Check out Part 1 of the series (overall postivies) here. (Opening image Wandy Rodriguez; Image credit zimbio)
Here are my overall grades for the 4 pieces GM Neal Huntington and the Pirates acquired prior to the 4PM July 31st MLB Trade Deadline. The grades factor in not only the player’s current ability and production, but also their fit on the team, timing of the trade, and with what the Pirates had to part to acquire them.
OF Travis Snider- Grade: A
My initial reaction is that this trade could challenge Huntington’s Octavio Dotel-for James McDonald and Andrew Lambo deal as his best to date. Fans loved the fact that former 1st round pick SP/RP Brad Lincoln was finally paying dividends out of the Pirates’ bullpen, but the reality of a team is that its relievers are almost always expendable for potential long-term hitters or starting pitchers. The Blue Jays could transition Lincoln back to the rotation as early as this year (although they’re starting him in their bullpen as well), but already at age 27, it’s unlikely the Pirates lost a high-ceiling starting pitcher.
A lefty power bat truly made for PNC Park, Travis Snider is still only 24, and owns a career .910 minor league OPS. He’s enjoyed MLB cups of coffee since age 20, and has posted MLB OPS+ of 114, 95, 105, 65, and 120. His once-questionable defense is now considered at least passing for the OF, and Snider has shown a marked improvement in his minor league BB:K ratio.
My one concern (preventing an A+ grade) is that the Blue Jays opted Snider back to the minor leagues on four separate occasions, often times depiste promising offensive production for a young player. Is he truly flawed, or has he simply never been granted extended MLB playing time? My guess is the latter. An OF of Starling Marte-Andrew McCutchen-Snider could provide excitement for years to come. Great trade.
SP Wandy Rodriguez- Grade: B+
His acquisition coming a few days prior to the deadline, I already listed Rodriguez’s positives here. Overall, I think acquiring Rodriguez early- and without moving a prospect higher than OF Robbie Grossman- was an excellent trade. Rodriguez is a lefty starter tailored to the dimensions of PNC Park, and has rated well-above average in ERA+ for 4 of the past 6 years, and above average for the 2 others.
The reason this trade isn’t an “A” is because although Rodriguez is a solid addition to the staff, he also isn’t an elite-level acqusition like the Angels SP Zack Greinke. Then again, Greinke cost Los Angeles their best position prospect in Jean Segura, plus 2 other minor leaguers. Given the cost of landing an arm better than Rodriguez- even former Cub-now-Ranger SP Ryan Dempster- this was a great value trade for Huntington and the Pirates.
1B Gaby Sanchez- Grade: C
I like this trade better than most Pirates’ fans, but will admit that it has a higher BIFF (Blow up In Face Factor) than the others. I agree with many in being upset that the Pirates parted with their first new tradeable compensatory pick (#33 overall in 2013) so quickly, especially for a player in Sanchez that was posting a terrible .556 OPS for the Miami Marlins prior to the trade. Opponents further point to the fact that, despite being a firstbasemen and former All-Star, Sanchez has yet to post even an .800 OPS season- a fairly standard watermark for power bats.
Still, for those that complain that the Pirates don’t follow a “Moneyball” approach, it doesn’t get much more Moneyball than this. The righthand-hitting Sanchez has a career .873 OPS against lefties, whereas the lefthand-hitting Garret Jones has an .839 OPS against righties. Put them both together, and the Pirates could have “one” very productive firstbaseman down the stretch. Still, losing the 33rd overall pick for the *chance* of this working is a gamble the Pirates may regret.
RP Chad Qualls- Grade: D
Huntington’s trade deadline should’ve ended a move early. In fairness, sending INF Casey McGehee to the Yankees for this below average reliever shouldn’t hurt the Pirates much, but it definitely doesn’t help either. If Sanchez is a straight roster swap for McGehee, the Pirates are losing versatility off the bench. Gaby Sanchez is strictly a 1B, while McGehee plays both corner INF positions.And if Qualls is a straight bullpen swap for the departed Brad Lincoln, the Pirates missed an opportunity to promote AAA Bryan Morris, Jeff Locke, or Justin Wilson into a non-critical bullpen role with the team, as they gradually learn the ropes of the MLB level. Qualls simply isn’t good anymore; such relievers are readily available off of the FA scrap heap without dealing anything in return.
Overall however, the Qualls trade was a minor gaffe in a deadline full of positives for Pirates’ fans. Both Sanchez and Rodriguez should be Pirates for another 2-3 seasons, while Travis Snider could grow into a core producer for years to come. Huntington was able to acquire long-term options that also offer short-term reinforcement, all without moving the organization’s top young prospects. This deadline was a great time to be a Pirates’ fan, and the much-maligned GM certainly deserves some credit.
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