Analyzing the Pirates’ Trade Deadline Deals
In addition to the Travis Snider trade that we looked at yesterday, the Pirates made two additional trades before the deadline, and while neither was close to a blockbuster, they managed to provoke a significant reaction from Bucs’ fans. First, the Pirates traded Gorkys Hernandez and their supplemental pick (#33) in the amateur draft to the Miami Marlins, in exchange for Gaby Sanchez and minor league reliever Kyle Kaminska.
Now I love Gorkys Hernandez on defense; in my opinion, he is the best defensive outfielder in baseball. But these days, with teams carrying more relievers and fewer bench players, there really isn’t that much value in a hitting-challenged outfielder who will only see the light of day as a defensive replacement or pinch-runner. It would take a freakishly good offensive team – with above average offense from other defensive positions – to live with Gorkys in the lineup every day.
Gaby Sanchez took some time to reach his potential in the minor leagues. Despite being an advanced college hitter from a major program, the Marlins gave him 867 plate appearances in A ball and another 558 in AA for good measure, despite a wRC+ of 147. After an injury-shortened 2009 campaign, Sanchez made it to 1B in Miami the following year, and put up two solid if unspectacular seasons, with a wRC+ of 111 in 2010 and 113 in 2011, good for a combined 5.3 fWAR. Just when it appeared that he might hold down the position for three or four more years, Sanchez fell apart early this season, and the Marlins provided what was probably a premature passage to New Orleans.
While 28-year olds with Major League experience should rake in AAA, Sanchez offered hope of a bounce back by putting up a .922 OPS and a 139 wRC+. Neal Huntington’s scouts still liked his bat speed enough to recommend a flyer on Sanchez, and the Pirates saw an opportunity at the deadline to nab him, as the Marlins’ front office seemed in virtual disarray.
What has incensed some Pirates’ fans is that the club included its recently awarded supplemental pick, which they obtained via the small market/revenue lottery implemented in the new CBA. These picks were allowed to be traded, and the Pirates’ availed themselves of the opportunity, earning the potentially dubious distinction of being the first team in the history of Major League Baseball to trade a draft pick. Not only do the Pirates forgo the 33rd pick in the draft next year, but also the $1.5M pool allotment that would have come along with it. The argument goes that the Pirates could have siphoned off some of that pool money to help sign their other two first round picks, potentially allowing them to draft a higher impact player, and that sacrificing this right in order to obtain the negligible difference in value between Sanchez and McGehee – if it even exists – was not worth it.
This is very viable line of reasoning, but it is vital to keep in mind that every move Neal Huntington and his front office makes is done so with an eye on the team’s fiscal situation. This has nothing to do with their being penurious; it is simply common sense for the Pirates, a small market team, to have an economic structure that they need to adhere to. Casey McGehee was picked up at the off-season arbitration deadline for reliever Jose Veras, an exchange of two players whose respective teams had no intention of paying their projected salaries, and thus were on the verge of designating for assignment. With the addition of Sanchez, the Pirates find themselves in the identical situation; having deemed McGehee redundant, they decided to DFA him now, since they had no intention of keeping him beyond this season anyway. Sanchez makes the minimum, and while he may be a Super 2 arbitration eligible player next season, his salary will most likely be in the neighborhood of $2M less than that of McGehee, and most importantly, he is under team control for three more years as opposed to McGehee’s two, and again, at a rate that is expected to be considerably lower.
You could certainly make a case that the Pirates should have just held on to McGehee until the end of the year and then traded him, which would have certainly netted them a better haul than Chad Qualls. The problem with this is that the Pirates made a baseball decision to trade for Sanchez now, and in so doing, eliminated McGehee’s role with the team. Carrying three first baseman on the 25-man roster would not have made much sense.
Losing the draft pick may hurt; we won’t know until next June, when we should have a reasonable idea of whether the Sanchez gamble has paid off.