I love the trade deadline. Absolutely love it! The trades; the non-trades; rumors; the not-just-a-rumors; buyers vs. sellers; the stare downs; the ‘winners’; the ‘losers’; everything… But this was the first time I went through this as a small market fan. In recent years past, the deadline has often felt like a shopping spree. Most comments in the 1% world of big market baseball fandom belie a homeristic ignorance that sounds something like, ‘JUST TRADE <insert 27-year old AA middle reliever name here> FOR TEH SY YOUNG GUY!!11!!11′ Now I know that kind of idiocy isn’t completely unique to the entitled masses in the Back Bay, but it seems a bit more prevalent.
Yesterday, and the weeks leading up to it, were truly fun to watch. Neal Huntington continues to impress me with his shrewd dissection of transactional value accounting. Each trade, when examined individually, is debatable for sure. There are ups and downs to every single one of them and no one new to Pittsburgh (save Wandy Rodriguez) is a sure thing for the Pirates playoff charge. But taken all the moves of the past week or two as a package, here’s what we see:
The rotation was: AJ Burnett, James McDonald, Jeff Karstens, Erik Bedard, and Kevin Correia.
The rotation is: AJ Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, James McDonald, Jeff Karstens, and Erik Bedard.
Summary: Rodriguez >> Correia
The outfield was: Andrew McCutchen, Alex Presley, and Garrett Jones (with Jose Tabata at AAA).
The outfield is: Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, and Travis Snider.
Summary: Marte + Snider > Presley + Jones
The infield was: Casey McGehee, Neil Walker, Clint Barmes, and Pedro Alvarez.
The infield is: Garrett Jones/Gaby Sanchez, Neil Walker, Clint Barmes, and Pedro Alvarez.
Summary: Jones/Sanchez >> McGehee
The shortened bullpen was: Brad Lincoln, Jason Grilli, and Joel Hanrahan.
The shortened bullpen is: Jared Hughes/Chad Qualls, Jason Grilli, and Joel Hanrahan.
Summary: Hughes/Qualls < Lincoln
The bench was: Gorkys Hernandez, Drew Sutton, Jordy Mercer, and Josh Harrison.
The bench is: Alex Presley, Jordy Mercer, Josh Harrison, and Sanchez/Jones.
Summary: Presley > Hernandez and Sanchez/Jones >>> Drew Sutton
Conclusion: Neal Huntington has managed to improve this team (right now!) by giving up Brad Lincoln and keeping all the untouchable prospects untouched. Plus (plus!) these are not rentals. Nor are they players on the back-sides of their careers (except of Qualls). These are trades that improve the future of the Pirates, as well. These are the kinds of trades that tend to go overlooked by ESPN (et al.) because they don’t involve tens of millions of dollars or high-stakes contract negotiations. They also go overlooked because they defy sound-bite analysis. The Pirates aren’t ‘winners’ on the big lists because they didn’t get names like Greinke, Dempster, or Pence. But the reality is that if Huntington did pull the trigger on those guys, we’d see Gerrit Cole pitching at PNC in a Brewers uniform in two years- or Jameson Taillon pitching for the home team at Wrigley in 2015. That’s not the reason Nutting signed over $50M to amateurs over the past 5 years.
Now about the ex… I still keep tabs on the old team, by the way. Sure there’s a little schadenfreude at play, but I also truly believe that the Red Sox are becoming one of the best examples of a poorly managed franchise in all of professional sports (if not the best). So what have they been up to? Nothing, really… Other than casually try to dump their disgruntled (and now injured) ace. Oh, and Ryan Sweeney (one of their most legitimate trade pieces) broke his hand punching a wall on July 30th. Oh, and Bobby Valentine said that they Yankees might not make the playoffs. And there was that thing where Larry Lucchino made a PR appearance in a dugout to prove he still likes baseball. They did re-acquired Craig Breslow and they called up Ryan Lavarnway- making them the 1st team in the modern era to have two Yalies on the squad. Maybe they’re just trying to make up for Theo’s (Yale class of ’95 – American Studies) absence?
In any case, it doesn’t seem to be baseball in Boston anymore. The amplifier that the trade deadline gives us has spoken to me loud and clear: Pirates >>> Red Sox. As a baseball fan, I couldn’t be happier with the decisions I’ve made. And yinz are making it easy to be a Pirates fan. (Ahhhhh!)