Two Guys Talkin’ Trades Winter meetings: The Fun Part

11-25-22 – By Justin Verno & Corey Shrader – @JV_PITT and @CoreyShrader on Twitter

Justin Venro – Okay, with the 2 “elephants in the room” (the elephants being Bryan Reynolds and David Bednar) out of the way, it’s time we got to the fun part! 

What’s the fun part? Taking a look at possible ways for Ben Cherington to add to the 2023 roster via trades.

Corey Shrader – This is the part that one could let the imagination run wild. There are slots on this roster that are easily identifiable as “needs”, and for this exercise that is good! Because, guess what, 29 other teams do too. 

JV – There really are a lot of holes the Bucs can still fill through a trade, Corey. I think the two spots that stand out as more likely to me are OF and SP.  

Today, I say let’s take a look at the OF.  OF makes sense to me because I can see GMBC adding two to the roster. Now here’s the fun part, Corey: there are different trade methods the Bucs could take here for these trades. They are, in no specific order:

 1-Rental.

 2-Controlled player.

 3-Prospect blocked by an MLB player. 

CS – I’m in agreement with you on the methods of acquisition. Outfield is a terrific place to begin. Let’s dig in, shall we?

The Rental

CS – For my rental proposal, I’m taking the Bucs to the Great Pacific Northwest. 

The Mariners have a glut of outfielders right now and their recent acquisition of Teoscar Hernandez adding further to their depth at the OF/DH position. The most attainable target, rental wise, would be old friend Jesse Winker.

Pirates get: 

Jesse Winker OF/DH – MLB – SV $4.4

Coming off of a miserable 2022 (0.4 WAR, .313 wOBA, 108 wRC+), Winker is a prime bounceback candidate. I will interject here that Winker also appeared to have some off the field issues working against him in 2022. Exactly what those were, are not clear. Given the twin factors of great positional depth & what looks like a soured relationship with the organization, Winker could be had for adequate return.

Mariners get: 

Shalin Polanco OF – CPX – SV $2

As you can see, the SV’s don’t match up here. But, for the reasons I have laid out above – I think Winker could be had for this type of return. 

Polanco was a highly touted and well paid signing for the Bucs in the 2021 J2 period. He is still a very young prospect, and will play the majority of the 2023 year as a 19 year old. I am not entirely sure that we can say he “has it” or not at this point, but he has struggled in pro ball thus far. During 2022 he posted career high .337 wOBA & 97 wRC+ in the complex league. 

Of course we cannot nor should write Polanco off yet, I would happily trade his all-projection profile for someone like Winker. Winker MIGHT not be as good as he was in 2020 or 2021. But, I would also say he IS NOT as bad as he was in 2022. At this stage, I think I would take the shot at flipping the far-off prospect for the bounceback shot on a guy who has been quite productive in very recent history. 

If the worst case is that Winker repeats last year’s performance, that would still make him the second best OF on the Pirates Major League Roster. And perhaps he does get back to his prior 140 wRC+ & .390+ wOBA? Then he might be their best or second best OF. Worth a shot, in my opinion.

JV – There is no shortage of rentals GMBC could look at here. I tend to lean to one that is still on the young side, that perhaps the Buccos could extend beyond 2023; one yinzers are likely  familiar with. So without further ado…

The team- Chicago Cubs

Ian Happ was once a rising star, and he’s young enough to extend. And let’s not kid ourselves, Corey, yinzers love the local stars. 

He’s a  free agent in 24 and with Brennan Davis on the way he’d make a tremendous trade target for GMBC. Let’s get to the SV. 

2.923 Streamers est
x9 cost of a win
26.1Total Value
10.6salary
15.5Surplus value

$15.5M is a solid SV for Ian Happ; he won’t be cheap. That said, being a rental, he won’t empty Robert Nutting’s purse full of prospects. 

Cubs get:

JT Brubaker SP/RP–MLB– SV $29M

I’ll get hell from some of the fan base here. JT is a solid #5, but I do wonder if the pen is a better fit in the long run. This is a lot to give up for a rental since JT has some control attached to him. Keep in mind the Bucs have some SP on the way and should be looking to upgrade the rotation via a FA deal or another trade. 

Pirates get:

Ian Happ OF–MLB- SV $15M

Welcome home Ian. Coming off a 3.5 WAR season where he slashed .271/.342.440  OPS .781  and a wRC+ of 120 Put that next to Bryan Reynolds in the OF and I’d be smiling ear to ear. 

Even though the surplus value here leans strong to the Cubs, I am okay leaving this deal as it is. Streamer’s projection seems a little high on JT, and both teams get something they need. The Bucs add to their OF, and the Cubs get a viable pen arm/starter with some control.  GMBC should get to work on an extension immediately after the trade is done. 

The Blocked Prospect

JV- I’m not sure we’ve seen GMBC complete a prospect for prospect deal since arriving in Pittsburgh. And though it’s been a while, I don’t recall that many from the previous regime. It’s not just the Bucs, as prospect for prospect deals are like getting a glimpse of dolphins jumping out of the water while relaxing at the beach. They happen, but you gotta stay alert or you’ll miss them. 

Here’s my twist, Corey: I’m going to use the same team for the ‘spect for ‘spect trade AND the Controlled Player trade! What d’ya know about that?

CS: I have a feeling these are going to be the most fun segments here. What do you have in mind?

JV – The team: Minnesota Twins.

The Twins have a perfect setup for both of these methods. They have a prospect that is blocked OR a few controlled OF the Buccos could take a peak at. Let’s get to it!

Twins get:

Quinn Priester–SP– ETA:2024– FV 50($21M)

I get that it’s tough to give up Preister, but this is how it works, folks. It takes top talent to get top talent. Fangraphs has 2024 as the year QP should be up, but I would look more towards 2203 for that myself.

Maikol Escotto – ETA:2024– FV 40+($4M)

This is a tough one for me. Escotto was my second favorite piece in the Jameson Taillon deal, but he really stalled out this past season and that culminated in two demotions. Here’s the thing: his A+ placement was really aggressive and at 20 there’s still plenty of time for the Twins to get him back on the right path.

Pirates get:

Austin Martin – CF – ETA:2022 – FV 50 ($28M)

Once considered the best bat in the 2020 draft, he’s had a little bit of a rough go. All in all, he’s a contact over power guy who should project nicely to the top of the lineup bat while playing a nice CF. And he should do it sometime in 2023 (ETA’s always come with a disclaimer, of course).

I get there are still question marks with Martin, but the same can be said of Priester. 

CS – You know, I didn’t plan on riding your coattails by keeping with the same team, but, I think you have inspired me to stick with the Mariners for my blocked prospect proposal too. So, before we get to the exciting conclusion of your Twins proposal, let me jump back in quickly to the Mariners.

Mariners get: Shalin Polanco – OF SV $4

Bear with me, I will explain why I am still trying to get rid of this young man & I promise it isn’t personal.

Pirates get: Cade Marlowe – OF SV $1

Cade Marlowe is ready for a shot at proving he is a Major League player. He posted a very impressive AA season,75 runs scored, 86 runs batted in, 20 homers, 18 doubles, 36 steals, .385 wOBA, & 122 wRC+. He got a less impressive 60 ABs at AAA where his K% did spike, but his production was OK in spite of that. 

I think Marlowe is ready to plug in right now. While he is not a proven asset himself, he has an undeniably good track record in his MiLB career. The Mariners even added him to their playoff roster when Jesse Winker went MIA/was seeking a second opinion on his injury. The Mariners could be enticed to deal him given that they are in a kind of 40 man crunch of their own, they just had to add Marlowe to their own 40 man out of fear that he would be picked as a plug & play OF for a team like the Bucs. Polanco is not Rule 5 eligible until December 2025, so this would help them out in more ways than one.

I’d give this a shot for sure. I think Marlowe would be a compelling addition for a team like Pittsburgh.

The Controlled Player

JV – We already know the team I’m running with, so let’s get to it. 

The Twins have a few different names that could be talked about: Max Kepler, Trevor Larnach and Bryon Buxton(and I’ve mentioned Austin Martin who is on the way) can all be names thrown around in this exercise, but none are the guy I’m proposing.

The OF I’m looking at here is Alex Kiriloff. Let’s take a look at his SV. Streamers currently has Kiriloff at a 1.4 WAR over 97 games in 23.  The Twins aren’t selling Alex at a 1.4 WAR per season price tag, as there’s simply no reason for them to. If we use these projections, his SV would be just around $50M. That just won’t do for the Twins. Let’s expand this and see what we get.

2.223 WAR Streamers est
2.424 WAR
2.625 WAR
2.626WAR
227 WAR
11.8Total WAR
x9Cost of a Win
106.2Total value
32Salary
74.2Surplus Value

Twins get:

Termarr Johnson–2B–ETA:2028– FV 55($46M)

Want five years of control for a possible power bat? You gotta pay up. Johnson is years away and the Bucs should be ready a tad sooner than that. This is one of the reasons you build this kind of system. 

Quinn Priester–SP– ETA:2024– FV 50($21M)

At this point it probably seems like I’m trying to give Priester away, and perhaps the Bucs try to sell the Twins another prospect that is further away–not out of the question. But with Burrows and Ortiz ahead of him, Quinn could be the piece the front office feels they can sacrifice to the all powerful, all knowing baseball trade gods(I feel like I should leave a shot of rum out for Jobu). Twins will likely love the idea of adding Quinn to the rotation later in the year.

Lonnie White Jr–OF– ETA:2026– FV 40+($4M)

“No way I give up LWJ”.  I get it. But, he is a few years away and the upside would be attractive to the Twins.  Corey, Joe and I have spent two years showing what Bryan Reynolds is worth and fans would want every damn penny’s worth if traded, right? Well, it goes both ways. It’s time to put it together and  start kicking some butt and that means it’s not the time to be “prospect hugging.”

Malcolm Nunez–1B/DH– ETA:2024– FV 40($2M)

Another player I think should be ready sometime this year. The DH/1B profile could be appealing to the Twins since Alex can also play 1B. The Bucs didn’t protect Nunez, so I imagine that he’d be on the table at the meetings (also means they would need to complete this trade before the rule5 draft).

Kirilloff has hit 11 HR in 104 games, the power will play. The Bucs don’t have to wait here, as he’s an MLB player and it’ll be nice to add experience for to the roster. Getting guys like that isn’t cheap, and it’s also rare for a team to trade this  much control. Let’s have fun here, Mr. Cheringon!

CS – For my controlled player move, we should take a trip to the desert, folks. That’s right, The Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Diamondbacks get:

David Bednar – CL SV $23

The Pirates get:

Jake McCarthy – OF SV $21.07

I know the last piece we suggested Bednar trades, but this one wasn’t something that came to mind until prepping for this OF piece. The Snakes have a crowded OF (Dalton Varsho, Corbin Carroll, Kyle Lewis, Alek Thomas, Jake McCarthy) & I think it could make a lot of sense for them to shop one of them for much needed help elsewhere around the diamond. And I could see them being tempted by this.

McCarthy exploded onto the scene down the stretch of the 2022 season posting a 2.3 fWAR across 354 ABs. A tremendous athlete (30.1 f/s sprint speed top 10 in all of baseball) that flashed undeniable ability despite somewhat disappointing peripherals (.298 xwOBA & middling 87.4 AVG EV). But the production is hard to deny. Adding McCarthy to the Bucs MLB OF would add an incredible athlete and very exciting bat to the order.

We covered Bednar enough that I am not going to discuss him here beyond saying it would be difficult to move him for both sentimental reasons and because he is quite good. But, I think this is a move that would help both teams fill immediate needs with long term control added in.

Putting the Stuffing in it

JV – There you have it: six different deals to wet the Turkey Day appetite.  It will be interesting to see how GMBC and his staff work this off-season, and none will be more telling than how they attack adding to the OF. It could tell us how close they really think the team is to competing. This year? 2024? Or perhaps beyond?

CS – Yes, how they approach filling obvious needs that do not have immediate and evident minor league rising talent should help inform franchise direction. I think at the very least these are pretty fun ones to discuss. Always a fun exercise and I am already looking forward to the next one where we will try to tackle starting pitcher options that might be out there for the Bucs. 

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