Pirates Playing Risky Prospects Game
The Pittsburgh Pirates continue to pile up prospects as they have traded three fourths of their infield and two thirds of the outfield and two starting pitchers this season.
1992 was the last time the Pirates had a winning season and with a 44-58 record so far this season it is unlikely they will have a winning record this season.
They have traded their entire infield with the exception of Andy LaRoche who is probably just holding onto third base until Pedro Alvarez who was the No.2 overall pick in the first round of the 2008 amateur draft arrives in Pittsburgh.
Alvarez is currently playing for Altoona of the Class AA Eastern League. He started the season with Lynchburg of the Class A Carolina League and has hit 20 homers and driven in 75 runs between the two stops.
I can see what the Pirates are trying to achieve by piling up prospects since it cheaper to let young players play until they are eligible for salary arbitration and then trade them.
Without knowing the exact stipulations of the trades made this season and taking into consideration that the contracts have to be pro-rated because the season is two thirds over here are the 2009 contracts for players recently traded.
John Grabow $2.3 million
Eric Hinske $1.5 million
Adam LaRoche $7.05 million
Nate McLouth $2.5 million
Nyjer Morgan $411,000 (Major league minimum is $400,000.)
Freddy Sanchez $6.25 million
Ian Snell $3.2 million
Jack Wilson $7.4 million
When the Pirates start next season they will have $30.6 million less to pay in contracts assuming the new teams of these players will be paying them next season with the Pirates not liable for any part of their contracts.
The new players that take the places of these traded players since they are prospects will probably be making a little over $400,000 each next season with the exception of Alvarez who will be making $88,000 even while in the minors due to having Scott Boras as his agent.
Now the Pirates will have to play the waiting game and hope these prospects stop being prospects and start being major league stars. It is a long road from the low minors to the major leagues.
Some prospects simply will not make it to the major leagues because they can’t play at the major league level. Others will have injuries that can ruin their chances of succeeding at the major league level.
How many more losing seaons will the Pirates endure before enough of these prospects actually step on a major league field to make a difference?
The Pirates have had their share of prospects who never advanced past the prospect status.
Only Steven Pearce and Brent Lillibridge have reached the majors from the 2005 amateur draft with Pearce having only four homers in 215 major league at bats.
Lillibridge never played for the Pirates but has had short stints in the majors with the Braves and White Sox.
The Pirates did even worse in the 2004 amateur draft when only Brian Bixler made it to the majors and hit .165 in 58 major league games.
The 2003 amateur draft was not much better except that Paul Maholm is a current starter for the Pirates while Craig Stansberry never played for the Pirates and only has 24 at bats combined over the last three seasons with the Padres.
Josh Sharpless the other Pirates draftee in 2003 pitched his last game for the Pirates in 2007 and doesn’t even have any stats at baseball-reference.com for the 2009 minor league season so he is probably out of baseball.
The Pirates made one of the worst trades in baseball history when they traded Aramis Ramirez and Kenny Lofton for Matt Bruback who never made it to the majors and retired at the age of 27 with a 62-77 minor league record.
Jose Hernandez was also received in the trade and hit a total of five homers for the Pirates in the 2003 and 2006 seasons and retired in 2006. He played for the Dodgers and Indians between the two stints with the Pirates.
Bobby Hill was the last player being the player to be named later received by the Pirates in the trade and hit a total of two homers for the Pirates in three seasons before retiring in 2005 at the age of 27.
In summary the Pirates received a pitcher in Bruback who never made it to the majors and two infielders that hit a total of seven home runs for the Pirates.
On the other hand the Cubs received in Aramis Ramirez a player who has hit 258 homers and driven in 911 runs while hitting .285 while slugging .505. He has driven in over 100 runs five times since joining the Cubs. At 31 he has enough years left to make a bid for the Hall of Fame.
The only Pirates who were on the 2007 team are Ryan Doumit, Steven Pearce, Zach Duke, Paul Maholm and Matt Capps.
Time will tell if the recent trades for prospects will pay off. I agree with Harold Reynolds of the MLB Network that it is best to trade major leaguers for major leaguers because prospects will always be prospects until they play at the major league level and play well.
The job of manager John Russell should be safe a couple of years now that the team is not the team he had at the start of the 2009 season. No manager in baseball could win with this team the way it is currently constructed so Russell cannot be blamed for the current situation.