Tuesday, June 30, 2009

And Away They Go...

If you're keeping score, Nyjer Morgan, Sean Burnett, and Eric Hinske got their plane tickets out of town, and OF Lastings Milledge, RHP Joel Hanrahan, and a couple of A players joined the swinging door Pirates.

Indy's OF/1B Garrett Jones will be at PNC tonight, and OF Jeff Salazar will join him tomorrow. Hanrahan will take Burney's spot in the bullpen, and Milledge will continue his minor league rehab. C/OF Eric Fryer will squat behind the plate at Lynchburg and RHP Casey Erickson will join West Virginia's rotation.

So what do we have? Morgan will patrol center for the Nats and Burnett will join their porous pen. NyMo was hitting .151 against lefties, and that probably spelled his doom, along with being 29.

Burney, the popular theory claims, was nothing more than a LOOGY, although his splits say otherwise; RHB hit .211 against him, while LHB hit just .189.

He's the surprise in the package to us; we thought he would become John Grabow's replacement when it was his turn to leave the 'Burg. But he's not the power arm that Hanrahan is, and the Buc suits value - hey, overvalue - velocity. Lighting a candle for Nate McLouth after his trade probably didn't help his cause, either.

And if Grabow does go, Burnett's trade means that Donnie Veal is the only lefthanded reliever on the 40-man roster, and they want to convert him to a starter next year. Maybe Gorzo will become the next Burney.

Milledge, 24, is a toolsy hitter with a history of immaturity. But he stands a better chance of being an everyday, productive player than Morgan, even if his fielding will never be mistaken for Mo's in the pasture. We'll see if the third time is the charm; both the Mets and Nats gave up on the talented Floridian.

The closest comparison we can make with Milledge to a player already in the organization is that he's an older Jose Tabata, with center field wheels and a corner stick - and with some growing up to do.

Hanrahan is a Craig Hansen/Tyler Yates clone. He was awful as a starter in 2007, pretty decent last year as a reliever, and downright terrible this year, losing his closer's job; that's what a 7.71 ERA will do to you. But in his career, he has more strikeouts than innings pitched, and the current Pirate suits just can't seem to resist the possible upside of a guy that can blow the ball past ya.

The two minor leaguers the Bucs landed from the Yankees - Hinske is taking over Xavier Nady's bench spot for the Bronx Bombers - are considered fringe players, although the Pirates tried to land Fryer when he was a Brewer last season, and think he has MLB potential behind the dish. Erickson is a ground ball pitcher, and despite putting up nice numbers out of the bullpen, will be plopped into the Power rotation.

Both will be 24 in August, and are gonna have to fast track their way out of Class A. Still, they're probably as good a haul as can be expected for a bench guy with one homer, and the Bucs thought highly enough of the pair to throw $400,000 to the Yanks to help cover Hinske's remaining salary.

Hinske and Morgan's departure allows the Pirates to get plenty of at-bats for Brandon Moss, presumably the new left fielder, and Delwyn Young, who will take over in right, at least until the All-Star break.

If Milledge makes it up before September - and he should easily, although the suits say he has to earn a spot - he'll probably end up in left. He's got center field speed, although not the glove of Morgan. But Gary Varsho turned Morgan from a raw package into a pretty nice outfielder; maybe he can spin the same magic with Milledge.

At any rate, the plan is for him to be on rehab assignment for another week to ten days and then on to Indy, so they have some time to sort it out. Who knows? By then, Young may be playing second base.

Our only problem with the dealing is while we understand they're selling high on their players as best they can, the management is still collecting random bits and pieces.

We'd feel better if some sort of plan, other than grabbing whatever they can find, like kids in a candy store, seemed to be taking shape. We suppose that one day it will all become clear. At least now we know that they hope Milledge and Tabata can become the corner outfielders of the future; time to get to work on the middle infield.

But until then, hey - who's gonna lead the team bump after the Jolly Roger gets raised?

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