There’s not direct Chicago Cubs connection here, but the trade involves (1) an NL Central competitor dealing away a piece, (2) a team that is in the market for pitching, and (3) a draft pick changing teams. Taken together, that’s pretty interesting.
Today, the Marlins and Pirates got together on a trade that sends the Marlins’ competitive balance pick (39 overall) to the Pirates for righty reliever Bryan Morris. (I believe a certain commenter here had been suggesting repeatedly that the Marlins were shopping their competitive balance pick.) Recall, although picks are generally not available to be traded, competitive balance picks (for which the Cubs will never be eligible, although they can trade for one) are. So, the Pirates now get another pick this Thursday.
The Marlins are clearly trying to hang around this year, despite the painful injury to ace Jose Fernandez, and they pick up a cost-controlled 27-year-old reliever who can help in their soft-ish bullpen. The Pirates have a little bit of bullpen depth, but they’re also looking more and more like a seller come midseason, so they were probably happy to strike when they could.
As for the deal, it should serve to remind us of the value – as an asset – of draft choices. The 39th pick comes with a slot value of $1.458 million, which is fairly significant. And yet … is Morris really an impressive piece? He’s had some success by ERA over his two years relieving for the Pirates, but he doesn’t strike guys out, and he walks a fair number of ’em. He was actually worth -1.1 WAR to FanGraphs last year, and has been at -0.8 so far this year.
In sum, other than being cost-controlled, Morris doesn’t look like a particularly sexy bullpen pickup. Presumably the Marlins shopped around, and found Morris to be the best they could get for that 39th pick.
I suspect the “cost-controlled” part was of significant importance to the Marlins, who can use Morris in middle relief for a few years before he costs them much of anything – assuming he continues to be a big league-caliber pitcher. It’s surprising that another team couldn’t/wouldn’t beat that offer for the pick, but keep in mind: the pick allows you select another player, yes, but you’ve still got to actually pay to sign that player. So, acquiring a pick also comes with a bill. Further, although we love to go deep in the draft, and you can certainly get valuable players after the first round, once you get past pick 25 or so, your chances of finding an impact player down the road is pretty slim.
Draft picks, then, probably just don’t have as much value as we might like to think they do. Still, this looks like a pretty clearly great move for the Pirates. Hamburgers.
I’d be surprised if the Cubs weren’t involved in these talks, but they don’t quite have a Morris that would be worth giving up to get the pick. Instead, the Cubs have some more expensive bullpen guys (whom the Marlins probably didn’t want), and some cheap younger guys (who have the potential to be studs, and the Cubs didn’t want to give up).
Ancillary impact here: if the Marlins can continue sticking around, and if they just picked up a useful piece without dealing away a current prospect, maybe they’re slightly more likely to dip into the trade market for a starting pitcher come July. Or even sooner.