Originally posted on Pirates Prospects  |  Last updated 10/27/11

Should the Pirates buy out Ronny Cedeno's option?

MLB Trade Rumors has been releasing their 2012 Free Agent and Trade Market reviews, and looked at the shortstop position in their most recent update.  Among the updates, they listed Ronny Cedeno as a guy who could have his option declined by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Two weeks ago I looked at the shortstop options on the market, and compared them to Cedeno.  The shortstop market is strong this year, although it is led by guys such as Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins, and the Pirates don’t stand a chance of signing either player due to the costs involved.  Of the potentially available shortstops, I pointed out Clint Barmes, Marco Scutaro, and Alex Gonzalez as guys who could be upgrades over Cedeno.

None of the upgrades are really guaranteed.  Barmes’ defense has been strong, but his 2011 WAR totals look like a career year, and in the past he’s been inconsistent on that front.  With Gonzalez, it’s a question of what you’re going to get.  The 2011 version of Gonzalez is similar to Cedeno, value-wise.  The 2010 version, on the other hand, is a big upgrade.  The Red Sox will likely pick up Scutaro’s option, although that doesn’t mean he won’t be available via trade.  That said, $6 M plus prospects might be a lot, especially when Scutaro is poor defensively, with his upgrade coming on the offensive side of the ball.

There are a lot of possibilities on the market.  MLBTR lists trade candidates like Jed Lowrie and Reid Brignac, who would each be intriguing options.  There’s also some interesting non-tender candidates listed, such as Ryan Theriot and Mike Aviles (they also list Brandon Wood as a non-tender candidate, which I agree with).

The big strength from Cedeno is his defense, as he posted a 6.8 UZR/150 in 2011.  There’s a risk that this was a fluke, as he’s been inconsistent in the past.  He does have the talent, defensively, to put up those strong numbers, so we can’t rule out that he’s just realizing his potential at the position.  If the Pirates want to focus on a defensive-only shortstop, there’s comparable players who could be available, such as Ramon Santiago or John McDonald.  The Pirates also have an in-house option in Pedro Ciriaco.

It wouldn’t be a bad move to bring back Cedeno at his option price.  He’s worth that if he puts up the defense we saw in 2011.  That said, with a strong market, it’s possible that the Pirates could get Cedeno, or a comparable hitter, for half the price.  Worst case, they give Ciriaco a shot at the start of the season, and see if there’s anything to his .333/.364/.476 line in a very small September sample size.  It seems more likely that Ciriaco puts up numbers similar to his AAA line of .252/.267/.355, although that would be passable with his defense.  I wouldn’t go with Ciriaco unless the Pirates had another strong defensive infielder like Santiago or Cesar Izturis backing him up as insurance.

The amount of options is definitely intriguing.  The downside is that MLBTR lists nine teams as potentially being interested in shortstops, which means that we can’t really call this a buyers market.  We saw what happened last year on the shortstop market.  There were a lot of intriguing options, although there were also a lot of teams looking for shortstops.  That ended up with the Pirates missing out on guys like J.J. Hardy, Jason Bartlett, and others, and sticking with Cedeno.  That didn’t turn out to be a bad move, as Cedeno had a good season (although getting J.J. Hardy would have been great).

So should the Pirates test the waters again, and hope Cedeno is there as a backup plan?  They won’t have the luxury of deciding on Cedeno in December, as this time around they have to make a decision by some point next week.  This year, rather than testing the market and still having Cedeno in the system, they’d have to buy out Cedeno and risk losing him to free agency if they wanted to test the market.  That adds some risk, although Ciriaco lessens that risk a bit, assuming the Pirates can add an insurance option.

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