Jun 9, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers left fielder Scott Van Slyke watches his three-run home run hit off Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Tony Cingrani during the fifth inning at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Pirates Trade Possibilities: Another Van Slyke in Pittsburgh?

It’s always fun to play GM. No fans breathing down your neck every day; no opposing GM’s to try and swindle; no penny-pinching owner telling you what’s possible. It’s especially fun playing GM as the MLB trade deadline approaches and teams’ needs become more clear.

The Pittsburgh Pirates, who have dropped to 4 games out of a wildcard spot, need dependable starting pitching. Bad. Even before Francisco Liriano was hurt last night (he’ll probably be out for over a month), he was a problem for the Pirates this year. Liriano has always been erratic – Cy Young material one year, bouncing every other pitch in the dirt the next – and 2014 has been an off year; with a 1.452 WHIP, Liriano is on pace to go 3-15 with a 4.60 ERA. He’s still got the best swing-and-miss stuff on the Pirates, but Frankie’s biggest problem – the inability to locate his fastball deep in counts – has perhaps become Pittsburgh’s biggest problem this year.

The Los Angeles Dodgers, who are tied for the second wildcard spot, might need more power from the third-base position. Starter Justin Turner has just 3 HR and a .717 OPS this year. Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez are doing what they do – they’ll probably finish with just under 60 HR and 200 RBI combined – but to catch the Giants the Dodgers probably need to upgrade at the trade deadline, and of course they’re willing to spend whatever it takes to get more bats. With two shutdown starting pitchers in Grienke and Kershaw, the Dodgers just need to get into the playoffs and anything can happen.

A possible and maybe sensible – though unlikely – trade between the Dodgers and Pirates might be L.A. left-fielder Scott Van Slyke (son of former Pirate great Andy Van Slyke) and dependable veteran starter Dan Haren for Pittsburgh’s Pedro Alvarez and Starling Marte. Both Alvarez and Marte are loaded with raw talent, set to make a lot of money ($30 million guaranteed for Marte after a questionable long-term contract from the Pirates before this season; big arbitration money coming for Alvarez), and diversely disappointing for the Pirates.

If all Alvarez does is continue his career trend – finish with 30 HR and 100 RBI but strike out an astronomical number of times per season, causing his OPS to settle around .750 – he’ll make seven figures a year soon but arguably hurt the Pirates as much as he helps them. Alvarez goes on tears for a few games but often drowns his team for weeks, and so far he can’t hit lefties.

Perhaps a big-market team with far more protection in its lineup, like the Dodgers, can afford to pay Alvarez, bat him 6th or 7th, and let him hit monster homers a couple times a month. Again, Alvarez can carry a team with a week-long hot streak, but can a team as unwilling to spend big money on proven free-agents wait much longer to see if Alvarez can ever hit, say, .260 in a season? If he does, he’ll be in the MVP running for sure, but there’s no guarantee – except for Alvarez and his agent, Scott Boras, to make big money in arbitration because of those sexy power numbers.

Alvarez is coming on in June, with 12 hits in 31 AB, 5 walks and a home run. But Scott Van Slyke, who won’t be a free agent until 2020 and won’t qualify for arbitration until 2016, is an interesting option in left field for the Pirates. His OPS is 1.060 in 72 AB this year, and he’s got a power bat. L.A. has Puig, Ethier and Kemp – though they might want Van Slyke as an option if Kemp’s career remains on the downswing.

Haren is making $10 million this year and has a $10-million vesting option for 2015. But you know what you’re getting with him: a lot of innings and a ton of quality starts. With Marte, especially, the Pirates have a lot invested in someone with a ton of talent, but fundamentals – thus far in his career – that would earn a Little Leaguer a ton of laps. His career highs are 12 HR and 35 RBI; his career-high OPS is .784. Like Alvarez, he’ll strikeout 150-190 times per year but, once in a while, wow fans with plays that make believers shout “Look! He’s a great player.”

Great players are consistent. Great players don’t sit out against lefties. Great players don’t get benched for repeatedly getting picked off or striking out on pitches that bounce off the plate.

Still, cutting ties with Marte and Alvarez this early would be dangerous for the Pirates, who might watch them blossom in opposing uniforms (ahem, Jose Bautista and Brandon Moss, who went from nobodies with Pittsburgh to MVP candidates elsewhere). Josh Harrison is not proven as a starter. And Scott Van Slyke, whose 2014 homers are all off righties, who he’s crushing, could be as mystifying as Alvarez, though the savings could free up money to lure a big free-agent bat to Pittsburgh. But playing GM is always fun.

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Tags: Adrian Gonzalez Andy Van Slyke Baseball Ethier General Manager Josh Harrison Los Angeles Dodgers Matt Kemp MLB Pedro Alvarez Pittsburgh Pirates Scott Boras Scott Van Slyke Starling Marte Trades Yasiel Pug

  • averageshmoe

    Is this a joke?

  • Scott

    First, the Pirates will never spend big money on free agents, at least not under the current management group. Secondly you’re going to pay twice as much for Haren, a career .500 pitcher with an ERA around 4.00, than you will for Alvarez and Marte and that pitcher is a free agent after 2015-they wouldn’t ante up for Burnett so why would you think they’d be willing to do so for Haren? Alvarez may never hit .250-.260 but I’ll take his 30/100 and live with the average versus trading him and creating a huge void at 3B and lack of power in a lineup already devoid of it. Lastly there’s no comparison between Van Slyke and Marte; Van Slyke will never be more than a platoon player as his power is only off RHP whereas Marte offers more in speed and defense. Marte may be scuffling at the moment but I’ll take my chances he rights the ship and becomes a competent hitter that plays great defense and steals bases than whatever ceiling Van Slyke has and who has already been removed from the Dodgers 40 man roster once.

    • mattygabe

      Russell Martin wants to say hi.

    • Scott

      Granted Martin is making 9.5M a year but other than Yadier Molina I think he’s the best defensive catcher in MLB. When they brought him in they overpaid to get him here but all the pitchers love working with him and have confidence in him. Sanchez is obviously not the future or he would be here learning and Stewart would be stinking up some other roster. I also think his salary was current managements attempt to appease fans that said they wouldnt spend on FA’s. I personally hope they resign him until McGuire or catcher of the future is ready to take over.

    • mattygabe

      My only point was to disprove your first one, which was “[they] will never spend big money on free agents”, which has been disproved quite a bit in the past few years, the biggest of which being their overpayment for Martin.

      I agree though the trades put forth here are a bit silly. I understand the value Marte and Alvarez hold in terms of trade talks, but you’d certainly be selling low on both to buy high on an average arm like Haren. Yes, they need major league arms, but no, this franchise will *never* be able to afford to pay those kinds of prices for them.

    • rex lint

      Outside of Martin they are not spending money. Well they are but its very little. They ripped off both Cutch and Marte. And they tried to rip off Polanco before the season started and he told them to pound salt.

  • Wilbert Matthews

    I love van slyke. He would be a steal. Haren has too much Matt Morris similarities for me. I would trade alvarez for van slyke, put harrison at 3b and then trade marte in a deal for matt moore or samarddzja. Trade grilli and tabata for arroyo.

    • Scott

      Are you and ADAMPERRY eating the same bad ‘shrooms? Van Slyke can’t sniff Alvarez’s jock let alone try and fill it! Alvarez may never hit for average but he’s good for 30/100 every year while Van Slyke is no more than a platoon player against RHP at best and the Dodgers have already cut him once. Matt Moore will be coming off elbow surgery but does have a favorable contract through 2019 while Samardzija will be a free agent in 2 years and is no better than a .500 pitcher with an ERA around 4.00. Arroyo is is on the downside of his career (37 years old) and is complaining of elbow soreness. Alvarez and Marte have favorable contracts and worth more than the garbage you’re proposing to bring back, other than Moore, providing he can bounce back from elbow surgery.

    • LostSok

      Van Slyke is a rightie who hits lefties, not a “a platoon player against RHP.”

      Although, as a Dodger fan, I’d agree: no way he and Haren are worth Alvarez and Marte. Not even a little bit close.

  • Ron Loreski

    Wow the stupidity in this article has me laughing so hard I’m crying. I literally feel sorry for how dumb you are.

  • piratemike

    Everybody’s worried that there is nobody to play 3rd if Pedro is traded …….What’s the difference?

    • Scott

      Pedro is the only legitimate home run threat in the lineup other than McCutchen who is a different type of hitter. Occasionally Davis or Sanchez will run into one but they aren’t the same threat as Pedro. I don’t ever think Pedro will hit for a high average but .250-.260 should be attainable. Harrison is a viable option short term but if you make him the starter then you weaken an already short bench; watching Barmes start at 3B the other day just added another empty bat to the lineup. Just my 2 cents.

    • rex lint

      Pedro will be gone in 2 years

  • https://www.facebook.com/clementewall21 N_Cap

    I forgot the dodgers need another outfielder

  • rex lint

    Are you high as a kite ? Marte and Pedro are way better than Harden and Van Slyke. Both have way more up side and Marte has a very team friendly deal. If they can’t afford the deal than they need to sell the team right now. Yes they will lose Pedro since he will command a $100 million contract. But they can get back better talent that Harden and Van Slyke.