Huntington, Pirates Win At Deadline

Given the minimal returns for players like Dan Haren, Roy Oswalt, and Lance Berkman at the deadline, it’s hard to consider this year’s trade market as anything other than a buyer’s market. As such, one would expect that a team like the Pittsburgh Pirates, looking to sell at the deadline, would have to settle for a disappointing return, particularly given the performance of their trade pieces this season. I wrote back in June about their relatively bleak trading prospects:

The obvious answer is to sell; what’s less obvious is who to sell. Octavio Dotel is an interesting flamethrowing reliever, but he’s performed right around replacement level this season. Akinori Iwamura likely doesn’t have a future with this Pirates team, but given his terrible performance this year, the return for him would be minimal, and similarly for Ryan Church and Brendan Donnelly. Right now, this Pirates team really doesn’t have anybody to sell.

Dotel has picked up his performance since the writing, but Church has been horrendous and both Iwamura and Donnelly have been designated for assignment. The Pirates also managed to move Bobby Crosby, D.J. Carrasco and Javier Lopez, who compiled a grand total of -0.2 WAR in 2010 and aren’t projected to get much better. These three, along with Dotel and Church, were owed about $4.5 million for the rest of the season. Given the fact that the Astros and Indians had to throw money into trades with the Yankees, it seems hard to believe that the Pirates could acquire value for this ragtag group without at least throwing in a significant sum of cash.

That, however, is exactly what Neal Huntington managed to do, turning this group of players into Chris Snyder, John Bowker, Joe Martinez, Pedro Ciriaco, James McDonald, Andrew Lambo, and, perhaps most shockingly, $2.5 million dollars. Snyder is likely the only player who will make an immediate impact at the Major League level, but he’s a good player, with a bat above the league average at the catcher position. McDonald may also have a quick impact, either in the bullpen or in the starting rotation. The rest have varying statuses, from utilityman ceiling to legitimate but troubled prospect to junkballing righty. Still, this is a group that at worst contains an above-average MLB catcher and at best could produce two or three more starting players for the Pirates. Given the fact that the Pirates traded essentially useless players with limited team control to acquire this group, that’s a big time win, and the kind of moves that teams in the Pirates position need to make.

Now, none of these deals are going to catapult the Pirates into contention next year or anything like that. None of it will matter if players like Jose Tabata, Neil Walker, and Brad Lincoln, among others, can’t turn into contributors for the Major League ball club. But if the Pirates’ core of young players can reach their ceilings, they will need supporting players to bring them to the playoffs. This deadline, the Pirates picked up a group of talented players under team control for a long time. The aforementioned group could form the supporting cast that brings a playoff berth to Pittsburgh in 2014 or 2015. Neal Huntington’s Pirates are certainly headed in the right direction, and although it’s hard to be excited about a team that’s 32 games below .500, there is hope in Pittsburgh.

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I still can’t wrap my head around why the Diamondbacks would even be willing to take Church and Crosby for nothing, let alone give up a good player for them. I know a salary dump is a salary dump, but you need to get something more than negative value, which is what they got.