As the trade deadline approaches and the Pittsburgh Pirates enter the second half of the year having won a season high six games in a row, it will certainly be interesting to see if the Bucs are able to continue their great play and convince general manager Neil Huntington to change the club’s label from seller to buyer before 4 p.m. on July 31.
Regardless of what they end up doing, as a long-time follower of Pittsburgh Pirates baseball the trade deadline has become a time where I enjoy sitting back and reflecting on all of the moves that the front office has made throughout the years.
While guys like Jack Wilson and Andrew McCutchen had long Pirate careers, there have been players whose stay on the North Shore was much shorter. Whether if they were signed before the season began and then dealt at the deadline, acquired as a rental just to leave the next season through free agency or just flat out cut from the roster, after doing some research, the list of players in the recent past who were a member of the Pirates franchise for one year or less is rather impressive.
After looking things over, I decided to go way too far with this and make an all time roster of Pittsburgh Pirates who left their mark on the steel city after only being here for a short time. The requirements to make this team are as follows.
- The player must have played at least one game as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates
- The player must have played for the Pittsburgh Pirates for less than an entire season (two short stints in back to back years does not count).
- The player must have left an impact (good or bad) in their short time with the club
- Any player to have played a game for the Pirates prior to their last division title (1992) is ineligible to make this roster.
With that being said, I would like to present to you all my first ever draft of the Pirates “All Cup of Coffee” team. Enjoy!
Pitcher – J.A. Happ (2015)
Now known in Pittsburgh Pirates circles as the one that got away bringing up J.A. Happs name can nearly bring tears to the eye of Bob Nutting haters. In the final minutes of the 2015 trade deadline, the Pirates acquired Happ, an underperforming left handed pitcher from the Seattle Mariners for prospect Adrian Sampson. After a rough first outing with the Bucs, Happ went on to become one of if the not most reliable arms down the stretch for the Pirates, going 7-2 with a 1.85 ERA in 11 starts. After coming to the team with an unknown role, Happ was expected to be in the Pirates playoff rotation after his strong end to the regular season. However, Happ would never get the chance to pitch in “Buctober” as team ace Gerrit Cole was selected over him to be the starter in the 2015 national league wild card game that the Pirates would lose to the Chicago Cubs. Despite his great short stint with the Pirates, the front office elected to let J.A. Happ go elsewhere in free agency in the following off season which, as I mentioned before, is still a very sensitive subject to many Pirates fans to this day. Since leaving the Pirates, Happ has quietly been one of the best pitchers in the American League in the past three seasons as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays, winning 20 games in 2016 and being named to his first all star game this season.
Catcher – Benito Santiago (2005)
The five time all star backstop had quite the career before joining the Pittsburgh Pirates in his 20th season in the major leagues in 2005. While Santiago came to the Bucs as a four-time silver slugger and three-time gold glove winner, he left the team and baseball as a whole after playing just six games. In his six games as a Pirate, the 40-year-old Santiago had six hits in 23 at bats including a broken bat triple on opening day that sadly serves as one of my favorite moments as a Pirate fan.
First Base – Sean Casey (2006)
After playing the first nine years of his big-league career in Ohio with the Cleveland Indians and the Cincinnati Reds, the Upper St. Clair graduate signed a deal with his home town team prior to the start of the 2006 season. Though fans were thrilled to have “the Mayor” playing first base for the Pirates, the front office realized that Casey was simply too valuable of a player to hold onto during a season where the club would go on to lose 95 games. Before he was traded to the Detroit Tigers, Casey had a decent stay in Pittsburgh hitting .296 with three homeruns and 29 RBI in his 59 games as a Pirate.
Second Base – Akinori Iwamura (2010)
Unlike many of the others to come on this list, Iwamura’s stay in Pittsburgh was not a very good one. After hitting .281 in his three-year career with the Tampa Bay Rays, the Pirates were excited to receive the 30-year-old second basemen in a trade for relief pitcher Jesse Chavez. However, all of the excitement that surrounded Iwamura entering the 2010 vanished once he began his career as a Pirate. In 54 games as a bucco, Iwamura hit just .182 and struck out in 31 of his 165 at bats (18.7%). Pittsburgh designated Iwamura for assignment on June 16th after his poor performance both at the plate and in the field. After finishing the season with the Oakland Athletics, Iwamura ended his major league baseball career and returned to his home country of Japan to play for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.
Third Base – Charlie Hayes (1996)
The father of Pirates stud prospect Ke’Bryan Hayes, Charlie’s one season with the Pittsburgh Pirates is one he will certainly not forget. After hitting .248 with 10 homeruns and 62 RBI in 128 games with the 5th place Pirates, Hayes was traded to the New York Yankees on August 30th where he went on the win the 1996 World Series with the Bronx Bombers. Hayes, who hit .280 in 20 regular season games with the Yankees caught the final out in the 1996 fall classic, securing New York’s first world series victory since 1978.
Short Stop – Shawon Dunston (1997)
Despite only playing 18 games for the Bucs, Dunston was a key part of one of the most interesting stories in Pittsburgh Pirates history; the 1997 “Freak Show”. After losing short stops Kevin Elster and Kevin Polocovich to injury, the Pirates acquired Dunston in a trade from the Chicago Cubs on August 31 in hopes of keeping their playoff dreams alive. Dunston hit two homeruns in his first game as a Pirate and batted .394 in the final month of the season. Unfortunately, the addition of Dunston was still not enough to get the Pirates into the post season as they finished second in the National League Central. Dunston went on to leave the Pirates in free agency the following off season, signing a one-year deal with the Indians.
Left Field – Marlon Byrd (2013)
Just seeing this name puts a smile on my face. During their recent three year stretch of making the post season, it can be argued that no other rental player had a bigger impact for the Pirates than Byrd in 2013. On the cusp of ending a 20-year playoff drought, the Bucs made an aggressive decision to acquire Byrd and catcher John Buck in a trade from the New York Mets on August 27, in order to prepare for a deep playoff run. Like Dunston in 1997, Byrd also hit a homerun in his first game as a Pirate, resulting in him becoming an instant fan favorite. Byrd hit .308 with three homeruns and 17 RBI in 30 career games with the Bucs, helping them secure their first playoff appearance since 1992. In the National League Wild Card game, Byrd opened up the scoring by hitting a solo homerun off Reds ace, Johnny Cueto which was then followed by Russell Martin’s infamous blast. Byrd went on to hit .364 in the post season for the Pirates before signing a two-year deal with the Philadelphia Phillies in the following off season.
Center Field – Kenny Lofton (2003)
In his 17 year career, Kenny Lofton played for 11 different major league teams; the Pirates being one of them. Prior to the start of the 2003 season, the Bucs signed Lofton to a one-year deal worth $1.025 million. In 84 games, the six time all star was solid, hitting .277 with nine homeruns and 18 stolen bases. However, the reason Lofton makes this team isn’t because of his play as a Pirate but because of the way he left the organization. On July 23, the once again underperforming Bucs made one of, if not the worst trades in franchise history sending Lofton along with young star third basemen Aramis Ramirez to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for Jose Hernandez, Matt Bruback and Bobby Hill. While the Pittsburgh Pirates finished the regular season in fourth place with a record of 75-87, Lofton and Ramirez went on to help their new team reach the NLCS before being eliminated in seven games by the Florida Marlins in the Steve Bartman series.
Right Field – Raul Mondesi (2004)
There could not be a more appropriate player to round up this lineup than Raul Mondesi. After signing with the Pirates before the start of the 2004 season, Mondesi took a leave of absence from the team in early May for what he claimed to be personal issues. After being placed on the restricted list on May 11, Mondesi failed to return to the Pirates by May 18 resulting in the club placing the right fielder on waivers and then releasing him after he was cleared. Less than two weeks later, Mondesi returned to baseball as a member of the Los Angeles Angels. After leaving his former last place team for the first place Angels Mondesi told reporters that he was unhappy with the contract that he had with the Pirates and that he wanted to play for a team that had a legitimate chance to make the playoffs. However, after playing just eight games as an Angel Mondesi was placed on the disabled list due to tearing his quadriceps. He was then released by Los Angels in July after he failed to show up for rehab therapy. In 26 games with the Bucs, Mondesi hit .283 with two homeruns and 14 RBI.
That is the list! If you feel that there is a more deserving player please let me know on twitter (@Noah_Hiles95). It will be fun to see if a name like Corey Dickerson will be eligible to make this list in the next few weeks or if the team makes a trade for another rental player. Whether if they were good, bad or ugly I hope that each of these names brought back some memories.