Why the Pirates Should Not Go After Alexei Ramirez

By Jason Shetler

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As the Pirates continue to search for trade candidates, one name that has been brought up recently is White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez. The native of Cuba, is one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball right now. However, his offense has taken a real dip since his rookie season in 2008. Here’s Ramirez’ home run total and OPS since his rookie year.

2008: 21 HR/.792 OPS in 480 at-bats

2009: 15 HR/.723 OPS in 542 at-bats

2010: 18 HR/.744 OPS in 585 at-bats

2011: 15 HR/.727 OPS in 614 at-bats

2012: 9 HR/.651 OPS in 593 at-bats

2013: 1 HR/.681 OPS in 375 at-bats

The fact that Ramirez only has one home run this season is alarming, not just because he’s played all season long, but because he also plays his home games at hitter friendly U.S. Cellular Field. And, PNC Park as we know, is not friendly to right-handed hitters. His OPS this year and last year are a far cry from where it was in 2008. Part of that obviously is the decline in power, but most of it is because of a mediocre on-base percentage. The issue for getting Ramirez wouldn’t be about trading which prospects, but the remaining money on his contract. Ramirez is due to make $9.5M next season and $10M for 2015, which is certainly a ton of money for someone who’s production has steadily gone down. Although Jordy Mercer has struggled since becoming the Pirates regular shortstop, he hasn’t even made 200 at-bats this season, so I think it’s still early to write off Mercer. Not only that, but with Mercer being 26, he has room to improve, while Rios, who is currently 31, is starting to decline with his production. I just think acquiring someone like Alexei Ramirez would be more name recognition than performance.

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Bucco Nation Poll Question

By Jason Shetler

Should the Pirates Pursue Matt Garza?

By Jason Shetler

Matt-Garza

It was reported yesterday that the Pirates are now “strong suitors” for Cubs pitcher Matt Garza. The Pirates have considered the rotation an area that they could make even stronger, and adding Garza would certainly do just that. Garza is arguably the most attractive trade candidate for this year’s trade deadline, and one of the better starting pitchers when healthy. So while it makes sense for the Pirates to at least have interest in Garza, should the Pirates make a deal for him? Here’s my take.

Although Garza is making a little over $10M this season, money wouldn’t be an issue for the Pirates. However, he does become a free agent after the season, which would be a problem. With Garza pitching well to this point, his trade stock is going to be very high. Therefore, the Pirates would probably have to surrender at least a top prospect, if not a couple. So would they be willing to give up that much just to have someone as a rental? Personally, I wouldn’t. I don’t like the idea of trading away top prospects for a rental player, and especially if those prospects are dealt to a team within the division. I’m sure some people have made the point about trying to sign Garza to an extension once he gets acquired. The problem with that however, is that’s never a guarantee. Players today would rather test the free agent waters, and Matt Garza is no exception. I know it’s stating the obvious, but small market teams like the Pirates just aren’t going to compete in free agency for the top tier names. When it comes to free agency, it takes one team to make an outrageous offer that’ll put other teams completely out of the running for that player. One thing that fans also have to realize, is that while it would be nice to acquire Matt Garza, the rotation isn’t really the biggest need for improvement. I’m not ruling out the Pirates making an attempt to acquire him, but it’s a trade that I would think twice about.

Revisiting the Aramis Ramirez Trade: Ten Years Later

By Jason Shetler

Aramis-Ramirez

In 1994, the Pirates signed Aramis Ramirez out of the Dominican Republic. As he was making his way through the system, Ramirez was considered the Pirates best Latin American prospect in a long time. He made his debut with the Pirates in May of 1998 as a 19-year-old. In 2001, Ramirez really broke out, as he hit an even .300 with an .855 OPS, 34 home runs and 112 RBI in 158 games. Prior to 2002, the Pirates signed Ramirez to a three-year extension. He had a down year that season, as he batted just .234 along with a .666 OPS, 18 homers and 71 RBI in 142 games, while being hampered with a pair of ankle injuries. He rebounded nicely in the first half of 2003, hitting .277 with a .769 OPS, but things changed completely and unexpectedly. The Pirates in 2003 were once again out of contention, and Kevin McClatchy was looking to unload some salary. The favorite to be dealt away seemed to be Kris Benson, but Benson suffered a shoulder injury a week before the trade deadline. On July 23rd, Dave Littlefield made a shocking deal to say the least, by trading Aramis Ramirez and Kenny Lofton to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for veteran infielder Jose Hernandez, pitcher Matt Bruback and a player to be named later, which ended up being infielder Bobby Hill. Ramirez played nine seasons for the Cubs, and not surprisingly, was very solid. He compiled a .294 average with an .887 OPS, hitting 239 home runs with 806 RBI, and was a two-time All-Star. The Pirates end of the deal could have not been more pathetic, as Jose Hernandez, who was the National League strikeout leader in 2001 and 2002, played the rest of 2003 with the Bucs, where he batted .223 with a .608 OPS. Hernandez was released that offseason and signed with the Dodgers. Bobby Hill had just 329 at-bats during his time with the Pirates, as he hit .267 and posted a .676 OPS. Matt Bruback never even pitched for the big league club. As a matter of fact, he was released by the Pirates a month later, after making just four starts for their former AAA affiliate Nashville.

He’s easy for Pirates fans to look at the Aramis Ramirez deal as the worst in franchise history, but I think you could say it’s arguably one of the Top 10 worst trades of all-time.

Right Field Trade Candidates for the Pirates

By Jason Shetler

With the trade deadline now three weeks away, the Pirates will look to see what improvements need to be made. Last week, I did a post about Bud Norris being a trade candidate for the Pirates to look at, if they decide to add a starter to the rotation. One other possible need for the Pirates would be in right field. The Pirates began the year having Travis Snider and Jose Tabata share the right field job. It seemed to be going well, until Tabata landed on the disabled list. At that point, Snider got more  playing time and just struggled, even against righties. It got so bad for Snider, that even Brandon Inge got to see some time out there. Since Tabata’s return from the DL, he’s played right field majority of the time and has done decent so far. There are most however who think that Tabata still may not be the answer in right, just because of his reputation to underachieve. Here are some right field candidates that the Pirates could consider come the trade deadline.

Alex Rios: It’s not too often that the Chicago White Sox are a seller, but that’s the case this year, as one of the names they could shop is Alex Rios. The 32-year old Rios is having another good season, with a .277/.330/.442 line, along with a 104 OPS+. He also can still swipe bases, as he currently has 19. Defensively this season, his fielding percentage is above league average. Rios is due to make $12.5M next year, and has a $13.5M club option for 2015.

Michael Cuddyer: Cuddyer could certainly be expendable, if the Colorado Rockies fall out of contention within the next few weeks. This year’s Home Run Derby participant is second in the National League in hitting with a .337 average. He’s also having a career year in terms of OPS (.975) and OPS+ (149). He has however continued to be a below average fielder in right. Cuddyer is set to make $10.5M next season before becoming a free agent.

Michael Morse: Morse’s name has been mentioned to a certain degree. This season, he’s batting .251 along with a .767 OPS and a 117 OPS+. Morse is recovering from a quadriceps injury that he suffered on June 21st. Despite the pretty good offensive numbers, he is currently a replacement level player, thanks in large part to a – 1.6 defensive WAR. Morse this year is making $6.75M, and becomes a free agent after the season.

Norichika Aoki: With the Milwaukee Brewers in seller mode this season, one name that should be mentioned is Norichika Aoki. The 31-year-old native of Japan is hitting .298, and has an OPS+ of 103. He also shows the ability to draw walks, with a .366 on-base percentage. His .994 fielding percentage is well above the league average for NL right fielders (.985). Aoki has a very friendly contract, as he’s making $1.25M this season. He’ll have a $1.5M club option for next season, and doesn’t become arbitration eligible until 2015.

Nate Schierholtz: Out of all the right field candidates, Chicago Cubs right fielder Nate Schierholtz seems to be mentioned the most. The 29-year old Schierholtz is currently batting .275 with an .840 OPS and a 125 OPS+. In terms of fielding percentage in right field, he’s been above average for his career, but this season he’s been slightly below average. Schierholtz this year is making $2.25M, and will be arbitration eligible for a third time next season.

Is Bud Norris the Best Pitching Option for the Pirates?

By Jason Shetler

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The Pirates enter the month of July as contenders for a third straight year. Last season, they looked to strengthen their rotation, and acquired Wandy Rodriguez from the Houston Astros a week before the trade deadline. The Pirates may look to add a pitcher at this year’s deadline, and it could be another Houston Astro, as some view Bud Norris as a potential target for the Bucs. Here’s why I think Norris would be a very good fit for the Pirates.

Norris so far is having a career year in terms of ERA at 3.35. Although his FIP is 3.53, it’s still a good number regardless. The strikeouts have been down this season for Norris, as he’s posted a 6.3 K/9, compared to an 8.8 K/9 in 2012. However, his walk rate has improved from 9% last year down to 7.4% this year, so clearly he’s pitching to contact more. Norris is in the prime of his career at age 28. Neal Huntington likes to acquire players who have team control beyond one year, and Norris is no exception, as he doesn’t become a free agent until 2016. When the Pirates acquired Wandy last season, they gave up three prospects to get him. A similar deal like that could be made for Norris as well. A Pirates deal for Bud Norris would seem to make a lot of sense, but it’s really just a question if they want to go after a pitcher at the trade deadline or not.