What Did the Pirates Give Up in the Burnett Deal?

The A.J. Burnett trade has finally come to an end, with the Pittsburgh Pirates getting the right handed starter for $13 M over two years. In exchange, the Pirates gave up right handed relief prospect Diego Moreno and outfielder Exicardo Cayones. For those of you unfamiliar with either player, here is what the Pirates gave up.

Diego Moreno

The right handed reliever has a great arm, capable of throwing in the upper 90s, topping out at 98 in the past. He also has a sharp slider which he uses as an out pitch. Moreno was considered one of the best relief prospects in baseball after the 2010 season. He was coming off a year where he put up a 1.17 ERA in 38.1 innings, along with a 13.4 K/9 and a 1.2 BB/9 ratio in high-A. He moved up to AA towards the middle of the season, but was demoted back down to high-A after facing disciplinary action from the team.

Moreno returned to high-A in 2011, and this time struggled with his control. He also didn’t see the phenomenal strikeout totals he saw in 2010, although he was still close to a strikeout per inning. He moved up to Altoona where he had a 4.91 ERA in 11 innings, although his 11.5 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 ratios were both strong.

Moreno has a shot to make it to the majors, with an upside of an 8th inning set-up man due to his fastball/slider combo. We rated him as the 18th best prospect in the system heading in to the 2011 season, although he fell out of the top 50 after his 2011 campaign. He turns 26 in July, and hasn’t really pitched much above high-A. If he gets back on track, pitching at the level he was pitching in 2010, he could quickly move up to the majors.

The Pirates are pretty stocked with relief options, so they’re probably not going to miss Moreno, especially when they have a similar pitcher in Duke Welker on the 40-man roster.

Exicardo Cayones

Cayones is a similar story to Moreno. He was highly ranked coming in to the 2011 season, but saw his stock decline during the season. He made the jump to the United States in 2010, and hit for a .263/.369/.362 line in the very pitcher friendly Gulf Coast League. He showed a line drive stroke at the plate, enough speed to play center field, and the defensive skills to be a plus defender.

Cayones had an injury to start the season, then moved up to State College around mid-season. He was completely over-matched, hitting for a .063/.189/.063 line in 32 at-bats, with a 40.6% strikeout rate. He was demoted back to the GCL where he put up better numbers than his 2010 season, hitting for a .293/.389/.427 line in 82 at-bats.

The Pirates gave Cayones a $400,000 signing bonus in 2008, which was a francise record at the time for amateur talent. The deal still ranks in the top five in franchise history, and sixth if you count Yoslan Herrera, who wasn’t really an amateur player when he was signed. Cayones would have entered the season in a crowded outfield situation in low-A. The Pirates have guys like Willy Garcia, Gregory Polanco, and Luis Urena making the jump from the Gulf Coast League this year. Cayones hadn’t done much to stand out from that group, especially with his struggles in State College last year.

Cayones will be 20 this year, so he’s still got time to put things together. However, time is running short, and if he struggles again in A-ball, he could find himself on his way out of baseball.


The Pirates dealt two guys who we were high on heading in to the 2011 season. However, both players struggled throughout the year. Moreno returned to high-A and struggled with his control. Cayones was completely over-matched in short season A-ball. There’s some upside with both players, but the clock is ticking for each one. Moreno can’t afford another year where he struggles to make it to AA or beyond. Cayones can’t afford another year where he gets over-matched above the GCL.

The Pirates dealt from two positions of strength here. If there’s two areas where the minor league system is well stocked, it’s right handed relievers and outfielders. They’ve got a lot of right handed prospects who can throw 96+ MPH, and they’ve got a lot of young, speedy outfielders in the lower levels. I don’t think the Pirates are going to miss either player they gave away in this trade.

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Lee Young

Agree….surprised Cayones did that badly. Goes to show that projecting 17 yr olds is a hit or miss business.

Leo Trich

Tend to agree with you that the Pirates are in a position where they had enough talent in the lower minors that this will not hurt them.  Seems to be a trade worth making (getting an experience major league started can’t hurt the 2012 Pirates) …and maybe just as important, it is a good sign indicating the Bucs have put together a pretty strong minor league feeder system – so that NO top prospects had to be used in this deal.

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