Mariners/Pirates deal; No Clement? Aw shucks..

The Pirates and Mariners have been talking for quite some time it seems as we heard Pittsburgh Pirates GM Neal Huntington passed on a Jones-Morrow-Sherrill deal for Snell in December.

A few of my scouting buds are questioning whether a Pirates/M’s deal can get done on several fronts. For instance:

— does Brandon Morrow project long-term as a starter or a closer? Think Daniel Moskos. Some scouts are suggesting he might end up being a better fit closing. He can bring the heat but he had problems repeating his delivery late last year. Perhaps it was fatigue.. perhaps not. Also, he just can’t get a feel for most of his secondary pitches yet.. command might be his downfall.

— can any MLB team afford to keep Jeff Clement’s poor defense behind the dish? Yes, he can rake, but where does his glove play? Some scouts think first base which means the Pirates would end up with a 20/HR .275 MLB average defender on the corner. Do the Pirates already have that potential with Ryan Doumit, Steve Pearce, or even Neil Walker?

— you would think Adam Jones has to be in any package Huntington gets from the Mariners. He could be a league average or better shortstop which the Pirates need. With his speed and power potential, Pirate fans could drool thinking about OBP with Jones, McCutchen, and Walker sometime in 2009. But wait, few know this cat can throw 97 mph heaters off the mound too. Is pitching in his career down the road?

— Carlos who? Carlos Triunfel. Several scouts have told me Huntington would be nuts to not include this soon to be 18 year old in any deal. The Mariners have already told other teams he’s about as untouchable as anyone can be. Why all the rage? He’s being compared to A-Rod.

He hit .304/.320/.413 over 50 at bats in low-A, broke his thumb, rehabbed, then was sent to the California League where he raked .288/.333/.356 in 208 at bats while striking out a measly 15%. That was at 17, mind you.. in High-A. My-oh-my.

But 38 errors in 95 games at short is a bit of a shock. He needs to be slowed down and not pushed but he certainly has some scouts thinking his upside is off the charts. The problem for the Pirates is, Triunfel is at least 4 years off.. perhaps more. Can they eat the fan PR hit taking such a youngster?

— Wladimir Balentien put up some impressive first-half numbers at Tacoma then fell off the map toward the end of the year. He projects out as an average to plus defender on one of the outfield corners and certainly has plus power, but he might have a better chance of lending his name to a company that makes fans than staying on a club’s 25-man roster over time. Think about a Brad Eldred whiff-machine with a better glove and better foot speed.

We know what we have in Ian Snell – he’s a fastball/slider guy who is going to miss bats and keep us in the game over 80 pitches, despite having crud defenders behind him.

We also know Jason Bay will put the ball over the wall 25 times every year no matter if he hits .245 or .295. Bay is a complimentary piece with a poor arm, average to better than average foot speed for his size, and he does an ok job covering the ball in his zone. Out of his zone, forget it.

Snell is young, healthy, cheap, and a competitor. Bay has been declining the last 1.5 years (insert health excuses here?) but it stands to reason as he approaches his contract year he’s going to focus a bit more and put it back together.

Now dealing Snell is easy to do. He rates two "plus" 0-3 prospects or three above average 0-3 prospects. Bay rates at least one "plus" prospect or two above average prospects if a team takes him at face value, which may not be possible right now.

If the Mariners went to the checkout line with Bay and Snell in their cart, Huntington would have to ask for three A- to A prospects, but the Mariners only have one – Jones. They will argue Clement or Morrow deserve to be rated A-, but I doubt Coonley would allow Huntington to place them there.

So if Jones is partial payment, that leaves the Mariners still owing three above average prospects (B to B+), and they have to be players that fit the Pirates needs.

If the Pirates pro scouts think Morrow can continue to develop and fine tune pitches other a splitter and fastball, plus repeat his delivery and gain better command, he would be one of the three, I’m guessing. He could immediately fill our need for a right-hand reliever in the pen while the Pirates start stretching him out later in the year.

That leaves two players to pull from their wallet and this is where it starts getting risky.

Can Russell and the Pirates add mileage to Clement behind the dish? If they work only on his footwork, that might get him a couple more years behind the plate. His bat makes Paulino’s look like a joke, but don’t forget our pitching is young and we’ve already seen what a poor receiver does to them in Doumit – they lose, and they lose often. So do we spin Clement off? Use him at 1B? Or not accept him as payment?

Carlos Triunfel looks like the real deal, smells like the real deal, and walks like the real deal, but is he the real deal? And what’s his makeup like because there are some questions floating around about him. And can the Pirates even afford to take on a high-A player even if he is a potential impact guy?

That’s why this deal hasn’t gotten done.. there are too many question marks.. too many risks for the Pirates.

Look for the Mainers to continue their push for Snell but drop out of the Bay race. Jones, Morrow, and Clement or Triunfel, or even (maybe?) Jones, Morrow, and Tony Butler just might get this done from the Pirates perspective. From the Mariners perspective, they won’t talk past Jones and Morrow plus some unwanted stuff.

And that’s where we stand today. Like Littlefield last year with Gonzalez, Huntington has to stand his ground on Snell. He has at least three teams in on him so to deal him short to the Mariners just because they are barking loud right now doesn’t make sense.

And Bay? I still think he has Cleveland written all over him, although the Padres might have something to say about that.

Matt Clement signed with the Cardinals. Yeah, oh boy.. he’ll be the 2008 version of 2007’s Kip Wells to them. Sink Cards, sink.

Tim Murray, forever the hilarious Pirates fan.

Marte and Morris say no thanks to the Pirates mini-camp. Geez.. who can blame them?

Pittsburgh Pirates Media Director Jim Trdinich has an Internship opportunity available if your looking for some college credit.

I’d give my twentieth born for that job just to be able to review the club’s history up close and personal. What a great opportunity. Unfortunately, I think I fit the Senior Programmer/Analyst position better with my MCDBA certification, coding background, and knowledge of sabermetrics.

Oh well.. sorry Jim. hehe