PITTSBURGH – The Pirates completed two of their deadline deals this week, sending two players to be named later in the Ivan Nova deal, and receiving two in the Arquimedes Caminero trade. Tito Polo and Stephen Tarpley both went to the Yankees in the Nova trade, while Jake Brentz and Pedro Vasquez came back in the Caminero trade. Neal Huntington met with the media today for his weekly interview, and our own Alan Saunders asked about the returns in each deal.
Getting Players Back in the Caminero Trade
The Pirates didn’t get a big return for Caminero, but got two lottery ticket pitchers in the lower levels. Huntington said that they had a list of players agreed to at the time of the deal, and tracked those players with multiple scouts, along with some video breakdowns.
“In each case, it’s a young, solid frame, a good athlete and a projectable pitcher with some ‘now’ pitches, velocity or the ability to spin a breaking ball or feel for a changeup in some cases,” Huntington said. “Much like we’re doing out of the draft, as we look to acquire young pitchers, these are the pitchers we look for.”
Brentz seems to have a lot of upside as a left-hander who can already touch 96-97 MPH. He has only been pitching for three years, after converting from the outfield. Vasquez is in his second year as a pro, after making an aggressive jump from the DSL to Low-A this year. Both pitchers are raw, giving the Pirates a chance to build upon their skills.
“They’re early in their professional careers and there is some projection remaining,” Huntington said. “We look at it more from an amateur standpoint than how he could help the major-league team tomorrow. These guys are a ways away from that. These guys are more projection and what do we see that we can build on and what do we see that we can help them to grow and develop?”
The Ivan Nova Deal
Huntington didn’t discuss the return in the Nova deal, instead talking about how the Yankees went through the same process of choosing from a list of players and taking who they liked. He did discuss what they liked at the time of the deal, and Nova’s performance so far.
“Our guys liked the sinker. We’ve tracked him for a number of years now and liked the sinker,” Huntington said. “We believe the sinker plays really well in our ballpark, in our league, with our defense. That’s not a rip against the Yankees defense, but we’ve had a lot of ground ball guys have a lot of success here. We like the breaking ball. We like the makings of the changeup. Again, just change of scenery can help sometimes.”
Nova has been great so far, to the tune of a 2.89 ERA and a 3.38 xFIP in 37.1 innings over six starts. Huntington said that this has been due to Nova working in the bottom of the zone, and using his secondary stuff efficiently.
“Our scouts did a nice job of identifying what he does well,” Huntington said. “Our analysts did a nice job of identifying how it might translate here. Nova has done a great job of going out and pitching well. That’s the one thing that we can’t miss in this situation, is that Nova has gone out and he’s the one that’s pounded the bottom half of the strike zone and been able to get his breaking ball over for strikes and get players to change it and he’s thrown his changeup enough to keep them off-balance. Nova has done a really nice job since coming over.”
The downside here is that Nova is just a two-month rental, and the Pirates are still on the outside of the playoffs, looking in. They gave up a nice return in Tito Polo and Stephen Tarpley — ranked 20th and 21st in our mid-season update, respectively — and that will really hurt if they don’t make the post-season and Nova leaves at the end of the year. With the team needing a starter next year, it wouldn’t hurt to try and bring him back at the end of the year, especially if the Pirates feel he can repeat this success.