Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Bucs Get Wandy Rodriguez

Tom Singer of MLB.com reported earlier tonight that the Bucs were nearing a deal with Houston for LHP Wandy Rodriguez. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports claimed a done deal shortly after that, as reports from Houston had Rodriguez in the dugout, hugging his teammates goodbye. Within minutes of the story breaking over Twitter, it was confirmed by the Pirates.

The Bucs sent Rudy Owens, Colton Cain and Robbie Grossman to the Astros, who are in full tilt rebuilding mode, for Rodriguez and cash. Originally, Top Fifty prospect SS Alen Hanson was mentioned as part of the deal for a second, but that was probably because he got pulled from his game. That was purely a coach's decision based on the youngster not hustling out a grounder, not because of the trade. Thankfully, he's still with us and maybe learned a lesson on running out balls, too.

Owens, 24, is a MLB-ready lefty at Indy who had an 8-5 record with a 3.14 ERA. Cain is a 22 year old LHP working in Class A Bradenton where he's 3-5 with a 4.20 ERA. Grossman is an intriguing 22 year old OF prospect at Altoona, where he was hitting .262 with a .374 OBP and 58 runs scored. He's considered kind of a tweener with a CF bat but corner skills, and scouts are all over the board on him.

It's also sort of a homecoming for the trio. Owens is from Mesa, Arizona, Cain from Waxahachie, Texas, and Grossman from Houston.

All three are solid prospects, but none are considered an impact player and come from areas of organizational depth. As Jim Callis of Baseball America said "Three decent prospects, no cornerstones." It's a fair enough deal; both sides got what they wanted.

Rodriguez is what the FO was looking for, a LH guy for balance who would fit between Karstens and the bottom of the rotation. The 33 year Dominican is 7-9 with a 3.79 ERA this year, and has eight seasons in the show, all with the Astros who signed him in 1999. This is also Rodriguez’s fifth straight season with a 3.80 ERA or under, so he's a hoss that should find PNC Park a more friendly yard to toss in than Minute Maid.

He's not a rental. Rodriguez is under team control for 2013 ($13M) with a player option ($13M/$2.5M buyout) for 2014. He could still have $30M left on his contract if he exercises his Pirate option in 2014, according to Cot's Baseball Contracts. Cash wasn't an issue, though. The Pirates are on the hook for just $10.2M over the next two years and $7.5M if he exercises the 2014 option. Houston tossed in quite a pile of chips, $12M and some change, to get more upside prospects.

Rodriguez will stay in Houston and meet the Pirates when they arrive Thursday at Minute Maid Park to play. Ironically, his first Pirate start could be against the Astros on Saturday.

In a couple of sidebars, the Pirates have to make room on the 25-man roster for him (the 40-man is good). The Bucs will also have to decide how to shape their rotation now that Rodriguez is in town; six is a crowd and someone is headed to the pen or out of town this week.

He fits nicely into the Pirates' 2-3 role on the staff, and helps set up not only this year's rotation, but also 2013's, joining James McDonald, AJ Burnett and Jeff Karstens along with a list of potential fifth starters from within the organization, led by Charlie Morton, Jeff Locke and Justin Wilson.

Now to work on a bat or two as time ticks down...

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