What are some external options in right field for the Pittsburgh Pirates?
By Tyler Waite
The Pittsburgh Pirates, yet again, have a hole in right field this season. Gregory Polanco was and still is supposed to be the future at right for the Pirates, but he hasn’t performed up to par this season or last. He has a career .234/.304/.340 slash line and has shown none of the power that fans have expected to see from him. Sure, he can steal bases and throw out runners from the outfield, but those are less important compared to his performance at the plate. The Pirates may think about upgrading the offense by pursuing an outfielder at the trade deadline. Whether they do end up pulling the trigger on an outfielder is anybody’s guess, but its something they need to consider doing.
So, if the Pirates exhaust all internal options and don’t find one that works (which may very well be the case), who are some external options the team can pursue come deadline time? Here are just a few names that could be options for the Pirates:
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Billy Bbeane runs an organization that can’t (and won’t) spend money. That’s just the truth. After blowing up the team’s far system for Jon Lester and Jeff Samardzija last summer (which didn’t work out too well), and after shipping off Josh Donaldson this offseason, Oakland had a long shot at being a contender in 2015. So far, that has been the case, as Oakland holds the second-worst record in the American League and currently sits eight games out of a playoff spot.
If Beane is willing to part with Donaldson, why wouldn’t he be willing to part with Josh Reddick? This season, Reddick is batting .287/.345/.464 with 10 home runs and 46 RBIs. He’s only struck out 27 times while walking 24 times, so he’d be an upgrade over Polanco in two of his worst categories: power and strikeouts. Reddick is also making only $4.1 million this season but would be due for a raise next year in arbitration.
However, the fact that he’s not eligible for free agency until 2017 could mean that he’d block Polanco for the next season-and-a-half. Then again, Huntington could flip Reddick in the offseason for potentially an equal or greater return than he would have given up to get him.
Beane didn’t get an incredible return for Donaldson. He knew that Donaldson would be getting a hefty raise in arbitration and that Oakland couldn’t afford to keep him without sacrificing the rest of the team. He could feel the same way about Reddick, so it’s at least worth Huntington looking into. According to a report from Ken Rosenthal in May, the A’s resisted trading Reddick all offseason, which may mean they plan to hang on to him.
The super-utility man himself could very well be on the move come deadline time. While Ben Zobrist‘s been rather average offensively, he’s still batted better than Polanco, slashing .256/.348/.449 with an OPS of .797. He’s only had 156 at-bats on the year, but he’s also only struck out 14 times compared to 23 walks and has five home runs and 29 RBIs. 100 more at-bats would put him at about how many Polanco has this season, and there’s no doubt he would add more home runs and RBIs in those at-bats.
Zobrist, like Reddick, adds power while limiting strikeouts. He’s making $7 million dollars this year and has a club option for 2016. He wouldn’t be as splashy or as effective an addition as Reddick, but he’d most likely come cheaper than Reddick and wouldn’t block Polanco in right in the future. And if Polanco seems to recover offensively, Zobrist can be moved all over the field. He’s played second base and outfield this season, but he’s played a lot of shortstop in the past as well, and would also be an upgrade over Jordy Mercer in that position.
The Cincinnati Reds are in a spot no baseball team wants to be in. They’re stuck with big contracts and can’t decide whether they should still try to compete or go for a complete rebuild. The Phillies infamously tried the former, giving extensions to Ryan Howard and Chase Utley while signing A.J. Burnett and Marlon Byrd. Now look where they are.
The Reds should use the Phillies as an example of what not to do and start selling now. They have a long shot to compete this season and won’t be able to compete in the coming years with the likes of the Cardinals, the Cubs, and the Pirates with the young talent each organization has without rebuilding. One candidate they should considering trading away is Jay Bruce.
What Bruce lacks in average he makes up for in power. He has 12 home runs and 38 RBIs this season, but has had three 30 home run seasons already in his career. And he’s only 28. He can change the game with one swing of the bat and even takes walks more often than Polanco does. Of course, he also strikes out a lot and may be just a peak version of Pedro Alvarez. But he’s proven in the past that he can be a 30 home run, 100 RBI man and can hit for average as well.
But the Pirates would need him produce this season. He’d be an upgrade over Polanco immediately, but it’s interesting to wonder what he’d cost in prospects. He’s making $12 million this season and is slated to make $12.5 million next season. He also has a club option for 2017. The Pirates would have to flip him over the offseason if they wanted to avoid blocking Polanco in right field in the future. Nonetheless, he’s an option worth exploring.
The Pittsburgh Pirates need an upgrade in right field if Gregory Polanco doesn’t begin to produce immediately. They have a chance to contend once again this season and should explore external options in right field to jolt start the team’s lack of offensive production.
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