ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted this morning that the Pirates are looking at Oakland A’s LF Josh Willingham as a possible trade target. We have been hearing a bunch of rumors of the Pirates looking for a veteran OF bat and Willingham now marks the first name we are hearing.
Willingham is in the midst of his worst season as a Major Leaguer and is set to become a free agent at the end of the year. His season line currently stands at .247/.322/.439 with 12 homers. That is a far cry from his career line of .263/.362/.471 as his OBP in particular is way down this year.
His defense in LF has been poor with a -16.3 UZR/150 so far this season. He did play in RF in 2009 where he posted a much better, but still poor -7.3 UZR/150. I would assume that is where he would play if he were on the Pirates, especially due to the vastness that is the left field of PNC Park.
There are a few ways to look at Willingham’s season. One is that he is not the hitter he was in the past. The other is to look at his numbers from this year and to look at his numbers throughout his career and imagine that he would have some progression in the 2nd half of the year due to law of averages.
My take on this is that with Jose Tabata coming back and with Alex Presley already in the organization and playing at a high level (so far), I would rather have Presley in RF instead of Willingham. Willingham will cost the Pirates over $2 million for the remainder of the season and is currently considered a Type B free agent, so the Pirates would get some sort of compensation in next year’s draft if they were to offer him arbitration at the end of the year. However, offering Willingham arbitration may be a bit dicey due to the fact he would get a raise over his current $6 million salary. So, most likely, he would just become a FA at the end of the year.
Now, I wouldn’t be upset with acquiring Willingham as he really wouldn’t cost much in the terms of prospects. However, if the Bucs are looking to add a bat, and are serious about it, I would like it to be someone who is an obvious and significant upgrade over what they currently have.