Two Guys Talkin’ Trades – Deadline Round Up

8-3-21 – By Justin Verno & Joe Boyd

Joe Boyd – Today, we wanted to sum up the Pirates’ trade deadline, potentially looking at some threads, looking at some values and what this means for the strategy Cherington had in mind.  Personally, I’m not going to get into the deals that happened elsewhere as a comparison.  Perhaps Justin will?  But let’s first look at the value of the Pirates traded away and what came back to the system:

Justin Verno – It’s important to note that Joe is using Wilson’s prospect trade value of $4 million. If you took a look at the article where we evaluated the RichRod deal the other day you might remember I used his projections and surplus value, which makes the RichRod deal a win on the surplus side. It’s fair to use the prospect value as Wilson has had so little opportunity to grow in the majors. 

And for what we are doing here Joe I think it’s best we leave other organizations trades out the equation? After all, the Pirates didn’t have a Kris Brynat or Joe Gallo to move.  And I suppose we could take a look at every deal to determine if the trades were “over pays” or “under pays” but all in all that won’t be as useful as people think it would be? If a gallon of milk is $4 and one guy buys it for $3 and another buys it for $10 then both “overpaid” for the milk “on average” I’d prefer to see how Cherington did with the spotlight on him and him alone. 

JB – Former friend of the show, @ds_tdk18, had an interesting Twitter thread last year that caught my eye.  So right before the trade deadline, I tried to replicate it to see if it held any weight or if Cherington was looking for similar players.  What I found was rather interesting.

I have utilized z-scores in the past to measure similarity of prospects, but today I wanted to use z-scores to look at how well players are performing.  So to put it simply, an average player will have a z-score of zero (0), and the more positive, the better that player is statistically amongst his peers.  Here’s a visual of what a z-score looks like:

So David notes that Theo Epstein would look for four characteristics of a player: power (measured via ISO), getting on base (measured via OBP), grinds out at bats (measured by Pitches per Plate Appearance, or PPA & K%), and defense.  Fangraphs doesn’t have a metric here, so we’ll just ignore that for now.  At the end, I simply sum these z-scores to see who has performed the best in the 2021 season.  The entire spreadsheet can be found here: Minor League z-scores.  Please note, I have filtered to AB > 100 which gives us over 1200 MiLB players.

So what first jumps out to me is that it looked like Cherington may have had his sights set on these types of players.  Park, Suwinski, and Gutierrez were the top ranked player in these statistics for their respective teams.  On top of that, players like Suwinski and Gutierrez look like players that have figured something out at the plate.  In Suwinski’s case, he’s tapped into some power and Gutierrez appears to have gotten his weight under control.  If these two are not flashes in the pan, and actually have turned a development corner, that’s some talent on the upswing added to the roster. 

The linchpin of this deadline is obviously Tucupita Marcano.  He does not strike out (12.6%) and he is a solid OBP guy.  In an article for The Athletic, Rob Biertempfel surveyed five scouts about the return for Frazier, and one scout was willing to put a 70-grade on Marcano’s hit tool. “Marcano’s got an advanced approach with very good contact skills. Some guys, you say they’re gap-to-gap (hitters). He’s a line-to-line guy, meaning he can shoot the ball anywhere. … He hits it where it’s pitched; he can hit the fastball, he can adjust to offspeed. … He’s got a narrow frame (6-foot-0, 170 pounds), and those kind of guys generally don’t have a lot of power. But there’s some wiry strength in there. I think he’s gonna grow into some power. It’ll be fringy, maybe 12 to 15 (home runs per year), but he’s got a chance to be a high-.200s to .300s hitter. I rated him a 70 hitter on our (20-to-80) scale, and I don’t throw that out there very much.”

Many have said he is potentially a younger Frazier.  And if that’s the case, is that a bad thing?  The whole point about trading Frazier, as good as he’s been, is because he does not align with the timeline.  If Marcano can be a hitter of Frazier’s caliber and be under team control through 2026/2027, then you have to be happy about that. The other note about Marcano is that he was off the table during the Musgrove talks.  Was Preller playing a long game here to dupe Cherington into making him appear to be a highly valuable prospect to get Frazier 6 months later?  I, um, highly doubt that.  Now we clearly know that Cherington has been trying to acquire Marcano for quite some time, so their models and/or scouts see something here.  And Preller obviously likes the player as well if he would not even discuss him when dealing for Musgrove.  So we have to be a bit optimistic with this player.  Is he a 40-FV on Fangraphs?  Yes, but Fangraphs is only one source, so maybe they are the ones that have the player misclassified?  I’m not trying to put on rose-colored glasses here, I’m just trying to not write the player off before he sets foot into PNC Park.  

Back to those sim scores.  I have not pulled together any interesting statistics that I think they are looking for with pitchers.  Partially, because our friend David didn’t do the hard work for me earlier and partially because I’ve been on vacation.  But I have the sim score spreadsheet I had used for the draft and I’ve repurposed it once for Joaquin Tejada, so let’s go back to that well for the other pitchers the team acquired. 

Bryse Wilson – Aaron Civale – I love this comp because Civale was a player I was always interested in based on his high spin rates.  Wilson, not a spin rate guy, has more velo but they have similar secondary stuff (based on Fangraphs grades).  Civale was a 40-FV that turned into a 1.5 WAR type of player.  If Wilson can turn it around in Pittsburgh, Civale’s production would be much welcomed.

Ricky DeVito – Michael Burrows – I love when a Pirate is a close comp to a player.  Both DeVito and Burrows appear destined for the bullpen. And Burrows is something of a spin rate machine (2500 RPM on his fastball, and 2800 on his breaking ball) so DeVito lacks that trait, but they do have comparably graded stuff.  

Michell Milano – Nick Mears – As I’ve said before.. I like making connections to current Pirates players, and here’s another one!  Milano is well-built and touches 96 mph with a future 60-grade on his curveball. He doesn’t have Mears’ fastball, but he has better secondary stuff.  He’s also three years younger than Mears, so there is room for development.  He’s probably another candidate for the bullpen. 

Joaquin Tejada – Yoljeldriz Diaz

You may have noticed some of the players in the table showing the value returned to Pittsburgh have an asterisk.  I have touched on those players here and they are players that have an opportunity to get a grade bump for one reason or another.  The now famous example of this bump is Liover Peguero.  The Marte deal looked rather light until Peguero got his grade bump to a 50-FV and all seemed to make sense.  Marcano could get a bump because it seems clear that the industry insiders like him more than those outside, Suwinski’s found some power, Gutierrez has found a way to control his weight, and Tejada is so young that he has a chance to continue to develop.  If you give each of those players a FV-grade bump, the deals look pretty good.  I’m not saying they all will get that bump and I’m not saying one or two of them won’t blow up into a superstar.  The truth is that we just don’t know and Justin and my job is to use the information we are given to provide cold, hard wins and losses based on today’s information.  

I’ll close by saying that the deals at the deadline were not as exciting or prospect-laden as, say, the Cubs but this was the close of a month that saw just an incredible influx of talent to the farm system, and even some pieces that will contribute to the Major League club immediately.  It may not always feel like it, but it’s an exciting time to be a Buccos fan. 

JV – Correct me if I’m wrong here Joe, but we aren’t here to tell people what to think of these trades. When we started this the concept was to give people some ideas of how certain guys could be valued. To give people something to use so they could explore on their own and have fun looking at different packages and prospects. To have a dialogue. 

Some people will hate every trade and others will love every trade. If we look at Bryse Wilson as an MLB player with projections and a surplus value, these trades are better balanced, and to be fair we probably should as he has in fact graduated.  And we had decided to use one source here, Fangraphs, and for a few reasons that we’ve mentioned, but one thing it does is it gives us consistency in our evaluations. I mention this because  if we stepped out of that for a second we could find more balance in how Marcano is evaluated being he is a much higher grade on MLB Pipeline, a 50 on the scale. So please everyone, read up, have fun and make up your own minds on how these trades look. There’s certainly no shortage of info out there on these prospects. 

As for me? Well, I think Cherington won some and lost some. That’s the way it is with trades. The Frazier deal felt a little light, and using fangraphs values and the method we’ve used, it is. Whereas the Holmes deal, the Anderson deal and the RichRod deals felt like winners to me? 

Joe, you mentioned the Peguero “bump” earlier, something we’ve also talked about in these articles, and I do think we have a few guys that could be in line for that kind of bump and relatively soon. Marcano and Diego, I think, could be in line for a bump. Bins and Park, I think, should be looking at a bump. If these guys get that and get it soon then these trades will have a very different ring to them. Joe, I think that’s worth keeping an eye on?  After all, no trade is won at 4:01 PM on July 30th(or whatever day the deadline is). There’s a lot of work for the Bucs to do now. 

My final thought here, Ben Cherington caught me completely off guard here, man. I was expecting 40+ or 45 kids in the lower levels. And what we got, for the most part, was guys that are knock, knock, knockin  on the doors at PNC Park, and one that reported to PNC days after the trade. 

-Bryse Wilson took the mound on Monday and pitched 5 innings of 1 run ball 

-Hoy Park now has his first hit at PNC Park. 

-Marcano and Diego could realistically have a cup of coffee this year. 

-Bins is in AA and could be a fast raiser making his debut sometime next year. 

I can’t help but wonder if BC and his staff think the team is closer to being a competitor than the 2024 window he seemed to be building towards with his other trades? Or is this just how the trades came together? 

That’s it for now, at least on the 2021 trade deadline. But we aren’t done here Joe? We are months away from the Winter Meetings, however, a lot of what will transpire in December will be a result of how the season unwinds. What do you say we take a look at what to watch for as the season comes to the finish line? Who could be available at the Winter Meetings and why? 

JB – Justin’s right in that we are not here to tell you whether or not you should like a player.  We are just here to provide you with the a value for prospects in return.  And even then, there was subjectivity.  Just look at Wilson, we could put a $4M value on him up to nearly $40M!  That’s insane variance.  That’s the difficulty of judging trades immediately.  However, that’s what we’ve attempted to do.  We’ve hopefully provided a framework to look at these deals.  So when you hear that a player like Adam Frazier will be traded for a 60-FV prospect, you’ll question such a report.  We never said that this was a Rosetta Stone, but at least a way to view trades in a relatively objective way and can discuss trades rationally.  

So yea, Justin alluded to some ideas that are on the horizon, so hopefully you’re not sick of hearing from us just yet.  We have some different topics coming shortly that certainly fall within our lane and maybe one or two topics that are outside the box.  Let’s see how far we can take this thing.

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