Monday, January 18, 2010

Bixler To Tribe

The Pirates announced today that they have killed a couple of birds with one stone - they traded infielder Brian Bixler, who was being groomed into a potential super-utility player, to Cleveland for third baseman Jesus Brito.

So in one fell swoop, they cleared a roster spot for Brendan Donnelly, moved BB, who floundered like a fish out of water in Pittsburgh, and plowed the minor league road to make room for the upcoming batch of SS prospects.

Bixler, 27, was the Pirates' second-round selection in the 2004 draft, and was a slick-fielding and good-hitting prospect in the minors, but couldn't get his act together in the show. Heck, the Bucs used Luis Cruz instead of Bixler when Ronny Cedeno was hurt in September, and they cut Cruz a few weeks later.

He hit .178 in 166 at-bats as a Pirate in 2008-09, with 62 K's (37%), and worse, he committed eleven errors in fifty-five games for a .954 fielding average. BB was a career .282/.355/.403 hitter in the minors, though his strikeout rate was still an unacceptable 27% for a hitter that was used at the top of the order.

With Brian Friday moving up, Argenis Diaz already at Indy, and Chase D'Arnaud and Jordy Mercer advancing to Altoona, Bixler was the odd man out and was basically little more than a speed bump to the young guys organizationally.

Bixler did show decent range and speed, and the Indians are stockpiling middle infielders, so if he can get over his deer-caught-in-the-headlights Pittsburgh phase with the change of scenery, he could stick with the Tribe as a bench player. If not, he still has an option left for Cleveland to burn.

Bix is a Sandusky, Ohio native; maybe some home cooking will revive his career.

In return, the Bucs get 22 year-old Jesus Brito (he was born on Christmas; we suppose that explains the name), who split last year between the Arizona Rookie League, where he was an All Star, and the short-season Mahoning Valley Scrappers after spending three seasons in the Dominican Summer League.

The righty batter Brito hit .366 with 36 runs, 12 doubles, eight triples, three homers and 25 RBI for the Indians Arizona Rookie League club last year, and .333 with 16 runs, seven doubles, two triples and 18 RBI at Class A Mahoning Valley.

He was a base stealing threat for the DSL Indians, swiping 20 bases in 2008, but just 4-of-7 in the minors last year. Still, considering his past history and ten 2009 triples, we can assume he has pretty good wheels.

The 6'1", 160-pound stringbean has played all over the diamond, also logging time in left field and first base, defending none of the spots particularly well. Brito did experience a breakout offensive year in 2009, hitting .353/.431/.567 overall in the Tribe's lowest classifications.

Of course, how much of that is due to his age as opposed to finally figuring it out is the question. And he's shown precious little power for a guy that plays the corner positions, although he is said to be a hitter who meets the ball squarely. Who knows? Maybe a few super-sized Happy Meals will bulk up his swing.

Brito is a player with a little upside who was acquired for a modest price. He'll probably start out at Low A West Virginia, position unknown. But hey, it beats going the Matt Capps route with Bixler. At least the Bucs got a warm body back in the deal.

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