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The Pirates and Rays Are Becoming Best Trade Buddies

The Pirates and Rays made a trade Monday, swapping Tampa Bay shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria for minor league pitcher Matt Seelinger. It is…a trade…I guess. He ?s getting a uniform and everything. It ?s really great.

Hechavarria is a glove first infielder who will probably only get a handful of starts down the stretch, but the content of the trade isn ?t as interesting as the two teams making their third deal in roughly five months. While Pittsburgh is becoming Tampa North, the two actually didn ?t have much of a transaction history before this season.

One of Neal Huntington’s first moves as the Pirates ? GM was picking Evan Meek off Tampa in the 2007 Rule 5 draft. There was the odyssey of Drew Sutton in 2012, where the Pirates first bought him from the Braves on May 20, sold him to the Rays on the 21st (I can’t image how they possibly could have made a profit on that, but ok) and then claimed him off waivers on June 22. (Sutton hit a walk-off home run on July 3 and played his last major league game later that month, so it was an eventful couple of weeks for him). Besides that, there were a couple waiver wire claims, minor deals for PTBNL and the Akinori Iwamura deal. In Huntington ?s first 10 years on the job, he only had eight transactions that involved the Rays. This trade 2018 trade outburst is new.

So out of curiosity, how often does Huntington trade with other teams across baseball? (Yes, this probably would have been more timely before the trade deadline. I have a good excuse why I didn ?t write it then, though. I didn ?t think of it). Going by Baseball-Reference ?s transaction history, I sorted through the 97 transactions they labeled as ?trades ? in Huntington ?s career (so no waiver wire claims or deals for solely cash without at least the option of a PTBNL). The Rays are now tied for his second most frequent trade partner, only behind the Yankees. Huntington loves the AL East, with those five teams accounting for 31 of his trades.

Number of trades Neal Huntington has made by team. Transaction history from Baseball-Reference. MLB logos from Wikimedia Commons. Click to enlarge.

Well, we came this far. May as well see how he ?s done in those deals with the AL East.

Huntington has taken Brian Cashman and the Yankees behind the woodshed more than a couple times. Even if you consider the Francisco Cervelli for Justin Wilson swap a wash (though the Pirates clearly won the trade, in my opinion) there are plenty of success stories. The A.J. Burnett trade was highway robbery. The Chris Stewart trade was like stealing from the charity collection jar at Panda Express. Even when it doesn ?t go well, like the Xavier Nady for prospects deal in 2008, it ?s never disastrous. The Yankees are usually looking to dump a potential reclamation project or backup that never got a chance to start. The Pirates have taken advantage of that plenty of times.

Meanwhile, Toronto has been Huntington ?s kryptonite. Brad Lincoln for Travis Snider was a pretty good swap, but the Jose Bautista deal is one of the worst of the millennium. The Francisco Liriano fiasco is still ugly, though fortunately for Huntington, the prospects he gave up look like busts. Harold Ramirez is still in AA and was outrighted off the 40 man roster, while McGuire is struggling in AAA. That doesn ?t excuse the move, but it makes this a really ugly trade rather than Bautista 2.0. Baltimore and Boston have both been burned trying to buy Bucs. Overall, the AL East has been kind to the Pirates.

Going back to Tampa, let ?s talk about the Archer trade. (I did a big breakdown of Archer ?s ups and downs this season for Bucs Dugout last week if you want specifics on him.) Friday was a rough outing with that first start defined by his slider. There was plenty of good (10 whiffs on 31 swings) and plenty of bad (three hits, including two big doubles). After that first impression, his second start is going to be in Colorado. That ?s less than ideal. Meanwhile, Tyler Glasnow has looked really, really good in Tampa Bay. He struck out nine batters yesterday in four innings, but to be fair, they were Orioles batters (I ?m only half-joking). It was a great outing, so some envy is natural, but he was not going to get a chance to perform like that in Pittsburgh.

Glasnow was a square peg that would not fit in the Pirates ? round hole. It ?s easy to view the Bautista and Gerrit Cole trades as failures because of what they became, but those two were never going to reach their potential in Pittsburgh. Even with Glasnow ?s new slider, quicker stretch delivery and renewed sense of confidence, the Pirates didn ?t know what to do with him. He was stuck in middle relief, doing just enough to keep his roster spot but not enough to get high leverage innings or to be stretched back out as a starter. In Tampa, he ?s getting a second chance. So is Archer, and eventually Austin Meadows, too.

The Rays and Pirates have become frequent trade bedfellows, but they have never traded anything that they could not live without. It ?s easy to point and laugh at the Rays for giving up Dickerson for nothing, but the guy they got for free to replace him, CJ Cron, has a higher wRC+ than Dickerson did last year. Cron is also cheaper and comes with an extra year of control. If it was him for Dickerson straight up, it wouldn ?t look like that bad of a trade. Both players are doing better because of the change of scenery, and that ?s ok.

This is the first trade between the two clubs of major consequence. It will be easy to try to directly compare Archer to Glasnow and Meadows, but it ?s like comparing apples to…some fruit from Florida. Unlike the Bucs pick pocketing the Yankees or the Blue Jays consistently robbing them, the Pirates and Rays have a good history of making mutually beneficial trades. Both teams got the most they could out of players they were ready to move on from. At least right now, that sounds like a fair swap once again.

Alex is a Pirates and Duquesne basketball contributor to The Point of Pittsburgh. He graduated from Point Park University with a degree in Journalism and Mass Comm. and a minor in English in 2014. Everything can be explained with numbers. If you want to keep up to date on both teams or have a story idea, you can follow or reach him @AlexJStumpf.

3 Comments on The Pirates and Rays Are Becoming Best Trade Buddies

  1. James Krug // August 8, 2018 at 7:45 AM // Reply

    Love the info graphic you made.

    Don ?t think we should be so quick to downplay Glasnow ?s TB debut.

    Hoping to see a good 3rd pitch from Archer. He looked entirely fastball/slider to me in his debut.

  2. Ethan Hullihen // August 8, 2018 at 9:21 AM // Reply

    I think you’re underselling the Marte/Nady trade to Yankees. Two older guys that weren’t sticking around and didn’t go on to do much for two serviceable starters for several seasons, and solid bullpen piece, and…Jose Tabata. Three outta four ain’t bad.

  3. I find it surprising that N.H. has such an extensive history of trading with AL East partners. I understand not wanting to trade within your own division, but that leaves five other divisions with which to trade. Sometimes I think that N.H. gets into a rut and just picks up the phone and calls the GM’s he knows best rather than really shopping for trades.

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