The 2010 trade deadline was kind of surreal. In previous years, I would check MLB Trade Rumors several times a day, always trying to keep up with the latest rumors on where Pittsburgh Pirates players could end up. This year there was very little trade talk, to the point where I went days without even going to the site at all. Part of that was because the Pirates had traded so much away last year, but another part was that they weren’t actively seeking to deal away the talent they had (which is something that they said all season, although I think everyone, myself included, took an “I’ll believe it when I see it” approach).
Then, deadline day came around, and things started to feel familiar. The morning started off with the announcement that Jeff Clement and Argenis Diaz would be called up, which led to a lot of speculation, including the possibility of a Garrett Jones trade. That turned out to be a pre-cursor to the Chris Snyder trade, which was a total surprise. The Snyder trade was kind of like a video game deal, where you keep throwing your crappy bench players at the other team until you find some combination of players that gets you the player you want. D.J. Carrasco is a good reliever, and you can’t just get Snyder for nothing, but the fact that the Pirates didn’t have to give up any prospects, and got rid of Ryan Church and Bobby Crosby in the deal was outstanding.
Despite this move, which could be considered a “buy” for the Pirates, there were rumors surrounding Paul Maholm, with three teams reported to have interest. Slowly throughout the day that interest faded, as the Padres were ruled out, followed by the Dodgers when they traded for Ted Lilly. Suddenly it went from the familiar “Paul Maholm is a goner” feeling to an unusual “Paul Maholm might stay” feel.
The Pirates did make two moves that could be considered “sells”, but they didn’t trade anything of huge value to them. The Octavio Dotel deal was my number one move of the day, and might eventually rank up there as one of Neal Huntington’s best moves. The Pirates had no need for Dotel with Evan Meek and Joel Hanrahan performing so well. The Javier Lopez deal didn’t do much for me, but we’re talking about the loss of a middle reliever, and the return in my opinion brought back a middle reliever and a bench player. Nothing significant changed hands on either side.
Below is my breakdown of all the deals made today. Also, be sure to check out Kevin’s analysis of Neal Huntington making three deals with three different NL West teams.
1. D.J. Carrasco/Ryan Church/Bobby Crosby for Chris Snyder/Pedro Ciriaco/Cash
The Chris Snyder trade seems like a real win for both sides. Arizona didn’t need Snyder with Miguel Montero as their starting catcher, but they did need bullpen help and salary relief. Pittsburgh needed a catching upgrade with the way Ryan Doumit has been playing. Doumit’s performance really is the key to this trade.
In 2008, Doumit looked like a potential franchise catcher. He had injury issues, but he hit for an .858 OPS, and caught 27% of baserunners stealing. In 2009 he dealt with some injuries, dropping his season OPS to .714. However, he showed promise, as he improved his caught stealing rate to 31%, and finished the season with an .865 OPS from September on. This year, things have been horrible all around. Doumit has a .741 OPS, he’s only caught 11% of base runners stealing, and he’s injured with a concussion.
Snyder doesn’t hit for average, but he’s strong defensively and has been consistently around a .775 OPS in four of the last five years. Overall that represents a league average starting catcher, but that’s an upgrade over the way Doumit has been playing the past two seasons. The Pirates didn’t give up much, as D.J. Carrasco was a good reliever, but wasn’t a guy who was untouchable. They also managed to unload Ryan Church and Bobby Crosby, which will allow guys like Argenis Diaz, Jeff Clement, and maybe even Brandon Moss to get some playing time during a season that is completely shot, rather than at the start of the 2011 season.
The Players in Return
Snyder - As I said above, he’s probably a league average starter at best, but that’s an upgrade over Doumit. He should hold down the spot until Tony Sanchez arrives, or until one of Erik Kratz and Jason Jaramillo step up as a replacement.
Ciriaco - He’s basically an Argenis Diaz clone, only he’s better on the base paths, and he might be better defensively. It’s good that the Pirates got a prospect along with Snyder, but ultimately Ciriaco has the upside of a bench player who can play second base and shortstop, so this isn’t a huge addition.
Cash - The Pirates will receive $3 M from Arizona for Snyder. That will most likely be applied to the 2011 payroll, as Snyder is only owed $1,687,159 for the remainder of the season. When factoring in the reported $3 M the Pirates will receive, the $8,187,159 owed to Snyder, and the $1,225,410 the Pirates saved this year from Church, Crosby, and Carrasco, the total cost of this deal for the Pirates comes out to $3,961,749 from now until the end of the 2011 season.
2. Octavio Dotel/Cash for James McDonald/Andrew Lambo
This is the deal that I liked the most. Back in the Summer of 2008, when the Jason Bay to Los Angeles rumors were going around, I was hoping the Pirates would land McDonald in a potential deal. Prior to the 2009 season, Lambo and McDonald ranked 1-2 in the Dodgers’ farm system. Both have fallen a bit in value, as McDonald has been used as a reliever in the majors, and Lambo has struggled at AA, but there’s still time for each to realize their potential. The Pirates didn’t have a need for Dotel with the emergence of Evan Meek and Joel Hanrahan this year, and paying him $4.5 M in 2011 to basically be the third best reliever on the team would have been a waste of money.
The Players in Return
McDonald - I’m still pretty high on McDonald, although this is the same story we’ve seen plenty of times before. McDonald was a top prospect, with strong numbers at the AAA level, but his issue in the majors has been control, with a 4.7 BB/9 ratio in 76.2 innings at the major league level. The Pirates have managed to turn around those control issues with a few guys (Meek, Ross Ohlendorf), so it’s not out of the question that they can get McDonald turned around. I see McDonald as a #2 starter in a best case scenario, although a #3-4 starter, or more of a Ross Ohlendorf type, seems more probable.
Lambo - Lambo has struggled at the AA level, although he’s young for the level. He was one of the youngest players in the Southern League at the start of the season, missing the “Top 10 Youngest” list by 20 days. I consider Lambo a bonus here, but that’s because I’m high on McDonald. I liked the trade when it was just McDonald for Dotel. When I found that Lambo was included, that was just a bonus. Lambo is young enough that he could still realize his potential, even if he repeats the AA level again next season. I think his problem is that he’s been rushed. He started out in rookie ball in 2007, then jumped to low-A in 2008, only to jump over high-A and go right to AA at the end of the season, all at the age of 19. Hopefully the aggressive moves won’t hurt his potential for the long term.
3. Javier Lopez for John Bowker/Joe Martinez
This trade doesn’t do much for me either way. Lopez was good in relief this season, but he’s a middle reliever, and the Pirates might have a left handed option on the roster who could replace him in Wilfredo Ledezma. The loss of Lopez isn’t big, especially when the Pirates can easily sign a replacement if they need to fill his spot in 2011. I’m also not that high on Bowker or Martinez. I feel that Bowker is a fourth outfielder at best, and Martinez is more middle relief depth, possibly replacing Lopez and his production next year.
The Players in Return
Bowker - He has some good numbers at AAA, with a career .318/.414/.561 line in 660 at-bats, although that’s mostly due to his numbers the last two years at the ages of 25 and 26, after already having two years of experience at the AAA level. Bowker is out of options next year, and my guess is that the Pirates will go with him, rather than tendering an offer to Delwyn Young, who will be first time arbitration eligible after the season.
Martinez - Martinez has struggled in his brief time in the majors, and his minor league numbers don’t really do much. Basically I don’t expect him to do much, outside of maybe matching the performance we saw from Lopez this year.
4. Paul Maholm’s Non-Trade
To me, this was the biggest statement of the deadline. There seems to be this perception that if teams wait out the Pirates until the deadline, eventually the Pirates will lower their demands in order to move a player for prospects. There are some reasons why this perception exists:
1. That’s what Dave Littlefield did. When we heard trade rumors on a player while DL was the General Manager, similar to the talk we heard on Maholm, the player was gone by the deadline, and usually for a bad return.
2. The trades from the last two years have people feeling that the Pirates will sell off assets every year until they compete. Seriously, how many people do you think actually believed the Pirates when they said there were players they wouldn’t move unless they got a big return? I’m betting a lot of fans were waiting for Maholm to be moved up until the deadline passed.
3. Some of the trades haven’t worked out, so people will take a hindsight view and say that Huntington settles for a lesser return. Take the Jason Bay trade as an example. At the time, that deal looked great. The Pirates got Andy LaRoche, who was a top 40 prospect in baseball. They got Bryan Morris, a potential top of the rotation starter, Brandon Moss, a potential starting outfielder or a strong fourth outfielder, and a potential closer in Craig Hansen. That was how the deal looked at the time.
Fast forward two years, and the only person who could realize the potential he had in 2008 is Morris. The trade has bombed, especially with LaRoche struggling so much this year, both offensively and defensively, but that doesn’t mean Huntington settled for less at the time.
Keeping Maholm seems to be a statement, both to fans, and to other teams. It says to the fans that the Pirates actually care about winning. They’ve been horrible this year, but they held on to their best starter when they didn’t get a favorable return, rather than trading him away. By keeping Maholm, the Pirates are saying that they’re trying to be competitive in the time Maholm is under control (2011-2012). If they didn’t think this was possible, they would have most likely dealt him away.
The bigger message was the one sent to other teams. The Pirates said they had players they didn’t want to deal. They had what was considered high demands. The Dodgers didn’t want to meet those demands for Maholm, so the Pirates didn’t trade him. The Mets had interest in Octavio Dotel, but the Pirates wanted a top prospect in return (LHP Robert Carson) and the Mets balked. The Pirates ended up dealing with the Dodgers instead, getting a few top guys to meet their price on Dotel.
Going forward, keeping Maholm should help the Pirates. It shows that the Pirates don’t feel they need to trade players away, which is another misconception that goes around a lot from other teams (aka, the “Pittsburgh should just take what they can get for this player” reasoning). So perhaps next year, when the Pirates are listing their demands for a certain player, another team will see what happened with Maholm, and will realize that if they want the player they seek, they’ll have to meet the Pirates’ demands (although ideally the Pirates will be buyers by that point). Or, maybe someone offers a “Dee Gordon and a major league ready pitcher” return for Maholm this off-season, realizing that this is the only way to get Maholm from the Pirates.