Yesterday I looked at the trade values for Alex Rios and Nate Schierholtz, a pair of right fielders who the Pittsburgh Pirates have been looking at recently. Right field is a hole in the offense, but it isn’t the only hole. The Pirates have also seen their struggles at first base. The platoon between Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez looked great at the start of the year, but Jones has struggled recently against right-handed pitchers, leading to some poor overall production from the position. So it makes sense that Jayson Stark reported the Pirates have been connected to Kendrys Morales.
@BobRider9 Our colleague @jaysonst reported that Kendrys Morales is a possibility for PIT.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 14, 2013
Apparently Stark said this on the air, so I didn’t hear the actual context. I’m not sure if “a possibility” means “Morales is available, thus he could be possible for any team” or if it means “the Pirates have been looking at Morales”. Stark does say that the Pirates would love a middle of the order bat.
Other teams say Pirates would love middle-of-order bat RT @Buster_ESPN: @BobRider9 @jaysonst reported Kendrys Morales is possibility for PIT
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) July 14, 2013
Again, I’m not sure that Stark’s comments mean the Pirates are looking at Morales. But he seems to be available and he’s connected to the Pirates, so let’s take a look at his trade value.
NOTE: The purpose here isn’t to suggest the Pirates are offering this amount for these players. The purpose is to see the value of these players, using projected values (calculated as [(WAR*$5 M) - Salary]) and prospect trade values. We use our updated values for top 100 prospects, and Victor Wang’s research on prospect values for non-top 100 prospects.
Kendrys Morales Trade Value
Finding the Value: Morales is making $5.25 M this year, and is a free agent after the season. He was a 3.0 WAR player in 2009, then missed half of 2010 and all of 2011 with a broken leg which he suffered after being mobbed by his teammates after a walkoff homer. Chalk that up to 3.0 WAR Player Problems. Last year he had a 1.7 WAR and this year he is at 1.2. I put him at a 3.0 WAR, although that might be a little high. It might be fair to say he’s closer to 2.0 or 2.5. The trade surplus value is from July 31st to the end of the year.
What He’s Worth: Even as a 3.0 WAR player, Morales wouldn’t be worth a lot since he’s just a rental. He would be worth less as a 2.0 or 2.5 WAR guy, but the price is low no matter what. At his current value, Morales would be worth two Grade C pitchers, with one of those guys being a young pitcher of 22 years or younger.
Analysis: Morales is hitting for a .280/.337/.463 line in 350 at-bats. He doesn’t really have any platoon splits, since he’s a switch hitter. He actually has done a better job this year of hitting left-handers. The Pirates were getting good production from the first base position earlier in the year, but Garrett Jones has been struggling, which is leading to a .242/.318/.412 line in 501 plate appearances at the position. Adding Morales would upgrade first base, and would potentially lead to two other upgrades.
The first upgrade would be that you could use Gaby Sanchez at third base to platoon with Pedro Alvarez against left-handers. Alvarez has been crushing right-handers this year, but is still struggling against lefties with a .657 OPS. By comparison, Sanchez has a .961 OPS against left-handers.
The other upgrade would be that you could either move Jones to right-field or the bench. In right-field he could potentially provide more power than Jose Tabata or Travis Snider, although there’s still the concern that he’s struggling against right-handers. Plus you’d still need to find someone to hit left-handers. If you move him to the bench you add a legit power bat off the bench. We talked about that in last week’s podcast, noting that the Pirates haven’t had a good power threat off the bench in recent years.
The price for Morales wouldn’t be as high as other players, since he’s only a two month rental. Unlike other rentals, Seattle probably wouldn’t have a shot at getting a compensation pick for Morales, so the Pirates wouldn’t be competing against a future first round pick if Seattle held him. With the state of the farm system, the Pirates wouldn’t miss the pitching prospects they’d have to give up for Morales, since it shouldn’t cost anyone in the top 15.