The Pittsburgh Pirates have made no shortage of deals in the two years Neal Huntington has been the General Manager of the team. In those two years, many of the deals have involved major players, like Jason Bay, Xavier Nady, and Freddy Sanchez. The returns have brought back top prospects like Andy LaRoche, Jose Tabata, and Tim Alderson.
There have also been several minor deals made by the Pirates which haven’t sent away a major piece of the team, and haven’t brought back a guy on the Baseball America top 100 prospects list. Of course, that’s not expected when you’re dealing the likes of Ronny Paulino, Jose Bautista, or Eric Hinske. Today I’m going to quickly recap each of the minor trades made over the last two seasons, and of course you can check out how all of the deals have worked out so far by checking the trade grades.
Tyler Yates for Todd Redmond
In hindsight this one is looking like it could have been a mistake. At the time Redmond was coming off a year where he posted a 4.54 ERA in Lynchburg, followed by a 3.12 ERA in limited innings in Altoona. Yates was coming off a year where he posted a 5.18 ERA in relief for the Braves.
The difference between the performances is that Yates looked to be a fluke. The previous year he had a 3.96 ERA with an 8.3 K/9, 5.6 BB/9, and a 1.1 HR/9. All three of those ratios saw a big improvement in 2007, but his ERA took a big drop, which is the opposite of what should have happened. Meanwhile, Redmond only had success in the lower A levels, and didn’t have a strikeout rate that screamed “top prospect”.
Yates had a decent season in 2008, although his strikeout and walk ratios dropped from his 2007 totals. In 2009 he struggled briefly before going down for the season with Tommy John surgery. He will likely be a non-tender candidate in the off-season. Meanwhile Redmond put up good numbers at AA, and had Eric Hacker like success at AAA before impressing in the World Cup. I don’t think Redmond will become anything more than a Jeff Karstens type pitcher in the majors, although this could say something against the idea of the Pirates trading prospects for immediate upgrades.
Jose Bautista for Robinzon Diaz
Bautista was dealt last August for Robinzon Diaz, most likely due to the fact that the Pirates had Andy LaRoche in the majors, Pedro Alvarez in the system, and Bautista was due for a raise in arbitration, which doesn’t really seem worth his production. Diaz was a catching prospect who had little major league experience, but hit well in the minors.
Bautista put up a .235/.349/.408 line with Toronto in 336 at-bats, which isn’t quite worth the $2.4 M he received from the Blue Jays. His upside is more of a utility player, who is good against left handers, with a career .265/.360/.478 line against LHP, including .293/.382/.537 this past season.
Diaz had limited time in the majors, hitting for a .279/.307/.357 line in 129 at-bats, getting most of his playing time while Ryan Doumit was injured early in the season. Diaz makes a great backup catcher, although he played games at first base, third base, and right field in AAA during the second half of the season. Diaz is out of options next year, which means he will likely be on the major league roster. The added positions could make him a super utility player, with the ability to serve as the emergency catcher. Basically the same as Bautista, although much cheaper, which is what you want from a bench player.
Ronny Paulino for Jason Jaramillo
A lot of reports suggested Paulino had paved his way out of Pittsburgh with his attitude, mostly due to the fact that he lost his starting role here. The Phillies traded Jaramillo for Paulino straight up, then traded him to the Giants, who traded him to Florida.
Paulino put up a .272/.340/.423 line in 239 at-bats with the Marlins. Jaramillo put up a .252/.309/.364 line with the Pirates in 206 at-bats in his rookie season. Overall, the Pirates benefit once again by paying less in the future for a bench player. Paulino enters his first year of arbitration next year, and will be due for a raise. Jaramillo won’t be arbitration eligible until after the 2011 season.
Eric Krebs for Delwyn Young
The Pirates added Delwyn Young this season from the Dodgers, and the timing was perfect. Los Angeles designated Young for assignment, with no room for Young on the roster. Had the Dodgers waited a week, they would have had room, as Manny Ramirez was suspended for failing a drug test.
The Pirates offered two players to be named later, or a player to be named later and cash considerations. The Dodgers took the latter, taking Eric Krebs and one dollar in cash. Delwyn finished the season with a .266/.326/.381 line with the Pirates, playing the final two months as the starting second baseman.
It’s questionable whether Delwyn can remain at second base. Delwyn was hitting for a .321/.386/.434 line up until the Giants’ series in July, which is when he started getting everyday playing time. In his final 195 at-bats, getting everyday playing time at second, Delwyn hit for a .221/.275/.338 line. Maybe that was due to his focus on the defensive side of the game, but one thing is certain: the Pirates can’t count on Delwyn to be their starting baseman next season until he shows he can handle everyday work.
Eric Hinske for Eric Fryer and Casey Erickson
Hinske was unsatisfied with playing in Pittsburgh, and the feeling was mutual for Pirates’ fans, as Hinske hit for a .255/.373/.368 line and only one homer in his 106 at-bats with the Pirates. The appeal of Hinske, who hit 20 homers in 381 at-bats the year before with Tampa Bay, was his ability to hit for power off the bench. Hinske went on to New York to hit seven homers in 84 at-bats.
Fryer is a good defensive catcher, catching 36% of runners stealing in his time with Lynchburg after the trade. With the amount of talent the Pirates have acquired, including the selection of Tony Sanchez, I can’t see how Fryer ends up as more than organizational depth, although he’s young and could be flipped in a trade down the line if he carries his defense to higher levels.
Erickson put up good numbers in relief for the Yankees and then the Pirates, combining for a 1.75 ERA, a 7.5 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, and an 0.1 HR/9 ratio in 82.1 innings pitched this year in A-ball. The Pirates will have an interesting decision to make with Erickson, as he is eligible for the Rule 5 draft in December
, but is currently a long way from having any shot at being successful in the majors. My guess is he goes through the Rule 5 draft untouched.
Adam LaRoche for Argenis Diaz and Hunter Strickland
LaRoche is the only player in this group of trades who had considerable value for the Pirates, although he was close to free agency, and the Pirates had to get something for him. LaRoche is projected to be a Type B free agent next season, although in order to get a compensation pick, the Pirates would have had to offer him arbitration, risking a salary increase on his $7.05 M deal.
LaRoche had his typical August and September, with a .325/.401/.557 line with Atlanta, after spending a brief time with the Boston Red Sox. The Pirates received Argenis Diaz and Hunter Strickland in return, both young players who are a long shot for the majors.
Diaz is closer to the majors, getting promoted to AAA upon his arrival to Pittsburgh. He doesn’
t bring much to the plate, but he excels defensively. He has drawn comparisons to Alex Gonzalez, who is a defensive replacement at shortstop. At best, Diaz would be another Jack Wilson, although that’s a very optimistic approach.
Strickland put up some good numbers in A ball this year, combining for a 3.49 ERA, with a 5.3 K/9, 1.4 BB/9, and a 1.0 HR/9 ratio. Strickland doesn’t strike out a lot of batters, but shows good control. He’s young and has a projectable frame, currently topping out at 93 MPH, and consistently throwing 88-91 MPH. I could see him putting up Rudy Owens success in the future, although that would require excellent command of his pitches, leading to more strikeouts.
The Pirates didn’t give up much in this group of trades. The only player who can be considered a starter is Adam LaRoche, although he was on his way out due to his impending free agency. As would be expected, they didn’t land any major prospects. What they did land are several bench players, and a few potential 3-5 starters.
Jaramillo and Diaz provided good enough catching depth that the Pirates barely missed Ryan Doumit this season while he was out. The duo has sparked a lot of talk in the fan forums over Doumit moving to a position where he won’t have to risk as many injuries, although the Pirates don’t seem willing to do that just yet.
Delwyn Young may be the best player in the group. Unfortunately he’s more of a project right now, with poor defense, while struggling to hit in an everyday role. If Delwyn’s August and September struggles were due to his focus on defense, then there’s a chance he could bounce back next year and be our second baseman. However, that’s not something the Pirates should bank on.
Eric Fryer and Argenis Diaz are both solid defensive prospects at rare positions to fill, but neither have shown much with the bat. I think the upside for each player would be a defensive replacement on the bench in the majors, although both players are young and have time to work on improving their hitting skills.
Casey Erickson and Hunter Strickland are both intriguing pitching options. I like Strickland better, simply because his success has come in the rotation, and he projects to throw harder in the future. Erickson is three years older and throws in the low 90s, making him a future bullpen option if he makes the majors. Strickland could have the upside of a 3-5 starter, but is still a work in progress.
The bottom line is that the Pirates kept things cheap in these deals. For a small market team, having cheap options in the bullpen and on the bench is key, as you can allocate more money to the starters on your team. Aside from that, the three bench players we’ve seen so far (Jaramillo, Diaz, and Delwyn) look pretty good in the majors, so it’s not like the Pirates are missing out on any production here.