The Tim Alderson/Russ Canzler trade wasn’t exactly a blockbuster deal. It was a marginal trade, and the type of deal you’d expect in early-to-mid July as the hot stove season starts to heat up. The Pirates sent away a guy who profiled as a potential middle reliever, and who wouldn’t have even been an option for them this year due to their relief pitching depth. In exchange they got a guy who crushes lefties and profiles as a potential platoon option. The Pirates don’t need bullpen depth, but they do need guys who can hit left-handers.
It’s not exactly trading for a big bat, but it is trading from a position of strength for a position of need. My only question on that deal is wondering why Canzler didn’t come to the majors right away to replace Brandon Inge on the roster.
There’s not much to say about the actual deal. Alderson may or may not make it to the majors, and probably will play a minor role. Canzler could fill a role that has been a need for the Pirates, but he’s not ever going to have the impact of an everyday player. It’s a swap of role players. I did want to talk about Tim Alderson one last time to kind of wrap up his story with the Pirates. I did a big article at the start of last season on Alderson, which is a good starting point for the review of his Pirates career.
Tim Alderson was an enigma. He wasn’t a top prospect for the Pirates, yet for some reason articles about Alderson saw as much traffic as articles on Gerrit Cole or Jameson Taillon. There was so much interest in how he was developing, even though we haven’t considered him a top prospect for a few years. The other crazy thing about Alderson is how his story has been butchered like no other player. The facts were never right.
The primary mistake was the velocity. That was also the biggest topic with Alderson. He saw a drop in his velocity in 2009. Many say the Pirates caused this, although the velocity drop happened before he was traded. It was largely the reason why the Pirates were able to get him for Freddy Sanchez, who was injured at the time and had one year on his contract, plus a ridiculously priced option the following year. Alderson wasn’t the top prospect from the start of the year when he was traded. He was a guy who had lost his velocity and curveball, and turned into a project.
The loss in velocity was a big subject, and that led to the topic of long-toss. A report came out about Alderson, saying the Pirates didn’t allow him to participate in long toss and that’s what prevented his velocity from returning. The problem with that report was that I already had published interviews talking about how the Pirates did have their pitchers participate in long-toss, and even had some guys going to extreme distances. Then there was the video I had of Alderson long-tossing.
I’ve heard conflicting reports on whether Alderson was long-tossing all along. I heard that he was long tossing in 2011 when he was still hitting in the upper 80s, so the jump to 90-93 in 2012 may not have been the result of long-toss from extreme distances. It should be noted that “long-toss” is an all encompassing term. “Long-toss” includes throwing from 120 feet, which is the most common. “Individual throwing program” is what you’d use to describe what Alderson was doing by going out to 300 feet. But “long-toss” is most commonly used, and no one would know what you were talking about if you didn’t refer to it that way.
Alderson’s velocity came back in 2012, and he paired it with the return of his big breaking curveball. He dominated out of the bullpen that year, and got a chance as a starter. The splits were noticeable. As a reliever he had a 3.00 ERA in 30 innings with a 7.2 K/9 and a 4.0 K/BB. As a starter he had a 4.80 ERA in 60 innings, with a 6.3 K/9 and a 1.91 K/BB. This year he has been in the bullpen the entire year, with a 2.41 ERA in 56 innings between Double-A and Triple-A.
As I mentioned before, for some reason Alderson has a lot of name value. I received several comments today with people referring to dealing Alderson as if the Pirates traded a top prospect. That’s probably the name value coming into play. I think he’s got a chance to reach the majors, but at this point I don’t see him as a starter, and he doesn’t have the stuff to be a late inning reliever.
Alderson came to the Pirates as a project. In 2009 he entered the year as one of the top prospects in baseball, but lost his velocity and his stuff. The Pirates acquired him with hopes of turning him around. They did turn him around, although he never got back to his former potential of a major league starter. And now they move on. If this was the Pirates in 2009 or 2010, we may have seen Alderson in the majors this year. We may see him in the majors with Baltimore or some other team down the line. But there was almost no chance of that happening with the Pirates, and he would have left after the season as a minor league free agent. This way the Pirates get something for him, and hopefully Canzler can fill that need of hitting left-handed pitching.
Links and Notes
**Download the newest episode of the Pirates Prospects Podcast: P3 Episode 13: What Are the Needs For the Pirates as the Deadline Nears?
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.