Welcome to Rum Bunter’s 12 Days of Trademas! On each day between now and the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline, we will profile a player or two who may be a potential trade target for the Pittsburgh Pirates. We will highlight both the cases for and against that player in order to give you the full scope of what acquiring that player might entail.
On this the eighth day of our Pittsburgh Pirates 12 Days of Trademas, we break down a recent rumor that picked up steam on Sunday night. Rob Biertempfel, Pirates’ beat writer for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, sent out this tweet.
A second tweet Biertempfel later sent out sums up the feelings of many Pirates’ fans when they heard the news.
Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino would fill two needs that the Pirates have that may not cost a lot: a right-handed first baseman to platoon with Pedro Alvarez and a right-handed outfielder to platoon with Gregory Polanco. Adding these two players would also upgrade the bench. And by adding platoon players instead of full-time options, the Pirates would be banking on Pedro not being a liability and on Polanco staying hot. At least, this is what these moves would do in theory. Let’s take a quick look at the career numbers for these two
While both Napoli and Victorino were good to great players in the past, both have played barely above replacement level this season. But the Red Sox sit nine games out of a playoff spot heading into their Sunday night game, and they are going to be selling at the deadline. They will probably be trying to move Napoli and Victorino to any team that would take them off of their hands. But if they came at a low cost, would they be worth it? Let’s break down the cases for and against adding these two players.
The case for Mike Napoli and/or Shane Victorino
If Neal Huntington is looking to just tweak rather than overhaul or make a splash at the deadline, adding these two players would make sense. By losing Corey Hart to injury this year, the Pirates are lacking a right-handed first baseman on the team. Sean Rodriguez has been that option at times, but his .204/.230/.306 line is unacceptable for a starting option. And while Mike Napoli’s line of .228/.351/.468 against lefties this year isn’t phenomenal, it’s better than Pedro’s .194/.242/.226 line. And though his numbers aren’t great this season, Napoli has also been a historically good hitter against lefties, holding a career .274/.386/.517 line against them. He does have six errors this year but is considered to be better defensively than Pedro as well. Thus, he’d be at worst a decent upgrade over Pedro and Rodriguez.
Victorino would also be a good platoon partner, but for Polanco. Against lefties, Victorino is batting .343/.439/.457 this season, and has a .304/.373/.502 career line against them. This would be a great upgrade over Polanco’s .167/.237/.185 line against lefties this season. Adding these two would also upgrade the bench, potentially replacing guys like Travis Ishikawa and Jaff Decker.
Both players are also free agents after this season, so Polanco and potentially Josh Bell wouldn’t be blocked in their development next season.
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The case against Mike Napoli and/or Shane Victorino
Napoli and Victorino are past their primes to say the least. Napoli is 33 and Victorino is 34, and neither is having a great season. Combined, the two have been worth 1.1 wins above replacement this season. Neither has an average over .250, and Napoli in particular strikes out a lot. Napoli also isn’t having a good season against lefties, but virtually any first baseman would be an upgrade over Pedro in that area. Unfortunately for the Pirates, Ishikawa is left-handed and Rodriguez’s line of .186/.226/.356 against lefties doesn’t inspire hope.
Outside of Napoli being a minor upgrade at best, and Victorino having an average season, both players make far too much money to warrant their meager production. Victorino is making $13 million this season and Napoli is making $16 million, according to Spotrac. Why would the Pirates want to pick up those contracts for average to below average players?
Let’s all hope that the interest the Pittsburgh Pirates are displaying in Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino is lukewarm at best. I wouldn’t mind pursuing either of them if they weren’t making so much money this season. While they probably wouldn’t cost any good prospects, taking on their salaries handicaps the team with any other moves they might want to make. Then again, the Red Sox could pick up some salary, as they do have one of the highest payrolls in all of baseball, so they’re willing to spend money. Unfortunately for the Pirates, the first base market is pretty weak right now. That being said, the team should explore all other options before even considering these two.
What do you think? Let us know on twitter! You can tweet us here @rumbunter or use the #12DaysOfTrademas hashtag! You can also air your grievances in the comments section below or on our facebook page. Make sure to stay tuned tomorrow for the ninth day of Trademas!