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Pittsburgh Pirates: The last time the Pirates saw the trade deadline with more wins than
losses under their belt was 1992. Barry Bonds was
the NL MVP, Doug Drabek notched 15 wins with his
2.77 ERA in 256.2 innings, and Jose Lind was paid
$2,000,000 to “hit” .235/.275/.269 in 505 plate appearances. It’s
been a long 12 years for Pirate fans, as deadline after deadline saw
the team packing talent up and shipping players off to legitimate
playoff contenders.

This year is no different, as the Pirates prepare to unload possibly
four key players from their 25-man roster.


  • Matt Lawton, OF, LHB: Lawton is at the end of a
    mega-rich $27,000,000 / four-year deal, so any trade involving the
    veteran left-fielder is going to require the Pirates to absorb a
    significant chunk of change; anyone taking all of Lawton’s salary
    from August 1st forward would be on the hook for more than $2,900,000.

    With a cumulative .270/.376/.438 line in 409 plate appearances, it’s
    hard to see Lawton as an impact bat, but he’d certainly be useful as
    a platoon or role player. He’s hit .283/.395/.469 against righties
    this year, and his three-year splits also show a significant platoon
    advantage (.801 OPS vs. RHPs, .681 OPS vs. LHPs). The other thing
    going for Lawton is that he’s a plus defender in left and has shown
    the ability to cover ably in right field when that’s necessary. He’s
    got some speed, but has trouble picking his spots and getting good
    jumps (12 steals in 21 attempts for a 57.1% success rate). As a left-handed pinch hitter with good on-base skills Lawton could be a nifty
    pickup for a playoff club.

  • Jose Mesa, RHP: Every competing club could use an extra reliever
    or two, and a team picking up Mesa would only be on the hook for
    about $950,000. There’s nothing electric in Mesa’s numbers, though:
    6.16 K/9, 1.44 K/BB, 4.03 ERA in 38 IP. The other thing to remember
    is that Mesa has a $4,000,000 option for 2006 with a $500,000 buyout.
    It’s hard to imagine a team wanting to re-up him at that price, and
    once you add the buyout to his remaining 2005 salary you’re talking
    about almost $1,500,000 for 20 IP of 4.00 ERA. To move him the
    Pirates are probably going to have to eat some of his salary.

  • Kip Wells, RHP: There is a dearth of starting pitching available
    this year, which makes Kip Wells one of the few targets for teams
    looking to shore up their rotation for a playoff race. Wells avoided
    arbitration in January, settling for $3,175,000, and he’ll head into
    arbitration again next year, though teams trading for Wells this week
    may not be interested in him for 2006 at the approximately $4,500,000
    that he would probably win in a hearing.

    Wells has been average at best this year (4.77 ERA/5.50 RA and 1.60
    K/BB) and his strong strikeout rate (7.04 K/9) can’t help the fact
    that he gives up home runs at a frightening rate (1.32 HR/9, 20th
    worst of the 105 MLB pitchers with at least 100 IP). Wells is only an
    improvement on teams that are desperately struggling at the back of
    their rotation, and even then the Pirates will probably eat some
    salary.

  • Mark Redman, LHP: The jewel of the Pirates trade options is
    surely Mark Redman, the left-handed hurler who has put up a
    surprising 3.99 ERA in 135.1 IP. Redman’s strikeout rate is weak
    (4.79 K/9) but his walk rate is strong (2.66 BB/9) and his home run
    rate is fantastic (0.67 HR/9, or 25th best out of the 116 ML hurlers
    with 85 IP). Redman makes for quite an adept #4 starter, and because
    of his left-handedness could even slip into the #3 spot of a lopsided
    rotation.

    The problem with Redman, again, is financial. He’s due approximately
    $1,650,000 for the rest of 2005 and is guaranteed $4,500,000 next
    year. Considering the astronomical contracts given to starters this
    past off-season, that would be more than reasonable, but potential
    trading partners are certainly concerned that he’ll revert to his
    2004 form (5.18 RA and 1.31 HR/9 [in a pitcher’s park]).

    At press time the latest word from our resident rumor mill,
    Will Carroll, was that the Pirates were trying to trade Redman for
    Jeremy Hermida, the #35 prospect in our 2005 Top 50
    prospects guide, and currently hitting .306/.466/.542 in the Carolina
    League. It would be nearly impossible to imagine the Marlins
    accepting that offer.

The Pirates have a number of options for teams looking to fill holes
at the deadline, but in each and every case the options are less than
awe-inspiring, and they’ll all probably require the Pirates to eat
salary and/or accept mediocre prospects in return. All in all, it’s
looking more and more like the many trade possibilities to the
Pirates will bring in little if anything of use for a 2006 or 2007
campaign.

Tom Gorman

St. Louis Cardinals: The Cardinals have half of their Opening Day lineup on the disabled
list, a feat that’s made even more impressive when you realize that
they’ve lost no ground in the NL Central during that stretch. How
have the Cards managed to replace Reggie Sanders, Yadier Molina,
Scott Rolen, and Larry Walker? Let’s take a look, using the quick &
dirty but accurate measure, MLVr.


NAME       MLVR   VORP            REPLACEMENT   MLVR    VORP
Sanders    0.243  25.8            Taguchi      -0.049   4.1
Molina    -0.147   2.4            Diaz         -0.370  -3.3
Rolen     -0.050   2.2            Nunez         0.070   9.9
Walker     0.190  18.5            Mabry         0.029   5.3

There’s some confusion in these numbers–Mabry would likely fill in
at 3B if he wasn’t already in the OF for Walker–but it does show us
some interesting things about the way the team is constructed. The
dropoff suffered by Rolen due to his shoulder and knee injuries is
enough that, when playing, he’s worse than Abraham Nunez, something
not even PECOTA could project even predicting this
type of injury scenario
.

The catching is not a significant setback for those who pine for the
days of Mike Matheny. Molina’s defensive numbers (FRAR of 23, overall WARP3 of 4.1) are slightly better than Matheny’s (13, 3.6), so this
appears to be a smart move by the front office. It’s hard to knock
anyone for having a poor backup catcher in a thin market, but
matching up the skills seems the smarter play. If you’re willing to
have a “catch and throw” guy as your starter, it’s better to have a
masher like Javier Valentin or Kelly Stinnett behind him.

So how are the Cardinals so far ahead in their division and why
hasn’t the run of injuries affected it? That’s easy–the pitching
has been great and Albert Pujols is still Albert Pujols, the most
dangerous hitter in the game that’s not a friend of Victor Conte. The
pitching, led by Chris Carpenter and a reborn Matt Morris, is only
half the story. Dave Duncan has mixed and matched well in the
bullpen, negating any negatives and keeping his five starters out
there for twenty starts each. (Morris missed his first two starts, so
he has some catching up to do.)

The Cardinals have enough of a lead in the division that they don’t
need to do anything to win the division. The question that they have
to answer instead is whether or not they have enough to make it back
to the World Series. A thin minor league system might answer the
question for them unless Walt Jocketty works some magic.

Will Carroll

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