In the aftermath of the trades, I’ve got a few more thoughts, which I will provide in no specific order:
Where are the left handers? The big issue, following the trade of Burnett, is the lack of left handers in the bullpen. It seemed like the Pirates had nothing but left handers in their bullpen a month ago. Now the Pirates have just one, John Grabow, and Grabow is rumored to be on the trading block. So who do we have as possibilities?
-First, there’s Donald Veal, although Veal probably shouldn’t be in the majors right now (he’s currently rehabbing at AAA, but has to be in the majors all season when healthy, since he is a Rule 5 pick).
-Tom Gorzelanny was in the bullpen, but the Pirates sent him back down to AAA to get back to starting. I don’t want to say that the Pirates are fine with their rotation, but they have more options near the majors (Jeff Karstens, Daniel McCutchen, and Ian Snell in case of a major emergency).
-Veal and Gorzelanny are the only left handers at AAA. In Altoona the Pirates have Kyle Bloom, Corey Hamman, Shawn Nottingham, Tony Watson, and Daniel Moskos. Of that group, Bloom and Moskos have the best shot of ending up in our bullpen. Bloom has a 3.59 ERA this year, with a 21:25 K/BB ratio in 42.2 IP. The strikeout rate is low, although that has improved in the last month. Moskos is currently starting, but I see his future in the major league bullpen, possibly as soon as next year.
-Everyone assumes Grabow is gone, but what are the odds the Pirates keep him? He’s currently a Type A player approaching free agency. The Pirates can offer him arbitration and either retain him for a raise over his $2.3 M salary, or get two first round compensation picks for him. They’re not going to get a better return via trade, which means their best route is to hold on to Grabow. Worst case scenario is they keep him next year with Grabow accepting arbitration, and that’s not a bad thing.
-We’ve also been spoiled with an excess of left handers in the bullpen over the last several years. It wouldn’t be horrible if we just had two guys in the bullpen (maybe Gorzelanny and Grabow).
Jack Wilson’s Comments. I saw that Jack Wilson didn’t like the trade, and I don’t really mind the comments. Put yourself in Wilson’s shoes. You’ve got your job, you’ve got your friends at work, and all of a sudden one of your co-workers gets transferred to another branch and replaced with someone new. Even if this makes the company better, you’re not going to like the decision much off the bat. I can respect Wilson’s opinion. Do I think he should have expressed it through the public? No.
On the other side of this, Wilson seemed to go with a “I wish they’d give us a chance to compete” approach. I’ve watched the Pirates all year, and they’ve had plenty of chances to compete. Every time they get shut down by the likes of Mike Hampton, Bruce Chen, Mike Hampton, Ross Detwiler, or any other struggling pitcher, they are given a chance. Imagine how close the Pirates would be if they beat these bad teams. The problem isn’t that Neal Huntington is robbing them of a chance to compete. The problem is that this team isn’t good enough to compete.
Finally, Wilson cites previous trades, saying that trades like this haven’t worked over the years, saying “show me the ones that worked”. OK.
-How about just last year. The Pirates traded Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte (both injured, Nady possibly out until 2011) for Ross Ohlendorf, Jeff Karstens, Daniel McCutchen, and Jose Tabata. Ohlendorf and Karstens have played good roles in the majors, while Tabata is a key piece to the future, and McCutchen is solid starting depth.
-The Pirates also traded Jose Bautista for Robinzon Diaz last year. I like that deal. I think Paul Maholm does too.
-The Pirates got Nady by trading Oliver Perez and Ramon Hernandez. Nady was a fourth outfielder who was injury plagued.
-The Pirates added Freddy Sanchez by essentially trading Jeff Suppan and Scott Sauerbeck to the Red Sox.
-Jason Bay was acquired by sending off Brian Giles.
-This one Jack Wilson should remember: the Pirates sent Jason Christiansen to the Cardinals for…Jack Wilson.
Obviously these trades don’t work 100% of the time, but they also don’t fail 100% of the time. I also hate the argument of “even with the trades working we still lose”. I agree, we lost despite adding guys like Freddy Sanchez and Jason Bay. The problem isn’t those types of trades. The problem is that the Pirates were never adding players through other means. That doesn’t seem to be the case now.
On Milledge and outfield depth. I’ve seen some people question why we need Milledge when we’ve got a future outfield of Gorkys Hernandez, Andrew McCutchen, and Jose Tabata. I’d just point out that it’s thinking like this that caused Dave Littlefield to pass on trading for Ryan Howard because we already had Brad Eldred. You can never have too much talent.
Is this the end for Matt Capps? The Pirates added Joel Hanrahan, who was a decent closer for Washington last year. Hanrahan has struggled this year, although his strikeout rate is solid, and his walks have improved, so I don’t think those struggles are based on poor talent (maybe bad luck, maybe the WBC). Could the addition of Hanrahan mean a Matt Capps trade?
Capps is one of the most valuable trade pieces the Pirates have. He has two years of arbitration remaining after this season (he will probably make a combined $10 M). The Pirates also seem to be shooting for al of their prospects to arrive around 2011, which means Capps has little value to them in the long run over the next two years. Hanrahan is under control for four seasons, which would put him more in the time line of the rest of the future Pirates.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Capps go before the deadline passes.
The MVP Tracker
The MVP Tracker is updated with the 6/29 loss. Here are the top performers for tonight’s win:
1. Ross Ohlendorf: .430 WPA
2. Freddy Sanchez: .233
3. Brandon Moss: .118
4. John Grabow: .045
5. Andy LaRoche: .038
The Prospect Tracker is updated with tonight’s games.
-Brad Lincoln got rocked in AAA, going 3.2 innings with 3 runs on 6 hits.
-Jeff Locke also had a rough outing. More in a bit.
-Chase D’Arnaud went 0 for 5 with two strikeouts.
-Rudy Owens had another solid start, going 6 shutout innings with 7 hits. Owens hasn’t allowed a walk in his last six starts. He hasn’t allowed a run in his last four starts. He’s due for a promotion to Lynchburg.
-Robbie Grossman went 0 for 4 with a walk and 3 strikeouts.
-Tony Sanchez made his debut with West Virginia, going 1 for 5 with an RBI.
The outing by Jeff Locke tonight was disappointing. He ran in to trouble in the first inning, making two bad mistakes. The first mistake came with a runner on third. Locke caught a grounder back to the mound, and had the runner stranded between third and home. Rather than run towards the runner to make him commit, Locke threw the ball to third. The runner broke for home, and the third baseman missed the catch, in part due to a bad throw, and in part because he was trying to get the runner at home.
A few batters later, with one out and a runner at third, Locke picked up a shallow ground ball three feet away from the plate. He could have easily shoveled the ball to the catcher to get the runner coming home, but instead he went for the force out at first. It was so shocking that I thought there were two outs, as that’s how you’d act if there were two outs, but not one.
Locke struggled to get the first pitch strike, and his curve ball was inconsistent. He had one inning (the third) where he looked great. His curve ball was un-hittable that inning, totally fooling the first two batters he faced, with both striking out. That was set up nicely by some great location with his fastball.
Locke is definitely a project. If he can get his command under control, he could be a great pitcher. His curve is a solid pitch, but it’s much better on an 0-2 count than it is on a 2-0 count.
Chase D’Arnaud went 0 for 5, but showed some promise. Two hits were deep fly balls to the left field warning track, both close to homers. D’Arnaud reminds me of a Ryan Theriot type player, so I don’t think he’s going to end up a power hitter.
He also had a great turn from second base on a double play, firing a bullet to first to complete the play. After seeing Jordy Mercer’s wild arm, it was nice to see a major league quality double play. Mercer played short tonight, while D’Arnaud played second. I think of all the middle infield prospects we have, Chase has the best shot of making the majors, simply because he can play second and short with good defense, and despite the poor start at Lynchburg, has good plate patience.
Some pictures from the game:
Chase on second, De Los Santos on first…