First Pitch: Breaking Down the Jesse Biddle Trade

These last few days have been a bit of a blur for me, between not being able to sleep due to a non-stop 100 degree fever, to finally being able to sleep and doing nothing but that. For as much as being sick really sucks, it has to be the best diet plan. In the last two days, I’ve had a bottle of juice, two chicken fingers, some green beans, and a yogurt. And even that felt like way too much food. Fortunately, I’m feeling better this evening. Not feeling totally well, but any predictions about a future John Dreker-led Pirates Prospects site can be put on hold for now.

I woke up today around 12:30 to see several messages from John wondering if I was alive, and news of the Jesse Biddle trade. I recognized the name, but knew very little of where his career was at right now. So my first thought was that he was the solution to the left-handed relief issue in the bullpen. It was kind of fitting that the Pirates would turn to Philadelphia again for this solution.

After reading John’s writeup, I realized this wasn’t the case. Biddle had Tommy John surgery and will miss the 2016 season. He’s also a guy who has had struggles in the upper levels of the minors, primarily with his control. So this move had nothing to do with the 2016 season, and was primarily focused on the 2017 season and beyond.

That’s not a bad thing. Right now, all Pirates fans care about is the 2016 season, as they should. The Pirates look like a team that will contend in 2016. But it’s the job of a GM to focus on the upcoming season and the future. This was a move that gave the Pirates the potential to get better in the future, while giving up almost nothing in the present.

I really liked Yoervis Medina, and he was one of my favorite low-key bullpen additions this off-season. But the current bullpen looks to be Mark Melancon, Tony Watson, Arquimedes Caminero, Jared Hughes, Neftali Feliz, Juan Nicasio, and one other reliever. That other reliever could be a lefty, or could be someone from the Triple-A group like John Holdzkom, Guido Knudson, or Jorge Rondon. Medina would have been in this group, and would have been one of the top options, but they clearly have other options, and we’re talking about the final spot in the bullpen. Losing Medina probably won’t impact the 2016 team at all, outside of a very minor downgrade in bullpen depth.

Meanwhile, Biddle was one of the top prospects in the game two years ago, but his control issues have dropped him off the lists. The Pirates will now take over his Tommy John recovery, which is a good thing. They’ve used the Tommy John rehab period to start from scratch with a player’s mechanics and work on some key issues. In this case, they can spend the 2016 season totally rebuilding Biddle from the ground up, with the hope that this will lead to improved control and the revival of his former top prospect status. If it works, they’ve got a potential starting pitcher who was projected to be a future number three starter a few years ago. If it doesn’t work, then the upside was worth risking a middle reliever who has been designated for assignment twice this off-season, and cleared waivers once.

That type of low risk/high reward move is something the Pirates should always be doing, even if it doesn’t help them in the immediate season.

**Pittsburgh Pirates 2016 Top Prospects: #3 – Josh Bell. We’re getting close to wrapping up the top 20 countdown. If you buy your copy of the Prospect Guide, you’ll get all of the reports, along with our grades, and the reports of the 21-50 prospects and every other player in the system. It’s the most information you can find on the Pirates’ system, and the cheapest price you can find for a prospect book this time of year, especially with the Top Prospect and Annual discounts.

**Pittsburgh Pirates 2016 Top Prospects: #4 – Jameson Taillon. Taillon’s report is always my favorite one to write. That’s because I’ve always got the most information on him out of any player. A big reason for this is because he entered the system right around the time this turned into a full-time job for me. So I’ve been interviewing him and discussing his progress from day one. It also helps that he’s a great interview with honest answers. My biggest challenge each year is trying to fit all of the information on Taillon onto one page.

**Pirates Acquire LHP Jesse Biddle For Yoervis Medina, DFA Schugel. All the details on the Biddle trade.

  • Didn’t Knudson get released to make room for Haley?

  • Gotta go, I like this forum and folks here (even NMR, kidding mate) , quite thoughtful, got to go embarrass myself now with girls but hope you put up with me tomorrow 🙂 Enjoy your day, Happy CNY 🙂

  • He’s Alive!!!!

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    February 4, 2016 9:07 am

    You know its a slow off season when a Biddle for Medina merits an article! 🙂
    Just kidding Tim…but it did make me a chuckle a little…

    • :)… Its a good point but same for any team who has a feverish fan base ready to pounce on any news, that is a good thing, right mate…. I’m glad we are talking about the 40th guy on the roster and not still looking for everyday players at this point, we have come along way in the last 5 years, haven’t we 🙂

    • i was thinking the same thing…..

  • Question about the Biddle transaction–did all the NL teams other than the Cards have to pass on him before the Pirates had their chance? Or was it a matter of which team made the best offer? I think it’s the former but want be sure.

    If my understanding is correct, then it’s odd that another team, especially one who doesn’t expect to contend and has a weaker system, wouldn’t have claimed him. In fact, my thought when I saw that the Phillies dfa’d Biddle was that he’d never get to the Pirates anyway.

    • Biddle was still in dfa limbo so the Bucs made the trade before other teams could claim him.

  • Don’t laugh at the succession plan comments for the site Tim. There might be a time that you have another fever and no doctor or even cow bell handy to help cure that fever. What do you think the plan is for the 7th spot in the pen? I’d love to see them sign a back-end guy and move Vogelsong to the long man role but I’m not starting to think that the Vogelsong and Locke are place holders for half a season and they might just go with a hard throwing righty to fill the last spot. I’d like to see another lefty. I don’t see it as critical but I’d imagine there’s going to be times you’d need a guy like that to face a lefty with guys on base who struggles against left handed pitching before you get to Watson.

  • Good to see another lefty prospect in the system.

    • :)…. Critical mass, someone has to work out I suppose… just kidding, thoughtful move for us…

  • Feel even better soon – need to get ready for pitchers and catchers 😉

  • Any chance of the Pirates swooping in and signing Gallardo? Two weeks until teams report, perhaps you can get him on a Liriano type deal.

    • My personal opinion is no chance….. I”m sure (too strong of a word probably) once ST starts, other teams start looking at what they have/counted on and get injuries that he may end up getting what was projected for someone of his pedigree, which seems outside of what we would pay for him (some would say could pay for him but I ignore that). He is certainly a solid guy but , just me, not worth it…. though of course he would make us better but at cost and risk that I get not doing…. Thanks

    • I used to really like Gallardo as a pitcher but his K/9 rate has dropped from 9 to 7.2 to 6.8 to 5.9 over the last four years. I see him comparable to Niese but at a much higher cost.

      If it wasn’t for that declining K rate I’d be fully on board with your idea.

    • BuccosFanStuckinMD
      February 4, 2016 9:05 am

      In my opinion, there is ZERO chance of that happening…
      (1) The price tag- is likely way out of the Pirates budget and it is not like the Pirates to sign a free agent pitcher, at the price and contract length that it will likely require to sign Gallardo,
      (2) His signing will cost the team its 2016 first round pick. Now, given where we will be picking, this part of the equation is a much smaller issue than (1) above, but am issue nonetheless.
      Its funny how many fans (and teams) put so much value on a first round draft pick that has yet to even be picked or play in the pros, in comparison to a proven major leaguer who is still in his prime. Who wouldn’t be thrilled if any of our previous first round pick pitchers had a career like Gallardo?

      • It’s funny how some fans consider 30 year old pitchers with 1500 innings on their arm still “in their prime”.

        • Yeah, yup, agreed, I”m just trying to think what it would really cost to get Gallardo (years/price) and if it breaks out badly the opportunity cost lost, and I assume that the best case for him would be Shields? Garza?.. i don’t know…. it just seems hard to fit him into how I see where we are going… what do I know…

          • Oh no, not a bad idea to kick the tires, generally speaking. I was only rebutting a certain poster talking down to other fans with silly opinions of his own.

            • No I got your point mate – I still don’t see it, I don’t want to kick those tires, we should have bought those tires in October for Happ, now isn’t the time to reach, imho, Gallardo is a panicky reach at this point… NMR

              • BuccosFanStuckinMD
                February 4, 2016 8:12 pm

                BTW, I love the “mate” references…I take it you are an Aussie? If so, how did you become a Pirates fan? Just curious…

        • Does anybody in this forum think the Pirates might still end up with Latos on a one year deal? Despite the baggage, he would be a vast upgrade over RV.

          • No.

            Sorry, I meant not me. I don’t think they ever intended to have a quality 5th starter. This is a re-tooling year, and you need to create room for prospects if you’re going to make that call.

          • BuccosFanStuckinMD
            February 4, 2016 12:44 pm

            Short of injury to another starter, I think this ship has sailed – if it was ever a consideration. He’d be signed by now, if the Pirates really wanted him. He doesn’t have a lot of leverage.

            • Agreed, and hate myself for getting into the personality aspect when I have no idea, but here I go…. I think if we wanted him and then we would have him, I think there is a personality thing that I’m not good at…. Kinda like how I never got how Varitek was valuable, shame on me, if that makes sense….

        • Agree NMR. But I do agree with his first and second points.

        • BuccosFanStuckinMD
          February 4, 2016 12:42 pm

          Maybe slightly past his prime, but not by much…look around the league, at the ages of many of the top pitchers – most are in the late 20s to mid 30s. My point is still valid – if someone said your first round pick would have a career like Gallardo, who wouldn’t sign up for that?

          • I think everything you state, BFSMD, is thoughtful, and very difficult to dispute, but the opinions, only me, is that (and don’t get mad) that he will be at least 4 years 60 to someone… gosh we could use him but all of us, thoughtfully, know that doesn’t fit into our plan to be compelling year after year… We are going to war with what we have, and that is ok, …. I guess, to be transparent, and that is what you deserve, I’ll take Vogy for 3 months and the Calvary coming over Gallardo for that presumed contract, for me it took some time to get to this position mate 🙂

            • BuccosFanStuckinMD
              February 4, 2016 8:08 pm

              I wasn’t advocating signing Gallardo…and instead I was responding to someone else’s question. Whether he warrants a contract like that or not, he’s not getting it from the Pirates…that is pretty obvious.

          • Absolutely! But that question doesn’t at all support actually signing Yovani Gallardo. That question supports *keeping* the first round draft pick.

            Whoever signs Gallardo *isn’t* getting what Gallardo has done to date, their getting what Gallardo will do in the future. And everything we know about player performance in the post-steroid era tell us that it’s *extremely* rare for a pitcher to exceeds his 20s production in his 30s.

            • BuccosFanStuckinMD
              February 4, 2016 8:06 pm

              Well, time will tell if you’re right – but his performance over the past year doesn’t indicate he is ready to fall off the cliff. He pitched pretty well last year…3.42 ERA over 180+ innings in the AL,that is like a 2.40 ERA in the NL. He just turned 30, so it is very possible he has anywhere from 3-5 more years of above average starting pitching.

      • PiratesFan1975
        February 4, 2016 9:53 am

        True. I wish the Pirates would be more shortsighted. I can’t believe they think about anything other than this season.

      • More like a player on the edge of his prime asking for a 3-4 year deal. Most of the deal he’s set to get will occur outside of typical prime years for players.

        He’s not exactly a guy able to see gradual regression and be more than a back end SP making market value.

    • No chance they covet draft picks.

  • Dear Tim, couple things:

    1) Glad that your battling back from your illness and hoping (in an obviously peculiar way) that I can somehow come down with it as well as I could use the weight loss 🙂
    2) Now the bad news for you, when I read of the signing I had the same initial thoughts as you (BP option/2016 depth) and then when I read the entire article on the transaction (pedigree/not ready until 2017) I too thought that this was the type of thoughtful move that is important (perhaps necessary) to keep up with the proverbial ‘Joneses’. Bad news is, for you as stated, that I agreed with you which must not give you lots of confidence in your summation of the deal 🙂

    Tedwins

  • Tim glad you are back. Good luck

  • In a way, this seems to be slightly similar to the Brault/Tarpley trade from last year – replenishing our minors after jettisoning some players during the season.
    Also, it would be nice if we retain Schugel

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