Two Guys Talkin’ Trades – The Reaches

7-5-21 – By Justin Verno @JV_PITT & Joe Boyd @Joe_Boyd11

Joe Boyd – Justin, we’ve hit just about every possible tradeable asset on the roster, from the likely (Frazier/RichRod) to the Godfather offers (Reynolds and Stallings).  And we have touched on the rentals and some bullpen pieces along the way.  We have yet to talk about the bullpen arms that might be a bit more difficult to pry loose?  I feel like today is a good opportunity to look at the values for Clay Holmes, Chad Kuhl, and David Bednar.  I probably should not say “pry loose” for Kuhl, he could have potentially been lumped with the arms that were more likely to move, but hey, this is fine! 

Justin Verno – Kuhl is interesting. There’s risk there, but he’s been pitching well lately and that includes Wednesday’s meh outing. There’s been a lot of injuries to starters, so Ben Cherington might be able to take advantage of that with Kuhl. He also has experience out of the pen so lumping him in there makes sense. Holmes has 3+ years of control and Bednar is locked down through 2026. That’s a lot to unpack, so let’s see if we can make sense of it? 

I think Kuhl is most likely of the three to get dealt, followed by Holmes and Bednar. I vote we start with Bednar, then Holmes and finish with Kuhl. Does that sound like a plan?

JB – That’ll work for me.  Bednar is projected to earn 0.3 WAR for the rest of this season according to Fangraphs.   And ZiPS puts him at 0.4 WAR for 2022 and 2023 respectively.  Bednar’s value is in that he is under team control through 2026, so I had to estimate his final 3 years of control via a projection that incorporates the ZiPS projection and adds an age factor to get WAR of 0.4, 0.3, and 0.2 for 2024-2026.  These numbers are fairly modest for Bednar, but the benefit of having a player like him is that he has opportunities to unlock further potential.  We’ll leave these projections and just hope that that happens for now.  Utilizing TPOP’s arbitration estimates for salary, Bednar’s value looks to be about:

That might seem enticing for a team that is on the cusp and building a winner (Chicago White Sox or Toronto Blue Jays), but that also sounds pretty enticing for Pittsburgh to hold on to, as well.  For Cherington to even listen, my guess is that that price would have to double.

Clay Holmes is another controlled reliever for the Pirates. After being non-tendered this offseason, he has had a solid start to the 2021 campaign.  However, Fangraphs only projects another 0.1 WAR added the rest of the season, and ZiPS projects 0.6 WAR in 2022 and 2023.  Again, accounting for age, I have a projection of 0.5 and 0.4 WAR in 2024 and 2025. Factoring in Holmes’ salary, we get a surplus of:

Lastly, we get to Chad Kuhl.  There has always been hope that Kuhl would develop into a star. He has the stuff, but injury and development have made it so that moniker has eluded him. He has some positional versatility and could potentially be added to a team as a bullpen arm, but with the dearth of starters available, he may be enticing. Fangraphs has Kuhl as more of a hindrance to team success thus far, but projects 0.3 WAR for the remainder of the season. ZiPS chips in another 1.0 WAR for 2022.  He makes $2.13M this year, and he has one year of arbitration remaining:

I am still of the belief that Kuhl is not that valuable of an asset to other teams and think he could provide solid innings for the team, because “someone has to pitch those innings.”  My guess is that most internal projection tools are updated constantly and have a much more bearish view on Kuhl.  

JV – Now that we have the surplus for these guys set, I want to take a quick moment to discuss Bednar and Holmes. Bednar is going to be hard to justify trading, because that much control? That’s hard to move and get proper value for, though Joe and I will try. 

But Holmes? I think that’s a little different. A while back we took a crack at suggesting a trade value for Jacob Stallings and believe me, we are still catching heat over that one. Holmes is in a similar situation, as he seems to have learned to just throw that sinker for his out pitch. That coupled with an upper 90’s FB and a strong curve have him looking like a future part of the bullpen, and I imagine we will be told that in no uncertain terms by the fan base. So let me try laying out the some reasons listening on him COULD make sense. 

1-Relievers are typically volatile.

2-The Bucs have a good deal of BP arms on the way in Austin Davis, Nick Mears, Branden Ogle, Blake Weiman, Wil Crowe, Blake Cederlind and more. Deal from your strength.

3-Moving Holmes could add some viable talent.

Is this to say the Bucs should move him? Well, only if the return is too good to pass up. Joe and I hope to show what that might look like, if a team will give it another dicsussion.  

JB – I think we’re in complete agreement here.  Before we started this piece, I would’ve said that Kuhl would be the most likely to move, but Holmes seems to make more sense to me.  He was non-tendered and resigned this offseason, so if you can turn around and get something of value for a player in that position, I think you do it.  And to pile on, Justin makes a good point that there are plenty of bullpen options behind Holmes.  Like I did with Cahill/Anderson, I think I’m going to go with one team as my hypothetical suitor for all three players, but I want to yield the floor to Justin first. 

JV – Thank you sir! 

Trade partner for Bednar- Atlanta Braves

The Braves BP has not been good and while I don’t see Bednar going anywhere, if there is a team that could decide to long here I can see it being the Braves. Bednar for-

Shane Langiliers–C–ETA:2022–50 FV ($28M)

If you follow any of these articles you know I’ve used, not just Atlanta, I’ve actually used Langilers. I’ve used him for a second time for a few reasons. 1, he’s a superb prospect. 2, it’s a big need. 3, and this is the main reason, when I used him a few weeks ago he was a 45+ but since has been bumped to  50 FV. This is how quickly perceived value on a return can change. The defense for Langiliers was MLB ready two years ago. The bat is finally catching up. This would be a huge overpay, but with Langiliers blocked by William Contreras perhaps the Braves decide this is a worthy overpay for that control?

Trade partner for Holmes-Phillies

Holmes is an interesting trade piece. His sinker has really come along and is just a tremendous out pitch. Though his control makes him tough to let go, it’s realistic to think a team could come up with a package strong enough to do it and the Phillies need help in that pen. 

Johan Rojas–CF–ETA:2023 FV 45+ $8M)

Johan has a good speed/power combination. He rates out as 70 on the scale for speed, but still packs wallop with a FV 60 on raw power.  He isn’t perfect as his walk rate is just 6% over his young career, so I’d like to see that rat go up. His swing is, shall we say, wild? But his tools are there, adding a 60 FV arm and fielding. Clean up that walk rate and approach up and the upside is there.

Trade partner for Kuhl-San Fransisco Giants

Ricardo Genoves–C–ETA:2021- FV 40+($4M)

Tired of seeing C in these series? Apparently we aren’t. It’s a major need and in this case an easy fit. The Giants have a few nice prospects in their system and the value here works. Fangraphs has my favorite ever write up on a prospect for Genoves, saying, “He’s built like one of the Moai sculptures on Easter Island and lacks lateral agility.”  Ricardo has some nice power potential for a C, but the hit tool needs work. And while he really isn’t a big time athlete,  he can handle a staff with his glove having an FV of 60 and a good arm coming in with an FV of 50.

JB – Trade Partner:  Houston Astros

Over at FiveThirtyEight, Neil Payne put out an excellent piece on which teams should be making mid-season trades.  A team that has been cruising as of late, but needs to add to their bullpen, is the Houston Astros. Houston is ranked as the 29th bullpen, and 7 of the 9 pitchers are below replacement level. The catch, however, is that they have a rather baron farm, so they cannot really go after higher profile pitchers and might have to settle for some bargains. Well, the Pirates may be a nice traide partner in that regard. 

Bednar for Hunter Brown — SP — ETA: 2023 — 50 FV ($21.0M)

Remember that I mentioned that Bednar has so much control and so much potential to bud into a high-leverage piece for the Pirates that a deal would have to be a massive overpay. Well, this is what I mean. Brown is the top pitching prospect in Houston and a value that is nearly double that of Bednar.  Should Houston do something like this? No, of course not. But if they think that their window may close after, say, the 2022 season, then it is a shrewd business decision. 

Longenhagen mentions that Brown had a significant uptick in stuff during 2020 Fall instructs. He filled out from having a professional strength/conditioning program and added velocity and two good breaking balls in his time away due to the pandemic. I love the idea of a hometown kid being a major role player once Pittsburgh becomes competitive, but if he can be flipped for a mid-rotation starter that has two plus breaking pitches and hits 99 mph, you kind of have to do it.

Holmes for 

Bryan Abreu — RP — ETA: 2021 — 45 FV ($4M) & 

Freudis Nova — SS — ETA: 2022 — 40+ FV ($4M) 

As a non-tender, I still think that getting this type of value out of Holmes could be seen as a big win. Both Abreu and Nova have been prospects that I have been interested in for quite some time.  I think of Nova as a Rodolfo Castro-type player that could be depth or insurance for many of the heavy hitters that’re making their way through the system.  Abreu has an absolute hammer of a curveball and elite spin rates.  I think his time as a starter has passed, but another threatening arm out of the bullpen would be advantageous.  I’ll leave my Abreu comments with a quote from Longenhagen, “both of his breaking balls are nasty benders from hell.”

Kuhl for Forrest Whitley — SP — ETA: 2022 — 40+ FV ($3M)

Whitley was the #4 prospect in all of baseball as recently as 2019. He has dealt with injury and wavering velocity and conditioning throughout his career. He’s currently rehabbing after Tommy John. Not much good news there. But nonetheless, Whitley was a former 65-grade prospect and the tools and talent are there. He needs to recommit to his craft and a change of scenery may be the impetus.  Wouldn’t it be fun to be the benefactor of unlocking a former top prospect’s true ceiling for a change? Let’s give it a shot with Whitley. 

Parting Shots:

JB – The deals for these players need to be deals that move the needle.  Cherington is in an excellent position in that all three of these players are controllable.  There is no desperation or necessity to move on from any of these players.  The Pirates can wait and allow the market to decide that the need for Kuhl or Holmes to a contender is worth parting with actual valuable pieces from the contender’s farm system.  And if that market does not develop, then you can expect all three of these players to have a role in Pittsburgh in 2022.  We have basically talked about the value for each of the moveable pieces on the Pirates roster.  Now I think would be good time to pivot this series in a different direction.  Do you agree, Justin?

JV – I absolutely agree. Could there be other names that we hear as trade possibilities that we didn’t cover? Sure there can, but I think we’ve touched on the most obvious candidates and with rumors now coming in, it’s time to start addressing rumors and making adjustments! In fact, I think we can make a quick one right now. 

Recently, the local sports radio mentioned that the White Sox are looking into Adam Frazier. This was widely believed since Nick Madigral was lost to the season, but they go on to add that, “MLB insider Jon Heyman says on @93.7theFan” that the Bucs could get “1B Andrew Vaughn” back as part of the return for Frazier. Vaughn is an FV 60 prospect and the White Sox top prospect. He is also MLB ready or close.  I have to wonder if Heyman was misquoted or misinterpreted here? Could the White Sox decide, “hey, what the hell? We’re all in,” and pull the trigger on this? I can’t get there. Joe?

JB – Look, Heyman is an extremely respected member of the baseball community and especially this time of year.  I try not to get too invested into trade rumors unless someone like Heyman reports on it.  But Vaughn is a 60-FV player, and that comes with a valuation of $55M.  That just shows you how rare/valuable a prospect like Vaughn actually is.  I think the key takeaway from these articles, or at least my hope, is that fan bases on both sides can discuss, intelligently, a realistic package for a player.  So if you follow along with us, you could spot this deal as unrealistic right from the start.  

JV – My thoughts exactly. My last thoughts here-anyone notice that Joe and I did not do one “package deal” here?  The idea of this series was to get the conversation going and to give a realistic and consistent  way to look at how to evaluate a player’s trade value. Building packages for a single player is hard enough, nevermind a package for a package type deal. And every trade deadline is different. Some years it’s high, others low. A lot of factors go into a trade deadline. From how many buys and sellers there are, how many injuries there are, and so on. Keep this in mind as the rumors and deals are complete, that’s part of the fun! 

That’s all I got for now Joe. 

JB – We will absolutely break down a package for package deal if it does happen, but Justin’s exactly right.  We wanted to make it as clean as possible to understand the value of individual players.  Moving forward we will look at credible rumors, maybe do some valuation updates, and break down trades as they happen.  Looking forward to it!

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