Posted 07/01/2009 at 02:33 AM
I can hardly believe Iím saying this, but the Pittsburgh Pirates may actually have made a smart deal on Tuesday. The Bucs completed a four-player swap with the Washington Nationals, and for once the eternally woeful Pirates have a chance to win a deal.
Letís be clear that the key player in the trade, Lastings Milledge, is anything but a sure thing. Heís had maturity issues at every stop and heís not exactly the most fundamentally sound player youíll ever see. But Milledge also has all kinds of talent, and if his mind ever catches up to his body, the Bucs may have themselves a star. Milledge appeared ready to have a breakout 2009 off the way he wrapped up last season. But he got off to a terrible start, ended up getting sent down by the Nats, and then got hurt.
The downside to Milledge is substantial. Whatever lessons he should have learned by this time have seemingly gone unheeded, and I think that explains why the Nationals were happy to sell him cheap. But there is at least a chance for Milledge to realize what is some pretty vast potential. Given the Pirates current state, and considering how little they gave up in this deal, I think even the disgusted Pittsburgh fan base should be satisfied with this transaction. The fact Jack Wilson and several of the current Pirate players arenít happy has to be dismissed, as they had a bond with the guys that just got dealt, and therefore they have a built in bias that makes any objectivity doubtful.
As for the other players in the deal, the Pirates also obtained pitcher Joel Hanrahan, while the Nats picked up lefty reliever Sean Burnett and OF Nyjer Morgan. Morgan has come on nicely, and I can see him having some use in Washington. His speed will play well defensively and he can make things happen on the bases. Morgan is limited offensively. He has no power at all, and his average has been dropping as opposing pitchers have begin to figure him out. I donít see Morgan as much more than a fourth outfielder.
The Nationals probably win the pitcher side of this swap, although itís hardly a blowout. Burnett has had a decent campaign, as heís finally stayed healthy, and he looks as though heís good enough to carve out a niche as a late-inning lefty specialist. I am not especially high on Hanrahan, whoís basically a one-trick pony with a good fastball and not much else. Hanrahanís control is also an ongoing issue. Iíd be surprised if Hanrahan emerges as anything more than a long relief innings eater and my instincts tell me heís actually more a Quad-A than a big leaguer.
The Pirates also made a deal with the Yankees, sending Eric Hinske to the Bronx for a couple of lower level prospects. Hinske didnít have much value with the Pirates, but he could be a nice asset off the bench for the Yankees. They didnít have to give up much to pry him away from Pittsburgh, as neither OF Eric Fryer nor P Casey Erickson are likely to be big league contributors. Fryer has struggled with the bat at Hi-A and Erickson has a 1.45 WHIP at Low-A and doesnít seem to miss many bats. Itís clearly a win for the Yankees as at least Hinske can eat up some innings when one of the regulars needs a break. But I also wonít fault the Pirates here, as itís not like they were going to get anything of substance for Hinske and he was not serving them any notable purpose.
Just in case you missed it, the Giants won again Tuesday, beating up Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter in the process. The longer the Giants stay in the playoff chase, the more I feel theyíre emerging as the favorite in the Matt Holliday sweepstakes. They have the prospects to entice Billy Beane and the Aís, and I believe the Giants might well feel they have a chance to sign Holliday long term, which makes them an even more serious contender to land this summerís biggest prize.
Things arenít exactly going well for the Cubs, but one silver lining for the team has been the pitching of unheralded Randy Wells. He got brought up for what amounted to an emergency start a while back, and proceeded to chisel out a spot in the Cubs rotation. In fact, Wells has been the teamís best pitcher since his arrival. Virgil Vazquez just scored his first big league win in a very solid showing against the Royals, but Iím not a believer and expect the Cubs to nail him tonight. Wells and Cubs are the opinion.