First Pitch: The Pirates Trade Deadline Was Potentially Brilliant

I was so busy today with all of the site coverage of the trade deadline, followed by seeing Billy Roth pitch in Bristol, that I didn’t get a chance to read all of the “Trade Deadline Winners and Losers” articles that I love to hate-read this time of year. Those articles are actually the worst articles, in my opinion, no matter when they come up. The Draft. The Trade Deadline. The Winter Meetings. The Off-Season.

The reason they are so bad is because it’s such a lazy concept, and it’s way too simplistic. Sure, it sells. Everyone wants to see if their team is considered a winner or a loser, just to see how they did. But the reality is that these articles don’t tell anything about how a team prepared for the rest of the season. Instead, they tell you who added the best players (the winners), and who didn’t add or added lesser players (the losers).

But to really judge a team, you need to evaluate the entire team, their needs, how the team would do without any moves, and how they impacted their long-term. Last year the Athletics and Tigers were winners at the deadline, but were they really winners? They probably make the playoffs anyway without adding big names, and maybe they aren’t rebuilding a year later. Meanwhile, the Giants, Royals, and Pirates didn’t go all-in with big trades, and they find themselves as some of the best teams in baseball a year later. And while the Pirates didn’t make it any further than the Athletics, the Giants ended up beating the Royals in the World Series.

So I’m not going to sit here and simply say that the Pirates were winners or losers at this deadline. Instead, I’m going to take a much more complex approach and look at the strategy involved, the guys they added, the guys they gave up, and the overall short-term and long-term impact.

The Strategy

This was a seller’s market, with established players fetching some pretty ridiculous returns in terms of prospects. The Pirates had prospects to trade, and they did trade a few. But when rental pitchers are getting top 25 prospects, that’s not really a market a small market team should be taking part in.

The thing about the deadline is that it makes people ignore what happened the first four months of the season. It makes people think that the only way their team can win going forward is to make a big splash, and add a player who can get everyone excited about a long playoff run. And this is the wrong approach.

The Pirates are the third best team in baseball, and the second best in the NL. After tonight, they are on pace for 95 wins. The only knock against them is that they’re in the same division as the best team in baseball, the Cardinals, who are on pace for an unreal 104 wins. So you can’t fault the Pirates for not being in first place.

One of the only issues with the Pirates is that the team that put them on this 95 win pace isn’t around right now. Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer went down with injuries, and A.J. Burnett just hit the disabled list today. They needed replacements, so that they can maintain their success going forward. They could also use some upgrades elsewhere, but they really didn’t need anything major, as long as they replaced the injured players.

While everyone else was spending prospects, the Pirates took a different approach to fill their needs. They took on a lot of salary, going for aging veterans who have seen good results in the past, and might have a little something left in the tank for a pennant run this year. The Pirates added Aramis Ramirez, Joakim Soria, Joe Blanton, Michael Morse, and J.A. Happ close to the deadline, along with Travis Ishikawa earlier in the month of July. In total, they added just over $8.8 M in payroll over the final two months of the season, putting their projected payroll over $100 M (which doesn’t count the swap of Morse and Tabata and the unknown cash that is changing hands).

The strategy here makes a lot of sense. The Pirates spent money and saved their top prospects. They went with a lot of guys who are either somewhat productive this year, or who have been very productive in the past, or both. They didn’t get any major upgrades, but they didn’t need any major upgrades. They needed replacements for Harrison, Mercer, and Burnett, along with a few other options here and there. That’s what they got.

The plan is solid, and makes total sense. But there’s another factor to consider here — the implementation of the plan. The Pirates didn’t give up anything they’d miss. They could afford the extra payroll, and they have plenty of prospect depth to deal the guys they dealt. They’ve also had a lot of success in the past with buy-low and value additions at the MLB level, getting tremendous value where no one else can see it (Francisco Cervelli, Russell Martin, Jung-ho Kang, A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano, Edinson Volquez, etc).

They’re buying low on some of these guys, and giving up things they won’t miss, all while hoping for an upside that isn’t far in the past for most of their additions. That’s a great plan in theory, but only if you pick the right players. It’s the exact plan that led to Sean Rodriguez being acquired for Buddy Borden over the off-season, and their prediction that Rodriguez could play a big role isn’t looking good right now. You could make the same argument for Corey Hart. But then you might also have to expand it to Burnett, who was coming off a down year himself, and turned it around until recently.

The Additions

To get a feel for the chances of each player succeeding for the Pirates, let’s take a look at who they added.

Aramis Ramirez – He fills the immediate need for infield depth with Harrison and Mercer out. The only problem is that he’s been horrible since coming over, with a .455 OPS in 22 plate appearances. That’s a small sample size, although they’re 4-2 since Ramirez joined, which should tell you something about the “need” for upgrades on an already good team.  Ramirez just needs to hold down the fort until Harrison returns. If he’s hitting at that point, he could free up Harrison to be a super utility player. If he’s not hitting, just like right now, then he’d be chalked up as a disappointment and a bad addition.

J.A. Happ – He’s never really been great, looking mostly like a fourth or fifth starter. His xFIP in the last two years has been in the 3.95 to 4.02 range, which is a strong number four starter. The Pirates are losing a guy with one of the best stat lines in baseball, so Happ won’t replace Burnett. But if he can hold his own while Burnett is out, and pitch like a strong number four starter, he could give the Pirates a chance to win a majority of their games until Burnett returns. The Pirates have obviously had success turning pitchers around. Some of that success seems lasting (Liriano, Volquez), while other success stories seem short-lived (Vance Worley). They don’t have much time with Happ to turn him around, but you hope it’s enough to make him another success story.

Joakim Soria – It’s hard to see this move as anything other than adding for the playoffs to shorten games. Soria has been a great reliever in previous years, but has been below replacement level this year with Detroit. His advanced numbers look like a nightmare, with an extremely lucky BABIP (.222) and strand rate (94.7%). But his line drives are down, his velocity is up, and he’s still posting good results, even if the advanced metrics don’t back it up. The Pirates needed an extra set-up man to take the pressure and workload off Tony Watson, while also adding another great reliever to the pen to shorten games. If Soria can bounce back to his 2014 form, then the Pirates will have a dangerous 7th, 8th, and 9th, putting them in similar situation to the Royals last year.

Joe Blanton – This isn’t a huge move. The bullpen needed a lot of help, and the Pirates basically swapped out Worley for Blanton. They felt Blanton could do better in shorter relief roles, which means they won’t have a dead spot in the bullpen for weeks at a time like they had with Worley. They might also increase their starting depth if Worley can get back to Triple-A and work on whatever was going wrong for him. If that happens, expect them to have both guys in the majors in September. Until then, Blanton’s numbers have been just as good as Soria’s this year. He’s not a bad 6th/7th option.

Michael Morse – This is where things get interesting. If the Pirates had added Morse this time last year, it would have been seen as a huge upgrade. There’s good reason for that. He posted a .279/.336/.475 line, and was successful against both left-handers and right-handers. The success led to a two-year, $16 M contract with the Marlins. He has since struggled to the tune of a .213/.276/.313 line. That’s in line with his 2013 numbers, only with less power. So is Morse on a rapid decline? Or did he just not perform well in 174 plate appearances with the Marlins, which might be the most dysfunctional clubhouse and organization in baseball? If he’s in a rapid decline, then the Pirates turned Jose Tabata into Morse, and it really doesn’t hurt them much (assuming the cash from the Dodgers wipes out the difference in salaries). But if Morse can bounce back to his 2014 numbers, then the Pirates just got a steal, and a big upgrade over Pedro Alvarez at first base, along with an option for 2016 until Josh Bell arrives.

What They Gave Up

I’m not going to go into big detail on this part, because I’ve written about it a lot the last few weeks. The Pirates have a strong farm system, with a lot of prospects they can trade without missing them in the short- or long-term. They traded two of those guys in JaCoby Jones and Adrian Sampson.

Jones is showing positive signs at shortstop this year, and has a lot of raw power, but also some plate patience issues. I think he can reach the majors and start at short, but he’s risky with the strikeouts. The Pirates don’t have to take that risk. They have Jung-ho Kang and Jordy Mercer in the majors the next few years, and Cole Tucker, Kevin Newman, Kevin Kramer, and Adrian Valerio in the lower levels. Jones was basically in no-man’s land in the Pirates’ system.

Sampson was struggling lately with his command, thus removing him as an option for short-term rotation depth. The addition of Happ made it so that the Pirates wouldn’t even have needed Sampson at all this year, so it made sense to deal him. Long-term, the Pirates have better rotation options in Tyler Glasnow, Jameson Taillon, and Nick Kingham. They also have plenty of depth in the upper levels for next year, like Chad Kuhl, Jason Creasy, Angel Sanchez, and Casey Sadler and Brandon Cumpton if they each return well from injuries. Sampson wasn’t performing well enough right now to be an option, and was just one of many depth options in the future, considering the Pirates’ strong pitching staff.

Finally, there’s the cash, which the Pirates could definitely afford. That, plus the Pirates trading from strengths, means they didn’t really take on any long-term risks here.

The Gamble

When you think about it, the plan for the deadline is potentially brilliant. I know, you’re not supposed to say that, because you can’t say anything good about the Pirates. They’re only the third best team in baseball, but we’re supposed to act like they can’t draft, can’t trade, can’t add talent through free agency, and that no one in the front office knows what they are doing. You can criticize their moves, but unless you scream they’re doomed in all caps over not adding an ace at the deadline, you’re really not being objective, because the only way to be objective with a team on pace for 95 wins is to act like they’re on pace for 95 losses.

But yes, this plan is potentially brilliant, and here is why.

First of all, the Pirates aren’t catching the Cardinals with one big upgrade. They’re currently 5.5 games back in the standings, and no matter how good the Pirates do, the Cardinals never lose. Adding a star player and trading away huge pieces of the future might add an extra win or two at best. But that type of addition wouldn’t close the gap alone.

So why not take a bunch of smaller gambles and hope that they work out? Not all of them will work. Happ is no guarantee to put up his xFIP. Ramirez might not hit. Morse might not return to his 2014 form. Soria might not return to shut down reliever status. Blanton might be a disaster as an extra guy in the bullpen. Expecting the best from each guy is ridiculous.

But what are the odds that none of them work? Isn’t that opposite reaction just as ridiculous? What happens if Morse suddenly finds his 2014 bat, or Soria suddenly becomes the 2014 shutdown version, and gives the Pirates a Royals bullpen? You start thinking about just one or two of these guys reaching their not-so-distant former upsides, and the Pirates suddenly have a few big upgrades that might give them the same chance at getting close to catching the Cardinals, all without sacrificing the future on such a long-shot.

But the reality is that catching the Cardinals is going to be near impossible at this point, unless the Cardinals suddenly start falling back to Earth. And the other reality is that the Pirates are most likely making the playoffs, and they’re most likely hosting the Wild Card game. And as we saw last year, adding that big name at the deadline doesn’t guarantee success here. The Pirates would be better off adding five lottery tickets, and hoping that one or two of them hit. After all, they’re starting as one of the best teams in baseball. You add a lights out Soria or a strong hitting Ramirez or Morse to the corner infield, and suddenly that third best team in baseball becomes a bit more dangerous. Oh yeah, and this time make sure Gerrit Cole is the starter for that all-important game.

There is so much wisdom out there that says big moves don’t really do anything for playoff chances or playoff runs. Maybe if you’re in a tight race, a big addition could be the final push to get in to the playoffs. But the Pirates aren’t in a tight race. They’re four games up on the Giants, and five games up on the Cubs. They lost some guys to injuries, but just filled those needs.

They have a tough schedule down the stretch, but they also could have a stronger team down the stretch, depending on when the injured players return, how the replacements do, what role the replacements will play, and how many of those deadline lottery tickets work out. So I don’t see them dropping out of home field in the Wild Card.

A Familiar Strategy

The way I look at it, the Pirates needed to replace their injured players to try and maintain their 95 win pace team. Beyond that, they were set up well to host the Wild Card game again. They could have gone for one big move and sacrificed key pieces of the future. Instead they went for several smaller moves, didn’t trade anything or anyone they’ll miss, and added several guys who have the chance to bounce back to their recent success, with the hope that one or two actually make that transition and become steals at the deadline.

And if this uncomfortable strategy sounds familiar, then maybe it’s because it’s basically the same strategy the Pirates used in the off-season when they added Francisco Cervelli, A.J. Burnett, and Jung-ho Kang, among others with question marks surrounding their 2015 potential. Some of those guys haven’t worked out (Hart, Rodriguez, Bastardo), but a few worked out in a big way, and that led to big results so far in 2015.

Imagine if the same thing happens with the trade deadline additions.

**I pointed out on Twitter tonight that we had 11 articles in the last 24 hours (with this being number 11). That’s all on the Pirates, with a lot of insight from people who cover the prospects and the big league team live. This wasn’t just because of the trade deadline. During the month of July, we averaged over seven articles per day. And that doesn’t include all of the individual reports in the Prospect Watch, which are like mini-articles themselves at times. We already have eight articles planned for tomorrow, and probably at least ten, depending on transactions.

For those of you who aren’t subscribers, you can get all of this Pirates coverage for $2.99 per month, or less on an annual plan. That breaks down to a penny per article, and you get all of our live coverage from all over the system, plus the best nightly prospect report out there, plus every update on the system, and analysis to go with each update. Speaking of that content, here is the rundown of what our subscribers received today:

**Prospect Watch: Broxton Stays Hot, Garcia and Roth Throw Gems. We had live reports from Indianapolis, Altoona, Bristol, and the GCL. My report from Bristol focused on right-handed pitcher Billy Roth, who is one of my sleepers. We’ve been making big changes to the Prospect Watch, and have a very special announcement coming tomorrow. Check back in the afternoon for that.

**Here were the trades, along with our analysis of each deal included (specific focus on the Happ/Sampson deal, for obvious reasons):

**Pirates Acquire J.A. Happ For Adrian Sampson

**Pirates Trade Jose Tabata For Michael Morse and Cash

**Neal Huntington on the J.A. Happ and Michael Morse Trades. Neal Huntington spoke with the Pittsburgh media about the deals, and we have the quotes.

**Pirates Place Burnett on DL, Recall LaFromboise, DFA Guerra. The fallout from the trades.

**There were minor league transactions today as well. I’d expect more tomorrow:

**Josh Bell Promoted to Indianapolis. We already know this is coming tomorrow. Ryan Palencer will be in Indianapolis to cover Tyler Glasnow’s Triple-A debut, and that might also end up being Josh Bell’s Triple-A debut. Sean McCool will have an article on Bell tomorrow afternoon, and Ryan will have an article on Glasnow on Sunday morning.

 

**Minor Moves: Dan Gamache Promoted to Indianapolis, Erich Weiss to Altoona. A lot of guys moving up, and I’d expect more tomorrow following the Bell promotion. No word yet on any moves, but as always, we’ll update throughout the day.

**Morning Report: The Improbable Season From Yeudy Garcia. John Dreker looks at one of the big breakout pitchers this year, who then went on to have another great outing. Right now I’m lined up to see Garcia pitch on August 10th, and hope that the schedule holds up.

**I’m off to Charleston, WV in the morning, where I’ll be covering the West Virginia Power for the next three days, followed by four games in Morgantown next week. Then I’ll wrap up the weekend in Pittsburgh, covering Sunday Night Baseball, before making my way back down to Charleston to hopefully see Garcia. After that, it’s back to Bradenton to see the Marauders and the GCL Pirates wrap up the year.

 

  • Defend it all you want but the Pirates look to be a team out of the playoffs early. Remember Charlie Morton will be slated for the third or four game of the playoffs. He is not and has never been a starter. Put him in the bullpen he might excel. Remember Tim you hated what the Cardinals did last year but are they better off with Allen Craig. And Detroit is rebuilding this year because Drew Smyly and some prospect who’s 8 years away was traded last year. You have the nerve and you have the nerve to call others lazy? If you look Drombrowski’s buyer’s trade over the years remember he whims at ratio of about 8:1. The second Fister trade was a disaster but that was one of your beloved sellers special. All in all the pirates should sign him and dump Huntington.

    • So the Pirates should dump a GM of a team that is on pace for 95 wins with one of the best farm systems in baseball, all to get a GM whose team just waived the white flag and gave up on the season? And the reason for this is because the losing GM made a flashy move that didn’t work out at all?

  • I love the articles, but the comments are so sophomoric. It sounds like listening to the FAN talk show. I stopped listening to them because they just try to get a rise out of the public. We have the same team today as we had last Friday and the are the 3rd best team in baseball. We added some “help”. What is the problem children?

    • There is a much smaller percentage of dolts here than other Pirates sites. But like pretty much every online forum, the dolts tend to post a lot, use the same tired arguments over and over again, thus becoming more visible and annoying in the process compared to the general population. Take that for what it’s worth.

  • Excellent article! A future piece could be a “Where are they now” of the players traded away since the Pirates have become buyers.

    • I thought about this in the royals series when Alex Rios came up to bat and was sporting some pretty uninspiring numbers. Remember when the yinzer fans were demanding that the pirates trade polanco and then some for rios two years ago? Kind of the opposite idea of your suggestion, but with the same thought in mind.

  • So Tim, when ya gonna have Dejan over for a podcast discussing the trade deadline?
    I kid, i kid.

    • Heh heh…good catch Luke.

    • I honestly have no idea what he’s written about it. I’ve been way too busy since the deadline.

      • I havent read his stuff in awhile, i heard part of a talk he had with another writer (spacing who it was now) the day of the deadline. That was enough for me.

        • Maybe Mark Maddon. Two ” sports experts ” hard at work.

          • It wasnt Maddon, because the counterpart to Dejan kinda paused for a few seconds after Dejan said the FO sucks at trades and the deadline and tried to A) not make him look stupid and B) insert logic into the convo. Im thinking it was David Todd but i havent looked to find it yet.

  • If Glasnow excels in AAA he should be up in September. Yeah he needs work on his changeup and maybe he proves he IS NOT ready. It’s insane to think a player could be 22 with 60-70 in innings in Double and 20-30 in Triple A and actually do well at MLB level. I mean look how hard Joe Ross is getting rocked. Fastball, slider with a changeup not getting good results on has a fip under 2 in his first 30 innings in MLB.

    • Is there some Super 2 downside to a call-up? Again, dealing with hypotheticals, but if he has a strong month and AJ’s elbow injury is serious, I agree he has to be strongly considered for a September promotion. Hurdle can spot start him against teams he might match up well against and then just sit back and see how it goes. Again, what’s the risk when the potential upside is that high? You have to think NH is going to watch Glasnow very closely in Indy.

  • This is why I paid for this site, to get these types of well written objective articles. As I saw every trade come through over this past week I thought “ok not earth shattering but it is what the Pirates needed”. The most intriguing to me is Happ. I hope that the move from the AL to NL and working work the shift heavy Pirates helps him.

  • Nice article…

    Quick question. Danny Valencia was just DFAd by the Blue Jays. He has crushed lefties this year, plays 1B, 3B, and OF and is hitting .296/.331/.506 this year. I know we made additions to “address” these needs but I think we’d be foolish to pass up on this opportunity.

    Any thoughts?

  • A move I consider very astute is the Astros getting kazmir. Nottingham is admittedly climbing and probably 50 FV now but this is deal pirates could have matched and maybe even got a reliever thrown in without busting their farm system. That trade was not a vast overpay and seriously upgraded Astros rotation. Kazmir woukd have been perfect for pirates/ not just for regular season but for playoffs

  • If Huntington could have received a strong pitcher for a package of something like McGuire, Hanson, and a c prospect he should have pulled trigger. This is a WS team and really not sure what to expect with rotation 3-5. I wanted an upgrade before aj got hurt and losing a starting pitcher was very likely to happen. Cubs, mets and maybe even marlins will probably only be better next year

    • With the ceilings of some of these prospects though that’ll supplement the stars they already have, is it worth sacrificing a potential juggernaut in 2017-2020 for a little bit better chance than they already have?

      • You can make an argument for it. Guys like Kazmir and Leake are solid pitchers who you would feel a lot better about throwing out in a playoff Game 3 than Morton/Locke/Happ, right? Maybe they get you that key win that helps the team win a playoff series. Look at the other angle. Maybe Josh Bell takes 2-3 years to develop into a solid 1B. Maybe Polanco never reaches his potential. Maybe Glasnow needs TJ in 2017. You never know how a prospect is going to work out. The team could be potentially better the next two years, but the fact is they are really good right now and they need rotation help.

        • Yes and what bothers me is I think we could have got someone like Kazmir without losing the real prizes on the farm like Glasnow/Bell/Meadows/Taillon/ etc

      • I think they could part with Mcguire and not miss him too much. Personally I think Mcguire is a bit overrated and Diaz a bit underrated as far as catcher. I understand Reese is young still but I think he could have been nice trade chip without really hurting long term outlook of system. I like Hanson as well but I think he may be slightly over rated as well. With Kang/Jhay probably one more year of Walker I think we are OK in infield. Moroff looks like he might be a keeper.

        • Stop ” I think ” ing. You have no idea about any of these players.

          • LOL OK buddy, thanks for brilliant insight. I apologize for speculating on an internet message board. Look at the prospects in the Kazmir deal and get back to me genius.

            • Go watch some of the Pirates top prospects play for a while, than get back to me with your ” I think ” analysis……genius.

        • I’d be okay with Walker getting traded this winter. I feel like Hanson has a much more complete overall player and has a higher ceiling than Walker. I’m not sure what the plan is with Hanson but I’d love to see him get a call up in September.

    • I agree that NH missed on this one. I also think he should have been active before the deadline to bring in a guy that has at least another year of control to strengthen the rotation this year and replace AJ next year. With AJ down, that decision looks even worse now. This team might be able to win it all right now and even though I agree with Tim that there weren’t a lot of needs for major upgrades, the AJ situation could be what separates this team from being a legit contender and an early flame-out. Curious to see what will happen if Glasnow dominates AAA in August…

      • IF Glasnow dominates(he may struggle) but even if he dominates and show some progress with his changeup I’d be shocked if he considered for a call up in September. In this hypothetical scenario I expect to hear a lot about him being unfinished product(which he admittedly would be) and comparisons to how Polanco struggled with the mob screaming for him to be called up in early 2014 when NH said he had things to work on which given Polanco’s struggles his first 500 PAs should clearly mean you should just assume Glasnow would not be ready either. I find the 2 players situations completely distinct and really believe Glasnow may have a good chance of having very good success as a September starter if given the opportunity.

    • On paper it looks like we could have matched or bettered the package that landed Leake, without too much prospect pain. What we don’t know is if the Reds would deal him to us.

    • If he could have ? Another guy who pays no attention to the trade demands. Get a clue before inserting foot.

  • Locke is ok as a 5. Morton is ok as a 4, but shouldn’t get a long leash later in game. He starts rough but has been very solid innings 2-6.

    The issue on AJ to me is whether he can rebound to start a game in NLDS or NLCS. Because right now I’d take either Locke or Morton over AJ.

    • Morton stinks as a number 5 this year let alone a number 4. Look at his peripherals fip and xfip. Great start in June but has been horrible in July. Does not have close to same peripherals he did in 2013-14 when he was a very good number 4 pitcher

      • Take out the 9 run 1st inning appearance and things look appreciably better. You csnt argue with his success from 2-6 innings.

        • His fip in July is 5.42 and xfip is 4.78. K-BB is 3%. The Washington fiasco was in June so these #s do not include that. He has been very bad since his first 4-5 starts. Will that change? I sure hope so but to say he has been very bad in July is not hyperbole.

          • Again, had Hurdle only had Morton pitch six innings per game in July, the numbers would be very, very solid. Instead, he let Charlie go into the 7th a couple of times, when every Bucs fan with a pulse knew what was coming.

            July: Innings 1-6 = 8R in 29.2 IP. Inning 7 = 6R in 0.2 IP .

            Shorter leash needed.

  • Our rotation is clearly the worst among playoff contenders now with possible exception of giants. Spots 3-5 in rotation does not compare well to what cardinals have

    • 2 weeks ago, we were fine as our top 3 was some of the best in baseball. Now, our 3 sucks. Imagine what can happen in another 2 weeks. Over reacting to a situation doesnt help. Assuming AJ wont ever be useful again seems reactionary.

      Also, the 4-5 spots are largely unimportant in the playoffs. You can win many series with 2-3 good SP. ARI won a WS with only 2 useful SP, SF managed to win a WS with 1 great and a bunch of average.

    • Just for fun, give me the names in that stellar Giant’s rotation last year, beides Baumgarner ? Or even the Royals’, minus Shields ?

      • OK so we should assume that’s the template for winning in the WS. IF AJ doesn’t come back or comes back a shell of himself we should feel good about running Haap/Morton/ or broken down AJ in possible game 4 vs Cards because it worked with Giants and Vogelsong last year. Critical thinking at its finest.

  • Tim, very nice rational analysis. I felt the same regarding the “Winners and Losers” articles. Just amazing less than 24 hours after the deadline that some feel they can grade out the moves. Still over a third of the season to play and some of these guys haven’t even played with their new clubs. Couldn’t find tonight’s winning Powerball numbers in any of these articles. Guess I’ll keep looking.

  • ?????
    What flavor exactly is that Neal Huntington Kool-Aid?

    Blanton DFA
    Happ – about to be DFAd
    Morse – DFA

    Ramirez – a shadow of his former self – loved him when he was a Pirate – but he is not the kind of bad that we need to protect Cutch.

    Soria – might be the only good move – gives the Bucs a fourth late inning option -but he does not seem to be the shut down guy he once was.

    As I said elsewhere – Pirate fans deserve a lot better than this kind of dumpster diving.

    • Like I said most teams (and fans) go for that ohh,shiny me want, moment. Glad nh knows he already has a boat load of treasure and just needs a little extra polish to make it gleam.

    • zombie sluggo
      August 1, 2015 11:10 am

      So you would have been happy in 2013 if the Bucs had traded “prospects” Cole and Marte for Stanton? That was what the Marlins turned down. That was the go for it move that would have really hurt the Bucs this year. I’m glad that deal fell apart. You?

      • Hmmm – Stanton would look pretty good in a Pirate uniform – and I like Cole and Marte – but maybe Stanton get them to the WS one of the last two years – we can never know, My bias at the time would have been to go for it – but that is from someone who takes absolutely no delight in having a loaded farm system and preserving prospects vs winning now.

    • PiratesFan1975
      August 1, 2015 11:21 am

      It’s called ‘turning a losing team into a perennial winner’ flavor. It tastes great. Better than the B.S. you’re trying to serve.

      • Winners have WS rings – the Giants and Cards are winners – the Bucs are also rans. The team that does not lose its final game of the year is the only winner in my world – the last time that was the bucs was 35 years and counting ago

    • Full of …..yourself, as usual.

      • Leo – you are turning into a troll – I am not “full of myself or _____” – but unlike a lot of fans and folks on this site I want to see my Pirates win a WS – this year is a great opportunity – the Cards may be catchable – could have taken a shot at something a bit better than the group of DFAs we are asked to believe will help over the rest of the season. All of these prospects will be of little help versus the Cubs and Cards in the years ahead. Cards will be getting close to $100M from their local TV contract starting in 2018. Making the play in game this year is not a sure thing if the Giants and Cubs have strong finishes

        • I am the troll ?!? Are you fing serious ? I have seen your comments both here and on other sites for the past 3 years minimum, and I remember you having 1, that’s ONE positive comment on anything the current FO has done. You are totally disingenuous, at the very least. And that is being as civil as I can possibly be to a fool like you.

          • Mercer can't hit RHP
            August 2, 2015 1:13 pm

            Coming from the half wit that can’t wait to jump on anyone who doesn’t have season tix to the Altoona Curve.
            Your opinion means as much or as little as anyone else’s.

    • Happ was an emergency add, so whatever, they had like four hours to come up with something, so it isn’t ideal. However, let’s explore those Blanton and Morse DFAs.

      Blanton simply didn’t have a role in the Royals’ super deep bullpen, and with the addition of Cueto, which allowed them to move a starter to the pen as a long man, he was redundant. But he’s pitched very well this year, especially in relief, and seems to be comfortable in that role. Sure, he was DFA’d, but that doesn’t mean he’s useless.

      Morse, likewise, was DFA’d by the Dodgers because he was redundant on their roster behind Turner and van Slyke. The Dodgers took him as salary relief for the Marlins to keep the cost in prospects down. Morse was miserably misused in Miami, like most of the rest of their roster, but has been a very good hitter for his career (122 career wRC+, no L/R platoon splits) and can play first base capably. Honestly, it would not at all surprise me if he became our everyday first baseman in about three weeks.

      Players aren’t always DFA’d because they’re bad. Sometimes, there just isn’t a place for them.

  • I think potentially brilliant is a bit of an overstatement, given the Pirates’ position in the standings and projected win total, I’d go a couple game lower than 95, the moves were reasoned. Similar to what the Cardinals did at a lower cost.

    One correction.

    They’re only the third best team in baseball, but we’re supposed to act like they can’t draft, can’t trade, can’t add talent through free agency, and that no one in the front office knows what they are doing. You can criticize their moves, but unless you scream they’re doomed in all caps over not adding an ace first baseman, at the deadline, you’re really not being objective

    • I’m missing something here with that correction.

      • The complaint this deadline, from the usual sources seemed to center around the Pirates failing to upgrade 1B.

        • I thought people were calling for an ace. But to be honest, I have yet to read anything outside of this site, as the last day has been crazy.

          It’s not stopping either. I’m currently in the back of my car typing out an article for today, all because I had to check out of my hotel. After that, I’m on my way to Charleston, where I will get there in time to cover tonight’s game.

    • I think your win total expectation kinda goes to the point of the article though. If one sees PGH as winning 90-92 games its unlikely we win the division. Itd take STL just playing average against all teams the rest of the way. So if you see PGH as unlikely to win 95+, going for marginal upgrades who may hit gold seems kinda smart. Keep quality prospects, fill holes, maintain standings spot.

  • My take on the trade deadline for most teams can be sumed up in two words. Ohh shiny!

  • morton, locke and happ is concerning , Tim do you know if the pirates have any pitching prospect at AAA that is a tall righthander that can throw 98 with a shit your pants curve ball that could help pirates the rotation?

  • Over all I support these acqusitions. Generally, I feel that pitchers that may look like they are having a down year benefit from the coaching they get from our organization. I can’t say the same for position players though. I don’t feel that our organization’s approach to batting really helps struggling hitters. Maybe that is just the way media covers it and is based on my own limited view of the circumstances. Hearing how Ray and Jim help struggling pitchers is something we hear about often. We RARELY ever hear about how our hitting instructors pulled a guy out of his funk. I would be more inclined to deal prospects for current, established hitters than pitchers because of this.

    • I tend to agree with that for the most part, only part I have a prob with is, hitters usually cost pitchers. The better the hitter the better the pitcher, so to get the type of hitter your talking about (cepedes or a like hitter) would have taken at least one high level prospect along with at least one other regarded prospect. Giving up a guy who will more than likely be on your team next year for a guy who may or may not help you for two months this year seems a bit silly don’t it.

  • Scott Kliesen
    August 1, 2015 8:30 am

    Penny per article. Best deal ever!

    Once again NH shows why he’s one of game’s best GM’s. Addressed what needed to be addressed without upsetting team chemistry or sacrificing team’s future success. Furthermore, he gave Tabata, Jones and Sampson a better chance to play in MLB, too.

    Fans who wanted better players are victims of being short sighted. NH has to balance today’s needs with tomorrow’s objectives. The moves made this week strengthen Pirates chances to win this year while keeping the championship window wide open.

  • well-written and yet strongly disagree…one of the reasons one builds and sustains a nice system is to use those pieces when the time is right to really upgrade (not buy ‘lottery tickets’)…before Burnett’s implosion/injury they could not have thought a 38 yr old coming off a bad season was going to be a good #3 for a Championship-seeking team…they gave up, what, something like the number #18 and #23 prospects? give up higher-ranked prospects (for example a combo of #8 and #12 and #16) and go get a #3 starter (Cashner or Samardzija or Gallardo)…time is right (Cutch and Cole window) to use assets to go for first crown since ’79…thanks

    • Scott Kliesen
      August 1, 2015 8:38 am

      None of the SP’s you mentioned were traded. Why? Probably because no contender was willing to get fleeced. Furthermore, two of the three you mentioned, Cashner and Gallardo are no guarantee to be better than Happ.

      • The CWS are just a few games away from the WC – chances are they feel it is not the time to give up on the season by trading anybody. Cashner has underperformed, and Gallardo is not going anywhere. He grew up in Fort Worth, is making $13 mil, has been possibly their best pitcher, and IMO, will get a QO from the Rangers. Yu Darvish will return, they got Hamels, and Gallardo would be a well above average #3 in the 2016 Rotation.

    • For perspective, the Giants only added Jake Peavy last year. And they had three starters with an ERA of 4.00 or better, and only one under 3.50. And Peavy had a 4.72 ERA with Boston before immediately turning it around the rest of the regular season (although he wasn’t great in the post-season).

    • Christopher R
      August 1, 2015 1:06 pm

      When the argument comes up that we have a “window” to win I cringe everytime. Ask the Brewers or Reds how going for it all within a window works out. I’d rather have a consistently strong team who is always in the playoff hunt. Anything can happen in October, the Giants and Royals are good recent examples. The key is being in that hunt more often than not.

    • In case you missed the memo, the Padres and White Sox did NOT deal anyone. Texas up graded, not reloaded. Pay attention.

    • Based on the market, a true #3 starter signed past this year would have cost at least Meadows and one other top-ten prospect in our system, and maybe would have cost one of Bell, Glasnow, or Taillon instead of or in addition to Meadows. Let’s look at Cashner specifically. No, he’s not as good as Cueto or Price, but he’s still under team control next season, which gives him roughly Price or Cueto value in the market. Price and Cueto cost prospects on the level of Josh Bell’s value, plus other nice pieces. Even if you assume a slight “he’s not an ace” discount, after you include the extra year, you’re not talking about #8, 12, and 16, you’re talking about #2, 8 and 12. Would you do that? I wouldn’t. Especially since #2 fills a need as soon as next year, perhaps (depending on who you have as #2) the same need Cashner fills next year, but that he also fills it for the next five after next year.

  • Happ slides in for aj but my question is will charlie morton be better? Horrible July allowing most hard intact in mlb among starters. Fip and xFip around 5.

  • I spent the past 48 hours hoping we would not succumb to trading our top prospects for Price or Hamels and or others. When this deadline passed I was relieved. But it took this article to put it in a clear and concise perspective. Yes I am relieved and also cautiously optimistic. Which is a good thing because this crazy ride we are on is going to be fun.

  • The trade with Jacoby Jones was great. He was a head case for the Pirates. He was benched 10 games for lack of hustle and attitude. So when he was promoted to Altoona was intentional to put him on the trading block.

    • Michael: Had not heard or read anything even remotely related to hustle and/or attitude problems – did that happen this year in Bradenton? Maybe this and the Tabata trade will fall under the category of adding through subtraction, and doubly good in that we also get players who can help us right now.

    • BuccosFanStuckinMD
      August 1, 2015 10:09 am

      So, is this what we do now at this site now – trash 22 year old kids AFTER they are traded away by the Pirates? Unless you have verifiable proof of this, I’d suggest burying this.

      • While I agree with most of what you said, I have to say that 22 is not a kid, that’s a grown man. Sure he’s still learning but who ever really stops learning? Should he be trashed? No, he’s a good up and coming ballplayer. Should he be called a kid? No, he’s a man with a man’s resposibility. ( don’t take this as an angry response, it’s just an observation. Thanks)

      • Unless it is Alen Hanson ?

    • When was he benched for ten games? Because it wasn’t this year.

    • Bull puck

  • Very well written and supported. I liked the flip of Morse for Tabata, but getting JA Happ for dollars and a RHP prospect who had fallen behind at least a handful of other RHP Prospects, was really a strong play by NH. I see Happ as having the biggest possibility of helping this team down the stretch. Maybe as a #4, but I think he can be better than that. Blanton and Soria will also help take pressure off of inexperienced relievers who have never been in a pennant chase.

    I would not put the replacement for AJ on JA’s back. Instead, I would expect more from Charlie Morton at this point. Over the past few years we have seen him at times be just as good as anyone in the Rotation, and we need about a month of that.

    • Scott Kliesen
      August 1, 2015 8:32 am

      Totally agree. Now is time for Ground Chuck to raise his game and be the stud he’s fully capable of being.

    • JA Happ is Zach Duke, pt 2. He is a marginal #5 starter.

      • I can’t remember the last time I watched a seattle game I may be wrong but that’s probably true for you too, so never having seen happ pitch how can we with confidence say he is a bad trade? If you go the on paper route he is a better pitcher than either morton or locke. So how about we actually see the guy before we make him walk the plank,ok?

      • I would have preferred to see Liz than Happ but ok with it

    • emjay said it.

    • With Soria making it easier on Hurdle to shorten the game to six innings, Morton and Locke should be more effective. Last night was a good example. Locke didn’t pitch great, but with four capable relievers, we only needed him to survive five innings.

      I don’t think we can underestimate the impact of the Soria and Blanton acquisitions in terms of how much they help the starting rotation. I mean, for Morton specifically, he’s typically pitched just fine through six. It’s when Hurdle sends him out for the seventh that things fall apart. Now he doesn’t have to.

      Morton’s best seasons involved a back-end of the bullpen with three shut-down guys. Watson, Melancon and Grilli. When he only has to give us six, he’s a good pitcher.

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