Originally written on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 7/9/12

The first in a multi-part series laying out what pieces are available to the Pittsburgh Pirates, how well they’ll mesh with the team, and what the Pirates may have to move in return…      (Opening image credit, SD Examiner)

Part 1:  Available hitters, and their suitability grade with the current team roster

A+  OF Carlos Quentin, San Diego Padres

2012 Season:  .268, 7HR, .924 OPS

In terms of a good fit with the team, it doesn’t get much better than a power hitter putting up huge numbers while playing half of his games in the offensive purgatory of Petco Park.  Only signed to a 1-year deal by the Padres prior to the season, the expiring contract should reduce San Diego’s asking price, yet there’s nothing preventing a new team from opening the pocket book and extending the 29-year old long term.

For a power hitter, Quentin rarely strikes out, and has posted the following OPS+ since 2008 (100 denotes an “average” player):  149, 98, 119, 122, 160 (current).  Acquiring him would ignite a positive snowball effect of sorts, making OF Jose Tabata fully expendable, paving the way for a Marte-McCutchen-Quentin OF of the future (should the Pirates extend him), pushing OF Alex Presley and INF/OF Drew Sutton to more suitable roles coming off the bench, and landing 1B/OF Garrett Jones into an ideal 1B platoon/bench role.
OF Justin Upton, Arizona Diamondbacks

2012 Season:  .273, 7HR, .755 OPS

Justin Upton; Image credit mlblogs

Unlike Quentin, Upton is younger (25) and signed long-term (through 2015) on an affordable 6 year, $50MM contract extension.  However, this could make him significantly more costly to acquire, and it’s unclear whether Upton would be a better short-term option than the Padres’ slugger.  Upton’s OPS+ since 2008 read as follows:  107, 129, 110, 139, 100.  Like Quentin, he has one 30+ HR season, and multiple 20+ HR seasons during that interval.  But his current production is significantly behind Quentin’s, and he strikes out at a significantly greater rate (152 in 2010).

Upton has the raw tools to be among the league’s elite OF for the next 5 seasons.  But he still possesses the youthful inconsistency that’s causing the Diamondbacks to dangle him in the first place, and he may be less of a lock to provide the Pirates’ lineup badly needed power down the 2012 stretch.

B+  OF Josh Willingham, Minnesota Twins

2012 Season:  .261, 19HR, .913 OPS

Arguably one of the most underrated veterans in the game, the 33-year old Willingham has been consistently dropping huge production numbers all the way back to 2006.  His 2011 season may have been the most impressive, as he blasted 29 HR while playing half of his games in the expansive Oakland Coliseum as a member of the A’s.  This past offseason, the Minnesota Twins savvily signed him to a 3 year, $21MM deal, and he hasn’t disappointed.

Unfortunately, Willingham has been one of the only bright lights in a dark season for the Twins, who occupy the AL Central basement with a 36-49 record.  It’s this position of the team- not Willingham himself- leading many to speculate that Minnesota may be shopping him.  But still signed affordably for 2 more years and showing no signs of slowing down, it’s unclear whether the Twins actually will move him.

3B Chase Headley, San Diego Padres

2012 Season:  .267, 8HR, .780 OPS

Chase Headley; Image credit mlblogs

There’s a colorful story about a Padres’ hitter giving the ownership box at Petco Park the finger during the inaugural game there, after his long fly ball- which would’ve been a home run anywhere else- was caught casually for an out.  The offender wasn’t Chase Headley, although it may as well have been, as he’s the prime example of why San Diego’s stadium has been utter joy for pitchers, but abject misery for hitters.  Headley owns a career OPS split of .664 (home) and .811 (away).  Place the 28-year old switch hitter in any other stadium, and he may be among the best 3B in the National League.

The Padres may realize the detrimental effect their home environs are having, perhaps why the 3B is rumored to be attainable.  Not even arbitration eligible until 2013, the asking price should be high, although Headley’s acquisition is not the perfect fit.  While adding another switch hitter to a lineup already featuring 2B Neil Walker and Sutton, the move would force either he or 3B Pedro Alvarez across the diamond to 1B, where they wouldn’t be nearly as valuable relative to their position.  One possible solution is moving Headley to LF, but he hasn’t played there since 2009.

Trade Rumors, part 2 soon to follow.  Thanks for reading!  Follow me on Twitter @jim_krug

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