With the 2012 Winter Meetings underway, many eyes have turned to the Pittsburgh Pirates in their efforts to potentially trade closer Joel Hanrahan, but in the process could they be working on moving another player as well?
Several reports have noted that several teams have called the Bucs about first baseman/outfielder Garrett Jones.
While it’s the norm at this time of the year for teams to receive calls on players, that doesn’t necessarily mean that teams are ready to trade.
However in this case, it makes a lot of sense for the Bucs to look to deal Jones if the right offer comes along.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Rob Biertemfel reported that the Baltimore Orioles were one team hot after Jones and could throw starting pitching back the Pirates way.
However an interesting rumor comes from Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times, who notes that the Pirates and Mariners have had multiple discussions about Jones and have exchanged names back-and-forth.
The proposal Baker notes is one that goes something like this: the left-handed hitting Jones and Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan going to the Mariners with potentially one other throw-in, in exchange for first baseman Justin Smoak, catcher John Jaso and starting pitcher Hector Noesi.
He also notes that isn’t the only proposal the two teams have thrown around.
Smoak has been a top prospect for some time now and would give the Bucs the left-hand hitting first baseman with power potential. He only hit .219 a season ago with 19 home runs, but it was also only Smoak’s second full season in the majors and many believe there are good things ahead.
Jaso likely wouldn’t be part of the deal if there is one to be had. After the Russell Martin signing I can’t see the Bucs bringing in another catcher, although he’s a better backup than Michael McKenry, ‘The Fort’ is fine as a backup.
Noesi went only 2-12 with a 5.82 ERA in 18 starts last season.
Why would the Pirates do a deal like this?
First of all it would be selling high on Jones which makes a ton of sense. While Jones had a decent season last year for the Bucs, he’s also going to be 32 and is arbitration eligible for the second time.
The chances of his production declining are pretty good at his age and if Jones reverts back to the 2010 or 2011 version, then he offers very little value to this team.
Even if it was a good 2012 season by his standards, Jones still only had a 1.5 WAR. Looking back at 2010, that number was -0.5 and only 0.1 in 2011. That’s something the Pirates can’t afford to have.
Secondly, there’s the obvious reason and that’s financial relief.
Jones was a Super 2 arbitration guy last season and earned $2.25 million. So, for next season, given his big power year, he could be looking at a raise to roughly $4.5 million.
Hanrahan is entering his final arbitration year and could jump from $4.1 million up to near $7 million.
So, that’s $11.5 million in payouts to two players — just under one fifth the entire projected payroll. Add Martin’s salary onto that and the Bucs could be looking to shed salary.
It wouldn’t be all about money though for the Pirates.
Smoak would give them a potential full-time first baseman to add to a young core they’ve developed at several positions. Smoak has a year still to go before becoming arbitration eligible, so he’ll cost just over a tenth what Jones will. That’s a big incentive for the Pirates to have some patience and hope that Smoak eventually fulfills some of his promise — even if it takes another year or two.
Add that to Gaby Sanchez and first base could one day become a strength if either guy pans out.
I do like the idea of getting Smoak, but if this is deal the Bucs are considering, two different pieces would be nice.
Jaso would give the Bucs left-handed hitting catcher and Noesi would give them a back end of the rotation starter, but neither are attractive fits.
I’d rather see them taking on the $4.8 million salary of Jason Vargas and adding a bullpen arm. Although that isn’t likely as Vargas is also due for a raise and his third-year arbitration eligible.
One thing is for sure and that’s the Bucs need starting pitching.
Jones is a guy that could fetch them some.
He’s not a guy that has a real future in a Pirates’ uniform, so it will be interesting to see if general manager Neal Huntington sells high on him.