This is GM Neal Huntington’s 10th trade deadline with the Pittsburgh Pirates. From the good, the bad and the ugly, let’s recap the previous nine as this year’s deadline looms closer.
2010 was the low point in recent Pittsburgh Pirates history. The rebuild was in full effect, and Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez and Brad Lincoln looked like the faces of the franchise. While the future looked bright, it would have to come with growing pains.
An eventual 105 loss season cost manager John Russell his job. It also cost the job of one of the pierogi runners. Truly heartbreaking stuff all around.
Unlike the previous two seasons where Huntington traded mainstays and fan favorites, all five of the players the Pirates traded at the deadline were signed during the offseason. They did not have a lot to sell, but their bullpen did receive a lot of attention.
July 31: Traded RHP Octavio Dotel to the Los Angeles Dodgers for OF Andrew Lambo and RHP James McDonald
Dotel was a well respected reliever across basebal but chose to sign with the Pirates so he could close again. He did fairly well in the role, picking up 21 saves with a 4.28 ERA and 10.8 K/9. The Los Angeles Dodgers needed relievers and were desperate to get back to the postseason, and the Pirates got them to overpay.
The two players they received were Baseball America’s top two Dodgers’ prospects going into the 2009 season. McDonald had some troubles in the majors since then and Lambo was dropped from first to seventh in the organization’s rankings, but they were both still high upside guys.
McDonald made steady progress in 2010 and 2011 to cement a spot in the rotation. He emerged as a potential ace in the first half of 2012, using a new wipeout slider to go into the All-Star break with a 2.37 ERA. The second half was a different story. He lost velocity and his ERA was over seven. His fastball came in even slower in 2013 (sitting at roughly 91 compared to 93-94 when the Pirates traded for him), and he was eventually released that year.
Lambo’s minor league home run totals were exciting, but he just could not catch up to a major league fastball. He had a starting job all but handed to him going into spring of 2014, but a disastrous couple of weeks lead to him being optioned instead. He struggled just as much the next spring, but he still made the team as a bench player. His last chance as a Pirate did not go well, going 1-25 before being placed on the 60-day DL and eventually being released.
Like the Nady-Marte deal with the Yankees in 2008, this came very close to being a marquee trade. Had McDonald kept his fastball and Lambo learned how to hit one, they could have had a front of the rotation starter and a 25-30 home run guy. It would have sped up the rebuilding process by a year.
July 31: Traded RHP D.J. Carrasco, OF Ryan Church and SS Bobby Crosby to the Arizona Diamondbacks for SS Pedro Ciriaco, C Chris Snyder and cash
Ladies and gentlemen, this was Huntington’s first deadline “buy.” The Pittsburgh Pirates’ catching situation looked bleak. Doumit was a decent hitter but couldn’t field. The thinking was to get Snyder- a decent fielder who couldn’t hit- to compliment him.
Tony Sanchez looked like the franchise’s future catcher at the time, so the front office hoped Snyder could just hold the fort down until then. He didn’t. Snyder hit .169 with the Pirates down the stretch in 2010 and then was injured most of 2011.
Church and Crosby were two below average bench players who barely received any playing time with Arizona. They were just dead money sent over to help offset the cost for Snyder.
Carrasco had two years of team control remaining and was in the middle of a solid campaign, recording a 3.88 ERA over 55.2 innings. He pitched well in the desert, but he was still non-tendered at the end of the season.
The Pirates also got Ciriaco, who was Arizona’s 27th best prospect, according to Baseball America. His glove and speed were praised, but those skills were not enough to make up for his bad bat. He bounced around the majors for a couple years and is playing Mexican League ball now.
This is a deal that could have easily been done during the winter meetings or even May. It was mostly a salary dump on Arizona’s part and a stopgap for the Pirates. Nothing special.
July 31: Traded LHP Javier Lopez to the San Francisco Giants for 1B John Bowker and RHP Joe Martinez
Lopez signed a one year deal with the Pirates to replace John Grabow as the team’s lefty specialist. He did his job well, but he did not factor into the long term plans. Trading him was an easy decision.
Bowker was a quad-A hitter who never could really make an impact in the majors. It also did not help his cause that he was being blocked by Garrett Jones, who was profiled similarly as him. That’s probably why they made the deal, but the Pirates really had no use for another fringe lefty first baseman/right fielder type. Jones ended up being more than a fringe guy. Bowker didn’t.
Martinez was a groundball guy who was destined to just bounce from team to team. He wasn’t a hard thrower and didn’t pick up a lot of strikeouts, but he could eat innings. He did that for a bit for the Pirates in 2010- his only season with the club.
Lopez recorded a 1.42 ERA down the stretch with the Giants and was a part of all three of their World Series teams. It was a great pickup on their end, but the Pirates probably could not have asked for any more than what they got.
What good is a bullpen and a bench to a 105 loss team? Trading these five players was a no-brainer, and there was some promising talent brought back. Snyder addressed an immediate need, and maybe the organization saw something special in the AAAA guys. All six players acquired suited up for the Bucs at some point, so that has to be worth something.
The core of this team was in place. The only players the Pirates could sell would be rental free agent signees. It looked like that would be the plan for 2011 as well.
The club and new manager Clint Hurdle had other ideas that year, and Huntington finally had a chance to buy.