Pirates trade Morgan/Burnett for Milledge/Hanrahan

I’ve written about this rumored deal twice now. When it was first rumored, I looked at the Milledge/Craig Stammen request from the Pirates end. Later I looked at the debate between talent and attitude that seems to split Pirates fans on the deal. Today the Pirates finally made the move, trading Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett to Washington for Lastings Milledge and Joel Hanrahan.

That debate is going to remain for Pirates fans now that a deal is done. One side will love the deal because we got a five tool guy in Lastings Milledge, with the potential to be so much more than Nyjer. The other side will hate the deal because Milledge is said to be a head case, and Nyjer is a very likeable guy.

I’ll throw my opinion out there: I really like Nyjer Morgan, but I think Milledge can be the better player. You need better players to win, not nicer players. Therefore, I’m a fan of the trade.

As for the breakdown of the trade, the Nationals get Nyjer Morgan, who is the best rated defensive outfielder in baseball this year. Morgan also provides speed on the bases, but has little power, and just a .277 average, with a .351 on-base percentage.

Milledge is a five tool player who has yet to put it together in the majors, although he’s only had one year of everyday playing time, which came last year with Washington. Milledge hit for a .268/.330/.402 line with 14 homers and 24 steals. He hit .282/.341/.438 from mid-May to the end of the season, with 13 of his 14 homers, and 21 of his 24 steals.

This year Milledge struggled in the first week and a half of the season, and was demoted for showing up late for practice a few times. He broke his finger at AAA, and is currently rehabbing the injury. Milledge started the year with two years of service time in the majors. He was set to become arbitration eligible after this season, but due to the amount of time he has spent in the minors this season, there is no way he can accumulate a third year of service time this season. This means the Pirates have him under control for four seasons, and he becomes arbitration eligible after the 2010 season.

Milledge was once regarded as a top prospect. According to Baseball America, he was the top prospect in the New York Mets’ system in 2005 and 2006, and ranked fourth overall in the Mets system in 2004, behind Scott Kazmir, David Wright, and Matt Peterson (who we got in the Kris Benson trade). Milledge was the 86th best prospect in baseball in 2004, 11th best in 2005, and 9th best in 2006, according to BA. He was traded by the Mets to the Nationals in November 2007 for Ryan Church and Brian Schneider.

The inclusion of Sean Burnett and Joel Hanrahan was a surprise. Burnett has been one of the best relievers for the Pirates this season, with a 3.06 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, and a 23:15 K/BB ratio in 32.1 innings pitched.

Burnett broke out last year with a 3.75 ERA from July to the end of the season. However, he was more of a lefty specialist, with a .171 BAA vs lefties, compared to a .328 BAA vs right handers. Burnett has improved against right handers this season, with a .189/.211 lefty/righty split in his BAA. However, he still struggles in some regard, allowing 11 of his 15 walks to right handers, for a .357 OBP (compared to .254 vs lefties). Burnett was arbitration eligible starting next season.

Hanrahan started the season as Washington’s closer, following a breakout 2006 campaign where he posted a 3.95 ERA and a 93:42 K/BB ratio in 84.1 innings pitched. He converted 9 of 13 saves in his time as the closer for Washington (after Jon Rauch was traded). This year Hanrahan has struggled, blowing three saves in April, and posting a 7.71 ERA on the season. His K/BB ratio of 35:14 in 32.2 innings is in line with his 2008 numbers. Combine that with his .451 BABIP and Hanrahan could be experiencing some bad luck. Hanrahan also throws a fastball that is consistently 95-96 MPH.

Overall this seems like a classic case of buying low and selling high. The Pirates are obviously selling Morgan at a high point, as there seems to be little chance that he improves from here. Milledge is at an all-time low point, with tons of room for improvement.

As for the additions, Burnett might be a LOOGY, or he could be transitioning to a left handed set up man with his improved BAA vs right handers. However, his OBP doesn’t give credit to the latter, and suggests he’s more of a LOOGY who is doing well over 53 at-bats this season. Hanrahan could be another buy low guy, as his stats look unlucky, and if that luck turns around, the Pirates have an excellent young right handed reliever in the back of the bullpen.

As for the salary details:

The Pirates paid a little more than $194 K for Nyjer, and just over $193 K for Burnett this season. They save a combined $432,528 for the remainder of the season, however that will be wiped out with the cost of Milledge and Hanrahan.

Milledge is making $452,000 this season, and won’t be arbitration eligible until after the 2010 season with all the time he’s spent at AAA this year. He is on his final option year. Hanrahan is out of options, and making $420 K this season. He is also arbitration eligible after the 2010 season. The two will cost the Pirates $463,120 this season.

As for the 25-man roster, Dejan Kovacevic reported that Lastings Milledge was getting ready to return to AAA. If he’s close to returning, it could be possible that he will come right to Pittsburgh. Joel Hanrahan will replace Burnett on the 25-man roster, but I’m not sure who will take Morgan’s place on the roster. Right now I’m assuming Delwyn Young takes over as the starting left fielder until Lastings is ready.

The following pages have been updated:

-The 40-Man Roster Page
-The Payroll Commitments Chart
-The 25-Man Roster Page
-Neal Huntington Trade History

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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