Two Guys Talkin’ Trades – Chris Stratton

1-28-22 – By Justin Verno & Joe Boyd – @JV_PITT Joe_Boyd11 on Twitter

Justin Verno – With news that the MLBPA and owners are finally talking about the big stuff, I think it’s time we got back on the horse. I get there are still a lot of questions, like “will there be “Winter Meetings?” and “how much will trades be affected by the ‘new economics’ of the CBA?” There will certainly be a lot to sort through when the deal is done, but in the end I don’t see the wheel being reinvented.

Joe Boyd – Hopefully you’re right, because that would require a complete overhaul of our schtick!  I think you mentioned that you wanted to talk about Stratton today, so let’s do that.  Stratton has always been a guy that I liked, and I’ve talked about why in this article series.  He has two years of control remaining and he’s rather consistent from a WAR perspective.  Typically, we look to ZiPS for an unbiased evaluation, so if we did that he would have 0.5 WAR of output combined over his next two seasons.  He has produced 0.6 WAR and 0.7 WAR in the last two seasons, so I’m going to err on bumping that up a bit.  My ARB projections are slightly higher than SPOTRAC’s so we’ll call it a wash.  I have him projected at 0.6 WAR this year and 0.5 for 2023 and a total salary for those years at $5.61M.  If we go with those numbers, Justin, I have his Surplus Value at $4.17M.

JV – And to many that won’t sound like a lot, but Ben Cherington can likely get an overpay here for Stratton as relievers with his consistency are rare. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Cherington gets a haul, just an overpay.  Stratton has flexibility out of the pen, he can close, he can put out a fire or even give you a stretch of innings. I imagine the interest will be there. In short, he’d be an asset to every team in the majors.

JB – Trade Partner – Boston Red Sox 

I’ve been on the record saying that I don’t think Stratton should move.  You can trade anything that’s not nailed down, but having a true asset in the bullpen is valuable for any team.  But you came here to see what the value of a guy like Stratton might be, so I’ll just roll with it.  

Noah Song SP – ETA: 2024 – FV 45 ($4M) 

Song is an interesting prospect as he has a 2-year commitment to the Navy.  Let’s let Longenhagen explain in his scouting report:  “Song did not pitch in 2020 and instead began his two-year military commitment, which is just as well since there was no minor league season and next year’s might start later than usual. I’ve updated some of the stuff related to his commitment’s timing, but his scouting report is exactly the same: It’s fairly common for a prospect’s trade value to be affected by something circumstantial, but Song’s situation is unique. He was clearly a first round talent ahead of the 2019 draft, but it was unclear where he’d be picked because of his military commitment. At the time, service academy policy stated that Song had to complete two years of Naval service, after the Trump administration repealed an Obama-era rule that allowed athletes to petition for an exemption in order to pursue pro sports or some other activity that might bolster recruitment or the military’s image in general. Then, weeks after Song was drafted, the now-outgoing president reinstated the rule, with the exemption slated to take effect again in 2020. But Song’s application for a retroactive waiver was denied by the Navy. He is eligible to apply for an early release in May.”

So that’s a lot, right?  Well if he can get the early release in May, this is a great move for the Pirates as they didn’t have to be in limbo with this commitment issue and they got a guy with some serious ceiling.  He touches 99mph and has a plus slider and a ‘rainbow’ curve.  There’s a huge risk here that he has lost a step or two during his military commitment, but that’s why they’ll throw in one more player.

Juan Chacon – CF – ETA: 2024 – 40 FV ($2M)

Back to Longenhagen, “his speed gives him a shot to play center field and his physical projection gives him a chance to grow into power. While his bat-to-ball skills haven’t impressed (quite yet), and he doesn’t have the present power of some of the system’s other teenagers, there’s still Goldilocks Zone potential here because of Chacon’s speed, frame, and explosiveness.”

Chacon is a lottery ticket to sweeten the pot for the Pirates in the off-chance Song has regressed significantly.

JV – Here’s a guy Joe and I disagree on. I really like Stratton, but with two years of control, he just doesn’t project to be part of the team when the Big Time Talent arrives. I also consider Stratton to be the last realistic trade piece that carries real value. Not to say the Buccos don’t have other names they could look at moving–a Kevin Newman? But Newman currently has little value. Outside of a team deciding to pay a king’s ransom for Reynolds, I think Stratton is the last trade piece out there. 

Trade partner – Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays were seemingly attached to every potential trade piece that took the mound for the Buccos last year. It’s also become evident that Joe and I love using Cherington’s former employers. 

Gunnar Hoglund- SP -ETA: 2024 – 45 FV ($4M)

The Pirates drafted Hoglund in the first round (comp), 36th overall in 2018. It appeared they had a contract in place, but that contract was never signed. I have no context on that. The oddity here is that it was under GM Neal Huntington, not Ben Cherington. The catch? Hoglund had TJS after being pulled from a start late last year. This was unfortunate, as he was looking like a high 1st rounder at the time. Gunnar has great control and a solid 3 pitch mix. His fastball sits 90-94 and tops off at 96 mph, and standing at 6’5” 210 lbs there could be a little more velo coming, giving him an FV of 50. The change-up is a work in progress but a solid 50 FV. His money offering is the slider which has an FV of 60. He can spot his slider due to his FV 70 grade for control. He’s really advanced and should fly through the system once up and running. Don’t  take my word for it–here’s what Longenhagen had to say about it,

 “TJ rehab or not, Hoglund has a great chance to be one of the first players from this class to reach the big leagues because of how advanced he is.” 

Nabbing Hoglund would be a fantastic return for Cherington and his staff. However, a player who had TJS will always have a red flag attached to him and with that in mind Ben needs a sweetener. 

CJ Van Eyk- SP – ETA: 2023 – FV 40+ ($3M)

CJ is an interesting prospect. The stuff is there, but the opinions are split due to his overall inconsistencies.  When his delivery is clean and repeated the results are fantastic but he has issues in that area such as falling off  and often pitching off balance. If a team cleans all that up they’ll have a pretty good starter with a 4 pitch mix. His 50 FV fastball can hit 97 and sits 92-95. His slider and change both grade out with a 55 FV. And the 4 pitch mix is rounded off by a curveball with a 50 FV. He misses more bats with the curve and fastball but all 4 are swing and miss offerings.  CJ has a lot of what you look for in a starter but he needs to put it together on an outing to outing basis. Here’s what fangraphs had to say on his inconsistencies.

“On bad nights — or even just during bad innings — he’ll lose feel for the glove-side half of the plate entirely.” -Eric Longenhagen 

This will need to be fixed if he is to stay in the rotation. 

Closing Statements:

JB – The package from Boston would work on paper.  There’s enough potential with both of those players that it would be hard for Cherington to say no to his former employer.  Someone who is analytically inclined like GM Chaim Bloom, would have to see the raw materials of Stratton and see the value in making a move like this.  In the end, I would think that Stratton does move, but a deadline deal may be best for all involved.  I’d like to see what Stratton can do on a contender as he has the versatility to flourish in the post-season.  If I had my druthers, he stays in the Steel City but I understand the value in moving him. 

JV – I may have bit off more than the Blue Jays want to chew in this package, but with the division they are in they need all the pitching they can get. I think Cherington would be ecstatic with this package. 

Joe, Cherington is in an excellent position with Stratton. If he doesn’t like what he hears he can always take his ball and go home and try again at the deadline. You’re absolutely right, the deadline might be best here, but I have  a feeling teams will be anxious out of the lockout and we see some moves fall down pretty quickly. (Hell, I have a sneaking suspicion that GM’s never stopped talking)

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