Thursday, July 30, 2009

If You Think I Am Crazy

Here is a great, wait let me rephrase that, amazing article from Joe DeFazio...Enjoy...If you want to look back at my posts about the trades you can see that I am pretty much on the money with this. Here is the link to the post but I have copied in here for your viewing pleasure.

Breaking Down Pirates Trades An In-Depth Look
By Tony DeFazio

In two seasons, Pirates’ general manager Neal Huntington has dismantled a group that averaged 67.25 wins per year over the past four seasons. In doing so, he's brought to Pittsburgh the biggest influx of legitimate talent the franchise has seen in two decades. He's completely transformed the entire organization, from top to bottom. Huntington did not create 16 years of losing; he inherited it. And, for the first time in 20 seasons (since Syd Thrift), a Pirates’ GM has crafted a plan and is executing it.

So what’s the plan? Acquire talent, create competition for jobs, while also acquiring pieces to deal in the future, so he can keep the cycle alive. The movement of players, both through the system and through the majors to other clubs, doesn’t stop. You deal players for pieces that will
eventually become replacements – that’s the blueprint to win in markets such as Pittsburgh.

There have been two main facets to Huntington’s talent acquisition – middle outfield and starting pitching.

He has loaded up on outfield talent, specifically middle-outfield talent – which is one of the
few positions that teams routinely overpay for at the major league level. The other is starting pitching.

The Pirates had Nate McLouth, who had two fantastic months last year, and Nyjer Morgan, who was doing the same this year, in the fold. They had Andrew McCutchen in the wings. Huntington went out and acquired Jose Tabata last season – giving the Pirates four centerfielders in the organization. McLouth and Morgan are now gone, but in their place are Lastings Milledge and Gorkys Hernandez – so he’s still given himself pieces with which to deal.

Moving on to the pitching component, when Huntington took this organization over, the minor leagues was completely bereft of pitching talent in the minors. Completely bereft. The only possible bright spot was Brad Lincoln, but he was coming off Tommy John surgery. In less than
two years, he has changed that.

Charlie Morton, Ross Ohlendorf and Jeff Karstens are already getting major league hitters out. Daniel McCutcheon and Tim Alderson are both projected major league starters, with Alderson
projected to be a top of the rotation guy. He has littered single-A with pitching prospects, and they may be close to the point where they have enough pitching talent to start to move some of those pieces as well.

When Huntington arrived, the only legitimate prospects in the entire organization were Andrew McCutchen, Brad Lincoln and Neil Walker. Obviously, then, the minor leagues needed a complete overhaul. Of the 15 players acquired in Huntington’s nine trades who are not yet in the major leagues, seven are immediately among the Pirates top dozen prospects. Two others, first-round picks Pedro Alvarez and Tony Sanchez, are also among that group. While that shows that Huntington and staff have drafted and traded well, it sheds even more light on just how bad
things were before they arrived.

The third piece of talent acquisition (trades and draft being the first two) is free agency. Signing
big-time free agents simply can’t happen, so the Pirates have to make wise choices when adding pieces this way. Rather than sign “names” like Derek Bell or Tony Armas, Jr., Huntington's staff has scoured the majors for players like Garrett Jones, a 28-year-old five-year veteran of triple-A currently hitting .323 with 10 home runs in 24 games with the Pirates.

Now on to the

The Pirates have 7 players currently in the majors who were acquired in the trades: 4 at AAA, 3 at AA, 8 at A and 1 not currently playing. While the Pirates have indeed loaded up on prospects, they have also filled out their major league roster with good—albeit young and very inexperienced—talent.

The opponents in the trades have a combined 8 players in the majors, 1 at triple-A, and 2 who don’t play baseball.

All told, Pittsburgh gave up 11 and got 23 players in return. Here’s trade-by-trade breakdown of who went where and for whom, and how each of the players have performed.

The Pirates received:

Bryan Morris is considered a promising starting pitching prospect for the Pirates, but he is currently experiencing major struggles at the high A level, with a 2-5 record and a 5.70 ERA in 9 starts for Lynchburg.

Craig Hanson is possibly shelved for the season with neck spasms. The 25-year-old flame throwing right-hander is still battling control problems and his future is somewhat questionable. Next year is likely do-or-die for Hanson.

BRANDON MOSS platoons in right and left field and is batting .250 with 5 HR and 27 RBI in 248 AB. He has 44 strikeouts (once every five at bats). Moss, 25-years-old, is tied for second in the National League in outfield assists.

ANDY LaROCHE was one of the top prospects the National League in 2007, but he struggled at the plate in two brief stints with the Dodgers. He came to Pittsburgh last season and really struggled, hitting .152 as the team’s everyday third baseman over the final 50 or so games. He’s having a solid, if unspectacular, season so far – hitting .256 with 4 HR and 37 RBI. He’s 26.

In exchange for:
JASON BAY is currently hitting .254 with 20 homers and 74 RBI for the Red Sox. Bay more than adequately replaced Manny Ramirez last season and quickly became a fan-favorite in Boston. After getting off to a tremendous start in 2009, Bay is hitting just .168 with 1 HR, 5 RBI and 36 strikeouts over the past month.

The Pirates got one player who appears that he might be solid (LaRoche), another who looks like a fourth outfielder at best (Moss), a reliever who has yet to show much (Hanson) and a starter who has really struggled (Morris). Yet it’s hard to properly evaluate this one just yet, especially with Bay in such a swoon lately.

The Pirates received:

Jose Tabata is a middle outfielder and was the key figure in the Nady/Marte trade last season, considered one of the top prospects in the Yankees system. After battling injury at the outset of this season, Tabata is hitting .306 with 2 HR and 25 RBI in 222 AB in AA. Not yet 21, Tabata has been hot lately, posting a .436 average over the last dozen games.

Daniel McCutcheon is being brought along slowly in AAA. A potential fourth or fifth starter in the majors, he is having a good season at Indianapolis. McCutcheon is 9-6 in with a 4.03 ERA in 18 starts this season.

JEFF KARSTENS is pitching out of the bullpen and has appeared in 26 games, with 10 starts, compiling a 3-4 record with a 4.40 ERA. He has allowed just 3 earned runs over his last 15 2/3 IP (1.72 ERA).

ROSS OHLENDORF has been very solid as the Pirates fourth starter, and is 8-8 in 20 starts with a 4.51 ERA.

In exchange for:

XAVIER NADY played 7 games for the Yankees before his season ended due to what could be a
career-threatening injury.

DAMASO MARTE also allowed 9 earned runs in 5 innings over 7 games. He’s no longer pitching.

The Pirates have two solid major league pitchers, one a starter, and two high-end minor leaguers who are having success. The Yankees have nothing.

The Pirates received:

Jeff Locke was the “throw in” in the trade. A potential starter, Locke is struggling at single-A Lynchburg with a 1-4 record and a 5.31 ERA in 10 starts since joining the club. He is coming off his best performance of the season, a 6-inning, 1-hit outing.

Gorkys Hernandez is another top prospect brimming with potential. Considered the “fastest player in baseball” by Baseball Prospectus, the 22-year-old is hitting.257 with AA Altoona. He has been fabulous defensively, but inconsistent with the bat so far this season.

CHARLIE MORTON was considered a top prospect for the Braves, but he struggled in his first opportunity in their rotation. Just 25, Morton has not struggled in Pittsburgh. The righty is 2-3 with a 3.72 ERA in eight starts with the Pirates. Two of his past five outings have been scoreless affairs.

In exchange for:
NATE McLOUTH is hitting.259 with 15 HR and 52 RBI combined with Atlanta and Pittsburgh. His numbers are similar with each club when broken down to production per at bat. He does have 65 strike outs, a very high average of 1 for every 5 AB. A Gold Glove centerfielder last year, McLouth stormed out of the gate in 2008, hitting .312 for the Pirates in the first two months of the ‘08 season. His quick start caused some to dramatically overrate his production –
prior to those two months, McLouth was a .249 career hitter; since June 1, 2008, he has hit .258.

The Pirates parlayed McLouth’s tremendous April and May of ’08 to get a quality major league starter and reload his OF position at AA with Hernandez. So the Pirates have a major league starting pitcher, a very promising minor league middle outfielder and a struggling single-A starter. The Braves have a solid centerfielder, but nothing more.

The Pirates received:

Eric Fryer, a 23-year old outfielder/catcher. He was batting .250 with 2 HR, 11 doubles and 24 RBI for high Class A Tampa, playing mostly LF. He was assigned to high class A Lynchburg, where he’s struggled, hitting just .219 in 21 games.

Casey Erickson, 23, was 3-3 with a 2.25 ERA in 21 appearances, 3 starts, for low class A Charleston. As a reliever, his ERA was 1.10, with 33 strikeouts in 32 2/3 innings.He was assigned to low-class A West Virginia, where he is 3-1 with a 0.92 ERA in 20 innings.

In exchange for:
ERIC HINSKE, 32, is a power hitting reserve outfielder who was batting .255 in 156 AB in Pittsburgh. In just 6 games with the Yankees, he is 6-18 with 4 homers.

Hinske has been hot in NY, but the Pirates are certainly not a worse team without him. This
trade made virtually no impact, and if Erickson ever wears the black and gold,
ratchet it up one letter grade.

The Pirates received:

Lastings Milledge is just 24 and already with his third major league team. Tagged as the game’s best prospect early in his career with the Mets, Milledge rubbed many veterans the wrong way with his demeanor. The Nationals gave up two first-round picks for him and despite a solid season in 2008 (his ‘08 numbers were identical to Nyjer Morgan’s, with the exception of Milledge’s power numbers, which are much higher), his first full year in the bigs, the organization tired of his attitude. He broke his hand and played in just seven games with the Nats this season before the trade. Since joining the Pirates AAA squad at Indianapolis,
Milledge was named International League Player of the Week and is batting .336
with 6 RBI in 16 games.

JOEL HANRAHAN is a veteran reliever who began the season as the Nationals’ closer and soon pitched his way out of the role. He’s 1-3 with an insanely high 6.70 ERA this season. Hanrahan has not allowed an earned run in his last 6 2/3 innings with the Pirates. He has a 3.00 ERA with 10 K and 3 BB in 10 IP since coming to Pittsburgh.

In exchange for:
NYJER MORGAN is having a breakout season with 31 stolen bases and a .304 average. The
speedy outfielder is lighting it up in Washington, hitting .389 in 90 AB with the Nats, with 13 stolen bases in 14 attempts.

SEAN BURNETT is also a veteran reliever who was having an excellent season in the Pirates bullpen before the trade. Burnett was 1-2 with an ERA in the low-3’s with Pittsburgh, and has been flat-out stellar with Washington. Burnett has allowed only one earned run in a Nationals’ uniform, with only 4 hits surrendered in 10.1 innings pitched.

We can’t rate this one just yet. Is Nyjer Morgan really going to hit .300? That would shock a lot of people, but he’s doing it so far. Is Joel Hanrahan as bad as he was with Washington earlier this season or as good as he’s been with Pittsburgh so far? Probably neither, so it all depends on
that Milledge eventually brings to the table.

The Pirates receive:

· Argenis Diaz, a 22-year old shortstop who hit .253 for class AA Portland, with 14 doubles, one
triple, no HR and 24 RBI in 76 games. His career average is .273. His defensive potential is rated as excellent, although he occasionally struggles with the routine play and has committed 23 errors this season. He was assigned to AAA with Pittsburgh and has played 5 games, hitting .273 with 1 error.

· Hunter Strickland, 20, is right-handed, 6-foot-5, and posted a 5-4 record and a 3.35 ERA in
single-A Greenville, with 51 K and just 13 BB in 83 IP. He tossed six innings of no-hit ball earlier this week in his first start with the Pirates’ organization.

In exchange for:
· ADAM LaROCHE was hitting .247 with 12 homers and 41 RBI at the time of the trade. He bat was solid but it wasn’t a middle-of-the-lineup bat, as former GM David Littlefield had hoped. He’s got a homer and 3 RBI, to go with a .347 average, in 4 games with the BoSox. See LaRoche’s comparison to Nate McLouth below.

The Pirates got two bodies for a player two months away from free agency who had zero chance to re-sign with Pittsburgh. David Littlefield’s mistake was very capably cleaned up by Huntington.

The Pirates received:

RONNY CEDENO is a weak-hitting, solid-fielding 26-year old shortstop who can play second and third base as well. He is a career .239 hitter but is in the midst of an 0-26 slump. He had a solid season for the Cubs last year, hitting .267. Jeff Clement is a 25-year old power-hitting first base prospect who is cleaning up in triple-A this season. The third-overall pick in 2005, Clement was hitting .288 with 33 doubles (2nd in the PCL), 3 triples, 14 HR, 68 RBI (6th in the PCL) and 65 runs scored while also producing a .505 slugging percentage in 92 games this year with triple-A Tacoma. In parts of two seasons with the Mariners, he hit .237 (52-for-219) with 11 doubles, seven home runs, 26 RBI and 21 runs scored in 75 games. He will begin at triple-A.

Aaron Pribanic, 22, went 7-6 with a 3.21 ERA (87.0ip/31er) while surrendering just 1 HR in 17 single-A starts. He’ll start at low-A.

Brett Lorin, 22, went 5-4 with a 2.44 ERA, 87 K and just 25 BB in 16 single-A starts. He’ll start at low-A.

Nathan Adcock, 21, went 5-7 with a 5.29 ERA in 21 games (19 GS) at single-A High Desert of the California League. He went 5-3 with a 3.70 ERA (82.2ip/34er) in 14 starts before the All-Star Game and was charged with three earned runs or fewer in 10 of his 19 starting assignments. He’ll begin at high A Lynchburg.

In exchange for:
JACK WILSON is a 31-year old .269 career hitter with very good defensive skills. Entering this season, Wilson had missed an average of 40 games per year the last three seasons.

IAN SNELL is a 27-year old starting pitcher whose career got off to a good start for the Pirates, as he went a combined 23-23 in 2006-07 with a 4.23 ERA over that two-season span. Since then, Snell is 9-20 with a 5.40 ERA. Snell asked to be sent down to AAA this season because the
pressure was too much in the major leagues. He was dominating at the triple-A level since his demotion.

Probably the best deal Huntington had made at the time he pulled the trigger. Pirates lose a solid shortstop who had just turned down a generous contract extension and was about to leave in free agency. Ian Snell asked to be demoted to AAA – enough said. For those two, the Pirates get a solid major league shortstop in Cedeno (who is really the fifth player in this deal), a first baseman who will most likely be the starter in the big leagues next season if not sooner, and three young, high-end prospects who already have had success in the pro’s.

FREDDY SANCHEZ to San Francisco
The Pirates receive:

Tim Alderson was the Giants 1st pick in the 2007 draft out of high school. He’s 20-years old and is 1-1 with a 4.15 ERA in his first 5 starts at AA. He was 6-1 with a 3.43 ERA at single-A before getting called up earlier this month. He’s 6-6, 215 pounds with excellent control (66 K, 17 BB this season; 124 K and 34 BB last season.

In exchange for:
FREDDY SANCHEZ a very good hitter, a legitimate All-Star and a former batting champion. Sanchez won't hit .345 again, but you can mark him down for .300 every season and expect him to be among the best second basemen in the NL for the next 2-3 seasons.

Despite his struggles at the plate last season and his recent slump, Sanchez is a legitimate talent who can help a contending ball club; better than McLouth, Wilson, Morgan, et al and comparable to Bay. However, when David Littlefield signed Sanchez to a deal that would pay a slap-hitting
middle infielder $8.1 million, it assured his departure from Pittsburgh. Tim Alderson is a prospect right there with Pedro Alvarez and Andrew McCutchen. The rate of return here, especially when you consider that by not pulling the trigger on a trade, Freddy would leave for practically nothing, makes this a huge win.

For me, personally, it became very hard to care about an organization that gave impression they were fine with 67-95 every year. To me, that was "giving up."

The ship had not been safe for voyage for years, but they tried to keep it afloat by sticking chewing gum in the holes. Signings like Pat Meares, Darryle Ward, Jeromy Burnitz, Sean Casey,
etc., to try to build around a “core” of Craig and Jack Wilson, Kris Benson, even Jason Bay – was an absolute lack of effort. Sure, Bay has helped the Red Sox and Freddy Sanchez will likely help the Giants… but when these guys were the core of the Pirates, let’s face it, the team was flat-out terrible. They didn’t break up the Chicago Bulls – they broke up a 67-95 team.

Bad decisions like paying slap-hitting middle infielders $8 million and drafting low-injury-risk/signable guys instead of Matt Wieters and Tim Lincecum - that made me think the upper management simply didn't care.Now, however, I look at what’s happening and finally I'm seeing indications that someone actually wants things to change.Instead of drafting a power-hitting first baseman in the first-round, but moving him to pitcher so they can pay him less, the Pirates
have the guts to stare down Scott Boras so they can draft and sign a kid who is currently lighting up AA in his first pro season. That excites me.

Taking a shortstop who in two months will walk away as a free agent, and finding a way to get a major leaguer infielder, a power-hitting AAA first baseman and three young, single-A pitchers for him? That's encouraging.

Moving a .250-hitting centerfielder with decent pop for a good major league starter and a top prospect—a trade made possible because the minors were stocked with several players remarkably similar to said CF—that's how markets like Pittsburgh have to win.That's why I'm not kidding when I say that, after a decade of being pushed away at every turn by the organization and not even being able to muster enough interest to care, these trades have won me back as a fan.

There a certain pro team a few miles uptown who tore it all down a few years ago as well. They had a pretty good spring.

What a great article. Comments anyone?

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