With a possible trade of Starling Marte dominating the Pittsburgh Pirates' offseason, you have probably read your share of mock trades from a variety of outlets. The problem with many of these is that they do not have the benefit of the other side of the trade to provide a reality check.
The Texas Rangers are one of those teams believed to be interested in acquiring Marte. I am fortunate to be connected with Chris Halicke of Sports Illustrated's Rangers Maven. He approached me on Twitter to see if the two of us could work out a deal for Marte. So, I put my Ben Cherington hat on and he donned his Jon Daniels lid, and we started the negotiations. Here's how that went.
I initially thought this would be pretty simple. The Rangers' number two prospect is a stud catcher by the name of Sam Huff. I'd ask for him as well as a young, high-potential pitching prospect and we'd have this thing wrapped up in minutes. The problem with that is that the Rangers need Huff in Texas about as much as the Pirates need someone like him in Pittsburgh, and Chris was quick to remind me of that. I could have twisted him arm a little, but Huff would be a tough get for Cherington in an actual trade. So, I relented on that.
Chris threw out Cole Winn, a right-handed pitcher in single-A and the Rangers' number four prospect, as a consolation. On the surface, Winn's numbers in single-A are concerning. He posted a 4.46 ERA, a 1.427 WHIP, and struck out 65 batters in 68.2 innings while walking 39. There's not a lot to like there, but, if you consider Winn was a 19-year old playing single-A ball (about 3 years younger than the average pitcher at that level), it provides some context for those numbers. His plus fast ball and curve ball, along with a good slider and change up make for a solid arsenal of pitches. He needs to work on his control, but I like his potential to be a top-of-the-order arm.
While I warmed myself up to the idea of Winn as a centerpiece of this package, he isn't Huff. I let Chris know that, if Huff is off the table, the rest of the package is going to need to be stronger to compensate. His willingness to part with Bubba Thompson, an outfielder and the Rangers' number eight prospect, shows he understood. Thompson actually reminds me a little of Starling Marte. He has some ability to become a five-tool player, but will need to develop his power more to get close to that. His strengths are his speed and glove, but will also provide a solid bat that will improve as he goes. Thompson's 2019 was dismantled by injury, which likely decreased his value enough to allow him to be included in this deal.
I probably could have stopped there and felt pretty good about this trade, but it still felt incomplete. The Pirates have a depleted system in terms of pitching talent and I wanted to make sure that the trade of one of their best players did everything it could to help replenish that. I tried to nab another top-30 player, but Chris smacked my hand like a mother protecting the cookie jar. So, I had to dig deeper. I took a chance on a guy I am hoping will turn out to be a late bloomer in Kelvin Gonzalez. Gonzalez is a 22-year old RHP in who spent his 2019 in single-A. After three relatively disappointing years, Gonzalez dazzled out of the pen for the Hickory Crawdads this season. He posted a 1.99 ERA, a .949 WHIP, and struck out 58 batters in 45.1 innings. He's never started a game at the professional level, but that's fine. The Pirates' need bullpen arms just as they need starters, and if Gonzalez can replicate his 2019, he will be a good one.
That does it. Here's a summary of the trade.
- Rangers get: Starling Marte
- Pirates get: Cole Winn, Bubba Thompson, and Kelvin Gonzalez
Why I Lost
Every trade, no matter the league, is analyzed immediately after in order to ascribe a winner and a loser. So, Chris and I attempted to do that here. Here's what Chris had to say about acquiring Starling Marte:
Starling Marte is a quality, two-way outfielder who can hit the baseball very well. He profiles better as a corner outfielder, but he's more than capable of manning center field. His defensive numbers aren't nearly as impressive there, but speed and a strong arm are attractive qualities that will help solidify center field for the next two seasons.
I totally agree. I like Marte a lot more in one of the corner outfield spots (where he was a Gold Glover), but he can still hold down center. His bat is good enough that he doesn't have to play center field to provide value to the Rangers in this trade. So, the Rangers are getting a star(ling) for two years at a relatively cheap price. That's a win for them.
I also couldn't land the marquee prospect that every Pirates' fan would want in Sam Huff. This is where the Rangers just weren't the perfect match for the Pirates in that Huff isn't blocked by anyone at the major league level. So, it didn't make sense for them to deal him. So, that was disappointing.
I also don't love the fact that all the players I acquired in this deal are a few years away from the Show. If I trade Marte for prospects who are not immediately tangible for fans in Pittsburgh, I'm going to hear it.
Why I Won
I tried to strike a balance of quality and quantity with this deal. I didn't want to target four or five prospects who would all amount to replacement-level players, but I also didn't want to put all my eggs in one basket either. I think I did that with this trade.
Winn immediately adds another arm to the top-10 of the Pirates' prospect list, and Thompson could remind us all of the player used to acquire him in a couple years. Gonzalez allowed me to address a third position group in the deal in a rather big way. So, I like the haul.
I would have like to add a power hitter to match with the speed the Pirates have coming up in the system, but I think Thompson can add Marte-like power, but with better base-stealing ability.
Chris didn't love giving up Winn. The Rangers need pitching as well, but, if Huff and Winn were off the table, there's no way a deal could get done. So, I like that we were able to get a quality pitcher in Huff's stead. But, here's what he had to say about adding Bubba Thompson to the package:
Including Bubba Thompson wasn't easy either. I wanted to consider the future, especially since there is only two more years of control over Marte. Thompson will likely be ready to compete for a spot in the Major Leagues by the end of Marte's contract, but so will Leody Taveras.
I believe Taveras has a higher ceiling than Thompson. Taveras is a more natural center fielder and hopefully the Rangers have their corner outfielders already in Arlington with Joey Gallo and Willie Calhoun. Taveras is a better fit on the Major League roster and Thompson becomes expendable in order to help the Rangers compete in 2020 and 2021.
So, it was a glut of Rangers' outfielders that allowed us to get a little more value than perhaps we otherwise would have. I also like the fit of Thompson better than I do Taveras. So, that worked in our favor. Taveras feels more like a better version of Jared Oliva and Lolo Sanchez than the type of player we'd want to pair with guys like that. Thompson could fit that role.
That does it for the mock trade. I do think this exercise may have shed some light into a potential blocker for an actual trade between the Rangers and Pirates. Sam Huff may be a must have for Ben Cherington in a deal for Marte. If he isn't available (for obvious reasons), it could be a non-starter, but, as you can see, I still like the ability for the Pirates to come away with a good package of prospects if the Rangers end up being the suitor.
Follow Jared on Twitter: @a_piratelife
Follow Chris on Twitter: @chrishalicke