Dissecting the deal…
I can tell you that this was not what I expected when I came to the ballpark on what is now yesterday afternoon. In fact, I figured when we got word that the game was cancelled at about 5:30 p.m., that I had a nice relaxing evening ahead of me. Yeah. Right.
Anyways, I don’t expect the initial reaction (which based on your blog and story comments seems to be primarily negative) to simmer any time soon, and you know what, I can’t say that that would be a fair expectation.
Did the Pirates make a good trade? I don’t know. Could they have gotten more for McLouth? I don’t know. Was there an urgency to have to do this now? No, which means that the Pirates really had to like what they were being offered.
On one side, the Pirates did get three prospects that are genuinely regarded as legitimate Minor League guys with Major-League upside. The pitching depth has been significantly improved by the addition of Charlie Morton. Instead of having Virgil Vasquez sitting in Triple-A as your next-best starter, you’ve got a guy in Morton who has been one of the best pitchers in the International League all season.
And actually, I’d be surprised if he’s not here pretty soon. The way GM Neal Huntington was talking on Wednesday night, the Pirates feel he’s ready. Should Jeff Karstens – or shall we say, Ian Snell? — not pull his weight in the rotation, Morton will be in.
Gorkys Hernandez is intriguing because of his speed, and one baseball front office person (not with the Pirates) told me on Wednesday that he sees Hernandez as having All-Star potential in the Majors. And it would be a heck of an outfield with Hernandez, Andrew McCutchen and Jose Tabata (all centerfielders now) out there together in a few years.
Jeff Locke is furthest away from the big leagues, which, in a way, makes him the most risky of the three prospects. There’s time to fade. Or there’s time to bloom. It’ll be a few years before we know which way that goes.
On the other side, though, you still have to question why the Pirates haven’t been able to get a marquee-type player in the three mega-trades that Huntington has pulled (Jason Bay to the Red Sox and Xavier Nady/Damaso Marte to the Yankees being the other two). The Pirates believe they have three potential above-average big-league players with this latest deal. That’s certainly a plus. But I can understand why there is some skepticism as to how good a deal this is when there is no defined superstar-talent coming in return.
It’s clear that the Braves were not willing to offer top pitching prospect Tommy Hanson or outfielder Jason Heyward, but it’s a bit surprising that Huntington pulled the trigger on this deal without seeing if maybe, just maybe, McLouth could garner a little bit more.
Then again, maybe Huntington wanted to sell high, not risking that McLouth’s production decreased and with it, McLouth’s value. Not to mention, top prospects aren’t exactly being offered these days. The Braves were desperate for an outfielder — no question — and in the eyes of the Pirates’ decision makers, that desperation was enough to get a good package.
Also, know that the Pirates were plenty familiar with these Atlanta prospects. They had been heavily scouted by the organization last summer as the Braves were trying to make a run at Jason Bay. In fact, the Pirates were ready to accept a package that included both Morton and Locke for Bay before going with the deal that brought them more Major League-ready talent.
Know that the Pirates were not shopping McLouth. And Huntington wanted to make it perfectly clear that when Pittsburgh signed McLouth to a multi-year deal back in February, it was not with the intention of then dealing him away immediately.
Now let’s just hope everyone can stay tuned long enough to see how this one plays out. And in the meantime, you all can continue to debate…