Neal Huntington addressed the media shortly before 6:00 this evening, and offered his thoughts on the Justin Morneau trade, as well as the roster moves made today to clear space for Morneau and Stolmy Pimentel on the 25-man active roster.
“We felt that this move gives us a better chance to play in October, gives us a better chance to win the division, and gives us a better chance to advance deep into October if not win it all,” Huntington said.
The move made for Morneau, in addition to picking up Marlon Byrd and John Buck earlier this week, are ones atypical of the ones usually made by the Pirates
“These are not moves we want to make habits of,” Huntington said.
So far, the Pirates have given up minor-leaguers Dilson Herrera and Vic Black, as well as outfielder Alex Presley in today’s deal. The deal was announced earlier in the day that the second piece would be a player to be named later or cash considerations, but Huntington said the PTBNL will be a “legitimate piece”.
But, in the meantime, the move makes the Pirates a much deeper and talented team. Jose Tabata (when Marte returns) and Garrett Jones become the first options off the bench now, which is a marked improvement from when those options were the likes of Brandon Inge or John McDonald.
“It adds to our depth, and it gives Clint [Hurdle] a lot of options,” Huntington said. “He can pick match-ups.”
Since the trading deadline, Huntington said the Twins’ asking price on Morneau did come down but that money was never an issue. Huntington said he operated under the assumption that the Pirates would be taking on the entirety of Morneau’s remaining salary.
“The conversation wasn’t about dollars or prospects,” Huntington said. “It was about Justin Morneau as a pure baseball trade.”
Moving forward, the Pirates do expect Morneau to continue the hot-hitting he showed in the month of August in which he hit nine home runs and batted .250/.293/.543.
“Our guys have seen a small mechanical adjustment, and we’ve seen tangible reasons for why he’s hit nine home runs in the month of August,” Huntington said. “We’ve got some confidence he’ll be able to continue that going forward, especially as he gets out here to the Clemente Wall.”
When it comes to the roles of Gaby Sanchez and Garrett Jones, Huntington mentioned the versatility of Jones as well as Marlon Byrd to get Jones some at-bats. Huntington cited the ability of Byrd to play all three outfield positions, which could create some time for Jones in right field.
Gaby Sanchez should figure to maintain his share of at-bats in the first base platoon, though, as he is hitting .326/.440/.539 this season against left-handed pitching. Morneau, on the other hand, has been ineffective against southpaws with a .209/.248/.288 line against them.
But on the side of the platoon that sees Pirates first basemen hitting against right-handed pitching, Huntington got a solid upgrade. Garrett Jones hit .251/.305/.444 with 13 home runs in 380 plate appearances against right-handers this season.
Morneau has posted a .281/.343/.488 line with 15 of his 17 home runs this year coming off righties.