Revisiting the Nate McLouth trade

Pittsburgh Pirates vs St. Louis Cardinals

In today’s Q&A, Chuck Finder answers a question from a fan upset about last June’s Nate McLouth trade. I understand why this trade incensed many fans. McLouth was a quality player and a fan favorite. He was one of my favorites, too. But once we get past the emotional reaction, we see that the trade of McLouth, along with the subsequent acquisition of Lastings Milledge, did not exactly hurt the Pirates. In 2009, McLouth was only marginally more valuable for Atlanta than Charlie Morton was for the Pirates. When we consider Andrew McCutchen and Garrett Jones were more productive outfielders, it is clear that the McLouth deal did not affect the Pirates last season.

Let’s look forward to 2010, primarily at the difference between an outfield duo of McLouth/Nyjer Morgan and McCutchen/Milledge. I converted CHONE’s projected wOBA into runs using the formula (wOBA – .330)/1.15 * 600. This gives us offensive runs above or below average, based on 600 plate appearances. Combining Erik Manning’s UZR/150 projections with a positional adjustment gives us a total defensive value.

2010 Age Offense Defense Overall
Nate McLouth 28 13.0 -1.5 11.5
Nyjer Morgan 29 -4.7 3.5 -1.2
Andrew McCutchen 23 14.1 3.5 17.6
Lastings Milledge 25 4.2 -2.5 1.7

The Pirates have upgraded for 2010 in both left and center field, while becoming significantly younger in the process. McLouth is likely experiencing his peak, while Morgan will never replicate his 2009 production. McCutchen, on the other hand, is ready to burst into stardom, while Milledge is just approaching his prime years. Both of these players will improve, while McLouth and Morgan are more likely to decline. McLouth is a better option in right than Garrett Jones, but Charlie Morton provides a similar boost to the starting rotation. Besides, Jose Tabata is knocking on the door to take over right field.

2010 Age Offense Defense Overall
Nate McLouth 28 13.0 -1.5 11.5
2010 Age FIP Runs *
Charlie Morton 26 4.16 11.8
* based on 180 innings

McLouth was an asset in the outfield, a position of relative team depth. The Pirates exchanged him for Morton, a similarly valued asset on the mound, where the team was weak. The Bucs also received two of their current top 15 prospects in the process. I know it is not easy to accept as a fan, but the trade improved the Pirates’ future, without sacrificing much of the present.

Author: Matt Bandi

Matt has covered the Pirates at Wait ‘Til Next Year, Pittsburgh Lumber Co. and now Pirates Prospects. He served as Pirates team expert for Heater Magazine in 2009 and 2010 and has contributed to Graphical Player 2009, 2010 and 2011. Matt was also the editor of the 2011 and 2012 Pirates Prospects Annuals.

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