By Chaz Bolte (originally for Steel Nation Magazine)
The trade deadline has come and gone and Pirates fans should be happy with the results. “No Deal Neal” kept his word and refused to trade away major prospects in exchange for instant success. Rumors around the blogosphere said that the Astros wanted a package built around 2010 number two overall pick Jameson Taillon in exchange for Hunter Pence. The 19 year old Taillon is a premier prospect (9th overall according to mlb.com) and trading him away for an above average outfielder with hopes that he can lead the team to an above .500 record would have been a disaster for the Pirates future. There are players I would have loved to see the Pirates land such as Alex Gordon, but there was no way the Pirates could make that move right now (and the Royals would have had to be beyond wowed to let him go). Their future is too bright. It is more likely that a blockbuster, instant pennant contender type of trade will be made in the offseason. However, Buccos fans should see the moves made this past week as nothing but positive, specifically because they lost no one of major importance in the deals.
Who we got
Derrek Lee – Derrek Lee pulled a Shawon Dunston and homered twice in his Buccos debut. He is an upgrade at First Base where Lyle Overbay has been showing why he’s been a DH the past few seasons. He is past his prime, but can provide some veteran leadership in the clubhouse and will hit a few dingers along the way. The Pirates gave up First Baseman Aaron Baker in exchange. The 23 year old was hitting for power at high A Bradenton with 15 Home Runs and 73 RBI this season, but was not a major player in the Pirates future plans. Getting a few months out of Derrek Lee for a mid-grade prospect is almost a steal for Neal Huntington. Unfortunately for the Pirates Lee does not project as a ranked free agent, which would mean the Pirates would receive a compensatory pick in next seasons draft if they could not resign him, but that’s probably the only reason the Orioles let him go for next to nothing.
Ryan Ludwick — In my last Steel Nation Magazine post I said that I thought Ludwick would not be a good fit for the Buccos. In some ways I still believe that. I bought into the mlbtraderumors.com hype that the Buccos were eyeing one of the A’s outfielders, who I had hoped would be David Dejesus, and therefore saw Ludwick as a “lesser than” option. Ludwick had struggled with the Padres so far this season hitting .238 with 11 Home Runs and 64 RBI, but a change of scenery may do him some good. Besides that the Pirates currently have some depth issues in their outfield and receiving a Major league caliber player for a PTBNL or more likely cash helps plug the hole. Ludwick likely won’t help the Pirates that much, but more importantly I don’t see how he hurts them. Steven Pearce and Xavier Paul are simply not MLB level talents and are only on the big club because there is no one else. Ludwick at least gives them a viable option that can become a solid platoon/bench option when Tabata and Presley return.
The Trade I Wanted to See
According to Mlbtraderumors.com the Pirates were close to making a deal that would have brought catcher Francisco Cervelli from the Yankees in exchange for Brad Lincoln. The 25 year old backup catcher is stuck between starter Russell Martin and prospect Jesus Montero on the Yankees depth chart and would have been a welcome addition to the injury plagued Bucs.
Ryan Doumit is behind the plate at AAA Indianapolis on a rehab stint but will return Wednesday. The organization has hinted that he is likely to see time in right field and first base when he returns to the majors. Doumit has become too much of a defensive liability and has proven to be too frail to play catcher. 11 runners have attempted to steal on him in AAA and all have reached safely. He was once thought to be the cornerstone of a rebuilding franchise with Jason Bay and Nate McLouth. Now he doesn’t really have a place on the team. Perhaps that is the biggest sign of the Bucs improvement in the Huntington era.
Michael McKenry has earned his spot on the time by coming through in a time of dire need for the organization. I would have rather seen it as Cervelli’s backup though. If they are unwilling to trade Lincoln because they believe in him that is one case. He was the 4th pick overall in the 2006 draft and did show promise in his one start with the Buccos this season, but at 26 he is no longer a prospect. If a pitcher gets injured down the stretch and Lincoln fills in and earns his spot with the team than Huntington looks like a genius. However I just can’t bear to think that I will have to see Ryan Doumit try to throw runners out for the Pirates again.
Who I’m happy is still with the team
Matt Diaz – There was little chance someone wanted to pick up Diaz but he could have been lumped in on some trade or even released if the Pirates picked up a Pence level Outfielder. Diaz is playing below average so far this season, but if the Pirates make a run at the playoffs he is exactly the kind of guy you want to have on your bench.
Paul Maholm – By not trading him the Pirates look like they will be spending some money to pick up the $9.75 Million team option on Maholm’s contract. I think this would be a great call by Huntington. Maholm has finally come into his own after seasons of horrible defensive support. The poor defense and Doumit’s arm are what inflated his numbers the past few years and the Pirates aren’t going to be able to land a better pitcher for a similar price in next year’s free agent market.
Starling Marte – If the Pirates were going to make a blockbuster deal without including Jameson Taillon than it would almost have to had included outfielder Starling Marte. The 22 year old is hitting .315/7 HR/35 RBI/17 SB at AA Altoona this season and has a mindbottling 231 putouts so far this season. His glove and speed put him on the fast track to the bigs. However, I wonder where he will fit in at PNC Park with Andrew McCutchen patrolling center. I wouldn’t be surprised if he became the centerpiece of a trade in the offseason. Maybe he could land a permanent answer to the problems the Pirates have at first base.
5 points to leave you with
(1) Derrek Lee is a solid pickup if only because it means Lyle Overbay is off the team. Lee should provide some pop in the Buccos attempt to win more games than they lose for the first time in 18 seasons.
(2) Just because the Pirates have a chance to break .500 doesn’t mean that real Buccos fans should forgive the Nutting family for their neglectful and downright deceiving decade of mediocre ownership. They have nothing to do with the Pirates recent success. Most of it can be attributed to solid decisions by Neal Huntington.
(3) I really like Guy Junker because when I was in college I worked at a gas station for beer money and he would always come in and be super nice to me. When I told him my father was a huge “Stan n’ Guy” fan he went out of his way to bring me in an awesome T shirt for him and my dad thought it was the coolest thing in the world. He has a great back story of starting as a concession vendor at Three Rivers Stadium and building his way up the Pittsburgh sports scene. I think he deserves more respect.
(4) @Yinzers is possibly the funniest man on Twitter (in Pittsburgh sports). You should go follow him. I love his snarky yet fact based banter and I respect that he isn’t willing to give sports reporters a free pass. I think he might have made a Doug from The State reference to me and that might be the coolest thing ever. However, the John Perroto feud is getting slightly verbose. I want to skip to the end. It’s like a long drama that I simply don’t want to sit through anymore. There is more to this story. I just can’t put my finger on it. I sit in anticipation waiting for 7:05.
(5) I am disappointed that the Pirates didn’t pick up a solid reliever at the deadline. I think, even with the help of Jason Grilli, that the bullpen will soon hit a wall. Maybe the price was just too steep, but I think it was the Buccos main need and they failed to address it.
Unscientifically based completely made up prediction
The Pirates will go 80-82, simply because it would break my heart and that’s all they’ve done since I was 10.
Chaz Bolte is a writer who lives in Brooklyn, NY. He grew up in Pittsburgh and attended Slippery Rock University. He currently also contributes to Football Nation, WePartyPatriots, Secret Party Room, and AFCNorthTalk.com. His favorite Pirate of all time is Jeff King. You can follow him on Twitter @chazbolte