The Pittsburgh Pirates latest salary dump that sent Joel Hanrahan and Brock Holt to the Boston Red Sox could work out better than many feel it initially looks on paper.
Make no mistake about it, this was a salary dump, but it could end up being a 6-for-2 swap when it is all said and done.
In addition to acquiring Jerry Sands, Ivan DeJesus, Mark Melancon and Stolmy Pimentel from the Boston Red Sox, the Pirates were able to sign Francisco Liriano with some of the $7 million due to Hanrahan and likely will be able to sign another cheap piece that can hopefully help them in 2013.
However it will be Sands and Melancon that will determine the fate of this deal in the short-term.
Sands is the primary piece of the deal, a corner outfielder with a ton of power potential who could also play first base.
On one hand, you have the guy who tore up the PCL (a good hitter’s league).
He had great walk and power numbers the past two seasons, which is encouraging. In 2010, he posted a line of .301/.395/.981, with 35 homers and 93 RBI, split between Class-A and Double-A. He got the bump to Triple-A in 2011 and put up a nice line of .278/.344/.931 with 2 homers and 88 RBI before getting the call to the majors with the Dodgers.
Then on the other hand, Sands hasn’t tore up major league pitching just yet, although he has only 221 career at bats.
He was a key piece in the Adrian Gonzalez blockbuster last season, so the Pirates weren’t the only team to covet Sands.
Looking at some projections, Bill James projects (via FanGraphs) an OPS of .812 for Sands in 2013, which would make him very useful although not a star. Considering that Garret Jones had an .832 OPS split between first base and right field, that would be a welcome addition to the Pirates lineup.
That’s a number that will be even more welcomed considering the OPS of the other Pirates’ right fielders: Jose Tabata (.664), Travis Snider (.652) and Alex Presley (.683).
But the question is where Sands fits in next season?
Do the Bucs give him the right field job or does he get lost in the shuffle with four players competing for at bats? Does his presence now make Garrett Jones expendable? Or is Sands just another guy that will get sent to the minors and likely forgotten about?
He definitely will be a guy to keep an eye on when spring training rolls around.
As will Melancon.
The former Houston Astros closer had a rough season in Boston, but he attributed a lot of that to manager Bobby Valentine. But to be fair, Melancon didn’t pitch very well.
He finished the season with an ERA of 6.20 and allowed 1.6 home runs per nine innings, which essentially did him in and earned him a demotion to the minors.
However look more closely and you will see that his strikeout rate (8.2/9) was higher and his walk rate (2.4/9) was lower than in 2011 when he was closing in Houston.
In addition, his FIP was nearly as good as Hanrahan’s last season, and posted an xFIP nearly a whole run lower than Hanrahan in 2012 despite finishing the season with an ERA that was three-and-a-half runs higher.
James projects Melancon to pitch to a 3.47 ERA and a 3.33 FIP, so that would represent a nice bounce back season.
Also consider the fact that Melancon will be coming back to the National League Central from the American League East, so there is optimism that he will be able to fill a big role at the back end of the Pirates’ bullpen.
Then there is the fact that PNC Park is much more pitcher friendly than Fenway Park, so Melancon’s home run rate should come back down to normal.
Melancon is under Pirates control cheaply for the next three seasons. He is not the pitcher that Hanrahan is, but he may be able to equal, or come close, to Hanrahan’s production, then this has the potential to turn a good deal.
But we are a long way away from being able to determine if this ends up being a good deal by Pirates’ general manager Neal Huntington.
However Sands and Melancon could be the guys to swing it into the Pirates favor.