Pirates/Giants Trade: Javier Lopez for John Bowker and Joe Martinez

With the Dodgers and Padres making upgrades today, the second-place Giants didn’t want to stand pat, so they did what seems to be a popular thing to do today: they sent prospects to the Pirates for a reliever, in this case sidewinding Javier Lopez.

The Giants sent swingman Joe Martinez and first baseman/outfielder John Bowker to Pittsburgh. Both have seen time in the majors.

Let’s check this out after the jump. Did the Pirates get great value yet again?

The Obvious

Let’s start this out by comparing the value of the two pitchers in the deal.

Lopez has a career 4.37 ERA. He’s been worth just two wins above replacement in his career, and 0.9 of that came back in 2003 as a Rockies rookie.

The 33-year-old has a 3.93 career xFIP against lefties and 5.01 against righties. Those numbers are 3.78 and 5.11 this year.

He keeps the ball on the ground with his sinker, but his slider doesn’t have much bite, so he isn’t an absolute put-away lefty specialist. His 2.79 ERA belies a 4.20 FIP, although it’s worth noting his ERAs have bested his FIPs by large margins in 2006, 2007, and 2008 as well. 2004, 2005, and 2009 saw his ERAs be much higher than his FIPs, though, so I’m not sure we can call it a trend.

With just a 174/131 career K/BB, Lopez is far from an elite pitcher. Even against lefties, it’s an average 116/68.

Lopez is earning just six figures this year, so he’s not very expensive. His contract is up after the season, though.

Joe Martinez, 27, is a swingman with 41 career replacement-level MLB innings. His 6.80 ERA belies a 5.08 FIP and 4.82 xFIP, driven by a .374 BABIP.

Martinez throws a sinker around 90 mph to go with a hard curve and changeup. Neither offspeed pitch has met with any MLB success. The curveball doesn’t have particularly good break, and the changeup is nothing special.

Martinez will get grounders–he’s induced them at a healthy 55% clip in the majors–but is far from a strikeout pitcher, and doesn’t have pinpoint command.

The 27-year-old likely is what he is: an unexceptional groundballer who can eat innings as a fifth starter or be the fifth or sixth man in a bullpen. His numbers at Triple-A–mainly a 65/26 K/BB in 81 1/3 innings this year–reinforce that.

As for Bowker, he has struggled to get on base in the majors, at just a .285 clip. He’s got power, but he’s not a defensive asset, and .238/.285/.394 hitters who aren’t good on defense aren’t of much use. Also 27, Bowker is one of a growing collection of players the Pirates seem to be hoping can turn into the next Garrett Jones.

The Not-So-Obvious

Bowker really could be the next Garrett Jones, though: He’s hitting .310/.388/.594 in Triple-A and put up a blistering .342/.451/.596 line there last year. He’s improved his approach each time he’s come up to the majors, reducing his amount of pitches chased, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it ultimately pays off.

Between Mitch Jones, Bowker, Jeff Clement, Brian Myrow, and Steve Pearce, you have to figure that one of them figures it out in the majors, right? Right? I guess we’ll see. It’s a good way to find talent if you’re the Pirates, though, as Garrett Jones proves.

It’s worth noting that the best hitter on the Giants’ closest rival for the division–the Padres–features Adrian Gonzalez, a lefty. You wonder if Lopez was partially acquired to be a Gonzalez assassin, and also take care of Andre Ethier against the Dodgers.

As much as Bowker’s Triple-A stats are intriguing, was he really going to get another shot with the Giants, and was there a team that would really want him besides the Pirates? The Giants are loaded with corner guys and weren’t about to give a now-veteran Bowker yet another look, at least any sort of look in which he’d get the at-bats to really get locked in, few contenders would see him as an upgrade due to his track record of MLB failure, and not many rebuilding teams would see him as a long-term future solution due to his age and…well…MLB failure.


Two major league-experienced players with a combined nine years of team control left is an awfully high price to pay for two months of a lefty specialist who rates slightly above replacement level, but the Giants don’t need Martinez given their pitching depth, and they don’t need Bowker due to his age, MLB struggles, and the other Giants players at his positions.

The Pirates get a bat in Bowker who could be just a few adjustments away from being a nice MLB hitter, and they get a major league filler arm in Martinez, all for two months of Lopez. Not a bad haul for them, yet again.

So, it’s not really a difference-maker for either team, but it is a win-win trade.