Thursday, July 31, 2008

Jay Bay, Bosox Bound

The Bucs wrangled right up to the deadline, putting together all sorts of Jay Bay configurations in an effort to land a top notch pitching prospect from the Marlins or Tampa.

After an exasperating night and day, they finally pulled the trigger, but with Boston and LA, in a 3-way deal.

The Pirates ended up with 3B Andy LaRoche, Adam's bro, OF Brandon Moss, and RHPs Craig Hansen and Bryan Morris. LaRoche, Moss and Hansen will join the Pirates for their game tomorrow in Chicago. Morris will be assigned to Class A Hickory.

> Brandon Moss, 24, an 8th round pick in 2002, is an athletic outfielder with a good arm that hits to all fields. He has slightly above average speed, and is supposed to be a solid fielder that plays the game right. It looks like they plan to plug him into Bay's LF spot.

The lefty Moss is still a work in progress, ala Steve Pearce, in that he switched from first to the OF in late 2007. In the past couple of years with the Red Sox, he's garnered 103 AB's, with a .291 average, 2 HR's, 12 RBI, 10 BB's and 31 K's. You can also count on him going down on strikes every 3 or 4 at bats.

> RHP Craig Hansen, 24, has a fastball that clocks at about 92-93 mph and touches 97. He also has a high-80s slider, which sometimes disappears. But he also struggles by getting behind early in counts. Hansen will fit right in at Pittsburgh that way.

He was used purely out of the pen by Boston, and will go as far as his command takes him. Hansen's arm is live enough to close if he can find the plate often enough.

He spent the last three years with the Sox, and was called into 74 games, covering 71-2/3 innings. Hansen had a 3-5 record and 6.15 ERA over that time. He's 1-3 with 2 saves and a 5.58 ERA in 2008.

> Bryan Morris, 21, is a RHP drafted in the first round by the Dodgers in 2005 out of junior college, and has him ranked as LA's #11 prospect. He has a 93 MPH heater that sinks and an above average curve.

Morris underwent Tommy John surgery on Sept. 28, 2006, and just came back this season, pitching for the A Great Lake Loons. He's 2-4 with a 4.00 ERA and 1.29 WHIP as a starter there, and still obviously needs to build up arm strength.

He's projected by most baseball gurus as having middle of the rotation talent.

> Baseball Prospectus has RH Andy LaRoche, 24, listed as the Dodger's #2 prospect and a five star player. He's gotten 152 at bats in LA the past two seasons, hitting .216 with 3 HR's and 16 RBI. LaRoche has got a pretty good eye, K'ing 31 times and walking 30.

In March, LaRoche tore the ulnar collateral ligament of his right thumb, and was on the DL until May, just enough time to allow Blake DeWitt to bump him from the hot corner. To further crowd the position, Casey Blake came over from the Indians.

LaRoche showed some decent power in the minors, but hasn't flashed that muscle in the bigs. LA hasn't really given him much chance to strut his stuff.

It makes us kinda wonder just how far apart Pedro and the Bucs are in signing that contract, and if LaRoche isn't here as an insurance policy, or perhaps leverage to apply some pressure on Scott Boras.

He was drafted as a SS, so it's not a great leap of imagination to see him converted to 2B if the hot corner gets glutted.

All in all, better than the package deals floated in the past 24 hours. Pittsburgh got a couple of mid-level MLB players in Moss and Hansen - Boston got away cheap - and some slightly damaged but upside talent from LA with LaRoche and Morris.

And Pittsburgh kept Jack Splat and John Grabow around to fight for another day. So the Pirates still have their field captain and avoid another hit on the bullpen.

Still, it's disappointing to see the three heavy hitters leave town without an elite arm coming back. The suits did stick to their guns though, and wouldn't come down in price for Tampa or Florida.

Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade
For 1.3 years of Bay, the Pirates receive LaRoche, Morris, Hansen, and Moss. Moss becomes the regular left fielder, LaRoche takes over at third until Pedro Alvarez is ready. When that happens, they might have a good problem on their hands. Future Pirates' outfield: Moss, McCutchen, McLouth. The pitchers are a couple of live arms at this point.

The deal necessitated some housecleaning by the Pirates.

To clear space on the 25-man roster, the Pirates optioned SS Brian Bixler back to Indy and DFA'ed RHP Frankie Osoria. CF Chris Duffy was also DFA'ed to make room on the 40-man roster. We were hoping to get something from, or at least for, him, but injuries and Nate McLouth dimmed his star.


WilliamJPellas said...

No way, no way, NO WAY the Pirates should make a deal like this without getting at least one elite arm back. Absolutely not. This trade package was significantly lower in value than the one that was being floated earlier, ie, the prospects coming from Florida - Boston instead of LA - Boston. Hansen looks like a fringe nobody, LaRoche---well, we'll see, but certainly he's no sure thing, Moss is okay but has "fourth outfielder" written all over him (and we've already got Jason Michaels for that gig, what in the world???), and Phillips is coming off Tommy John surgery. Meanwhile our guy Kontos---the one we didn't get from the Yankees---just threw a one hitter and struck out 13.

I don't like this deal, even if we had to have LaRoche---who might end up okay, but no better than that---as insurance against Alvarez not signing. All of a sudden the emphasis is back on our draft and how many of those guys we actually get to come on board; presumably we'll be using some of the money that was going to our now-traded veterans in order to sign the kids.

At least, that had better be what happens. Otherwise what could have been a great time for the Pirates will be "what might have been". Still not terrible by any means, and all of this is of course vastly preferable to The Dave Littlefield Show. But we should have done much better in exchange for Jason Bay. Much better.

WilliamJPellas said...

I'm afraid that Andy LaRoche = Brandon Larson, another four-A third baseman who was a legendary minor leaguer but could never get it going in the bigs. Seriously, the guy hit, like, 100 home runs in triple-A. That's a long time at that level. Looks to me like LaRoche is cut from the same cloth.

Ron said...

Will, it looks like the only way to get pitching anymore is to grow it yourself or go free agent.
And yah, when you trade proven for potential, there's always a huge risk involved.
I don't know that you could get too much more out of the deals, although I'd much rather have Kontos than either Karstens or Ohlendorf. No top prospects moved at all during the trade period at any position.
But I fear the implosion of the current staff made the suits look for MLB ready, even if marginal - and they are marginal - arms.
And you know what's scary? I can't think of any pitching prospects Pittsburgh has except for Brad Lincoln and the two youngsters we just got, McCutchen and Morris. Maybe there's more, I'll check one day. But they are dealing from an awfully weak hand, and don't think the rest of the league doesn't know it.
Do I wish we had gotten Kennedy, Hughes, Davis, etc - without a doubt. But it takes two. I don't think hanging on to the guys till the winter meetings would change that, either. C'est la vie.

WilliamJPellas said...

Well, I'd say there are 2 or 3 guys at our 2 A-ball teams who will likely contribute at the big league level before too much longer. But yes, our farm system in general is incredibly barren of pitching. I mean, it's a desert out there. That's frankly shocking when you consider that the entire Littlefield era was supposed to be about pitching, pitching, and pitching. What an indictment of that whole sorry situation.

WilliamJPellas said...

Just did a little research, and it turns out Moss had a truly exceptional season at triple-A Pawtucket when he was last in the minors. Not a large number of homers---he hit 15---but had well over 100 RBI and also a .353 batting average. Given that Pawtucket is in the better of the two triple-A leagues, that's noteworthy production (the Pacific Coast League is a notorious hitter's haven and statistics there are frequently skewed). So, I may have jumped the gun when I said earlier that he "has fourth outfielder written all over him". He's probably better than that, but it remains to be seen how far he'll go towards replacing the production we lost with Nady and Bay leaving town.

Regarding the pitchers we got back, I think the best thing you can say about them---except for the kid going to A-ball---is that there's some talent, and some potential, but none of them looks more than "interesting". I think if we end up with 2 average big league starters and 2 decent bullpen arms out of these trades, we've probably done alright. That's not great, but it will do as a stopgap for a couple of years until (hopefully) our own minor league system starts churning out larger numbers of homegrown hurlers. Meanwhile maybe Maholm keeps it up, and at least one from among Snell-Gorzellany-Dumatrait returns to form. If so, we'll be semi-interesting for the next couple of seasons.

WilliamJPellas said...

EDIT: I should have said, "none of them looks more than interesting, except for the kid who went do A-ball. He's definitely got star potential, but he's coming off Tommy John surgery."

Ron said...

I took a quick lap around the minors, Will, and we are absolutely devoid of starting pitching. After Gorzo and Bart hmaier at Indy, you have to drop to Lynchburg and Lincoln, Holliday and maybe Tony Watson; Hickory has Matt McSwain, who's been converted to a starter and may have some potential.

There are some bullpen arms - Meek, Mateo, Daividson and a flock of others - but I can see why they wanted pitching, and in numbers, for the system. Adding 5 arms doubled the Bucs pitching prospect list.