The Pittsburgh Pirates made news Tuesday before they even played a game to open their homestand against the Milwaukee Brewers. Prior to the game, general manager Neal Huntington announced the Pirates acquired outfielder Marlon Byrd and catcher John Buck from the New York Mets in exchange for minor league infielder Dilson Herrera and the ol’ ‘player-to-be-named-later’ which Huntington said will be a “pretty good piece.”
To make room for Byrd and Buck on the 40-man roster, the Pirates designated Triple-A first baseman Russ Canzler for assignment and recalled pitcher Kyle McPherson from Triple-A Indianapolis and placed him on the 60-day DL. The 25-man moves will be made tomorrow when the two players arrive.
“In our minds Marlon Byrd upgrades our offense right now,” Huntington said. “He’s having a very good year, he’s a veteran player, he’s been around and is respected within the clubhouses and most importantly, he’s made us better.”
Huntington is right about that. Byrd brings a .285/.330/.848 triple-slash to the Bucs along with 21 home runs and 71 RBI. His OPS makes him the second-best hitter in the category for the Pirates behind center fielder Andrew McCutchen (.907) and the same goes for his home run total behind that of Pedro Alvarez.
Byrd also brings a bat that mashes left-handed pitching, the same bat the Pirates looked to find at the trade deadline last month to try to address their lack of improvement in right field. In 1,352 career plate appearances against lefties, Byrd hits .290/.343/.803 with 37 home runs. This season, Byrd is hitting .345/.383/.980 against left-handers.
Prohibitively, Byrd’s numbers make him out to be essentially the second-best hitter on the Pirates with his arrival. His WAR of 3.5 is better than every other Pirates besides catcher Russell Martin–but remember catchers have a lower baseline in determining replacement-level–and has created more runs (69) than anyone on the roster besides McCutchen (92) and Starling Marte (72).
The arrival of Byrd gives the Pirates more flexibility in the lineup as Hurdle call him a “middle of the lineup bat”. One such instance could be a revisit to Russell Martin hitting second and Byrd in the five- or six-hole. The addition of Buck, who owns a .728 career OPS against left-handers, could see Martin also play third base against southpaw starters while Buck starts behind the plate and Alvarez remains on the bench.
“We’re excited about the opportunity that both of the men have coming our way in John and Marlon,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “One’s an impactful bat, has had significant numbers against left-handed pitching as well so those were some areas were looking to improve and strengthen, and John Buck is a veteran receiver.”
Buck is in his tenth year in the major leagues, and is hitting .215/.285./.652 with 15 home runs in 2013.
“He’s got thunder in his bat,” catcher Russell Martin said. “I know Buck, he’s a great guy. I’m excited to have him.”
“It’s important for us to have three catchers we feel very good about,” Huntington said. “We love Tony Sanchez, Russ Martin has done everything we have asked from him and more, but we’re one injury away from being a little shallow.’
That was a statement Hurdle echoed, but doesn’t necessarily indicate Sanchez will stay with the big league club when the corresponding 25-man roster moves are made. Hurdle said the Pirates have had conversations about what those moves will be, but that they will “probably” be announced tomorrow and coincide with the arrival of the two players.
“Come September we’ve got three catchers and that frees Tony’s bat up,” Hurdle said.
Note that Hurdle mentions September, which could mean the Pirates will send Sanchez back to Triple-A Indianapolis until Sept. 1 when rosters expand and re-call him. In the outfield, expect either Felix Pie or Andrew Lambo to travel back to Indy until August ends.
While the trade is good for the Pirates’ offensive fortunes, second baseman Neil Walker focused on the more human aspect of the deal, so to speak.
“Anytime you’re trying to better your team you’re going to be happy,” Walker said. “They’re probably replacing two guys that are on this team so to ask straight up if we’re happy I can’t say ‘absolutely we’re excited’ because there’s a lot of different things going on.”
- Starling Marte Update
The move for Marlon Byrd may have received an extra spurring after Marte saw doctors in Pittsburgh yesterday and Dr. Tom Graham in Cleveland this morning. Huntington said Marte’s injury is a contusion with some inflammation but the swelling is yet to decrease.
“A sprain that needs to heal, needs time to get the swelling out of there, needs time to let that sprain heal. He’s going to be out at least the two weeks of the disabled list assignment. It’s all going to be contingent upon how quickly that swelling gets out, but we’re optimistic that Starling gets back out there this season. Right now, the swelling and the pain are such that he can’t grip a bat, there’s no efficient timetable for us until we get that swelling out of there.”
- Trade specifics are not totally specific yet
Dilson Herrera represented the Pirates organization alongside Gregory Polanco in the Futures Game over the All-Star Break, and the second baseman was ranked the No. 11 overall prospect in the Pirates’ system by MLB.com. Playing for the A-ball West Virginia Power in 2013, Herrera hit .265/.330/.751 in 109 games with 11 home runs and 65 RBI.
“We’ve given up a very good, young second baseman in Dilson Herrera,” Huntington said. “We’ve given up a little of our future for a lot of our present.
For the PTBNL, there was no indication as to who specifically it was but it appears unlikely to be a major-leaguer. Huntington did say, though, that the player will be a “pretty good piece” for the Mets.
- Jose Tabata LF
- Neil Walker 2B
- Andrew McCutchen CF
- Pedro Alvarez 3B
- Russell Martin C
- Gaby Sanchez 1B
- Andrew Lambo RF
- Jordy Mercer SS
- Jeff Locke P
- Nori Aoki RF
- Jean Segura SS
- Jonathan Lucroy C
- Aramis Ramirez 3B
- Carlos Gomez CF
- Khris Davis LF
- Yuniesky Betancourt 1B
- Scooter Gennett 2B
- Kyle Lohse P