profiles as an average first baseman at best, and feel he could put up numbers similar to James Loney and Casey Kotchman in their careers, which is in the .725-.750 OPS range.

In a dream scenario, Lind clears waivers, and the Blue Jays deal him away, picking up $7.5 M of his salary, making him a $2.4 M a year player. Then he rebounds to his .700-.750 OPS numbers from the majority of his career.

If you remove the idea that you have to go outside of the organization for any help, and you remove the idea that money equals talent, then it would be foolish to add Lind. Jake Fox is a better bet to put up a .700+ OPS off the bench than Lind is right now, and Fox would cost a lot less money, without having to deal with Toronto picking up salary. If you want a left hander you can get Jeff Larish and his career .688 OPS. The difference off the bench isn’t going to be huge. Or you can give Matt Hague a shot, and see if he can recover some of that magic from Spring Training.

All of those options would make more sense than adding Lind. You’d have a shot at the same production, and you could save that money for a better player. The Pirates spent about $5.5 M at the deadline last year to add Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick. Lee was amazing in the time he was healthy. And as bad as Ludwick was, he put up a .671 OPS, which is almost 100 points higher than what Lind is putting up right now. And those two players only cost half the price of what Lind would cost on waivers, or the same price if Toronto picked up salary in a trade.

The Pirates need upgrades to their offense, but going with a “anyone would be an upgrade” approach usually leads to desperate decisions. Would Lind be an upgrade? Probably. But he’d be a horrible waste of resources. They could get the same production from one of the guys in Triple-A, save a ton of money, and use that money to seek out a much bigger help for the offense later in the season.

Links and Notes

**The Pirates beat the Tigers 4-3. Andrew McCutchen hit two homers, driving in all of the runs for the Pirates. Kristy Robinson’s notebook looks at how McCutchen’s power is just fine.

**Prospect Watch: Good starts from Nick Kingham and Tyler Waldron, and homers from Mel Rojas and Jose Osuna.

**Duke Welker is lighting up the radar guns in Altoona.

Analysis

  • dropkickmurphys
    May 20, 2012 1:37 pm

    Not that I think they should go after Lind but how do you knock going after Lind while defending Barmes and Barajas?

    • Do you mean before the season, or now?

      • dropkickmurphys
        May 20, 2012 5:43 pm

        When you supported both acquisitions.

        • Because I think Barmes and Barajas provide positive value at their positions defensively, while Lind can only do one thing, hit homers.

          Which would you rather have?

          .701 OPS shortstop with good defense
          .699 OPS catcher with decent defense
          .700-.750 OPS first baseman with no defense

          Also, they didn’t have an option at catcher, and they didn’t have an option at shortstop. They’ve got guys who can do what Lind can do.

          • dropkickmurphys
            May 20, 2012 7:02 pm

            My answer is the same as its always been. None of them. The .701 shortstop had the benefit of playing in Coors Field. His defense is spotty. And he cost more than he’s worth. I said it then, its true now.

            Same with the .699 OPS catcher. He’s a one trick pony, power hitter, whose defense has also been spotty. He can’t throw out anyone. And apparently has a short term memory issue.

            Yes, I agree, we shouldn’t get Lind for the same reasons.

            My answer, and the right answer has always been, none of the above.

            As I wrote in the off season, this team will fail with or without someone else’s rejects. That being the case, and it is the case, we should go with internal options.

            • RandyLinville
              May 20, 2012 7:49 pm

              What amazes me is that five years into the tenure of this FO and 25% of the way through the 2012 season, the Pirates rank 14th or worse in the NL in OPS at six positions – C, 1B, 2B, SS, LF and RF. We have a seventh position (pitcher) that I won’t count that we rank 15th in.

              The answer to ‘which would you rather have’ posed above is, indeed, none of the above. The answer is this club should have (at worst) replacement level players in the farm system. The fact that they don’t (or the FO doesn’t seem to think they do) is unacceptable.

              • Clint Barmes was a 3.1 WAR player last year. He’s been around 2.0 for most of his career. Rod Barajas had a 1.6 WAR last year, and he’s been around a 1 WAR for the last few years. These are hardly replacement level guys.

                • RandyLinville
                  May 20, 2012 8:13 pm

                  I hear you and I don’t disagree – Barmes and Barajas might well have been the best outside options available based on their career level performance. But if all the FO is doing is looking at player performance history to determine if they should sign someone, they are doing the owners, the players and the fans a great disservice. I’m pretty sure I could sign players simply based on that. What we need – what they should be doing, what I would think they would be doing – is some kind of projection as to how that past performance combined with their age, the ball park, the expected performance of other players on the team (etc etc) will translate into the coming season. How many veterans have come through Pittsburgh on this FO’s watch only to flame out and become replacement level players that we somehow can’t replace with guys in our own system? If they are using some statistical analysis (or whatever it might be – a Magic 8 Ball, a Ouija board) to project the coming season, it continues to miss badly.

  • RandyLinville
    May 20, 2012 10:56 am

    Problem is that the Pirates are desperate due to a general lack of smarts.

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