It’s been a while, but a lot of people have been clamoring for the Pirates to call up their #1 hitting prospect, Starling Marte after he has shown that he has fully adjusted to Triple-A pitching over the past couple of months.
The reigning Eastern League batting champion has recalled and will join the Pirates in Houston. He is hitting .286/.347/.500 with 12 home runs for Indianapolis. Outside of a sluggish May where he posted just a .656 OPS, he has been solid-to-great over the rest of the year. In April, his first month at the level, he had an .833 OPS. In June, he tore things up with a .944 OPS and he has kept it up with a .924 OPS in July.
Marte brings the combination of speed, hitting ability, and a little bit of pop to go along with an exceptional glove and arm. He’s truly a five-tool player.
I would have to imagine that Marte will take over the left field spot for good from this point on. The only thing I’ll add is that I’ve seen Marte play a couple of times live and in-person, and you should all be pretty excited. He’s a fun player to watch.
I didn’t even click on the link, but I thought to myself, “That would be pretty cool. Probably wouldn’t cost too much, and we should be able to get Houston to pay some of his salary.” As I said, I didn’t click on the link, so I wasn’t aware of just how close the Pirates were to completing a trade. But then immediately after, there was this:
Wait? What? Grossman AND Hanson for Rodriguez? I’m not feeling this. Luckily, this was a trade equivalent to an old lady yelling “BINGO” on partybingo.com when, in fact, they don’t have Bingo (which fortunately, can’t happen, since it’s a website, but you get the point).
First, let’s take a deeper look into Wandy Rodriguez. In his first four career seasons (’05-’08), he posted an ERA of 4.79. In his last four seasons (’09-’12), he has posted an ERA of 3.44. He is now 33 years old, but looking at just his fastball velocity over his last three seasons (89.6 mph in ’10, 89.1 in ’1, 89.1 in ’12), he doesn’t seem to be showing signs of losing it.
His contract has him signed through 2013 with an option for 2014 and Houston is sending over money to help the Pirates pay that contract. He has about $3.5 million left on his contract this year. The Pirates will pay $1.7 million of that. Next season, he is due $13 million, but the Pirates will pay $8.5 million. In 2014, which is now a player option because of the trade, he is due another $13 million, but the Pirates will have to pay just $7.5 million. The rest will be covered by the Astros.
He is not someone who will be an “ace” by any means, but he is a solid addition to an already solid rotation. He will most likely take Kevin Correia‘s spot in the rotation and I don’t think anyone could argue that isn’t an upgrade.
Another factor to consider with Rodriguez is moving from the very hitter friendly Minute Maid Park to the rather pitcher friendly PNC Park. Jon Anderson from McEffect looked at all 17 of the home runs given up by Rodriguez at home over the past two seasons. Of those 17 home runs, eight of them would not have been out at PNC.
Now for the players going to Houston.
I’m not going to lie, I’m going to miss Robbie Grossman. He is an on-base machine and has a decent shot of being a useful ML ballplayer. He seems to now be fully adjusted to Double-A and has played better baseball over the past month and a half than he has at any point in his career. However, in order to get something, you have to give up something. Grossman is the main piece in the Astros’ haul.
Rudy Owens also gets sent to Houston. Owens faltered in Triple-A last season during his first season at that level, but has bounced back nicely this season. He is looking like he could become a #4-#5 starter in the Majors and I would expect him to join Houston’s rotation soon. Starting pitching at the Triple-A and Major League level is somewhat of a strength at this point, so losing Owens doesn’t hurt too much.
Colton Cain is a wildcard here. He was drafted in the 8th round in 2009 and signed for $1.125 million in a well-above slot deal. It’s really too early in his development to say exactly what he will become as he could be as good as a #3 starter in the majors to someone who may never even make the majors. Time will tell, but currently, the Pirates have a ton of Colton Cain-types in the lower levels, thus making it a lot easier to cut ties with him.
In conclusion, I’m happy that the Pirates acquired Rodriguez as he will definitely help the team. I am also happy that Alen Hanson was not one of the players included in the deal. I am also happy that the Pirates did not have to give up any of their “impact” prospects in the trade. I think it is a good deal on both parts. The Pirates increased their chances of making the playoffs and helping their current ML team without sacrificing the future and the Astros got a couple of players who are good bets to contribute at the ML level. It’s a win-win.
Rodriguez, 33, is 7-9 with a 3.79 ERA with an 89:32 K:BB ratio over 130 2/3 innings this season. He has a 1.8 pitching WAR so far this season, which would rank him third on the Pirates staff behind James McDonald (2.2) and A.J. Burnett (1.9).
Robbie Grossman, 22, would probably be considered the main piece heading to Houston in this deal. So far this year he is hitting .262/.374/.403 with seven home runs for Double-A Altoona. Last season, Grossman was the first minor leaguer since Nick Swisher in 2004 to score 100 runs and draw 100 walks in a season.
Rudy Owens, 24, is in the midst of his second season at Triple-A Indianapolis. He is 8-5 with a 3.14 ERA and an 85:25 K:BB ratio over 117 1/3 innings. His prospect status took quite a hit last season when he posted a 5.05 ERA in his first year in Triple-A following back-to-back seasons as the organization’s Pitcher of the Year.
Colton Cain, 21, is one of the over-slot high school arms the Pirates have been famous for drafting recently. In 2009, he signed for a $1.125 million bonus as an 8th round pick. The left-hander is 3-5 with a 4.20 ERA and a 51:25 K:BB ratio over 75 innings at High-A Bradenton.
Rodriguez will join the team Thursday when Pittsburgh heads to Houston and is set to make his first start as a Pirate against his former team.
UPDATE 10:14 PM:
Per Rob Biertempfel, the cash involved in the deal means the Pirates will pay just $1.7 million to Rodriguez this season. In 2013, the Pirates will pay $8.5 million (of $13 mil). And if player option is exercised in 2014, the Pirates will pay $7.5 million (of $13 mil)
Pirates OF Jose Tabata “looks totally checked-out” in minors, Triple-A Indy broadcaster Will Flemming told TribLiveRadio today: “Not only has he not been not sharp offensively, but his effort on defense at times has been totally appalling. Tabata has cost the Indians games and runs with just a complete lack of effort, getting after baseballs and with throws.”
Since his demotion to Indianapolis, Tabata is hitting .282/.338/.338 in 71 at-bats. Obviously, it would be really, really nice if he could turn things around because he is still very young and can (and should) be a contributor at the ML level for years to come. Hopefully he gets over whatever he’s going through right now and starts playing like the Jose Tabata we saw in 2008-2010 after the Pirates acquired him.