Part of my trade deadline evaluation focuses on the Pittsburgh Pirates, Tampa Bay Rays, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Boston Red Sox.
The Pirates also acquired a live arm in 2006 first round pick Bryan Morris, and two major leaguers – outfielder Brandon Moss and reliever Craig Hansen. Both are solid players in that they should be adequate big-leaguers; it’s questionable whether they will be above average. At least, they provide solid talent to fill holes on the team; at best, they turn into excellent trade fodder for the future.
The Pirates managed to cash in their top three chips at the peak of their value, and added a lot of ready or near-ready young talent. General Manager Neal Huntington has the Pirates in the position where they are not looking at a 4-5 year re-building plan; rather, if Pedro Alvarez signs and develops as expected and they are able to improve their defense (their DER is a league-worst .678), this is a team that could be ready to make a run in the next year or two.
Furthermore, people forget that, as currently constructed, the Rays have the best record in the American League. Yes, the Red Sox have a better run differential and the Yankees have made improvements and seemingly turned a corner, but the Rays still have an excellent chance of making the playoffs.
But the most important thing is that the Rays front office understands that this year’s team is not The Team. That’s not to say this year’s team cannot make the playoffs, but the Rays are likely going to be better in most of the next 3-5 years than they are now. Therefore, it’s silly to risk future success in exchange for what would most likely only be a marginal upgrade. While Jason Bay would be an excellent fit, if the Pirates truly turned down an offer of Jeff Niemann and Reid Brignac (which they probably did, as the package Pittsburgh received for Jason Bay turned out to be better than that), the Rays offered a fair deal that simply wasn’t enough. Andrew Friedman was absolutely correct to withhold David Price, Wade Davis, and Jeremy Hellickson, and Rays fans will be happy that he did in the future.
The best part of these deals for Tribe fans is the fact that Shapiro’s deals added both close-to-the-majors talent and long-term talent. The Indians have a chance to vault back into contention next season, and Jon Meloan and Matt LaPorta should be big contributors. However, Shapiro was also able to get a lot of talent that might be further from the majors – pitcher Rob Bryson, acquired from the Brewers, Santana, and whomever the Player To Be Named Later is from Milwaukee. By definition, talent that is further from the majors is riskier, but Shapiro was able to acquire three high-ceiling pieces, adding quality depth to a system lacking in it.
But at least Ramirez should be somewhat of an upgrade (offensively). Casey Blake, while a solid player, is a below-average third basemen who may or may not be as good as Andy LaRoche right now. Blake is a redundancy on a team that has (well, had) not only LaRoche, but Blake DeWitt as well. Blake may be better than both, but his defense is poor and he’s 35 years old. Furthermore, surrendering both Meloan and Santana for two months of Blake seems like a poor evaluation of the market for Casey’s services. Blake may be nice to have, but not at that price. He does have a cool beard, though.
Most important, however, is the fact that Bay is signed for $7.5 million in 2009, when he will be 30 years old. Bay immediately solves the Red Sox’s problem in left field for next season, at a reasonable price, freeing up money while not losing any production at all. In fact, Bay is likely to out-produce Manny next season, given their relative ages and defense values. And Bay’s numbers should be aided by playing half of his games in
Some people have expressed surprise that the Red Sox gave up both Brandon Moss and Craig Hansen in addition to Manny in this deal. While Moss and Hansen are very useful players – and excellent pickups for the Pirates – they are superfluous on the Red Sox. Brandon Moss is unnecessary on a team that already has Coco Crisp as a fourth outfielder, and Hansen has proven, time and again, that he is not yet ready for any meaningful innings out of the bullpen.