Pirates Acquire Justin Morneau For Alex Presley

The Pittsburgh Pirates have acquired Justin Morneau for Alex Presley, per Ken Rosenthal.

Justin Morneau has been acquired by the Pirates. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Justin Morneau has been acquired by the Pirates. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

We heard earlier that the Pirates were still trying for Morneau, and that they were willing to take on money. No word on what the cost for Morneau would be, but even if they took on the entire salary it wouldn’t matter. This is a good deal for the Pirates. They didn’t give up anything of value. They will have Jose Tabata, Travis Snider, Andrew Lambo, and Felix Pie as extra outfielders when rosters expand in September. Presley would have been out of options next year, and probably would have been non-tendered or designated for assignment. He could have some value to the Twins if they want to give him a shot as a starter or a fourth outfielder, but the Pirates have too many of those types.

As I said last night, Morneau gives the Pirates options. If Garrett Jones doesn’t heat up, Morneau can take over as the starting first baseman against right-handers. If both players are playing well, Jones can take over in right field for Jose Tabata until Starling Marte returns. If Morneau, Jones, and Tabata are playing well, then the Pirates can rotate between all three for the two starting spots, and will have a strong bench once Marte returns.

Because Morneau was added before playoff rosters have to be set, he is eligible for the post-season.

UPDATE 2:34 PM: Dan Zangrilli, who reported earlier today that the Pirates were still going for Morneau, says that the Twins were trying hard for Nick Kingham.

That would have been a horrible move, even if Minnesota picked up all of Morneau’s salary. Going from Kingham (who has a lot of value to the Pirates) to Presley (who has very little value) is a great deal. At the very least, Morneau will be better than what Presley would have been down the stretch.

UPDATE 2:36 PM: Zangrilli also says he hears the Pirates are picking up most of the remaining salary, which makes sense.

UPDATE 2:42 PM: Jon Heyman says that a PTBNL or cash is also involved in the deal.

UPDATE 2:48 PM: The Pirates officially announce the deal.

UPDATE 2:56 PM: Travis Sawchik also says the Pirates will pick up the remaining Morneau salary.

I’ve updated the 2013 payroll page with today’s move. The Pirates are now projected for $73.3 M, which is a figure that should go up with the addition of September callups.

UPDATE 3:03 PM: I’ve gotten a few questions about the PTBNL, wondering if it’s a situation like Vic Black. The fact that the wording included “or cash considerations” suggests that it’s not a particular player being discussed. The main reason to go with a PTBNL would be if the player is on the 40-man roster, not on the active roster, and hasn’t cleared waivers. If it is a player like that, we’ll find out by tomorrow, since the Pirates wouldn’t be able to call that player up when rosters expand.

James Santelli’s Analysis

Gaby Sanchez

Expect Gaby Sanchez to get the majority of starts against left-handers, and rightly so. He’s hitting .281/.386/.465 vs. RHP since last year. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

If you are the GM of a contending team, your trade deadline goal is to fix your weaknesses by finding upgrades.

Neal Huntington would not say so publicly, but his team’s obvious weaknesses were at shortstop, first base and right field. Instead of overpaying for Alexei Ramirez, Huntington went looking for a 1B or RF. Nothing was available at the July 31 deadline at a price (of prospects) the Pirates were willing to play. The GM kept his chips, as did most of the National League.

While Huntington stood pat, though, both 1B and RF performed worse. Garrett Jones continued to swing a replacement-level bat (with terrible August luck on balls in play), and the amalgamation of Jones, Josh Harrison, Andrew Lambo, Jose Tabata and Alex Presley was not exactly dominating in right field.

One week ago, I wrote the Pirates needed to get offensive help, especially at first base. They did it. Look at the possible playoff lineups, with the Pirates’ postseason odds at 99 percent:

Lineup vs. RHP

LF Starling Marte
2B Neil Walker
CF Andrew McCutchen
3B Pedro Alvarez
RF Marlon Byrd
1B Justin Morneau
C Russell Martin
SS Jordy Mercer

Lineup vs. LHP

LF Starling Marte
2B Jordy Mercer
CF Andrew McCutchen
RF Marlon Byrd
C Russell Martin
1B Gaby Sanchez
3B Pedro Alvarez
SS Clint Barmes

Or something of that sort (you can disagree about certain spots, that’s not the point). Don’t they look like something a fan would have drawn up as a dream scenario in the middle of July? Don’t they look like actual playoff lineups?

Pedro Alvarez Pittsburgh Pirates

You know how Pedro Alvarez crushes right-handed pitching? Morneau has better numbers against righties than Alvarez since the start of 2012. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Justin Morneau is not an MVP anymore. Justin Morneau is not a Home Run Derby champion anymore. Justin Morneau is not an All-Star anymore. But Justin Morneau can still cream right-handed pitching.

Since the start of last season, Morneau has had a wRC+ (all-encompassing, park-adjusted hitting stat) against righties that is better than players like Pedro Alvarez, Chase Headley, Jay Bruce and Garrett Jones, all either left-handed or switch-hitting.

Morneau walks, doesn’t strike out much, will move from lefty-killing Target Field to the Clemente Wall of PNC Park, and owns a .285/.356/.508 triple-slash against righties since the start of 2012. He is a damn good hitter against righties, even if it is not at an MVP level. That will be important for the Pirates in September and the playoffs, and just on that basis, Huntington made a good move.

But there is one thing I forgot. There is one area that was a weakness for the Pirates that Huntington’s moves this past week shored up. It was the bench.

Now the Pirates’ bench will feature veteran hitters Garrett Jones, Gaby Sanchez, John Buck and Clint Barmes for most games. If the Bucs carry 14 hitters for most postseason series (which they should), you can add in the speed and solid hitting ability of Josh Harrison and Jose Tabata. That is a quality bench, especially for a team that was previously giving so many at-bats to to Michael McKenry, Brandon Inge and Alex Presley.

The upgrades have been made. Huntington did it. Ladies and gentlemen, buckle up. This is the Pittsburgh Pirates team that is going to battle for a World Championship.

UPDATE 6:09 PM: Nate Barnes reports that Huntington says the PTBNL is a legitimate piece.

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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