The Fire Sale Continues: Pirates Talking Trade with Twins?

Nate RoseCorrespondent IJuly 3, 2009

NEW YORK - MAY 09:  Freddy Sanchez #12 of the Pittsburgh Pirates steals second base in the first inning as Jose Reyes #7 of the New York Mets is late with the tag on May 9, 2009 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Pirates 10-1. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

John Paul Morosi of Twins-going-after-Bucs'-Sanchez,-Capps" target="_self">FOX Sports is reporting today that the Minnesota Twins are interested in three Pirates: 2B Freddy Sanchez, closer Matt Capps, and lefty setup man John Grabow.

Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has denied this rumor via Twitter, but it's always wise to take denials of trade talks with a grain of salt. Nobody ever really knows what teams discussed who until after the trading deadline on July 31, as GMs are generally tight-lipped about their plans.

What I do know is that this is a trade that would match up well for both clubs.

The Twins have a good deal of depth in their farm system at every position, including middle infield. The problem is that none of their top 2B prospects are doing anything to help a team that's in contention win this year. It may be too early to give up on Alexi Casilla, but his .180 average won't help the Twins reach the playoffs.

Meanwhile, the Pirates are heavy sellers this year in an attempt to rapidly get younger. They've already dealt Nate McLouth for three prospects, Eric Hinske for two low-A players, and Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett for Lastings Milledge and Joel Hanrahan. Only Hanrahan is older than the player they gave up.

No names have come back on the Twins' side of the deal, so it's all speculation at this point.

Earlier this season, Twins GM Bill Smith called OF Delmon Young "exceptionally available."

Not only would this give the Pirates the most awesomely confusing outfield ever—the team already has OF Delwyn Young—but at 23 years old, Young would certainly fit with the Pirates' plan to get younger players with upside, and he also fits with the Pirates' philosophy of buying low and selling high.

A former first-round draft pick, Young was traded to the Twins last year in a deal that sent Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett to the Rays. While Garza and Bartlett helped the Rays make their run at the World Series, Young was mostly disappointing for the Twins.

When drafted by the Rays, Young was seen as a player comparable to a young Alfonso Soriano: capable of posting 30 homer/30 steal seasons, but a bit of a free swinger.

Some fans have given up on Young, and so did the Rays' front office. He has yet to post a 30/30 season, which is to be expected at his young age, but he's also yet to produce even a 15/15 season. This year, he's hit only two homers and stolen only two bases in the 50 games he's played.

The major caveat with Young is his attitude. He famously threw a bat after being ejected in a minor league game, hitting an umpire. He claims that he never meant to hit the ump, but even throwing the bat in his general direction shows a lack of judgment.

Still, Young is only 23 years old and has plenty of time to live up to his expectations.

An outfield of Milledge, Andrew McCutchen, and Young would not only cover a lot of ground defensively, but would also be very productive on the basepaths and provide solid pop for years to come. A combined 65 homers and 75 steals would not be out of the question if and when they all blossomed.

I wouldn't mind seeing the Pirates pick him up in a trade, but if they're giving away three players of this caliber, I would hope for more than just Young.

The biggest position of need for the Bucs is the middle infield. As I mentioned earlier, the Twins have several prospects there that may do well in the future even if they won't contribute much this year.

Casilla is probably off the table in these talks. Despite a trade for Sanchez, I think the Twins still see him as the long-term solution at 2B and the heir apparent to Sanchez.

Another high-upside talent the Pirates could target that isn't quite Major League ready could be 23-year-old SS Trevor Plouffe.

Plouffe was disappointing in the lower levels of his minor league careers, posting subpar offensive numbers and committing many an error in the field. In recent years, however, he has begun to turn it around and may end up as a solid major league infielder.

There are still questions about Plouffe's range, and some scouts see his future as a second baseman. If that's the case, he'll have to start providing better offensive numbers. If he is to remain a shortstop, he'll have to provide better defense.

As it is right now, Plouffe is a 'tweener. He could probably step in immediately and be an average middle infield utility player, but he has the chance to be something more. If the Pirates were to acquire him, he would likely finish the year in AAA while Ramon Vazquez started at second base.

A final possible target for the Bucs would be Steven Tolleson, a 25-year-old SS/2B player currently in AAA. While he doesn't hit for power, Tolleson is a good hitter for average who has a good eye and walks frequently. He also provides average defense.

He's not likely to be a long-term solution for the Pirates, but Tolleson would make an above-average stopgap until one of their SS prospects currently in High-A—Chase D'Arnaud or Jordy Mercer—are ready for the Show. After that, Tolleson would make an excellent utility infielder.

In addition, Tolleson would allow the Pirates to move Jack Wilson without having to suffer through a middle infield of Brian Bixler and Ramon Vazquez.

All of this would make a decent haul for the Pirates, with two high-ceiling underachievers and one player who could be a solid major league regular.

Some Twins fans are likely to think that this is too much, but considering that Capps will remain under club control for two more years and Sanchez has an option for next year, I'd like to see the Pirates get at least one more player to sweeten the pot.