With only 11 days until the 2013 trade deadline, it looks as if the Pittsburgh Pirates are zeroing in on their top guy.
Looking to bolster their lineup for the season’s second half, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that Pirates’ general manager Neal Huntington has his sights set on Chicago White Sox outfielder Alex Rios and may be interested in White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez as well.
Taking out the potential cost involved in a deal to acquire Rios, the deal makes sense on paper as the Bucs certainly can stand to upgrade in both right field and shortstop.
Pirates’ right fielders have combined to produce a .235/.309/.394 slash line this season and have played below replacement level as a whole, according to Fangraphs, thanks to poor defense and baserunning.
Even though Jose Tabata has played well since his return from the disabled list and his metrics are comparable to those of Rios, he would represent a massive upgrade for the final two and a half months, as he’s hitting .270/.326/.429 with strong defense and baserunning.
The problem with a deal for Rios as I have mentioned plenty of times before is that he won’t come cheap in terms of potential prospects. In addition he doesn’t represent a huge enough upgrade over the likes of Tabata that warrant paying him the remaining $18 million of his contract, which expires at the end of next season.
Ramirez would also represent a massive upgrade over Jordy Mercer, especially defensively.
He’s hitting .286/.311/.358 with 20 stolen bases, and advanced metrics like Ultimate Zone Rating love his range at shortstop.
Jordy Mercer took over as the starting shortstop recently, but he’s hitting just .188/.246/.188 over his past 18 games.
However Ramirez is also owed $23 million through 2015.
The good news is that having the seventh best farm system in the game (according to Baseball America) could likely help facilitate a deal, especially if the White Sox were willing to include cash to help cover the salaries of the two players. But if the White Sox include money, it likely will mean that the Bucs will have to throw better prospects Chicago’s way.
There’s no doubting the fact that Rios and Ramirez would represent major upgrades and could be two pieces that could help put the Pirates over the top.
You just have to ask yourself how much of the future would you be willing to part with to make a deal happen.
It will be interesting to see how Huntington approaches this situation as he has to weigh long-term success against the opportunity to go for it now.