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National League

HOUSTON ASTROS
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Acquired OF-S Robbie Grossman, LHP Rudy Owens, and LHP Colton Cain from the Pirates for LHP Wandy Rodriguez and cash. [7/24]

Owens is the most big league ready of the trio, and will likely see time in Houston this year. The 24-year-old lefty had to overcome the stigma of being a 24th-round pick, but he's found success at every level and won over scouts as a potential back-of-the-rotation piece. He has no star potential, but there's no reason he can't be a successful strike-throwing battler. His fastball is average to a tick below, and he'll mix in an average curveball and decent changeup. But all of his stuff plays up due to outstanding control, as he ends the Pirate portion of his career with a career rate of 1.8 walks per nine innings.

An 8th-round pick in 2009 who received a seven-figure bonus, Cain is the upside play in the group, as his 4.20 ERA at High-A Bradenton, with 51 strikeouts in 75 innings, don't cover his potential. At 6-feet-3-inches, 225 pounds, he's a physical left-hander with good command of an average to slightly above fastball that sits at 88-92 mph, but he's far from a finished product. Scouts have noted an improved changeup from him this year, but his curveball still flattens out often and lacks bite. He's just 21 years old, and his future and his future role will come down to how his secondary pitches develop.

Grossman is an intriguing outfielder who received much attention from the statistical community when he hit .294/.418/.451 at High-A Bradenton while leading the minor leagues with 104 walks. That was enough to make him the no. 6 prospect in the system entering the year, but scouts had mixed reviews of him due to some questions about his power potential, and the ability to stay up the middle. At .262/.374/.403 in 94 Double-A games, it looks like he's regressed, but he's recovered from a slow start to hit .316/.439/.477 in 43 games since the calendar flipped to June. The 22-year-old has no star-level tools, but also no weaknesses, as he runs well, has a bit of pop, and obviously works the count exceedingly well. Strikeouts have been an issue for him throughout his career, but he has made minor improvements in that area. If he stays in center, he'll have tremendous value, but that's a big if, as he lacks the quickness for up-the-middle play and most see a future corner outfielder. —Kevin Goldstein

PITTSBURGH PIRATES
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Acquired LHP Wandy Rodriguez and cash from the Astros for OF-S Robbie Grossman, LHP Rudy Owens, and LHP Colton Cain. [7/24]

All month long, rumors had the Pirates seeking another starter. To list some of the pitchers named at various points: Jon Lester, James Shields, Paul Maholm, and Francisco Liriano. Rodriguez’s name seldom appeared, but in the end, he appears to be Pittsburgh’s man.

The Pirates’ acquisition of Rodriguez is surprising because of the money involved. Rodriguez is due $17 million over the next season and a half. This trade turns over control of a $13 million option for the 2014 season from the team to Rodriguez. Meaning, in short, Rodriguez will make $30 million between now and his contract’s expiration.  According to Rob Biertempfel, the Pirates will pay Rodriguez $17.7 million of that sum.

Money aside, Rodriguez is a good get for the Pirates. Since the beginning of the 2010 season, Rodriguez has recorded a quality start in 66 percent of his attempts. Only A.J. Burnett can claim a better ratio on this year’s Pirates staff. With at least 60 more innings this season, Rodriguez will have his fourth consecutive 190-plus inning season. Long story made short: when Rodriguez takes the mound—and he typically does every five days—he usually gives his team a chance to win.

Rodriguez relies on wit rather than muscle to get outs. His fastball sits around 90 miles per hour and he relies heavily on a curveball and changeup to keep batters off his tail. The game plan is simple: get ahead, throw strikes, and keep the ball on the ground. It’s not a sexy package—and to be clear, it’s a package better suited for the middle of a rotation rather than the front of one—but there are a number of ways to get outs. Rodriguez’s methods are tried and true.

Which is more than you can say about Kevin Correia, whom Rodriguez will likely replace in the rotation. Correia is suffering from the indignity of allowing more earned runs per nine innings than strikeouts, thus telling you all that you need to know about his value. It is worth noting the reports earlier in the summer indicating the Pirates’ willingness to trade Correia. Whether any teams showed interest is unclear. But, if someone did, they should go ahead and give Neal Huntington another call.

The Pirates entered the day with playoff odds of more than 57 percent. Acquiring Rodriguez pushes them upward. Buying players in July, potentially playing meaningful games in October—welcome back to relevancy, Pittsburgh. —R.J. Anderson

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mhmosher
7/25
It really is nice to see the Pirates back.
Oleoay
7/25
It is really nice to see the Pirates having a farm system where they can make this kind of a trade without crippling that farm.
Oleoay
7/25
To reminisce, KG's Top 11 for the Pirates in 2008 before Huntington came on: Five-Star Prospects 1. Andrew McCutchen, CF Four-Star Prospects 2. Steven Pearce, 1B/OF 3. Neil Walker, 3B Three-Star Prospects 4. Daniel Moskos, LHP 5. Brad Lincoln, RHP 6. Jamie Romak, OF 7. Duke Welker, RHP Two-Star Prospects 8. Brian Bixler, SS 9. Brian Friday, SS 10. Shelby Ford, 2B 11. Andrew Walker, C Just Missing: Bryan Bullington, RHP; Brad Corley, OF; Quincy Latimore, OF
aaronbailey52
7/25
I misread Quincy Latimore as Queen Latifah. Same difference, it seems, which appears to be your point.
Oleoay
7/25
Ayup. "Some of these guys never had a prime." - Major League
briankopec
7/25
Actually...that's a pretty nice list. I see an MVP candidate. (McCutchen) A 1st division starting middle infielder. (Walker) A late innings/back of the rotation pitcher (with a chance for more...Lincoln) A 4th/5th outfielder. (Pearce) A 12th man on the staff kind of guy (Moskos) There's WAR in them thar hills! Most teams would take that kind of result from their top 11 list, 4 years down the road. To think otherwise is to underestimate attrition rates for prospects.
Oleoay
7/25
That is a pretty nice list. But if you take off McCutchen and Walker, would the Pirates have had the depth to acquire a Wandy Rodriguez type player? Thus, in 2008, if the Pirates had tried to acquire Wandy, it would have crippled their farm team.
ironcityguys
7/26
There's been a lively, long-time debate regarding whether organizations are better off with high ceiling talent or extensive depth in their minor league system. To me, any list leading off with Andrew McCutchen is going to be hard to beat... and the 2012 Pirates' top 10/20 certainly can't top it. (Walker is pretty underrated as the #2 prospect also... particularly taking into account how many times the org. forced him to change positions.)
Oleoay
7/26
McCutchen is a great player but it's hard to assess his true value until it's seen if his current production is sustainable. He can still regress to last year and yet more than be worth it in terms of his contract. So, I do think the 2012 Pirates Top 10/20 have a decent chance of topping that. Besides, according to KG's preseason article, they now have four 5-star prospects so they have more chances to yield a star.
gilpdawg
7/25
PECOTA has Wandy at 0.6 WAR ROS and Correia at 0.1. I'm not that high on Correia but that's still a lot of money for at best a one win difference.
APer930
7/25
Boston could've used that one win difference last year
jhagan2
7/25
As a Pirates fan, the early reports that Alen Hanson was included in the trade caused my heart to stop beating for a few seconds. Thank goodness that was quickly refuted.
MikeLHenderson
7/25
Even with Correia in the mix, Pittsburgh's pitching needed improvement less than its hitting does. Still, their playoff chances are real -- and July dealmaking isn't over yet.
beeker99
7/25
Great. BP. Headline. Ever! /all Tolkien fans everywhere OK staff, spill the beans - who is responsible for it?
ddufourlogger
7/25
Color me slightly flummoxed by this deal. Yes, it's a net improvement over Correia, but at $17-18m more over the next few? I know Huntington said he was looking to "Improve the team in some area...either pitching or hitting...and pitching was easier for him to get due to circumstances" or something along those lines, paraphrasing. But they need a BAT. Their team ERA is one of the best in the league; both the staff and the pen. This isn't the kind of Justin Upton move needed to get them in the playoffs. They cannot score runs. Come on Neal...make a move for a hitter now....
Oleoay
7/26
Well, the trade deadline isn't over yet so it appears right now that all the pitchers are moving around. Also, don't forget the PR effects of the Pirates being buyers and taking on salary. That has to resonate somewhat with the fan base. Just trust the process that has gotten the Pirates (and Neal) this far.
kdierman
7/25
The Pirates starting staff is due for a reversion to the mean (Correia for one) - acquiring Wandy Rodriguez gives them more of a solid foundation. Wandy goes from a RH hitters' haven at Minute Maid to a pitchers' park - I would guess the adrenaline of a pennant race and change of parks will force pressure on his numbers toward the top of his Pecota projection. The Pirates just need to look to AAA to find a nice trading deadline bat.