Friday, October 31, 2008

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

Yesterday, we gave a few examples of how a team can run down its farm system with nothing but bad judgment.

Waive guys like Tim Wakefield, Al Reyes, Ty Wigginton, Joe Beimel, Bronson Arroyo, and Duaner Sanchez, lose Jeff Bennett to Rule 5, and give away people like Chris Young, Leo Nuñez, and Jeff Keppinger in mindless trades or as a throw-in to the main attractions, and you're not going to be very well stocked organizationally.

Again, we caution that these guys may not have fit into the Pirate plans at the time, or for that matter, ever. But they are all serviceable or better MLB parts, and a team can't build a system if they don't get talent in return for talent.

But where replacement value is especially noticeable is in trades, where you can pretty much gauge the return. Here's the good, bad, and ugly of Pirate wheeling and dealing:

The Good:

Now this is the kind of trade that keeps on giving. In 1998, Ricardo Rincon was sent to the Indians for Brian Giles. That alone would make it a steal. But in 2003, Giles was sent to San Diego for Jay Bay and Ollie Perez.

Perez went to the Mets in 2006 for Xavier Nady. All good so far; Bay and Nady became the heart of the Pirate order. Now whether or not it remains on the plus side depends on how Jose Tabata, Brandon Moss, Andy LaRoche, Jeff Karstens, Ross Ohlendorf, Daniel McCutchen, Craig Hansen and Bryan Morris develop.

They are, in a way, Rincon's grandchildren. And a deal that nets a team two generations of players has to be considered pretty good.

After the 2005 season, the Pirates sent Rob Mackowiac to the White Sox for Damaso Marte's second go-around in Pittsburgh. Marte gave the team some solid work, and we'll see how the haul from the Yankees works out before we finally rate the deal.

In 2003, Jeff Suppan was a free agent pickup that the Pirates moved to Boston at the deadline. The return was Freddy Sanchez and Mike Gonzalez. It was convoluted, as Gonzo went to the BoSox from Pittsburgh a week earlier, but stumbled through the physical.

Gonzo went to the Braves for Adam LaRoche and Jamie Romak in 2007, along with Brent Lillibridge. So Suppan, a back end rotation guy, was basically flipped for the right side of today's infield.

In 2000, Sanchez's playmate, Jack Splat, joined the team from Saint Louis at the deadline for Jason Christiansen. An everyday player for a set-up guy is always a good deal. As with the Suppan swap, it proves that deadline trades don't have to always be salary dumps.

The Bad:

Let's try on the new suits' first deal, Solly Torres to the Brew Crew for Marino Salas and Kevin Roberts. Giving up a rubber-armed set-up pitcher isn't a great loss, but he would have been useful here - how many times did the starters struggle to put together three innings? - and the Bucs may have been better off getting a bag of practice balls in return instead of Salas and Roberts.

We'll throw in the ill-fated Matty Mo deal here, although if it was indeed the straw that broke Dave Littlefield's back, we may consider moving it up the to "the good."

At best, it just cost Pittsburgh a few Nutting dollars; Rajai Davis had no place in the Buc system, though he may have helped the team more if he was DFA'ed instead of traded.

But at worse, it may have cost the team the cash in hand to land a bottom-end rotation arm or a decent free-agent position player or two. And that makes it plenty bad.

At the 2006 deadline, the Pirates sent Sean Casey to the Tigers for Brian Rodgers. It wasn't a big deal, but again the Pirates gave away a player with some value for a player with none.

After the 2004 season, Jason Kendall was sent to the A's for Mark Redman and Arthur Rhodes. Rhodes was almost immediately traded for Matt Lawton, who in 2005 was dealt for Jody Gerut. Redman was traded after the season for Jonah Bayliss. The net result was that Kendall was virtually given away.

In 1999, the Pirates shipped Jose Guillen to Tampa Bay to get Humberto Cota and Joe Oliver, another something-for-nothing deal.

And we remember Cam Bonifay's deal with the Cubs after the 1998 season, when he sent Jon Leiber to the Windy City for Brant Brown, who was out of baseball by 2000.

The Ugly:

On July 23, 2003, the Bucs hold the greatest fire sale of their history, sending Aramis Ramirez, Kenny Lofton, and cash to the Cubs for Jose Hernandez, Bobby Hill, and Matt Bruback.

At the 2001 deadline, the Pirates sent Jason Schmidt and John Vander Wal to the Giants for Armando Rios and Ryan Vogelsong. Not all deadline deals work out, or even make sense.

For all their dealing, the Pirates brought in 4 middle-of-the-order guys: Brian Giles, Jason Bay, Xavier Nady, and Adam LaRoche. They lost four middle-of-the-order guys: Brian Giles, Jason Bay, Xavier Nady and A-Ram. So in a decade of deals, Adam LaRoche is all the Bucs have to show, although there are some hopefuls in the pipeline.

But they took some huge hits pitching, losing Chris Young, Jason Schmidt, and Jon Lieber without replacing a one of them.

Not much of a record to brag on. Still, while the bad trading has certainly held the club back and dates back to Cam Bonifay, it wasn't the coffin nail. We'll discuss the first nail tomorrow, the draft, and the final spike on Sunday, free agency.

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