One year ago today was the infamous Erik Gonzalez trade, or as we refer to it around here, the day Tahnaj Thomas entered the Pirates’ organization.
One year later, that trade is a very interesting trade to look at. When you look at the individual parts, it almost serves as a microcosm for all of the pros and cons of the Pirates’ ability to scout and develop talent under Neal Huntington. Let’s take a look:
Erik Gonzalez – He’s recovering from another injury right now, and his 2019 story was injuries and poor performance. Huntington said that scouts loved Gonzalez, and see him as a young Freddy Galvis, which was an interesting term last offseason when Galvis was a free agent and didn’t sign for much. Gonzalez follows a bad trend for the Pirates. Galvis is a good player, but shouldn’t be the end goal. If he is, get actual Freddy Galvis and gamble on someone who might be better than him. Because as we saw with Gonzalez, if the player falls short of your projection, and you’re not projecting high, then you’ve got a bench player at best.
At the same time, I’m not even sure we can say that about Gonzalez, since the Pirates have a bad track record of getting guys to their upside in the majors. Speaking of which…
Jordan Luplow/Max Moroff – Moroff didn’t do much for the Indians, getting 35 plate appearances and being below replacement level. Luplow put up a 2.2 fWAR after a .276/.372/.551 line and 15 homers in just 261 plate appearances. Luplow and Moroff are two of a long group of position players who the Pirates drafted who haven’t really done much at all in Pittsburgh.
The group typically follows the same strategy — good average, walk rate, good strikeout rate, and a chance to hit home run power one day, but doubles power for now. Luplow and Moroff are two of the few guys who showed home run power potential in their careers. Kevin Kramer, still with the Pirates, is another guy who I’d group with these two.
I don’t want to say that Cleveland figured out Luplow yet, as it’s a small sample size. If they did, he’d just be the latest in a line of Pirates prospects who couldn’t reach their upside in Pittsburgh, but did so elsewhere. That’s even more frustrating in this case, as it makes you wonder what kind of upside the other drafted hitters had who didn’t work out in Pittsburgh. What did the Pirates miss with their bad development track record? Right now it’s possible they missed big on Luplow.
Tahnaj Thomas – Even if the Pirates missed big on Luplow, I would make that trade again in a heartbeat to get Thomas. He’s got the highest upside in the group, and has already taken a big step forward in the lower levels this year. That’s a typical story under Huntington — a pitcher with top of the rotation stuff breaking out in the lower levels, giving hope for the rotation in the future, but still having a long road ahead of him and no guarantees he gets there. If Huntington were still around, I’d be questioning the future of Thomas, not sure if he could reach his upside. That will be a big challenge for the next front office, trying to figure out a way to get better results from their prospects.
Dante Mendoza – I feel like all of these small trades involved the Pirates getting a hard throwing lower level future reliever with some control issues. I don’t project Mendoza to reach the majors, and don’t think you’re getting much else in the third spot of this trade.
SONG OF THE DAY
THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY
By John Dreker
Eight former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a major trade of note. Side note to this is that November 14th has one of the lowest total of MLB players born on this date with just 39 over the years. The odd part is that five of the first nine players born on this date started their career with the Pirates (the last five played listed below).
On this date in 1996, the Pirates traded Dan Plesac, Orlando Merced and Carlos Garcia to the Toronto Blue Jays for Jose Silva and two minor league players, plus three players to be named later. Silva was the only player with MLB experience acquired in the deal and he had just two games. Three of the players in the trade never made the majors, but the Pirates got some value out of Silva, Abraham Nunez and Craig Wilson, with the latter two joining the Pirates as PTBNL on December 11th.
Xavier Nady, outfielder for the 2006-08 Pirates. He hit .301 with 36 homers and 152 RBIs in 269 games with the Pirates. Nady played 12 years in the majors, seeing time with eight different teams. In 961 games, he had a .268 average and 104 homers.
Paul Wagner, pitcher for the 1992-97 Pirates. He had a 26-40, 4.58 record in 536.2 innings with the Pirates, making 75 starts and 67 relief appearances. He led the NL with 16 losses in 1995, as he set a career high with 165 innings pitched. Wagner also pitched briefly for the Milwaukee Brewers and Cleveland Indians.
Claude Willoughby, pitcher for the 1931 Pirates. He was acquired from the Phillies in a three-player deal prior to the 1931 season and lasted just two starts and seven relief appearances with the Pirates. That ended up being his last season in the majors. He went 38-56, 5.83 in five seasons in Philadelphia.
Joe Leonard, third baseman for the 1914 Pirates. He hit .198 with four RBIs in 53 games as a rookie for the Pirates in 1914, then played four more years in the majors between 1916 and 1920, spent mostly with the Washington Senators. He was a career .226 hitter in 269 games.
Jim Wallace, right fielder for the Pirates in 1905. Over the course of six days in late August 1905, he played seven games with the Pirates and hit .207 with three RBIs and three outfield assists. That ended up being his only big league time. He played minor league ball for nine seasons.
Fred Carisch, catcher for the 1903-06 Pirates. He was born on the same day as Jim Wallace (1881), who was his teammate briefly in 1905. Carisch was a .229 hitter over 78 games as the backup catcher for four seasons. He went 6-for-18 with four doubles and a home run for the 1903 NL champs. After leaving the Pirates, he didn’t make the majors again for another six seasons, then had a nine-year stretch before he finished his career with two games for the 1923 Detroit Tigers. He managed the Tigers for one game in 1924.
Sam Gillen, shortstop for the 1893 Pirates. His time in Pittsburgh consisted of him playing a doubleheader on his first day in the majors, followed by the team getting rained out three straight days, then he saw one more game as a defensive replacement. He went 0-for-6 at the plate and committed two errors. He only other big league experience was 75 games for the 1897 Phillies.
Otto Schomberg, first baseman for the 1886 Alleghenys. As a 21-year-old rookie, he hit .272 with a homer, 29 RBIs and 57 walks in 72 games, giving him a .417 OBP. He hit .308 with 83 RBIs for the Indianapolis Hoosiers in 1887, then was out of the majors at age 23 after just 30 more games.