Friday, August 01, 2008

#102: The Day After

---Trying to Evaluate the Trades---

I have purposely abstained from going to any of my favorite blogs since yesterday's Jason-Bay-for-four-prospects trade; I want to make sure that my initial opinion remains unaltered.

First, I'll address the Xavier Nady/Damaso Marte deal with the Yankees.

It's the type of deal I was hoping General Manager Neal Huntington would make: Trading players while their stock is high. Nady had a relatively injury-free 2008 and was in the top 10 players in the National League in batting average. And we all know how good Damaso Marte could be in those "specialty" situations.

I give Huntington a lot of credit for not being afraid to pull the trigger. The only thing I would like to know is what other possible deals were on the table that were passed on in favor of the one that took place.

Jeff Karstens, one of the new Pirates, had his first start against the Chicago Cubs today and managed to shut out a team that hung 31 runs in its previous 4 games, all against the (supposedly) challenging Milwaukee Brewers.

Using the word "effective" to describe the start would be generous, but considering the starting pitching the Bucs have been getting, 101 pitches in 6 innings is pretty good (on the curve we're forced to grade on). He walked four, but was helped out by a couple of double play balls. He allowed 5 hits, which puts his WHIP as a Pirate at 1.50, just a shade shy of his 1.52 for his (short) career. That must improve.

While Karstens does have some major league experience, he will be 26 years old by season's end. Still, if Karstens turns out to be a starter along the lines of Josh Fogg (vs. a Bryan Bullington, guys...I don't think Fogg was more than an average starter at any point), Karstens-for-Marte is pretty even-up by itself.

The other two pitchers the Bucs received, Daniel McCutchen and Ross Ohlendorf, had eerily similar performances in their first starts at Triple-A Indianapolis. Each gave up four runs on seven hits in six innings of work. Each walked two batters. McCutchen gave up one home run while Ohlendorf gave up two dingers (both to the same guy). But Ohlendorf struck out five vs. McCutchen's three. And they're both 0-1 with the Indians.

McCutchen starts again tonight. Ohlendorf should start again on August third. We'll find out in short order if it was just a case of adjusting to new teammates.

In any event, getting McCutchen and Karstens instead of two Double-A pitchers (George Kontos and Phil Coke) seems to be a better deal. Kontos and Coke both had WHIPs under 1.25, Kontos seems to get a lot of strikeouts (but give up a lot of hits), and Coke has a respectable ERA and a 9-4 record as of this writing.

Incidiently, Kontos had 13 strikeouts yesterday against the Altoona Curve. Should we be surprised that their prospects are striking out ours?

Finally, the Bucs received Double-A top prospect Jose Tabata. All I've heard and read is that he's been injured. I don't even know which minor league Pirate club he was assigned to as his name doesn't show up on any of the team's websites.

What disturbs me is that, while he's only 19 (visions of B.J. Upton, perhaps), Yankee nation seems to be sort of relieved to be rid of him. Various comments about how he's highly overrated and/or injury prone do not bode well. I think what bodes even worse is that the Pirates are talking him up so much.

That's never good.

My grade: C+ (You weren't going to have a better chance to trade Nady and Marte high. I have a feeling there might have been a better deal to be had.)

My grade on the "David Littlefield Curve": B+ (he'd have never gotten four prospects...)


Now to the Jason Bay trade -

Trading Bay was good for the team on more than one level. As skilled as we've seen Bay be through the years, he is still a part of the "culture of losing". He hasn't really shown anything resembling a killer instinct, though he did have three walk-off hits in May and June (the last one being a homer).

As a fan, I can tell you I'll miss the way he'd hustle to first to try to beat out an infield hit and was reasonably successful considering the caliber of play at the major league level.

Still, Pirate fans must realize that while Bay still has at least three good years left in him, by the time any of the organizations draftees would be ready, he'd be on the downside of his career. Sad as it is, the Pirates cannot win with the team they have.

The Pirates gain three players that they added to their major league roster immediately, including both of the players from Boston. Relief pitcher Craig Hansen (who has nearly as many walks as strikeouts...par for the course, I suppose) did not play today. Outfielder Brandon Moss, whose OBP is 50 points higher than his already-solid .295 batting average. While he was 0-for-3 today with a walk at the plate, he did have an outfield assist today, doubling Kosuke Fukudome off first base.

Andy LaRoche, picked up from the Dodgers, had a hit and a run scored today, as well. Those are good signs, but I'm also a bit of a believer in beginner's luck.

Still if just two of the three mentioned above are beyond "serviceable", it gives the Pirates more value for the next round of trades, if nothing else. (The fourth pick, Bryan Morris, is a 21-year old who will start his Pirate career with the Hickory Crawdads).

My grade: B (A chief complaint about this team was lack of depth. In this case, I think Huntington helped that a little. May have bolstered the bullpen and given the team another option at third base)

My grade on the "David Littlefield Curve": A (A lot of DL trades involved one major league player for one minor league player. Huntington is willing to "split the atom" a little bit. There is definitely more upside here to anything DL would have done.


One final compliment I'll throw Neal Huntington's way: By trading both Bay and Nady, he's essentially freed Pittsburgh of his predecessor's two crown jewels.

Not that I won't miss having a couple of guys who can get on base as regularly as anyone, who can occasionally go yard. It's just that the remnants of whatever dream Dave Littlefield had for the Pirates (if there was a dream outside of just being a yes-man for the Syndicate) are being sent away for something that may resemble a plan.


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