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Devil’s Advocate on the Pirates’ Deadline Deals


I think Michael Morse was sliding here. Or he may have fallen over. Either one.

In discussion about the Pirates’ three trade deadline deals the reviews were all very positive.  But in knowing how the Pirates season would eventually end were all the deals really that large of a success?

In other words, since they didn’t win the division and they lost the Wild Card game, were the acquisitions of Happ, Soria and Morse all “wins” or do they have a different look knowing what we know now?

Let’s look at each trade individually and question whether each trade was worth it in this new context.

AAA pitching prospect Adrian Sampson for J.A. Happ

Happ was acquired when Burnett got injured right before the trade deadline.  Happ started 11 games and pitched 63 innings.  He was tremendous, but was he necessary to not win the division but make the Wild Card game?  Probably not.

Vance Worley could have pitched a lot of those 63 innings and the bullpen starters could have assumed a little.   The Pirates would have undoubtedly won a game or two less but still would have been in the Wild Card game.

Sampson is the real variable.  Right now Sampson would be in the discussion for the 5th starter role or could be a major league bullpen addition.  He has very good control and was working on a changeup in AAA.

I’d say this trade is not a clear “win” like the Marlon Byrd trade of 2013, but not really a “loss” due to Happ’s dominance making the Wild Card game almost a certainty from August on.   I’d call it a “push”. It would have been a “win” if the Pirates would have caught the Cardinals or won the Wild Card game.

AA shortstop Jacoby Jones for Joakim Soria

Soria locked down the 7th inning for the Pirates from his acquisition through the regular season finale.   He pitched 26 solid innings and allowed the team to deploy Hughes and Watson more strategically.

Jacoby Jones is a polarizing player.   ESPN’s Keith Law just stated that Jones is “oozing with athleticism” but he doesn’t think he’ll hit enough.   I’m apt to agree with him.   If Jones is having trouble hitting AA pitching he has no chance in the show regardless of how much power and athleticism he shows at SS.

I think the trade is still a win for the same reasons the Happ deal was positive.  Also, without the addition of Soria the team might have been tempted to bring up Sampson or super prospect Glansow from AAA rushing their development.

Jose Tabata for Michael Morse (and cash)

Michael Morse proved to be a solid addition and provided the RH bat that Corey Hart was never able to do.   Morse had a .275/.390/.391 in 82 plate appearances and gave the Bucs more lineup flexibility.   We’ve learned that the Pirates are on the hook for nearly $4.6M of Morse’s 2016 $8.5M salary, which is a fair price for a bench bat with upside.

Jose Tabata needs not too many words to describe.  He had been overtaken by all the Pirates starting outfielders and many of the backups.  With Harrison’s ability to play a corner outfield spot, Tabata was relegated to AAA where he only would have been called up due to multiple injuries.  The Dodgers did need to pay all Tabata’s 2016 salary of $4.5M….so in reality the Pirates bought Morse and gave away Tabata.

This was a win for the Pirates since they have Morse for 2016.

In summary the deadline was a still a win, due to not giving up much and actually having Morse for 2016, but not catching the Cards and losing the Wild Card game gives a new perspective on how successful it really was.

About Michael Bradley (36 Articles)
Michael is a Pirates contributor to The Point of Pittsburgh. Michael is former submarine officer and Naval Academy grad. He now runs a small consulting firm and does veteran related job fairs. He is a SABR member and regularly attends Altoona Curve games to scout the Pirate prospects.
Contact: Twitter

2 Comments on Devil’s Advocate on the Pirates’ Deadline Deals

  1. I know you’re playing devils advocate, but I disagree with the assessment of Happ. Yes, they still lost in the WC game and didn’t win the division, but IMO he gave them a better chance to win the WC game.

    Without Happ, I don’t think its a stretch to say they would’ve been at Wrigley on Oct 7th. They lost regardless, and we can debate the significance of homefield, but a game in Wrigley would’ve been a death sentence.

    I think it also has an impact on the future, depending on whether they sign him or not. If they’re able to sign him and he has continued success, I think its an obvious great trade.

    By the way, I hated the Happ trade. Pretty sure the word “joke” came out of my mouth more than once.

    • Michael Bradley // October 30, 2015 at 8:45 AM // Reply


      I agree with all your points.

      I guess I should have stated… “since we lost the Wild Card game were these acquisitions enough to get us to the Wild Card game, vice host the Wild Card game.”

      The hosting did probably gain us $5M+ in revenues but the whole point was that hosting was supposed to help us WIN. There was a pretty good distance by the end of the year to the SF Giants. Was Happ needed to fend off the Giants for the second WC spot? Probably not.

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