The Pirates appear to be moving toward a decision for their 2012 starting shortstop

Why Do the Pirates Like Ramon Santiago Over Ronny Cedeno?

Yesterday, in discussions with a big Tigers fan, a solid rumor was shared with us that the Pittsburgh Pirates had a deal done with Ramon Santiago.  The deal was pending a couple things, but they thought it would be wrapped up quickly.  And they were sad about Detroit losing Santiago.

It puzzled us,  since we’re not that crazy about Santiago.  We thought, maybe – just maybe – we were missing something on this Santiago guy.

Well, about 24 hours have passed since that discussion.  So, why the delay?  Perhaps the Bucs are playing hardball because a rumor came out about the always penny pinching Pirates looking at re-working a deal for Ronny Cedeno.

Perhaps it was a ploy to get Team Santiago moving toward finding a pen to ink the deal.  Perhaps the Pirates are serious about bringing back  “Stay Thirsty” Cedeno.  Maybe Santiago got a better deal with middle infielders signing contracts at a brisk rate this year in free agency?

Who knows?

Ramon Santiago is 32 years old.   Ronny Cedeno has some time before he even reaches 30.  [Advantage 1-0 Cedeno]  We know that much.

According to our Usual Suspects photoshop the other day, 32 years is the magic number for failed Pittsburgh Pirates’ free agent signings.   Maybe the age sent some buyers remorse through Kyle Stark and the gang?  Maybe it was the two shoulder surgeries Santiago has had?

But other than Santiago’s age, we don’t know very much about the guy.   We do remember when he didn’t get a bunt down in October against the Yankees.   He then lashed an RBI single off CC Sabathia in a Tigers win that put the Yanks on the brink of elimination.

But that isn’t enough, so we dug a bit deeper for you.  In looking at some of the production with Detroit, it appears Santiago is used in sacrifice situations regularly.

In case you were imprisoned last season, you know that Clint Hurdle loves players that can bunt.  Ronny Cedeno sucked at bunting.  [Advantage tied 1-1]

When comparing the players directly, Santiago has the better numbers.  Last year Santiago:

  • struck out less than Cedeno
  • walked more than Cedeno
  • had more power* than Cedeno.  [Advantage 4-1 Santiago]

We hear only positive things about Santiago, who apparently did whatever manager Jim Leyland asked him to do.  Cedeno was far from a favorite of Hurdle’s.  The most dangerous player in Pirates black and gold also never lived up to the potential that Huntington saw in him.   [Advantage 5-1 Santiago]

Of course, there is another thing Hurdle likes in his players.  Yeah, you know what we are thinking, right?  This might be the ultimate advantage for the talented infielder from the Dominican Republic.

Santiago loves God.

Santiago loves playing defense.

Santiago has played in the majors since he was 22 years old.  He spent some time with the Mariners after being traded from the Tigers in 2003, but came back to Detroit in 2006 after being released by the M’s.  He has played 438 games at shortstop, 217 at second base and 14 at third base-including five games last year.

The Tigers veterans and young guys have much respect for the veteran in the clubhouse.   The Detroit Free Press ran a solid article in October on Santiago.


“He’s one of the most popular players on the team, to be honest with you — maybe the most popular,” Leyland said. “He’s a great guy. He just mixes in with everybody. He means a lot to us — switch-hitter, can hit from both sides; he makes plays at short or second. Those guys are hard to find. If he could run, he’d be a regular.”

We have no idea what Leyland means when he says, “if he could run,” but it has to scare the shit out of someone.  At least we hope it does.  His baserunning metrics show him to be a solid base runner.

If you check out Santiago’s BB-REF page, it states his batting skills are most similar to ten players.  The third most similar was…. Ronny Cedeno.  In the past two years, Santiago is a 3.9 WAR.  Cedeno checked in with a 2.6 WAR.

Santiago’s production last year was the worst since 2006 in two categories–hitting and OBP.   The power in his bat picked up a notch with a  .124 ISO as he started hitting more fly balls as his BABIP took a dip to .286.

He walked about six percent of the time and struck out at a 13% clip, compared to Cedeno’s 20% K rate.   Santiago also can run the bases well from the numbers we checked out, so we have no idea what Leyland meant by this… maybe you know something about this? Please leave it in the comments below if you do.

So, in conclusion, Santiago has played for a winning organization and has playoff experience.  He has a solid glove.  Not a solid bat, but he can bunt from either side of the plate, which has to make Hurdle erect.  He is 32.  He loves God.  And if there was an election for “most popular,” Santiago would probably win.

Shit, maybe he can run for President of the United States?

At his age, we aren’t convinced any of his numbers will improve, which has to tip the scales back toward Cedeno a bit.  Ronny has potential; Huntington gushed on our podcast about how well he hits in winter ball, but how he can’t make that approach stick in Pittsburgh.  Cedeno’s streakiness only heightens the frustration we have heard in discussions regarding the talented shortstop.

We have to think Clint Hurdle would rather have a player like Santiago, if the Pirates can land him within their strict budget from the Dollar General.  We aren’t convinced Santiago can be an everyday player, but that’s us.  Some players are perfect role players, Santiago seems to be that guy.

Of course, there is always the conspiracy theory that Santiago is a solid insurance policy.   A guy with more position flexibility than Cedeno.  Let’s stir the pot and say Santiago starts at shortstop and plays well defensively, but hits like shit.   Meanwhile, one the young prospects takes a step forward.

Could Santiago move to second and have Neil Walker slide to third should Pedro Alvarez flop?  That theory is beloved by a few people–we think it’s idiotic, but heh, just saying.

Could Santiago move to third?  He could, but if this happens, we are shutting down RumBunter.

Santiago could keep the position warm until one of the many questionable options at short is ready.  Players like Pedro Ciriaco, Chase d’Arnaud, and eventually the man with the most current upside–Jordy Mercer seem likely to be playing shortstop in Pittsburgh at some point in 2012.  Whether they earn the spot, or are thrust into it is the big question mark.

It’s something to consider and we think Santiago is viewed by the Pirates as the preferred option to Cedeno.  On paper, we think the Pirates must feel that Santiago’s advantages outweigh what Cedeno can bring moving forward.

All of it makes sense on paper.  Kinda.  So perhaps the Pirates will hit it right.  (Hold it back)  Maybe it won’t be a poor signing of a 32-year old offensively declining player by the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Heh – we heard that Clint Hurdle told some people that he fixed the pitching this year and is committed to fixing the Pirates’ offense in 2012.   (Hold it back)

If Hurdle is serious about the offense, Santiago isn’t going to improve dramatically with more playing time.  Cedeno should be one of his first projects.  There is no reason to think that Cedeno shouldn’t hit 15 homers a season.  None.

Anyway, who knows what the Bucs will do – but at least we have this comment from one of the guys we love to follow: JP Bucco, who said this on twitter:

“It won’t be the worst Santiago the Pirates have ever signed.”

Tags: Pittsburgh Pirates Ramon Santiago Ronny Cedeno

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