One thing is preventing me from actually enjoying this. As you’ll see below, Pirates General Manager Dave Littlefield lived up (or down) to every single one of my Trade Deadline expectations. Every single one. It was a sight to behold. And if I knew that this was the final nail in his regime’s coffin, I would be taking the time to soak in the fact that my team has the worst, most openly-mocked general manager in baseball...and perhaps in any sport. But there’s been no hint that he’s anywhere close to being fired. In fact, as I’ve said roughly 463 times in the Rant™, he got a contract extension at the beginning of the season. Plus, it would actually cost money to fire him, and tight-assed Pirates owners have proven consistently that they don’t necessarily feel the need to spend extra money for the good of the franchise.
So. Yesterday, as I mentioned above, was the Major League Trading Deadline. For some reason it was at 4pm EST. I dunno...midnight screams “deadline” to me. 4pm just screams “mid-afternoon”. Anyway, unlike last year the Pirates actually made multiple deals at the trading deadline. And Pirates fans were left feeling violated unlike they had been violated since the ’03 Trade-Aramis-Ramirez-to-a-division-rival-for-less-than-nothing-in-return debacle. Good times.
But first...I’m going back to the old Good-Bad-Blog format because I want to see if I can actually say something good right now. Wish me luck.
* Since last week’s Rant™, the Pirates have actually gone 5-0, first winning a road series for the first time since about 1993, then sweeping the Giants at home and ruining what was likely Barry Bonds’ last trip to Pittsburgh.
* Over the weekend, the Pirates drew over 100,000 fans for the 3-game Giants series, including sellouts on Friday and Saturday, proving that either Pirates fans are extremely loyal, or Pirates fans are gigantic idiots. Probably both. But it was nice to see. And though I obviously wasn’t there, reports said that the fans were actually quite exciteable and into the game. I thought about making an “the abused wife still loves her husband” reference here, but I’ll resist.
* Everybody in the rotation had a good start this week, which hasn’t exactly happened often. But with such a young staff (4/5 of the current rotation is under 25), ups and downs were to be expected. Just have to make sure to be happy with the ups.
* Despite every bitter, angry word I’m about to say about the trades that were made, the one positive is, the Pirates cut payroll by one-third. That’s not bad. Of course, considering the lack of talent on the team, the payroll shouldn’t have been as high as it was in the first place, but I’m coming up with happy bullets, so I’ll let that slide.
* The much-maligned (and deservedly so) Jose Hernandez, the 37-year old worthless veteran who has stolen 100 plate appearances from younger, more deserving players (and who new manager Jim “Tracyball” Tracy just insisted on signing when he came to Pittsburgh), came through with a game-winning RBI single Sunday afternoon to complete the sweep of the Giants. Hooray!
There. Five happy bullets. Go me.
So now that that’s out of the way, here are the four trades the Pirates made yesterday, complete with a letter grade and a “maybe/no” in parentheses. What’s the “maybe/no”? It’s the answer to “Will the player the Pirates traded for have any impact on making them better in the next few seasons?”
1: Sean Casey to the Tigers for Brian Rogers, a Double-A reliever with an 85-mph fastball (C/maybe).
2: Roberto Hernandez and Oliver Perez to the Mets for 1B/OF Xavier Nady (D/no).
3: Kip Wells to the Rangers for 153-pound Double-A reliever Jesse Chavez (C-/maybe).
4: Craig Wilson to the Yankees for pitcher Shawn Chacon (F-/NO!!).
Thanks to the “soft bigotry of low expectations”, I actually viewed Trades #1 and #3 positively. Since when are C and C- trades acceptable (especially since minor league relievers are the one thing the Pirates have in bulk)? Look at the other two trades and ask me that again.
As Dave Littlefield himself said in a fake interview yesterday, “jumping Jack Wilson on a pogo stick, what does a guy have to do to get fired up in here?”
The Mets were desperate for a right-handed set-up man because theirs (Duaner Sanchez, who Littlefield deemed unworthy to be a Pirate a couple of years ago) was injured in a car accident (separated shoulder) and is out for the season. In other words, Littlefield had leverage in Roberto Hernandez. He turned that leverage into Xavier Nady, described as “Craig Wilson without the walks”. But that wasn’t all. He couldn’t even get Nady unless he threw in Oliver Perez, the Pirates’ best pitcher two years ago. Perez has sucked for the last two years, but he has potential. In fact, this past offseason, Littlefield could have traded Perez for Hank Blalock, the Rangers’ two-time All-Star third-baseman, but he passed. Yup. Passed. On Hank Blalock.
But more importantly, Littlefield finally got Nady, the Craig Wilson-lite who Littlefield supposedly wanted instead of Jason Bay three years ago when he was trading Brian Giles to the Padres. Think about that for a second.
And while we’re on the topic, remember last week when I said that Littlefield passed on trading Kip Wells to the Phillies last June? Who would he have gotten in return for that trade? Some kid named Ryan Howard? I wonder what happened to him. But hey, they got a 6’2, 153-pound reliever for Wells...that’s almost as good, right?
Let’s move on to Trade #4. Actually, let’s not. I won’t actually dignify that trade with a response. Instead, let’s see what others have to think about Littlefield’s grand moves.
Here’s Ken Rosenthal’s “Winners and Losers” column from this morning. I’ll give you one guess whether the Pirates were Winners or Losers.
So much for the talk that Pirates GM Dave Littlefield was too unrealistic in his asking prices to complete a deal. Littlefield made four trades on Monday. Two of them, unfortunately, were horrible.But really, who needs prospects when you can obtain another already-over-the-hill-at-28 starting pitcher to replace Kip Wells?
None of Littlefield's veterans was anything more than a complementary part, but there's simply no way to defend trading outfielder Craig Wilson to the Yankees for right-hander Shawn Chacon.Littlefield almost certainly could have gotten more for Wilson, a potential free agent, last off-season. Obtaining a mid-level prospect from another club would have made more sense.
Outfielder Xavier Nady, acquired from the Mets for pitchers Roberto Hernandez and Oliver Perez, is Wilson with less service time. As one rival executive notes, the Pirates could have obtained three or four prospects for those pitchers.
And here are two quick blurbs from Keith Law at ESPN. I’d give you more than blurbs, but about 90% of ESPN’s content is “Insider only” now, and screw that.
About Wilson-for-Chacon: “The Pirates-Yankees trade was probably the most puzzling deal of the day -- since no one can understand what the Bucs gained from it.”But other than that, he’s top-notch. God, this is painful.
About Nady: “The two problems with Nady are his inability to get on base -- he has just 15 unintentional walks this year in nearly 300 plate appearances -- and his age.”
And what about my favorite stat nerds at Beyond the Box Score?
The Abreu deal was topped only by the heist for Craig Wilson, as Dave Littlefield severely undervalued his low-cost slugger (just $3.5 million for the season and he's hitting .267/.339/.478). Shawn Chacon, whose utility had formally worn off with the acquisition of Lidle, was sent to Pittsburgh for Wilson, who will fit in as a great bat off the bench and a DH/1B/OF option.Okay, to summarize…
What the Pirates gave up:
- Two starters (Kip Wells, whose lights-out Saturday performance was thought to up his trade value considerably, and Oliver Perez, who struck out over 200 batters in 2004 and was this year’s Opening Day starter).
- Two first-basemen (Sean Casey and the much metaphorically-defecated-on Craig Wilson).
- Their right-handed setup man (163-year old Roberto Hernandez).
What the Pirates got in return:
- One starter (Shawn Chacon), with a lower ceiling than Wells or Perez.
- One first-baseman (Xavier Nady), with a lower ceiling than Casey or Wilson.
- Two AA relievers who were high on nobody’s prospects lists.
- That’s it.
Did I expect the Pirates to obtain the next Roberto Clemente during this trading season? No, of course not. The quintet of Wells, Perez, Wilson, Casey, and Hernandez aren’t exactly going to set the world on fire and carry their new team to a World Series title. But to the right teams, they could be pretty valuable pieces. There were decent offers (for actual living, breathing prospects) on the table. I’m sure of it.
The whole point of being a “seller” at the trading deadline (which is what the Pirates have been for all but one of the last 14 seasons) is to get young prospects who can help you in the future for your own proven veterans who can help a playoff contender right now. Being a seller, in theory, makes your organization better (and younger) down the road. Well, Nady is almost the same age as Craig Wilson and is not as good offensively (or, for that matter, defensively). Shawn Chacon is almost the same age as Kip Wells (and four years older than Oliver Perez) and has a worse ERA than either one of them this season, and with Perez that’s really saying something. While either or both of the AA relievers could eventually make the Pirates’ roster, neither are expected to be more than situational relievers who come in to maybe get one batter out. And that’s all they got for 5 everyday players. The Pirate organization as a whole is officially in worse shape than it was 48 hours ago. That’s really, really tough to do. The Devil Rays got better. The Royals got much better. The Pirates got worse.
And Dave Littlefield still has a job. He will tomorrow, too. And that’s what keeps me from basking in the incompetence.
Did I mention that he failed to trade soon-to-be free agents Jeromy Burnitz and Joe Randa? Hopefully he can still dump their ridiculously big salaries before the August 31 deadline for clearing waivers (if you don’t know what that is, don’t ask), but the odds are slim.
The Pirates’ current record of 40-66 (best 40-66 team in the league!!) puts them on pace for 61 wins...which is 1 less than the 62 they had when Dave Littlefield took over five long years ago. In a perfect world, Dave Littlefield would be fired before the end of the season. Hell, in a mediocre world, he would. But at this point, even if he did get fired, looking at the roster on hand...looking at the lack of proven talent at the major league level...looking at the complete lack of major league talent (other than relief pitchers) in AA and AAA...the incoming GM would have almost no choice but to do something ballsy like trade Jason Bay or something to develop any kind of depth at all in the minor league (or major league, for that matter) system. When you’re a small market team, it’s all about depth. The Pirates have none.
Oh, and one more thing. When Wilson was traded, the Pirates recalled outfielder Chris Duffy from AAA. Duffy, you may remember, hit .341 last year in his rookie season before Jim Tracy got a hold of him and adjusted his batting style. Duffy, you may also remember, was hitting .194 this season before being sent down to the minors in mid-May and disappearing for a few weeks while evaluating whether he actually wanted to continue playing baseball. Well, I guess he decided he did want to keep playing, went down to AAA Indianapolis, and tore the cover off the ball (.340 average, .505 slugging %), and when Craig Wilson was mercifully traded, he was recalled to Pittsburgh. Redemption story of the year! Right?
Here’s what he told Baseball Prospectus yesterday about his return to Pittsburgh:
How bad is it in Pittsburgh? Chris Duffy, who took a month off after getting sent down, was angry to be called up! He was expecting to be traded. "I don't like it there," he told Pirates officials. "I did all this hoping to get traded."That’s right. Retiring at 26 actually sounded more appealing than having to play for Pittsburgh again. He’s thinking about not reporting to Pittsburgh. Awesome. And four months ago, he was the Pirates’ center-fielder of the future.
Immediate post-deadline reaction from Pat at Where Is Van Slyke?:
I'm going to go think about something else for a while, possibly puke, and maybe make a Dave Littlefield voodoo doll. I will be back later with a final analysis on what's happened today. Thanks to everyone in the comments for all the help in keeping up to date on what was going on today, the flurry of Littlefield bed-shitting between 3 and 4 was certainly tough for one person to keep track of.Romo Phone Home:
This reminds me of the Saturday Night Massacre, when Nixon fired Archibald Cox, Elliott Richardson, and William Ruckelshaus. You watch something like this the way you watch an automobile accident--astonished that what is actually happening is worse than anything you could have imagined in your darkest, most paranoid fantasies. As it happens, you think, "It really is as bad as I feared it was."Honest Wagner:
Craig Wilson for Shawn Chacon. Just stop and ponder that for a moment.
The only hope: If you really believe that regime change is the only possible hope for the Pirates fan--and I do really believe that--then what happened today can only hasten regime change. This makes the team worse in the short term and worse in the long term.
I am going to start eating sensibly and exercising. I want to be alive in 2008 so I can root for the Pirates when they have a new general manager.
After further reflection, the sheriff's sale strikes me as a good metaphor for today's trade deadline activity. Sorely deliquent in the win columns, the tawdry Pirate household endures foreclosure. The rest of the league showed up, sniffed and poked, shook their head. They took much of the furniture. There goes that pool table, there goes that hot tub. There goes the crystal, the everyday china, that sports car which looks good but cannot get you to work and back reliably. And so and so forth. Some of the items got more than I might expect. Others got about what I expected, but nothing got more than twenty cents on the original dollar. It was sad.Mondesi’s House:
Have you ever gone to a big Steeler game and saw hopeful fans poking around the Heinz Field parking lot looking for tickets after kickoff? They're looking for a bargain. The scalper usually is desperate and doesn't want to eat the tickets, so he starts slashing prices to try and salvage some cash. At this point, it's a buyer's market; they have all the leverage over the seller.And finally, Charlie at Bucs Dugout summarizes so I don’t have to.
Are you familiar with Dave Littlefield? He's the General Manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
First: The Pirates got ripped off. They got two mediocre minor league relievers for Sean Casey and Kip Wells. Minor league relievers are a dime a dozen, and even before today, the Pirates had several (Josh Sharpless, Jonah Bayliss, Scott Strickland and so on) ready to step in at the major league level. They're easy to acquire. So unless you can grab a potentially great one, they're no big shakes. Casey was desired by several teams. Wells has had some success in the big leagues and has been good in his last several starts - if the Pirates hadn't shortened his minor-league rehab stay, he might have been a very valuable trading chit, and he might have landed the Pirates a solid prospect. Jesse Chavez, who the Pirates got for Wells, throws hard and has an okay statistical record, but so what? Guys like him are a dime a dozen, and even if everything breaks well for him, he'll only improve the Pirates by a few runs a year over a freely-available Strickland type of pitcher.Good times. We’ll see if I’m up for a Rant™ next week or whether I take a couple weeks off from the horror.
Those were the good trades. Xavier Nady, who the Bucs got for Oliver Perez and Roberto Hernandez, is not a great player in the best of circumstances, and he's damaged goods - he has a "cracked bone in his right wrist." Like most hitters good enough to play the corners in the big leagues, Nady might have a 25-homer season in him. But so might lots of guys who can't play defense. Heck, Jody Gerut hit 22 homers in 127 games one year. Besides - Perez may have frustrated us all, and his velocity probably isn't going to come back, but he's 24. Someone pointed out earlier today that at age 22, Perez was having a better season than Scott Kazmir is now having at age 22.
Shawn Chacon for Craig Wilson is just so preposterous and awful that it's not worth even bothering to analyze. So instead I'll say this: I think we should nickname Chacon "Busted Paperclip." Busted Paperclip Chacon. Not only does it remind us that Chacon was traded for Craig Wilson, but it also abbreviates to "B.P."
Second: the Pirates' trades need to be put in context. I've seen a few posters on message boards write approvingly of the fact that these trades save the Pirates money. To which I respond: so? Who gets that money? Where is it going?
Aside from money, the Pirates' owners have been without a plan to win for so long, it can be easy to forget they're supposed to have one. When are the Pirates going to contend? With what core of players do they plan to do that? The entire organization, from top to bottom, is so hopelessly screwed that I just can't imagine how that will ever happen. Today's trades didn't improve that situation. The relievers they received are fungible; Nady is an injured mediocrity in the baseball equivalent of middle age; and B.P. Chacon is good for, well, B.P. Not one of these players is a potential core member of a playoff team.