First Pitch: Pittsburgh Pirates Trade History with the Arizona Diamondbacks

We have posted two Pirates Trade History articles here and hope to eventually get to all 30 teams. Some of the teams will have a long and detailed history of trades, such as all of the early National League teams. Our articles for the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers showed that trades between National League and American League teams didn’t happen too often in the early parts of the 20th century. There were still plenty of deals between the clubs because they’ve been around so long. Then there is the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Diamondbacks have only been around since 1998. That’s really not long enough for an article, but they did just make the most recent big trade with the Pirates, so it’s good filler for the top of a First Pitch article. It feels like it was forever ago when the Pirates sent Starling Marte to the Diamondbacks for two prospects (Liover Peguero and Brennan Malone) plus some international bonus pool space. It’s going to be quite some time before we know which team won this deal. Other trades between the two clubs have been long enough to render a decision.

The first trade between the two clubs happened in February of 1999. I always thought this trade was extremely one-sided until just recently (as in a year or so) when I looked into the deal more. Tony Womack was sent to Arizona for Paul Weichard and Jason Boyd. The Pirates got almost nothing from the deal, with Boyd pitching four games before he was lost on waivers.

Womack helped the DBacks win the 2001 World Series, he scored 111 runs in 1999 and led the league with 72 stolen bases. Seems like a one-sided deal BUT his best season for WAR happened in 2004 after free agency, when he had a 3.3 WAR for the Cardinals. The rest of his 13-year career, he was a -0.9 WAR, giving him a meager 2.4 WAR career. For reference, Mike Benjamin was a 2.4 WAR during the 1999-2000 seasons for the Pirates when he got extra playing time because Womack wasn’t there. Dbacks clearly won the deal, but just as clear now is that it wasn’t a big loss for the Pirates. If anything, they should have got a better return.

In December of 1999, the Pirates sent pitcher Brad Clontz to Arizona for minor league pitcher Roberto Manzueta, who never made the majors. Clontz ended up back with the Pirates by April after being released by Arizona, so this was a nothing deal.

Two years later, the Pirates acquired minor league IF/OF Bry Nelson for minor league infielder Chris Petersen. Both had brief big league careers, though neither played for their new team in the majors.

In 2002 the Pirates acquired Duaner Sanchez for reliever Mike Fetters. The veteran Fetters pitched poorly for Arizona in 24.1 innings after the deal. Sanchez had three solid seasons of relief work after the trade (2004-06), but the Pirates lost him on waivers before he briefly became a nice bullpen piece. He pitched very poorly for the Pirates before that, giving up 15 runs in 8.1 innings over two seasons.

The Pirates/DBacks have had a few players swapped for cash over the years, but the next trade after the Sanchez/Fetters deal took eight years to happen and it ended up being a big one, involving five players and cash. The Pirates got Chris Snyder and Pedro Ciriaco, while Arizona took on salary with DJ Carrasco, Bobby Crosby and Ryan Church.

Ciriaco hit .333 in 31 games for the Pirates, but they got rid of him and watched him have his only good season with the 2012 Boston Red Sox. Snyder put up an 0.4 WAR in 74 games over two season with the Pirates, mostly with strong defensive numbers. Church had a solid finish to the 2010 season, but he never played in the majors again. Crosby was released almost immediately and never played in the majors again. Carrasco did a solid job in 18 relief appearances, then left via free agency. Advantage, no one.

After the 2010 season, the Pirates sent Zach Duke to Arizona for Cesar Valdez, a minor league pitcher with minimal big league time. Valdez went seven years between big league appearances and did nothing with the Pirates. Duke was himself in a starter/reliever role, posted an -0.5 WAR and left via free agency after the season. He still pitches, sometimes with success, as a reliever who bounces from team to team (up to nine already).

The next trade was the last one before the Marte deal. Pirates acquired infielder Phil Gosselin for minor league pitcher Frank Duncan. Gosselin was a -0.6 WAR for the Pirates in 28 games, so you can almost give Arizona the win here, despite the fact Duncan never made it to the majors (he pitched Indy ball in 2019). He had a lot of trouble pitching in Reno, which you can say about almost everyone who pitches in Reno. Duncan got great results for the 2016 Pirates in Altoona and Indianapolis, but he didn’t throw hard and relied on off-speed pitches and command. I never saw him after 2016, so I don’t know what happened besides the typical Reno stuff.

It’s a whole lot of nothing here, other than Womack being in the middle of a World Series run. The WAR numbers tell you that his mediocre defense and lack of power made him a replacement level player (or worse) most of his career. So even the one trade that had a clear winner here, really didn’t amount to much of a loss for the Pirates (or no loss if you plug in Benjamin as the fill-in for Womack). He was at least exciting to watch on the bases, so there’s that.





By John Dreker

Three former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a look back at a very bad day for baseball in Pittsburgh.

Brandon Inge, utility player for the 2013 Pirates. He signed with the Pirates early in Spring Training of 2013. He was 36 years old and had 12 season in the majors already, 11 with the Detroit Tigers. Inge was a utility player with the Pirates, after mostly playing third base and catcher prior to 2013. He mostly split his time between third base and second base, while also playing right field, first base and shortstop. Inge had a rough time with the Pirates, hitting .181 with one homer and two walks in 50 games. That was his last season in the majors. He was a career .233 hitter in 1,532 games, with 152 homers.

Ed Whitson, pitcher for the 1977-79 Pirates. He was a sixth round draft pick of the Pirates in 1974, going to the Gulf Coast League that first year, where he went 1-4, 4.30 in eight starts. Whitson moved up to A-ball the next year and really struggled, especially with his control, walking 99 batters in 142 innings. By the next season he completely turned things around. He cut his ERA in half, down to 2.53 and he issued just 65 walks in 203 innings. That earned him a promotion to Triple-A, where he pitched well enough in 1977 to get a September call-up. Whitson got five appearances for the Pirates, including the start in the last game of the year. Going up against the Cubs on October 2nd, he threw six shutout innings, allowing two hits and one walk.

He began the 1978 season back in Triple-A, getting recalled at the end of May and sent to the Pirates bullpen. Whitson made 43 appearances, pitching a total of 74 innings with a 3.28 ERA. He actually pitched better than the ERA would indicate, as nearly half of the earned runs he allowed, came during two of those appearances. Whitson’s ERA in the other 41 appearances was just 2.05 in 70.1 innings. In 1979, he made the Pirates out of Spring Training. He was being used as a spot starter the first two months, then in June he made four starts. He had a 2-3, 4.37 record in 57.2 innings on June 28th, when the Pirates traded him in a six-player deal to the San Francisco Giants that brought Bill Madlock to Pittsburgh. Whitson would end up pitching another twelve seasons in the majors, finishing with 126 career wins, eight coming while with the Pirates. He won at least ten games seven times and in 1980 he made the All-Star team.

Bud Culloton, pitcher for the 1925-26 Pirates. He went to Columbia University for two years, then played minor league ball for two seasons (1919-20) before retiring and returning to college, this time at Fordham. When he graduated school in 1924, he played semi-pro ball in the Paterson Industrial League before he joined the Pirates on July 26th, although he did not pitch a regular season game that season. He did however pitch in exhibition games, including one right before he signed with the Pirates, a game in which he shutout Pittsburgh for nine innings before losing in the tenth. It was that game that convinced Pittsburgh to sign him. Culloton was put on the list of players eligible for the 1924 postseason but the Pirates failed to win the National League pennant.

He was with the Pirates during the entire 1925 season, although he ended up pitching only 21 innings all year, with five of those innings coming during a start on the last day of the regular season. Culloton won a complete game over the Washington Senators on July 6th. It was an exhibition game, although the Senators were the defending champs at the time and it turned out to be a preview of the 1925 World Series. He was again eligible for the postseason in 1925, but never got into the seven-game series won by the Pirates. In 1926, he was being used even less, getting three appearances over the first two months, throwing a total of 2.2 scoreless innings. After an outing on June 11th in which he allowed four runs in one inning, the Pirates never used Culloton again, sending him to New Haven of the Eastern League. He finished that season in the minors, then never played pro ball again.

May 19, 1890

This date in 1890 was a tough one for Pittsburgh baseball fans. Not only did the Alleghenys lose their game by an 18-2 score, but the Pittsburgh Burghers of the Player’s League, lost their game 16-3. For the National League team, it was the beginning of their downward spiral that resulted in the worst season in franchise history. Up to that point, the team had an 8-10 record, so what happened the rest of the season couldn’t have been predicted by the most pessimistic Pittsburgh fan. The 18-2 loss started an eleven-game losing streak that would’ve been a twenty-three game losing streak if the Alleghenys weren’t able to pull out a 9-8 win against Boston on May 31st. They actually finished their season with a 7-82 run over their last ninety (one tie) games.

The Burghers weren’t anywhere near as bad as their crosstown rival. They had an 8-10 record after this game, then went on to lose another seven games in a row. Their season got much better though, going 52-51 the rest of the way. That Player’s League team was basically the 1889 Pittsburgh National League team, with most of the lineup jumping to the new league. Jake Beckley, Ned Hanlon, Pud Galvin, Al Maul, Harry Staley, Ed Morris, Bill Kuehne, Jocko Fields and Fred Carroll all jumped from the NL to the PL that year. The first three are in the Hall of Fame and Galvin, Staley and Morris made a combined 108 starts for the 1889 Alleghenys. Al Maul made four of the team’s other 26 starts.

John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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