The Pittsburgh Pirates and Seattle Mariners are rumored to be in discussions that include Pirates first baseman/outfielder Garrett Jones heading west to Seattle. The move could also include Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan.
Hanrahan is an easy trade chip for the Pirates to shop around, and there’s a decent shot he doesn’t make it out of the Winter Meetings in a Pirate uniform. Jones hasn’t been discussed as much, and the Pirates are in an interesting situation with the slugger.
Jones has been a potential trade chip for years, and coming off his best season since his rookie year, has never had more trade value. On the other hand, he is a significant, albeit flawed, piece of a strong nucleus in the Pirates offense. He may not be able to hit lefties, but 27 home runs are hard to ignore, even if he has to be platooned.
The report linked above discusses Jones and Hanrahan in exchange for first baseman Justin Smoak, a former top prospect who has yet to perform anywhere near expectations, John Jaso, a catcher who would have been a perfect platoon partner with Michael McKenry, and Hector Noesi, a young right-handed pitcher who came over in the Jesus Montero deal last season and went 2-12 in 2012.
This deal is likely outdated, given that the Pirates signing of Russell Martin eliminates room for Jaso, but if it was once accurate, it shows the Pirates greatly undervaluing their assets.
The only part of the deal that is a good fit for the Pirates is Jaso, who would have been a perfect fit and a much cheaper option than Martin, and is just one more reason why that was a bad signing. Noesi is a middling young pitcher, but doesn’t offer much more potential than guys like Jeff Locke and Kyle McPherson, who are already in the Pirates system. Smoak is beginning to look like a bust, and the Pirates shouldn’t be in the market for a long-term first baseman anyway given that third baseman Pedro Alvarez should be moved there by 2014 anyway.
Moving Hanrahan, and even Jones, makes sense, although I’d argue that Jones has move value in Pittsburgh than for anyone else. Jones plays a significant role in the Pirates lineup, and any team trading for him, especially if they are a contending team, will view him as a bench/part-time player and won’t give up much for him.
If they choose to move the pair together, however, they need to get at least one significant piece in return, and this trade doesn’t appear to have that. Ultimately, if the Pirates choose to move both players, they’re probably better off trading them separately to maximize value.