The trade deadline has come and gone and if the last couple of deals didn’t confuse the hell out of you, you’re either involved in the Pirates organization or dead. I going to break down all their trade activity to try to make as much sense of it all.
Aramis Ramirez for Yhonathan Barrios (Brewers)
With this opening move, I thought the Pirates were setting themselves up for a great deadline. Ramirez was the type of player they needed, when they needed him and for the right return. I pegged Ramirez as a right handed bench option in my first trade piece, but his first 14 PA as a Pirate not withstanding, a recent surge at the plate has pushed him to where he looks like a solid everyday player and middle of the order bat again. Giving up a relief pitcher and getting him a week before the deadline a steal. No complaints here.
Joe Blanton for $$$$$$ (Royals)
This was a straight dumpster dive but I think the Pirates were smart and opportunistic with this move. What I didn’t like was their choice to DFA Vance Worley. This looks great if the Pirates can retain Worley but I suspect he could forgo the money owed him during the rest of 2015 for a chance to shine late for another organization and maybe, improve his stock enough to have a contract tendered or get a big league deal. Blanton makes the team incrementally better, but Kansas City farts better relievers than just about everyone else in the AL Central this season. Blanton is a better fit for the role Worley played and he could be used more as a Jeanmar Gomez. Having he and Worley would have also made them considerably deeper, something they need and Happ-hazardly addressed in a later deal (see what I did there).
Joakim Soria for Jacoby Jones (Tigers)
As much as people seem to the think the Pirates went small at the deadline, you could argue that they obtained the biggest or second biggest name reliever to change hands. If you look at Soria’s traditional stats you need to feel good about this deal. He’s a closer with a bunch of saves and a solid ERA who now slots into your 7th or 8th inning by committee and takes some pressure off your other set up guys. Problem is the peripherals kind of suck with his 4.81 FIP and two of his three luck stats down right terrifying. Relievers can sometimes avoid the regression monster over a full season, but I don’t know how he can continue to flirt with danger.
Others are higher on Jacoby Jones than I am. In a recent update of my Pirates prospects, he fell out of my top 30 entirely. He struggled this year a little old in Bradenton and even though he looked like another middle infield contact hitter in his brief stint in Altoona, his lack of a hit tool and his all around K rate have put a damper on the other exciting tools he supposedly possesses. He has a chance to hit for some power and his glove appears to be sticking at short. However, it’s difficult to imagine those tools offsetting him with a likely K rate higher than 27% in the majors.
Michael Morse and cash for Jose Tabata (Dodgers)
I would have loved for the Pirates to acquire Morse several years ago, but color me nonplussed in 2015. The Dodgers traded for the right to DFA him in a three way deal with the Marlins and Braves and who parlayed him on to the Pirates. Morse isn’t the player he once was though he did hit well last season and had his best month his year in July. Still, its difficult to see him as more than a modest upgrade over Corey Hart.
The biggest positive from the Pirates perspective? They finally managed to offload Jose Tabata. With his influence gone, Gregory Polanco can finally become the player he was meant to be. Of course, would the bench be better if the Pirates could get past all the silliness with Tabata and allow him to come to Pittsburgh? I think it would have.
JA Happ for Adrian Sampson (Mariners)
Just when you were about shut down twitter in a huff when the Pirates got Morse instead of Mike Napoli, here comes JA Happ from Seattle. Not a soul on social media had the answer to the question “what the hell will the Pirates do with Happ?” until AJ Burnett turned up on the DL. Happ started the season well in Seattle with an April 2.30 ERA in market but decided to go back to being mediocre in May and June. His July has been such a disaster that M’s fans would have gladly traded him for an afternoon of sunshine. They must be thrilled with Adrian Sampson.
Sampson has followed a similar course to Happ starting the season hot and looking like a great depth option only to lose steam following injuries to Nick Kingham and Casey Sadler when he likely became the next man up. He’s since struggled and fallen back on the depth charts. He’s still a good prospect and I think a guy who has middle of the rotation upside with strong control and a solid fastball to pitch off.
What’s disappointing is that if the Pirates were willing to move Sampson, I would have preferred they package him for the Reds’ Mike Leake. At best, Happ is an incremental upgrade and extra depth in the rotation. Leake would have been a guy I’d feel comfortable trotting out in a playoff series. The Pirates still don’t have that guy.
The deadline wasn’t exciting in terms of names, but all and all, the Bucs were active and gave up little to nothing to make improve their club. If Soria and Blanton continue to perform the way they were prior to the deadline and Ramirez and Morse continue their July form, the Pirates will be a considerably better team than they were a little over a week ago. If they don’t, they’ll be about the same, but with a little more depth and a few less prospects. They made the biggest splash in the NL Central, but the true test of their dealings will come on the field as it should.