The Pittsburgh Pirates have acquired left-handed pitcher Andy Oliver from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for catcher Ramon Cabrera. Oliver was taken in the second round of the 2009 draft by Detroit, after being considered a first round talent heading into the 2009 season.

Oliver had 31.2 innings in the majors, with a 7.11 ERA. He has a 6.5 K/9 and a 6.0 BB/9, struggling with his control numbers. The last time he was in the majors was in 2011. He was rushed through the minors a bit, going right to Double-A in 2010, then skipping to the majors after 130.1 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. He returned to Triple-A in 2011 and made 26 starts. In 2012 he had a 4.88 ERA in 118 innings in Triple-A, with an 8.5 K/9 and a 6.7 BB/9 ratio.

Oliver’s biggest issue has been a lack of control, which started once he moved up to Triple-A. He was a starter for most of his career, but moved to the bullpen in 2012. As a reliever his numbers were better, with a 3.78 ERA in 16.2 innings, although the control issues were still there with a 20:12 K/BB ratio. Baseball America had him as the fifth best prospect in Detroit’s system last year. He throws a 92-96 MPH fastball, a below-average slider, and an inconsistent changeup. At this point Oliver is similar to Justin Wilson due to the good velocity and the control issues, although I’d probably rate Wilson higher, since his control isn’t as bad.

Cabrera was one of the top catching prospects in the upper levels, which was a thin group. He’s a small catcher, which raises questions about his durability behind the plate. He made strides with his defense and game calling last year.  His bread and butter has always been his hitting. He won the Florida State League batting title in 2011 with a .343 average. He started off slow with Altoona, but turned it on the final two months, with a .301/.361/.425 line in July, and a .340/.414/.456 line in August. He was just added to the 40-man roster a few weeks ago. Oliver was on Detroit’s 40-man, and will take Cabrera’s spot.

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26 COMMENTS

  1. I think a key here is what Tim mentioned, that Oliver was rushed. The Tigers system has this reputation, and it has had mixed success with their prospect arms (Verlander= success; Turner= not so much). Oliver was drafted out of OK St. and in his first year as a pro finished in AAA. He never developed the critical skills that could maximize his talent.

    So . . . as a 25-year old it’s damn near impossible he will reach the potential he had at 23 (a #2), but I like it as a reclamation project as long as they actually try to ‘reclaim’ his upside. As others note, there are other left-handed bullpen options, like Wilson. It would serve the Pirates to keep him down another year to work on his command, secondary stuff, and arm strength so he can be stretched back out. At his age, I see a 180-inning left-handed #4-5 starter *upside*, and I’ll take that over someone who throws 60 innings a season any day of the week. And if it doesn’t work, try him in the pen and if if that doesn’t work be OK with the fact that the cost was minimal (no offense intended to Ramon Cabrera whatsoever).

  2. I dont have a problem wth this move. Cabrera is gonna be a solid mlb catcher off the bench. But he is not the typical power and low avg C. He is a low walk hig average gap power guy…definitely doesn’t fit the profile of guys the Bucs have been going after so to a degree I think you can say they didnt want him. I like him but to use him to get a lefty that is consistently 92-94 and just turned 25 three days ago is a good thing. 25 to a lefty is not all that old. Hopefully he can develop a 2nd pitch he can throw for strikes and become our 2nd left out of the pen.

    • Yeah the trend is that its never a bad idea to take a risk on a power lefty arm. The Bucs have done well in correcting fastball command issues in the past. I like the deal. Cabrera was not more than a MLB backup prospect.

  3. This kid was 13-2 in his first two years in college, and has the juice to be a LHSP. He suffers from 3 things – he is left handed; he is fairly tall at 6’3″, and he has gotten through college and the minors with just a fastball. I would place him at AAA as a SP, and let him develop at least two more pitches – hopefully a Slider and and a Change-up. He turned 25 on Tuesday, so he will play all of 2013 as a 25 year old. Tony Watson 95/96, Justin Wilson 96/97 and Andy Oliver 94/95. Nice to have that type of talent in the wings. My pick – Justin Wilson – very heady and a bulldog on the mound.

    • Poor Detroit if only they had the superior Pirates development staff they could have had a LH version of Verlander. Well the Bucs will show them how it’s done!
      I know… if he doesn’t work out they didn’t really lose anything.
      I’m just tired of reading about all the losers they sign even if they are minor leaguers

      • As White Angus mentioned above, ALL teams do these types of reclamation projects. you just never know when ‘the light will go on’.

        If you’re a lefty, with a top FB, you’re gonna get chances.

        Btw, you DO know that Grilli was a failed number 1 pick that OUR development team turned into a strikeout machine?

        So yeah, I’m all for taking a chance on a failed top prospect.

  4. If they didn’t like RC size why bother signing him and wasting all the work coaching him up ? So they could trade him for another washed out pitcher ? They have so many of them in the minors now that their names are all a blur to me.

    • its not that they dont like cabrera, its that they view him as expendable. hes behind 3 other guys in front of him and have 2 other catchers behind him, including mathieson, whom many rate as being better.
      taking a chance on a power lefty is fine and it only cost a catcher who really doesnt have much of a chance to make it.

      • I don’t have anything against the other catching prospects but I’ll tell you I have worked over the years in a physical job and some of the toughest people I have worked with were short people. They seem to have some inner strength that drives them to prove that they are just as good if not better than taller people. I don’t know if that drives Cabrera but if it does it wouldn’t surprise me to see him hitting .300 for the Tigers someday and people talking about this phenom once belonging to the Pirates.

  5. Andy Oliver ranked Detroit’s #5 prospect on mlb.com. Though 25 years old already. Can throw pretty hard. Probably a strong bullpen option this season.

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