Last year the Pittsburgh Pirates were connected to every first base option that might have been available, regardless of whether the players were actually available or not. One of the connections was Adam Lind, with the Pirates reportedly asking Toronto about him, and the Blue Jays also reportedly asking for Neil Walker in return.
The rumor mill last year said that the Blue Jays would consider moving Lind, but that they were intending to keep him on the roster. Obviously that’s what they did. As for the talks between the Pirates and Blue Jays, that could have been as simple as the Pirates asking if he really was available, and Toronto throwing out a hypothetical deal in which they’d move him.
This time around, it seems Toronto is more likely to deal Lind. He’s back on “the trade block” in the early off-season rumors, only this time it seems the Blue Jays are actually willing to part with him. That theory strengthened today when they claimed Justin Smoak off waivers. Smoak has a $3.65 M option with a $150 K buyout. The Blue Jays could decline that, then offer him arbitration, which would give him a small raise over his 2014 contract of $2.6375 M. That would be considerably less than the $7.5 M option for Lind, who also has an $8 M option in 2016, and $1.5 M guaranteed if he’s not dealt and his option is declined.
Lind is coming off a year where he was injured for about two months out of the season, and relegated to being a strict platoon player. He was exceptional in the role when healthy, putting up monster offensive numbers. His defense struggled, and in total he had a 1.6 WAR in just over 300 plate appearances. The platoon worked for him, as he posted a .942 OPS against right-handers. In his career, he has an .860 OPS against right-handers and a .588 OPS against lefties.
The Pirates currently have a decision to make between Ike Davis and Pedro Alvarez. Both players are under team control for the next two seasons, just like Lind. The difference is that Alvarez and Davis are arbitration eligible. Alvarez is estimated to make $5.5 M, while Davis is estimated at $4.4 M. So would it make sense to try and get Lind, while parting ways with Davis and Alvarez?
Lind would be more expensive than Alvarez and Davis. If the alternative is Alvarez, then the Pirates would be spending an extra $2 M on Lind. The numbers might be closer to even in 2016, depending on the type of year Alvarez has, and what he’ll end up making in arbitration. But what would the Pirates get with the extra money?
There’s no guarantee that Lind would continue his career trends, or his 2014 numbers. However, he has been a much better hitter than Alvarez and Davis. Both of those guys are coming off bad years, although the career numbers don’t touch Lind. Here are the comparisons versus right-handers.
Lind: .860 OPS, 2834 PA
Alvarez: .792 OPS, 1735 PA
Davis: .813 OPS, 1663 PA
The numbers have clearly been better for Lind. The downside for him is his defense and his health. Defense wouldn’t be as big of an issue in this case. He rated the same as Davis, and while Alvarez hasn’t had enough time to establish himself defensively at first base, it’s unlikely that he’ll provide positive value at the position. The bigger concern is Lind’s age. Alvarez will be 27 next year and Davis will be 28. Lind will be 31, turning 32 during the middle of the season. He has dealt with back injuries, costing him half a month in 2011, a month in 2012, and almost a month in 2014. He also fractured his foot in 2014, missing another month.
It seems likely that you’re only getting Lind for five months out of the year, and maybe less. Even if he keeps hitting, that would impact his value. To illustrate this, look at the difference in playing time between Davis and Lind. Davis was a platoon player all year and had about 100 plate appearances more than Lind. He also had replacement level production. So what happens when you replace Lind for 1-2 months with a replacement level player? The career numbers go from an .860 OPS to an .826 OPS. When you consider the career numbers for Alvarez and Davis, then that offensive improvement doesn’t necessarily warrant a trade for Lind, plus the extra money.
If Lind cost very little, it might be a different story. If the Pirates could get a decent return for Alvarez and Davis, then that would also help. But that seems like a dream scenario where you get a potentially better player, then deal two players who are worse and have the deals wash each other out. When I first looked at Lind, and first considered the idea of the Pirates adding him, I was for it. His career numbers are superior to Alvarez and Davis, and his 2014 season was amazing against right-handers. But you’re not getting Lind for the full season, and those monster numbers in 2014 can’t be relied on to repeat in 2015. The career numbers would be more likely, and when you deduct the time Lind projects to miss, you see that he would be a marginal upgrade who would cost several million more, along with prospects or players going the other way in a trade.
Links and Notes
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.