Friday, December 2, 2011

Pirates Push for Lee

It has been over two months since the regular season ended and one month since the World Series finished. The Pittsburgh Pirates have spent the offseason trying to solve their problems in preparation for next season. Thus far they have filled their formerly empty positions at catcher and shortstop with Rod Barajas and Clint Barmes, respectively.

I previously speculated on an idea of how the Pirates could solve their positional woes with the money they were allotted earlier this month. My vision would have spent $8 million to acquire Kelly Shoppach and Nick Punto. I think Barajas was a fine addition as you should gather from my earlier praises, though acquiring Barmes was most surprising.

I do not intend "surprising" to come across as a bad thing; on the contrary, I am actually quite impressed. He may not have been the best in the entire group, however he was the best we could afford. He does not have incredible power or speed, but his defense is well renowned. What little power in his bat may disappear after leaving Coors Field and Minute Maid Park, nevertheless he should still be an upgrade over our former shortstop, Ronny Cedeno.

These two investments will cost the team $9 million in 2012. If Pirates Prospects' 40-Man Roster and Payroll is accurate, then they should have $37 million tied up on their current roster. Beginning the 2012 season with a payroll of $50 million or more should leave at least $13 million to procure a first baseman with power and a starting pitcher or two.

The Pirates acquired Derrek Lee from the Baltimore Orioles before the trading deadline and has expressed great interest in retaining him for next season and offered him arbitration, though we are not so sure the feeling is mutual. If Lee declines the arbitration offer, then I would expect the Pirates to abandon Lee, accept the first round compensation pick, and switch their focus to another player.

Many have been talking about Carlos Pena as an alternative to Lee, but there is also Michael Cuddyer. Among these three options for first base, all share near-identical fielding percentages though Cuddyer actually logged more playing time in right field than first. They all logged a positive UZR/150 this past season, though Lee was the only one to post a positive score over the past three seasons (2.9). Run prevention is nice, but I am certain Pirates fans would care more about run production and power.
First Base Targets over One Season
First Base Targets over Three Seasons
Their 2011 performances were extremely similar, but Lee was on the bottom with an OPS of .771, then Cuddyer at .805, and Pena on top with .819. Pena's score is spoiled by his poor batting average (.225), which was a depressing improvement over his previous season (.196). Lee shoots ahead when you look at their statistics over the last three seasons, but he is aging and is unlikely to improve very much from 2011. Each guy is a threat for 20+ home runs as long as they stay healthy.

Pena and Cuddyer both earned close to $10 million in 2011, while Lee earned $7.25 million. If Lee accepts arbitration or a new contract is conjured, then expect him to receive a raise over his 2011 salary. Pirates Prospects estimates it would be over $8.5 million. That said, it would probably take anywhere from $8.5 to $12 million to convince one of these guys to come to Pittsburgh, which has the potential to become the most expensive one year salary in franchise history over Matt Morris who earned over $10 million in 2008.

I will talk about their starting pitching options in my next article rather than only devote a paragraph or two.

Stay tuned.


  1. Hey! Take Cuddyer off the table. I want him back with the Twins to help offset their miserableness.

  2. Just as well. I've not actually read anything to link him with the Pirates since the July trading deadline.

    His offer from the Twins was mentioned on Twitter today. If you had to choose between Cuddyer & Kubel, then you'd prefer Cuddyer?