Looking back at the Jack Wilson Trade

The past several trade deadlines have played out like the movie “Groundhog Day”. It seems every morning we woke up to the same song, but instead of “I Got You Babe” it was “New Jack Wilson Rumor”. After waking up to that same song over and over we all started to realize how things were going to play out. The interested team liked Wilson, but not enough to meet the Pirates’ price.

When the Pirates turned down a deal with the Tigers in 2007 rumored to include Jair Jurrjens, it seemed that we had reached the point of stepping in front of trucks, falling off of buildings, or kidnapping rodents and letting them drive the truck off a cliff just to end the madness. The rumored deal was Jair Jurrjens and Brett Clevlen for Wilson. That was given some credibility a few months later when the Tigers traded Jurrjens and Gorkys Hernandez to Atlanta for Edgar Rentiera.
The Tigers re-entered the picture last off-season, and at one point it looked like a deal was done, to the point where many sites ran the news that Wilson had been dealt. Two of the rumored names were Jeff Larish and Matt Joyce, although the rumors were an “either/or” variety with those two players.
So when the 2009 trade deadline rolled around, I didn’t expect Wilson to be dealt. Instead, figuring the same routine would continue, I just rolled over and fell asleep next to the rumors. The next morning there was a different song on the radio: Jack Wilson had been traded.
The Pirates dealt Wilson and head case Ian Snell to Seattle for former Mariners’ top prospect Jeff Clement, Ronny Cedeno, and three lower level pitchers in Brett Lorin, Aaron Pribanic, and Nathan Adcock.
At the time of the deal I loved it for three reasons. One, I hadn’t done much recent research on Clement, but I was big on him last year. Two, I liked that we added a few promising pitching prospects. Three, I was glad the Wilson trade rumors were over, and in addition, I was glad that Snell was gone.
The biggest surprise of the trade was Ronny Cedeno. Cedeno looked like a throw in at the time of the deal. He was a 26 year old shortstop in his first year of arbitration, set to make seven figures next season, and was hitting for a .167/.213/.290 line in 186 at-bats with Seattle. Cedeno bounced back with Pittsburgh, with a .258/.307/.394 line and some good defensive skills. That’s not bad, considering Wilson was hitting for a .267/.304/.387 line with Pittsburgh this year.
Clement is currently working on learning first base, and may be an option heading in to the 2010 season as the Pirates’ every day starter. Clement showed some power in Indianapolis, with seven homers in 98 at-bats, but didn’t hit for a good average in the process, which has been one of the downfalls of his career so far.
As for the pitchers, the Pirates have some upside with all three. Brett Lorin is my favorite of the trio. In 123 innings pitched in A-ball this year, Lorin put up a 2.20 ERA, a 1.05 WHIP, and a 116:35 K/BB ratio. Lorin is 6′ 7″, 245 lbs and was taken by Seattle in the fifth round of the 2008 draft. He throws 88-92 MPH, topping out at 94, and his best pitch is his hard three-quarters breaking ball.
Aaron Pribanic joined Lorin in West Virginia after the trade. Pribanic had a 2.89 ERA, a 1.12 WHIP, and a 72:31 K/BB ratio in 124.2 innings pitched in A-ball this year. Pribanic was taken in the third round of the 2008 draft by Seattle, weighing in at 6′ 4″, 200 lbs. Pribanic is more of a raw talent, throwing 91-94 MPH, and topping out at 96, but lacking a plus secondary pitch like Lorin.
Nathan Adcock was a fifth round pick by Seattle in the 2006 draft, but has struggled in his time in high A-ball. Adcock had a 5.29 ERA and a 1.53 WHIP in 126 innings in high A-ball this year, with a 86:61 K/BB ratio. Adcock improved his walk ratio upon arriving to Lynchburg, cutting his BB/9 ratio down from 4.8 with Seattle to 2.6 with Lynchburg. He had a 3.4 BB/9 ratio in low-A last year. Adcock throws 88-92 MPH, and has a hard, sharp downer curveball that was rated the best breaking ball in Seattle’s system by Baseball America.
All three pitchers project to be back of the rotation starters or late inning power relievers in the majors. Of the trio, I’d say Lorin has the best shot of meeting or exceeding those projections, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up as a top of the rotation option one day.
The Mariners didn’t get much from Wilson, who only played in 31 games for them due to injuries, and hit for a .224/.263/.299 line in 107 at-bats. Ian Snell had a few good starts, ending up with a 4.20 ERA, although most of his success was fueled by luck. Snell had a 1.55 WHIP, thanks to his 5.5 BB/9 ratio. That’s not new for Snell. He had a 1.62 WHIP and a 4.9 BB/9 ratio with the Pirates this year. Last year he had a 1.76 WHIP and a 4.9 BB/9 ratio. Unless he magically returns to his 2007 season where he had a 1.33 WHIP and a 2.9 BB/9 ratio (and that season looks to be a fluke), I don’t think the Pirates will miss him at all.
Wilson may be eligible to return to the Pirates after the season. Seattle has an option on Wilson for $8.4 M, with a $600 K buyout, and I can’t imagine they would take the option when Wilson would be lucky to see that amount over two years. The Pirates have a hole at second base, and while Ronny Cedeno showed flashes of being capable of holding down the starting job at shortstop, he’s only penciled in as the starter right now. The Pirates could try and bring Wilson back, move Cedeno to second, and have the duo together until the lower level prospects like Chase d’Arnaud, Brian Friday, Jordy Mercer, Josh Harrison, and Brock Holt start arriving.
Overall I was surprised by the return for the Pirates. After seeing them pass up on Jair Jurrjens, I didn’t think we’d ever get a good return for Jack Wilson. We may not see the quick return that Jurrjens provided, as Jurrjens had a 3.68 ERA in his first season with Atlanta, and followed that up with a 2.60 ERA this season. In the end the Pirates got two potential starters for their 2010 lineup, added some pitching depth to the lower levels, and they may have a chance to bring Wilson back after the season, which would make the deal look even better. Then again, I never thought it would be a good idea to do a sequel to Groundhog Day.
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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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