Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Ricardo Rincon Tree

Since we're talkin' trades and their fallout, GW thought it's time to remind Neal Huntington how one smart move can have positive repercussions that ripple through the years.

On March 30, 1997, the Pirates pulled off a minor deal, purchasing the contract of LHP Ricardo Rincon from the Mexico City Reds of the Mexican League. The roots of that small transaction are still running deep in Pittsburgh's organization.

He pitched in the Steel City for two seasons, 1997-98, appearing in 122 games and working 125 innings. Rincon's record was 4-10 with 18 saves and a 3.17 ERA. He was a handy dude to have around the bullpen, but his only taste of fame here was when he combined with Francisco Cordova on July 12, 1997, for a dramatic, ten-inning no-hitter.

After the 1998 season, Rincon was dealt to Cleveland, who was desperately seeking a left-handed reliever. The return was a promising young outfielder named Brian Giles.

Giles, of course, spent the next 4+ years as the Pirate's main man, blasting 149 HRs and plating 499 RBI during that span while appearing in two All-Star games. But by 2003, his contract was weighing heavily on the Buc bean counters, and in August he was shipped to San Diego for Jason Bay and Ollie Perez.

Jay Bay became a Pirate mainstay, manning LF from 2003 until this summer. He made two All-Star games, and drilled 139 HR and tallied 452 RBI during his stay. Bay was dealt to Boston in a three-way deal for Andy LaRoche, Brandon Moss, Craig Hansen and Bryan Morris, as Pittsburgh sought an infusion of young blood.

Perez was on the hill here from 2003 until the 2006 trade deadline. He had a record of 21-31, with an ERA of 4.59 and 421 strikeouts in 398 innings of work. He showed a ton of promise - in 2004, he was 12-10 with a 2.98 ERA and 239 Ks - but like Ian Snell this year, mental focus was a huge problem.

The suits gave up on Ollie, and sent him along with Roberto Hernandez to the Mets for Xavier Nady, a man Dave Littlefield had long lusted to have in Pittsburgh colors. In fact, many thought that's who he wanted in the Giles deal, but the Padres wouldn't surrender him (not that Bay was a bad return).

Nady gradually evolved from a platoon player to a middle of the order guy, hitting 61 HRs and driving in 152 runs in 269 games as a Pirate. Then his number was called (and being a Boras client, it was sure to be called), and he joined the Bronx Bombers at the deadline for Jeff Karstens, Ross Ohlendorf, Dan McCutchen and Jose Tabata.

Here's the net result for sending a few pesos to Mexico City for Ricardo Rincon in 1997: Rincon begat Giles; Giles was flipped into Bay and Perez; Perez brought Nady; Bay and Nady turned into Moss, LaRoche, Karstens, Ohlendorf, Hansen, McCutchen, Tabata, and Morris. Be fruitful and multiply, hey?

So in a way, the immediate future of the Pittsburgh ball club rests on the laurels of Ricardo Rincon's Pirate family tree. It's been fruitful for the past decade; let's hope it continues to multiply.

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