Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Trade Target - Josh Willingham

Today against the Mets and LHP Jon Niese, the Pirates started the following four players on the corners -- the traditional power positions:
1B Casey McGehee (.186, 0 HR, slumping horribly in May)
3B Yamaico Navarro (.182, 1 HR, starting in place of LH Alvarez)
LF Gorkys Hernandez (first ML start, 0 HR, in place of Tabata)
RF Josh Harrison (.274, 1 HR, hitting well of late but not a power threat)

Between these 4 players, they might hit 15 HR this year.  Might.  That's spread over 4 positions.

It's no secret that the Pirates' offense is atrocious this year.  It's only due to the mostly exceptional pitching that the Pirates are even at 20-24, after today's loss. 

Neal Huntington knows this.  I've met Huntington numerous times and spoken to him plenty of times.  He's astute about the game of baseball.  He's not an overmatched dolt as his detractors portray him.  This is not Nero fiddling while Rome burns.

I believe him when he says that very few trades happen this time of year.  They really don't, mostly because the new smell of the clubhouse has barely worn off.  It's not even Memorial Day.  The extra wild card in each league will stunt the trade deadline, as teams will want to hang in and make a run, instead of selling off as they may have done in the past.

All that said, there are some teams that absolutely should be looking to sell right now, as their seasons are already over.  One of those teams are the Minnesota Twins.  Coming into today's action, the Twins stand at 15-27.  They have demoted Francisco Liriano to the bullpen, lost Scott Baker for the season to an arm injury, released Jason Marquis, and have 4 (4!) starting pitchers with ERA's over 8.30.  The Twins look like they are in need of a tear down and rebuild around the now-albatross contract of Joe Mauer ($23M/yr forever).  They need a combination of ML-ready talent and upside talent in their bland minor league system, Miguel Sano not-withstanding.

The only hitter they have playing above the board right now is Josh Willingham, who they signed in the past offseason to a 3 year, $21M deal.  Willingham is a LF/1B (in spacious PNC Park, he would play RF) who is 33 years old and has a triple slash right now of .289/.404/.578 (982 OPS, 172 OPS+) with 8 HR and 21 walks.  I'm including his walks because those are a rarity for any Pirate this year and he would be leading the team by 8 walks.

Willingham would not only be a legitimate RH power bat, but he would add a professional hitter to a lineup that is lacking them, outside of McCutchen (who is prone to getting homer-happy at times).  Willingham's age shouldn't be a concern.  He's obviously doing well, in a tough hitters park in Minnesota, at age 33.  The Pirates would get him for his age 33-35 seasons and, hopefully, avoid a significant decline in his skills.

What would it take to get him?  Using the trade values developed by Victor Wang (which I will be looking to update later this summer) and assuming $5M/WAR, let's take a look:
Willingham has been a fairly consistent 3 WAR player in his career.  We'll give him a pro-rated 60% of that for 2012 (assuming he would be traded in the next 2 weeks), a full 3 for 2013, and then a slight decrease to 2.5 WAR in 2014.  That will give a total of 7.3 WAR as a Pirate.  That would have a value of $36.5M.  Subtracting his remaining salary of $18.2M, again pro-rating 60% this year, gives a surplus of $18.3M.

Looking at the chart, that would be a league-wide Top 10 pitching prospect and a grade C pitcher younger than 22.  Or a league-wide Top 51-75 hitter and a grade B hitter.  Or some combination of lesser players, too.  For perspective, the Pirates Top 10 pitchers are Cole and Taillon and their Marte is a 51-75 ranked hitter.  I wouldn't trade any of those guys, but I would construct a package of multiple players.

Robbie Grossman was rated a Grade B hitter ($5.5M).  Luis Heredia is a grade B pitcher ($7.3M).  That's $12.8M of value.  Add in some ML-ready pitchers like Rudy Owens (a high floor, pitchability type that the Twins love) and Justin Wilson or Bryan Morris (combined $3.0M value) and now you're in the neighborhood.

Giving up Heredia would hurt, as would the others to certain extents, but the Pirates need help NOW.  Farm systems are there to provide cost-controlled talent to the ML team, but also to use in trades to get ML talent.


  1. There is no flipping way I would endorse dealing off Heredia for Willingham. No. Flipping. Way. He should not be required to land an aging, merely decent hitter anyway.

    I understand he may never amount to anything....but he COULD develop into an ace. And he's what? 17? Yeah. He's staying.

    Look, I'm okay with Willingham. He's made a decent enough career for himself....but he is what he is at this point: Aging and injury prone. The age doesn't bother me as much as the brittleness does. About the time they'd consummate the trade he'd blow a delt tying his shoes or something. He's been good for missing 30-40 games per season lately, and that worries me.

    That said, clearly, they have got to do something about trying to acquire hitters in the next couple months. Willingham wouldn't be a terrible target at all, especially given that I think he could be used at first too(if memory serves he's played there before)....but they can't move a top arm like Heredia. Not for Willingham. Grossman? Fine. Any of the "Altoona Four"? Done. If they go after a Willingham type(and I assume that's what they'd have to target, but haven't looked around the league to see who else may look gettable) then anyone not named Cole, Taillon, Heredia or Marte should probably be on the table. Perhaps add Josh Bell to that list too, but he's hurt anyway, IIRC.

    Oh, and as an aside....I know it is totally juvenille, but every time I see anyone with the name "Wang" I do to things. 1. Think of Sean Connery saying "Scho, tell me Wang..." to B.D. Wong in the movie "Family Business", and 2. Laugh, because it can also mean "penis."

  2. Hey, it was tough for me to type Heredia's name, too. But you have to give something to get something. Willingham has been a consistent 3.0 WAR player in his career (his shaky d has held him back) so the trade surplus figure seems accurate.

    Agree that Cole and Taillon are absolutely untouchable. Marte should be on a very high shelf, but if you have to use a chair to get there, then maybe.

    You can't give just a pu-pu platter of Owens, Morris, and Wilson and think they'll be psyched.

  3. I wouldn't expect them to....but I wouldn't be that psyched about Willingham, so we'd be even. "You have to give to get", but in terms of Josh that's more "giving to give" and not getting as much as I'm giving, at that, if it cost Heredia.

    Lincoln, Owens, Morris, Wilson, Gorkys, Hague, et al. Those types. Pick two. No likey? Then keep your 33-year-old walking hamstring pull.

    If they move Heredia it needs to be for a >Arb1 type hitter....which I wouldn't really expect a team to give up for an unproven 17-year-old.

    That all said, giving up not only Heredia's potential, but his years of control, is not worth the Josh Willinghams of the league. Not unless he were the last piece to push them into the playoffs. He isn't.

  4. I guess it's just personal philosophy. Obviously, I'm real into prospects, but the truth is that more prospects (way more) fail than succeed. Some just suck, some don't make it because of injury, and some "aces" become back end starters or relievers.

    Heredia is a specimen. A 6'7" Mexican is scary. But he is still raw as hell. If all goes right, he'll make the majors in 4 years. Five is more likely.

    The 2012 Pirates need help now. I can't believe I'm advocating a poor defensive, injury risk like Willingham, but the truth is that he is a significant upgrade over our current 1B and/or corner OF position now.

    This team can't regress from 72 wins of last year. They need to either crest over 81 wins or come darn close to it this year.

  5. Maybe, but Willingham isn't the guy that's going to get them there. Not by himself.

    If they want to go after a Twin, go after Morneau. His contract is big, so all it'd probably cost is a fringe prospect or two and eating a bunch of his cash. They can afford that, and he's started to look like shades of the old Morneau of late.

    Rumor has it that the Padres are ready to start unloading soon too. Carlos Quentin maybe? No idea if he'd come at a lesser cost than Willingham or not, but given his injury history(which is extensive) it probably should.

    In all honesty, they probably will need at least two bats to make a legit push at .500/the 2nd WC, but they'd need to also not really have the current major league production of the pitching staff change. Not sure they can get one thing without sacrificing the other.

    The way Bedard's getting shelled tonight maybe they should entertain moving him before he gets his annual shoulder injury. :) (And yes, I'm kidding. I like Bedard a good bit.)