How to disguise a salary dump

Make no mistake about the Pirates intentions this winter – they are dumping salary to cover their fanny. And they have done a good job (the figures above include arb raise guesses for Phelps and Castillo had they been members of the club).

Looking at the above table, which is a quick guesstimate, we see the Pirates have shaved about $1.8M from 2007’s 25-man and can apply that to the remaining arb eligible players in Sanchez, Nady, LaRoche, Grabow, and Bautista.

Obviously, $1.8M won’t cover the five eligible so, chances are, we will see another dump. Marte’s $3M should just about do it, assuming they add another MLB minimum salary player on the roster for him. But it will cover Littlefield’s salary if he doesn’t work this year.

I doubt they stop there and have a funny feeling we are going to see Bay traded and, by the July trade deadline, also see Bixler brought up and Wilson dumped. Either that or Huntington will play the other Wilson until September.

Those two additional dumps will clear another $11M or so off the books if done in July.

My guess? Expect it if they perform.

Here is the projected 25-man as of today:

Fill in the blanks for players 22-25, with at least Josh Wilson being one of them.

After Huntington called Torres unfit (great culture stuff, huh?), he traded him for Kevin Roberts and Marino Salas from the Brewers. There’s a lot of ways to look at this deal.

First and foremost, Torres had become disconnected so moving him was the thing to do. That clears his bad air out of the bullpen and gives him potential fresh air with the Brewers.

Nobody knows about Torres’ health but Torres. He was shut down twice in 2007 on paper but as fans, we don’t know if he really needed to be shut down or if it was Littlefield trying to get rid of a pain in Pittsburgh. The same is true about his stats.. throw them away in 2007 – they mean nothing with the conflict he had. However, that is where his makeup questions begin, perhaps.

The Brewers stole Torres. He will do a fabulous job for them if his arm stays healthy. He’s a perfect fit for their park and he is one of the better road pitchers in the league. Again, they stole him IF his arm is healthy.

As for Salas and Roberts, we ended up with two fringe to marginal relief pitchers. Roberts probably has the better shot at making the club one day – years from now, I’d guess.

Readers have written suggesting Robert’s strikeouts per nine innings in 2007 indicates what he’s possible of. Perhaps, but I don’t think that’s a solid way to measure him.

For one, striking out advanced Class A batters with locatable heater and a 12-6 curveball isn’t exactly dominating.

For instance, out of the 173 pitchers in the Florida State League that tossed at least 30 innings (which I’ll call league average), 58 of them (34%) had a better ERA, 81 of them (48%) had a lower WHIP, and his K/9 was only .1 per nine better than league average.

That’s marginal – and that’s at Class A.

The year before in the Sally League, Robert’s ERA was 19% higher than the median of 236 pitchers who threw 30 or more innings, he was .2 K/9 better in K/9, but 54% of the league pitchers had a better WHIP. Todd Redman’s stats that year in the SAL makes Roberts look like a chump in comparison.

Robert’s background includes injuries in high school and college. What they were, I don’t know. But I do know that from 2003 to 2004 he was +44 innings off the mound, +71 from 2004 – 2005, in 2006 the Brewers finally shut him down to a relief role and his workload decreased ever since.

One person who will be happy about Roberts coming aboard is Brad Lincoln who played with Roberts at Houston where Roberts was a much better hitter than he was a pitcher, if you can believe that considering how well he pitched there.

One reader asked if the Pirates would put him back at second and see if his bat lights up again. I doubt that we’ll see that – his fielding was fringy at best.

As for Salas, arm problems in 2006 derailed him after he opened with three blown saves and he’s now on his third team since. Essentially, he finally made AAA as a 26 year old and then got rocked.

One scout’s view of Salas is that he is a 12th man type of reliever (up/down pen arm) with below average command and control. He has a trackable heater in the low 90’s with marginal cut-life, and below average curve and slider.

If Roberts is the catch in this deal, then there was no return other than his potential arm problems down the road, be my guess.

My overall take?

Pure salary dump and a D+ on the trade. But since Torres was known to talk about retirement, this gives both clubs a safe deal – the ever loving money hungry Pirates to dump salary with all the attention being on the "disgruntled" player, and the Brewers losing nothing if Torres does retire.

But, at least Huntington has something on his resume now.

We’ll see if Huntington and Stark’s "culture" change can find more life in these guys arms than Jack Zduriencik and his club’s staff was able to. But don’t count on it.

As for Torres, my bet is he shows up in Milwaukee and make Pirates fans envious that he was traded.

Very kewl stuff here. I hope they also put some green on their shelf too.

I had a few people asking me what the ten player package was the Indians were going to offer for Bay. It was a joke folks.

Others are asking about the Barrett rumor. If Huntington wants a culture change, I’m sure obtaining Barrett will blow a hole in that real quick.

A nice tribute to Jose Castillo was planned tonight but I’m going to leave it alone. I won’t even discuss the blow to potential future Latin American players in the Pirates system.

Instead, I’ll point those who care to my two-part series on Jose: A Hard Look at Jose Castillo I did last winter. I think that pretty well sums up the abuse the young man took before Tracy and his staff compounded it all.

Here’s hoping you catch the ride you want Jose.

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