This is GM Neal Huntington’s 10th trade deadline with the Pirates. From the good, the bad and the ugly, let’s recap the previous nine as this year’s deadline looms closer.
Today, we’ll take a look at the deals the Pittsburgh Pirates made in 2011.
Following a 105 loss season in 2010, there were no expectations for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2011. Instead, the group of youngsters and fill-in veterans clicked early and hung around a weak division. They were even tied for first on July 25 with a 53-47 record. (For those wondering, a certain 19 inning game was played on July 26).
While the playoffs still seemed like a stretch, the prospect of ending the losing season streak was too tempting to pass up. For the first time since the 90s, the Pirates were going to be buyers.
July 30: Traded 1B Aaron Baker to the Baltimore Orioles for 1B Derrek Lee
Despite being in the hunt, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ offense was one of the worst in the league. With most of the lineup consisting of pre-arb players like Andrew McCutchen, Garrett Jones, Jose Tabata, Michael McKenry and Pedro Alvarez, adding a veteran bat seemed like a good decision. Getting an upgrade at first over Lyle Overbay– who had -1 fWAR as a Pirate and an 82 wRC+- was an even better idea.
Lee filled both needs, hitting .337 with seven home runs in 113 plate appearances. He was hit by a pitch in the wrist early in his tenure and missed most of a month, but he still was worth 0.9 fWAR in just 28 games. He was just under replacement level before the trade, so it was a good bounce back for him.
Baker was not near the top of the Pirates’ prospect chart, but the Orioles were mainly looking for salary relief. The 22 year old was tearing up Bradenton at the time of the trade, posting an .820 OPS with 15 home runs in 386 at-bats. He continued to hit well in Baltimore’s farm system, but he never cracked the majors.
Lee’s injury probably cost the Pirates a win or two on the year. That hardly mattered since they finished 72-90. Even though he missed most of a month, he was what the club needed: a veteran upgrade at a position they needed help in. Considering what they had to give up, it was a solid trade.
July 31: Traded cash considerations to the San Diego Padres for OF Ryan Ludwick
The Pittsburgh Pirates needed more power and were looking for another low cost acquisition. That search lead to Ludwick, who hit 37 home runs three years earlier.
Ludwick did not provide nearly the same amount of pop as a Bucco. He only went deep twice and had an 88 wRC+ in 133 plate appearances. Between that subpar offense and his inability to play PNC Park’s large left field, he was worth -0.3 fWAR.
No word on how “Cash Considerations” turned out. He seemed to be well liked within the organization, but you have to give up something to get something.
The sad reality about the 2011 Pirates is they were not ready to compete. Michael McKenry was the starting catcher. Ronny Cedeno was at short. The rotation was basically five number three/four starters, with Charlie Morton and Paul Maholm as the headliners. That might have been good enough to hang around a weak division for four months, but not to be a serious World Series threat.
The Pittsburgh Pirates could have gone big at the trade deadline and mortgaged the farm to get the four or five guys they needed to become serious contenders, but it hardly made sense, even if the division was in their reach. They also made a great signing at this time, picking up Jason Grilli on July 21. That was better than any trade they could have made for a reliever.
Opting to instead just take on salary dumps was responsible, not to mention uncharacteristic for ownership. Being hesitant and not trading prospects was probably the smart decision. There would be more hesitance in 2012. That time, it probably wasn’t the smart decision