First, an apology: I said I would be discussing youth baseball this week, but you won’t find that article today. Recent events, plus incomplete research on the subject, have compelled me to save that for next week. Today, we review yet another Pirate trade, from various angles and look at what else may lie ahead for the Bucs. We’ll also take a quick look at other big deadline deals.
Thursday, a few minutes after the trading ‘deadline’ of 4PM Eastern, word came that the Pirates had traded Jason Bay to the Red Sox. Boston moved Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers, and LA and Boston gave the Pirates two prospects each. From LA’s perspective, they are only a game out of first place in the NL West, and felt that getting Ramirez’ bat was worth the risks involved. Those risks include the two prospects they traded (more on them later), the possibility of losing Ramirez to free agency after the season, but mostly Ramirez’ attitude. From my perspective, LA took the most risk in this deal and in 2 years they will almost certainly look like the losers in the deal unless they make a deep October run.
The Red Sox frankly made out like bandits. Full disclosure: The Sox are my second-favorite team, so I follow their moves and news closely, and there’s no question the Sox’ brass was done with Manny Ramirez. Peter Gammons sums up the situation quite well here: http://insider.espn.go.com/espn/blog/index?name=gammons_peter (sub scri ption required). If you can’t read it, the gist is that Ramirez is money-hungry, refuses to play against tougher pitchers, and has become increasingly erratic. Add in that he’s 36 and is seeking a huge contract this winter, and it’s easy to see why Boston wanted to replace him. Further evidence that Boston was desperate to part with him – they picked up all of Ramirez’ remaining 2008 salary, which is about $7 million. On the other hand, Bay fits the bill perfectly as Boston’s LF. His biggest weakness, his weak throwing, is a non-factor with Fenway’s short left field. His power stroke will also fit well in Fenway, as will his calm, down-to-earth attitude. Best of all for Boston, he’s signed at below-market price through 2009 and if they like what they see, an extension is a foregone conclusion with the Sox’ deep pockets. So the Sox traded Manny and two players they’ll never miss for Jason Bay – pretty darn good.
For the Pirates, this deal signals the beginning of a true franchise rebuild. The Nady deal was a decent return; the Bay deal netted some top-flight talent but also signals management’s intent to build this club the right way, from the ground up. The key prize in the deal is 24-year-old 3B Andy LaRoche, Adam’s brother, rated as the Dodgers’ #2 prospect by both Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America. Scouts see him as a future All-Star 3B, with power and patience aplenty. If he develops as expected, the deal is automatically good for the Bucs, as he will likely out-hit Bay in that case. LaRoche only hit .203 in limited action with the Dodgers this season, but he’s dominated AAA the past two seasons and is ready for an extended trial. The Dodgers never really gave him a shot; look for him to get the vast majority of 3B starts the rest of the season for Pittsburgh.
The other prospect from the Dodgers is RHP Bryan Morris, a 1st-round draft pick in 2006. Morris is not listed among Dodgers’ the top-10 prospects by BP or BA, probably because he was coming off elbow surgery and missed all of 2007. He’s recovered and has been pitching in high-A, compiling a 3.2 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 81 innings. He has a lot of upside; scouts say he throws 90-96 with a sharp curve, and many feel he has a chance to become a well-above-average major league starter.
The Red Sox also threw in two prospects. Craig Hansen is a right-handed reliever who was drafted in the 1st round in 2005. He has a good fastball and slider, but his results at the major-league level have been less than impressive – think Tyler Yates, a lot of K’s, a lot of walks. Still, he represents another power arm acquired by Neal Huntingdon. The Sox also sent OF Brandon Moss in the deal. Moss is 24 and not listed as top-10 by BP or BA. He’s a lefty bat who has shown decent pop in the minors but has contact issues (148 K’s last season in 493 ABs at AAA). He will likely never be a star, but he looks to be a good placeholder in LF for the Bucs as they rebuild.
Overall I think the Pirates did very well, as did the Red Sox, and L.A. has to hope Manny is motivated to play for them.
Other big deadline deals:
-The Angels for 1B Mark Teixeira for 1B Casey Kotchman and a minor leaguer. Tex is a free agent in two months, but the Angels had a HUGE problem scoring runs that Texeira addresses very well. This move makes the Angels a legitimate threat to win it all. From Atlanta’s perspective, they have to hope Kotchman’s down year in ’08 is just temporary.
-White Sox trade 2 minor leaguers for Ken Griffey, Jr. This move seems big but really isn’t; Griffey can no longer play center and is not nearly the player he once was. Unless Paul Konerko is benched, I agree with the BP.com analysts – this deal doesn’t really help Chicago. It doesn’t help Cincy much either, neither prospect is anything exciting.
-Yankees trade reliever Kyle Farnsworth for C Ivan Rodriguez. Again, this deal looks better than it is. Rodriguez is a shell of his former self with the bat, and his defense, while still above-average, is not any better than incumbent Jose Molina. Granted, they wanted rid of Farnsworth anyway, but this move doesn’t improve the Yankees nearly as much as the Nady/Marte deal did. Detroit needed a reliever in their quest to overtake the Twins and White Sox; this deal may end up being a win for them, if Farnsworth can continue his good season.
Finally, now that the deadline has passed, let’s make a final call on the NL East. None of the contending 3 teams made any big moves – Philly added starter Joe Blanton, but he’s not exactly an impact starter. The Mets and Marlins basically stood pat. The 3 teams are separated by 1.5 games going into Thursday’s action. My pick is still the Phitin’ Phils – they have some bats getting hot, and I think they have JUUUST enough pitching to hold off the Mets. Look for the Marlins to fold by September – they needed to make a big move, and the failure to act will cost them.
Dave Glass lives in Clearfield with his wife, Suzanne, and their six children. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.