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.

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Monsoon, he is going to be batting lead off for Minnesota. I like Presley too but pirates can afford to have a better bat for 1 month with polanco possible coming up next year.

Bautista is another story. Pirates gave him plenty of chances. He was a 3rd baseman batting around .240 with what? An average of about 15 home runs a year. He had no power to play third. Yes management screwed pirates for a good 17 years. Not saying I wouldn’t have liked to keep him but he wasn’t tearing the cover off the ball. He went to Toronto and started juicing. Plain and simple lol


This is a great move for everybody ! (except the Cards & Reds). Presley will likely get a chance to play everyday, which he would never have got with the Bucs.. Morneau brings more options with the bat, either starting or off the bench. I hope I never see another “Nutting is cheap” comment !
Go Buccos !


Last 280 AB’s, Garrett jones has an OPS of .654
Is that enough of a sample size? I don’t care what he did last year.
Morneau is a better hitter and defensive first baseman than Garrett Jones.

We are going to be playing at least one playoff game in a month. I want the best team on the field. Also, we now have Jones and Tabata off the bench vs Lambo and Harrison.

Great move

Monsoon Harvard

Good for Presley though. He will play every day in Minnesota and put up some good numbers over a full season. He got screwed over in Pittsburgh.

Still, Tabata can’t leave soon enough for me, but no team is really dumb enough to want him.

Lee Young

He’ll play everyday until they find out that he strikes out too much, doesn’t walk and is a lousy outfielder.

Wasn’t a fan of Morneau, but he is definitely an upgrade over Alex.


Monsoon Harvard

I doubt they care about him not walking enough, since he isn’t a lead-off hitter anyway.

They ran Jose Bautista out of this town too because he didn’t walk enough and struck out a lot. I’m happy for Bautista having success in Toronto now doing his thing, and I’ll be happy when Alex has success in the AL.

I still approve of the trade because Morneau’s bat was needed.


I don’t understand how people think this was not an upgrade to the team. They gave up nothing for at the least… A good lefty off the bench (a clear upgrade to what the pirates have) at best a morneau who hits close to . 300 with 5-10 home runs for sept. this at the least improved the Bench


Excellent move NH. Hopefully Morneau’s August carries over to Sept, or we might as well of kept Jones.

Monsoon Harvard

Great guy to bring in for right-handed slugging but I wish they’d have given them Jose Tabata instead of Alex Presley.


I do not understand the enthusiasm. This is a superficial deal, people are data mining to rationalize the magnitude of this upgrade, Morneau is name not worth his remaining salary. The Pirates did not sacrifice much, but I find it hard to believe that Presley could not have been moved in the winter/end of spring training for something of value.

Projections have Jones and Tabata providing individually as much value as Morneau, ROS. If this reduces Sanchez ABs against RHP great. However a much larger number of ABs (than four weeks) is needed to realize the upgrade of .083 career OPS vs RHP, due to how volatile baseball can be. The Pirates have bought a little less uncertainty but the costs are real.

I hope I am wrong, I hope Morneau has some big hits, but this is not a type of deal I would like to see repeated.


All I can do is laugh at this post! This was a great trade and a huge Jones and Tabata both blow! Every time they have 1 good game people think they are quality. Morneau will help and those 2 scrubs can go to the bench where they shoulkd be.

William Beckley

Love this!

Tim has been arguing that Morneau is not much of an upgrade over Jones, but I respectfully disagree. First, I consider 0.750 vs .830 OPS to be significant. I also think that while Morneau’s .200 avg vs lefties is bad, it’s better than Jones auto-out with 12 Ks in 19 ABs. My main disagreement with Tim is that, in order for him to determine Morneau isn’t much better, he disregards Morneau’s first couple weeks of August. Granted, if we eliminate those weeks, Morneau and Jones have very similar OPS’s. However, if we also arbitrarily eliminated Jones’ April 24-May 10 where he had 5 HRs and 5 doubles, his OPS would drop 50 points as well. Point being you can’t just disregard one guys best 2 weeks to say he’s no better than the other guy if you aren’t also willing to arbitrarily disregard that player’s best 2 weeks.

All to say I’m excited about Morneau, not because I think he’ll be a stud, he isn’t and he won’t be, but it is an upgrade and we gave up nothing

Dennis Thomas

well said sir


I still think they grossly overpaid for Byrd, but overall I think the two trades combined are of good value (assuming that we are not including another Vic Black quality player in the Morneau deal – which sounds like that is not the case). Morneau and Byrd combined really helps the offense in the short term – which was obviously the goal.


I always liked Alex Presley and like the move because now he can have a real opportunity again. I felt he has more ability than most we had, but since we weren’t going to let him play, trading him was smart. Speed and pop are rare and Alex had that.


Wow, this is great. Presley is a nobody, and Morneau addresses their biggest current weakness, bats who can hit righties. He can play everyday vs. righties until Marte gets back, and Hurdle can play the hot hand vs. RHP (he or Jones) when Marte is back.

I am very excited about the pennant race and playoffs now. Let’s Go Bucs!

Matthew McCarty

actually our weakness is batters than cant hit LHP which include pedro, garrett and mourneau, with tabata not being great against them. only starter that cannot hit righties is gaby and this months garrett jones. mourneau, jones and pedro are 8 hitters at best against lefties


This months Garrett Jones? How about May, June, and August Garrett Jones. His OPS since May 1 is under .650
That is Darwin Barney-like.
Anyone who doesn’t think Morneau is an upgrade over Jones hasn’t been watching our games…..

Matthew McCarty

yeah look at mourneau’s number in July and April. there is a reason why GFJ and Mourneau have similar batting lines on the year. they both have good and bad months


Don’t be shortsighted reddfoxx. Garrett hit 27 homers last year, more than Morneau has hit in 2 years. We’ve learned that a bad year, is simply a bad year. Garrett didn’t forget how to hit


This has the potential to be an excellent addition. If Morneau doesnt work out its no loss but if he does its a nice upgrade. Now if both Morneau and Jones can get hot this move could make our offense very formidable! I liked alex but he was never gonna be anything more then a 4th outfielder and we have plenty of those!


Awesome deal. Byrd and Morneau in place of Jones and Tabata.


This might be a marginally good deal – but let’s not forget this is not the pre-concussion Justin Morneau. He has been a so-so player for much of the last few years. If Jones starts hitting, it may not even be an upgrade. But as long as the PTBNL is not anyone with value, then I’m OK rolling the dice on Morneau possibly getting hot.

Dennis Thomas

you’re looking at this as Jones vs Morneau, but Morneau isn’t replacing Jones. He is replacing Presley…..even if Jones out hits Morneau this upgrades our bench because Presley<Morneau.


Probably a good deal but I always liked Presley……

IC Bob


Matthew McCarty

If we face the dodgers first in the playoffs it is going to be an odd looking bench when kershaw and ryu are starting. might have to go with only ten pitchers for that series if thats the case

Bill Orr

This could be really good.

Nate James

NH is a shrewd man. I love this move and it strengthens our roster like no other. Having two power bats off the bench is an unbelievable strength now for the Pirates (Morneau, Buck). I am so happy that they did pull this move off and it will give us options! Great move, continue to love what NH does and hopefully this puts us over the edge and into a strong position to win the division or the very least, make it to the NLDS (I will accept either right now). GO BUCS!

Matthew McCarty

we kept our 2014 roster in tact as well. still have tabata to man right with lambo maybe taking over the GFJ role. worth a shot to begin the season next year as we claw our way to acquire abreu. not a game changer of a trade but were not screwed, like we would have been had we traded for rios or ramirez back during the real trade deadline

Stephen Brooks

Love love love love this trade. Presley was going to be a roster casualty in ’14 anyway as this is his last option year. Fond memories of the carom he hit off St.Louis in that extra inning win, but the team really addressed a need today.

A the very least, NH has built an even stronger bench for the postseason.


Neither guy is any good.


I see your posts, nothing is ever good enough for you. This was a great trade by Neal!!!

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