It’s funny how a year can change everything in regards to the perception of a deal. A year ago the Jason Bay trade was widely regarded as a success, while the Xavier Nady trade was widely criticized. In both deals the Pirates added a top prospect, getting Andy LaRoche in the Bay trade, and getting Jose Tabata in the Nady trade. Both moves added additional talent, with Ohlendorf, Morris, McCutchen, Moss, Karstens, and Hansen.
Now a year later the Nady trade looks like a huge success, while the Bay trade is considered a disappointment. That’s no surprise, since opinions on trades generally rely on a “what have you done for me lately” viewpoint. A year later the Nady trade has brought us Ross Ohlendorf, who was the best Pirates’ starting pitcher this season, while Nady and Damaso Marte were both injured the majority of the year in 2009.
As you can see in the trade grades, Ohlendorf for Nady and Marte alone is enough to win this deal for the Pirates. That’s not all the Pirates got though. Daniel McCutchen could be the Pirates’ number five starter next season, after impressing at AAA, and then again in his limited time in the majors in September. Jeff Karstens is a serviceable utility pitcher, able to pitch in several bullpen situations, and make the occasional emergency start.
The biggest piece of the trade was the addition of Jose Tabata. Tabata was struggling with the Yankees last year, hitting for a .248/.319/.310 line in AA, and falling out of favor with the organization after being labeled a head case. Much of the criticism over the deal was over the fact that the Pirates took on a failing prospect, unlike the Jason Bay trade, where they received a prospect who not only had minor league success, but was ready for a shot at the majors.
Tabata came to the Pirates and immediately flipped a switch, hitting .348/.402/.562 in Altoona for the remainder of the 2008 season. In 2009 he hit for a .303/.372/.404 line at AA, and followed that up with a .276/.333/.410 line in AAA at the end of the season. The “head-case” label has also been dismissed as merely a slip up in judgement by a young kid. Tabata was considered a prospect on his way out. Now he’s a prospect on his way up, possibly to the majors as early as June 2010.
What if things start to go wrong though? What if Ohlendorf doesn’t repeat his performance next year? It wouldn’t be the first time a Pirates’ pitcher has a good season, only to follow it up with a stink fest. What if Tabata fails as a prospect? What if McCutchen doesn’t work out in the rotation?
Part of the reason I don’t care about the 2009 results of the Bay trade is because I never cared about the 2009 season. The Pirates weren’t going to compete in 2009. I knew that even before they traded Bay and Nady. I care about the results when all of our building blocks are in the majors, like Pedro Alvarez, Brad Lincoln, Andrew McCutchen, and Jose Tabata. From the looks of things, that will start in June 2010.
It would be hypocritical of me to say the Bay trade could still be a victory for the Pirates while dismissing the fact that the Nady trade could do a 180 after this season. You can’t suggest that Andy LaRoche could improve on his 2009 performance without also acknowledging that Ross Ohlendorf could regress.
The Nady trade looks amazing right now. The Pirates have their potential number three hitter in Tabata, and two main pieces to the rotation with Ohlendorf and McCutchen, along with some depth from Karstens. Let’s not forget that this time last year, the Bay trade was deemed a success, and the Nady trade was deemed a failure. Who’s to say that LaRoche won’t put up a great season next year, Ohlendorf won’t regress, and the trades won’t flip-flop again?
In short, I love that Ross Ohlendorf had success in the majors this year. I love that Daniel McCutchen looked good in his six starts in the majors. I love that Jose Tabata has returned to top prospect status. That said, in order for this trade to be branded a major success, these guys are going to have to put up good performances in years that matter, and 2009 wasn’t one of those years. I guess we can only hope these guys keep up the good work.