First Pitch: Is The Trade Deadline Overrated?

With the recent slump by the Pittsburgh Pirates, there have been a few claims that the Pirates should have made a big trade at the deadline. The Pirates did make a big move that most people liked when they added Wandy Rodriguez, rather than going with in-house options like Jeff Locke or Justin Wilson.

They also made a smaller trade that most people didn’t like, dealing Brad Lincoln for Travis Snider. The Pirates opted to go with Snider, rather than more expensive, and “safer” players like Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence.

It’s only been a little over two weeks since the deadline, but so far the Travis Snider looks like the best deal the Pirates made. And it doesn’t just look good in comparison to the deals the Pirates made. It looks good in comparison to deals that other teams made.

So far Snider has a .341/.378/.488 line with the Pirates in 41 at-bats. That’s after hitting for a .250/.300/.556 line in 36 at-bats with Toronto. Both are small samples, but Snider was also tearing up Triple-A, hitting for a .325/.409/.567 line.

Compare that to Shane Victorino, who is hitting for a .298/.344/.439 line in 57 at-bats with the Dodgers. Coming in to the series with the Pirates, Victorino had an OPS of .645 with Los Angeles.

Then there’s Hunter Pence, who has a .177/.212/.290 line in 62 at-bats with the Giants. By comparison, Gaby Sanchez has a .281/.343/.344 line in 32 at-bats since the trade to Pittsburgh.

These are small sample sizes, and I’m not trying to say Snider and Sanchez are better than Pence and Victorino. Actually, I would say Snider is better. I’d take him over Pence and Victorino. But the point of this is to show how the trade deadline doesn’t offer any guarantees.

The Rodriguez trade was supposed to be the big deal for the Pirates, and the Snider deal was a gamble. Yet the Snider deal looks to be better than any deal the Pirates could have made. On the other side, the Rodriguez trade isn’t looking good at all. After his second start, I questioned the trade. I didn’t like the deal when it was made, didn’t like it after two starts, and don’t like it now. It seems that more people are in that camp with me now. Rodriguez has a 5.58 ERA since the trade. That’s concerning because he had a 5.40 ERA in June/July with Houston, prior to the deal. And if you don’t want to feel worse about the deal, don’t look at these stats from Robbie Grossman since the trade.

It makes you think about whether the trade deadline really matters at all? It’s seen as the magical answer to any problems a team might have. But as shown above, there are no guarantees. A “good” deal like Wandy Rodriguez might not work out. A “cheap” deal like Travis Snider might turn out better than adding name players like Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino. Then there are teams like the Cincinnati Reds who didn’t do much at all, and went on a hot streak after the deadline.

There’s no one the Pirates could have added who could have avoided this recent team slump. These games aren’t being lost because of the absence of one player. They’re being lost because the whole team is slumping right now. I say “slumping” rather than “collapsing”, because a collapse implies that the team was never good enough to contend in the first place. I don’t think the first four months of the season was a fluke. And making any other deals at the deadline wouldn’t have helped this team right now.

The trade deadline is seen as the answer, but in reality it’s not. The trade deadline is just a supplement. It doesn’t turn bad teams in to contenders. Contenders don’t fall out of the race based on what they do at the deadline. Teams get a little stronger with trades, but the impact is small. The Reds are on a hot streak, and they didn’t have to add anyone, outside of Jonathan Broxton, to get there. The Pirates added one of the most productive hitters traded at the deadline and they’re in a huge slump. And there’s no player who would have stopped that, since there’s nothing about the trade deadline that can make the team we’ve seen over the last two weeks look like a contender.

Links and Notes

**The Pirates lost 9-2 to the Dodgers.

**Pirates Notebook: Rodriguez Struggling Since Trade; Do Pirates Need to Look For Help?

**Walker Exits Game with Dislocated Right Pinky.

**Prospect Watch: Justin Wilson Continues to Have Success in Rotation.

**Wilson Throws Six Good Innings, Hague Homers in Indians Loss.

**Pirates Trade Daniel Cabrera, Sign Dallas McPherson.

**Alen Hanson, Gregory Polanco Taken in First Round of Dominican League Draft.

**The Batting Title is Andrew McCutchen’s to Lose.

**Pirates Likely to Go Back to Five-Man Rotation.

**Minor League Schedule: 8/16/12.

**Exploring the Arsenal – Joe Blanton.

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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Marco Rincones

I’m not saying that Travis Snider wasn’t an okay acquisition but I do not like that our bullpen is without Jeff Lincoln. Our bullpen has turned to crap since the trade deadline – our offense is still highly questionable, especially against quality pitchers.

Lee Young

You mean the Lincoln that has given up 6 runs in 9 inn and would’ve given up more if not for that incredible highlight reel catch by Rajai Davis saving a HR?

That Brad Lincoln?

Actually, that was the only deal I DID like. Altho, I am warming up to Gaby.

Lee Young

Tim….we were DEFINITELY in the minority with not liking the Wandy deal. I never knew the down arrow on here could go so high…

But, I was REALLY hoping I was wrong, tho.

Lee Young

Tim….we were DEFINITELY in the minority with not liking the Wandy deal. I never knew the down arrow on here could go so high…

But, I was REALLY hoping I was wrong, tho.


You still could be wrong. It’s only been 4 starts.

Lee Young

Yes I could be wrong and would love it if I were, but if you look at his game logs he has been decidedly below average since Mid-May. More than a few starts. And, at his age, it could be a decline rather than just a bad year.

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