In a shocking move Tuesday, the Pirates dealt Nate McLouth to the Braves, and called up heralded prospect Andrew McCutchen to take McLouth’s center field duties. The 21-year-old McCutchen was hitting .303 (61-for-201) with four home runs, 20 RBIs and 10 stolen bases for Triple-A Indianapolis prior to his promotion. For the Bucs, McLouth was the final piece – and the last star – left in one of the best outfields in the Majors last season.
“We know moves like this are going to be made,” manager John Russell told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “And we stand behind them because we know they’re going to make us better in the long term.”
With McCutchen waiting in the wings the McLouth trade is different than last year’s midseason move of outfielders Jason Bay and Xavier Nady, simply because the Bucs already have a younger, cheaper replacement already in place. The All-Star and Golden Glove winner McLouth (.256/.349/.470) was a top-notch player and all-around good guy, but ultimately he would grow too expensive in the coming seasons of his multi-year deal. As a team with a smaller payroll, the Pirates are less interested in paying McLouth’s $6.5 million and $10.65 million salaries in 2011 and 2012, especially considering the team’s emphasis on building for the future.
While it’s too early to deem a winner in any trade involving still-developing prospects, I combined the McLouth loot with the players pocketed for Bay and Nady last season. These are the guys who will be counted on to elevate the beleaguered franchise’s farm system and eventually turn around a franchise losing streak that’s creeping up on 17 straight seasons. Below is a closer preliminary look at how the traded players stack up, with all statistics current through Thursday’s games.
The Deal: The 27-year-old McLouth was sent to Atlanta June 2 for three prospects: Gorkys Hernandez, Jeff Locke and Charlie Morton.
CF Gorkys Hernandez, .316/.361/.387
The Venezuela native was originally acquired from Detroit in the Edgar Renteria deal. Hernandez, rated the “fastest base runner” in the Braves farm system by Baseball America last year, is a speedy fielder with limited power and an average on-base percentage. He’s homerless through 52 games in Double-A, and his stolen base drop-off –from 54 in 2007 to 20 last year – is a red flag. For now, the 21-year-old’s numbers don’t project well at the Major League level and with McCutchen figuring to be a mainstay, Hernandez would have to move to a corner outfield spot.
LHP Jeff Locke 1-4, 5.52 ERA
Locke has struggled with control (5.12 BB/9 IP) over his first 10 starts in Class-A Advanced. The Braves second-round pick in the 2006 draft, Locke has a low-90s fastball and power curve that induces a high ground ball rate (1.63 GO/AO). He is also reportedly developing a more effective change-up. The Pirates farm system is devoid of any standout lefties and Locke’s strikeout totals (8.47 K/9) and youth instantly elevates his stock. It’s always difficult to predict a pitcher’s future progress, but given the Bucs pitching problems, the 21-year-old Locke could make a case to crack the rotation in a few years if he stays on track.
RHP Charlie Morton 7-2, 2.26 ERA
The furthest along of the trio, Morton has 16 games of Major League experience under his belt. Unfortunately, that experience doesn’t reflect too fondly on the right-hander. Morton was hit around during his stint with the Braves last season, and posted a 6.15 ERA on 51 earned runs over 74 2/3 innings. A third-round pick in 2002, Morton has a fastball that tops out at 90 mph and gets by with a good breaking ball and improved change-up. Morton has fared well in 11 starts at Triple-A, and could be called up this season if necessary.
The Deal: On July 26, Nady and relief pitcher Damaso Marte were sent to the Yankees in exchange for pitcher Jeff Karstens and three prospects– pitchers Daniel McCutchen and Ross Ohlendorf and outfielder Jose Tabata.
RHP Daniel McCutchen 3-4, 4.61 ERA
An older prospect, the 26-year-old McCutchen is at an age where he needs to start producing now, if ever. With 50 strikeouts for Indianapolis, McCutchen is averaging a little less than one per inning, but he’s also walked two or more batters in four of 10 starts. Free passes never bode well in the Major Leagues, and his fly ball tendency (0.79 GO/AO) is another pressing issue.
OF Jose Tabata .250/.324/.297
Considered the cornerstone prospect of the deal, Tabata hasn’t played since April 28 and is currently nursing a strained right hamstring. Prior to the injury, Tabata got off to a poor start with Double-A Altoona and continues to make headlines off the field. Tabata was suspended for several days after leaving a game early (without notice) while in the Yankees farm system. This March, his much-older wife was arrested for kidnapping , although it’s an incident Tabata had not been linked to. Rated the third-best prospect in the Yankees organization last season, Tabata is young and immensely talented but could be more trouble than he’s worth.
*Ross Ohlendorf 5-5, 4.85 ERA
*Jeff Karstens 2-2, 4.83 ERA
The pair of prospects earned the Pirates No. 4 and 5 rotation spots out of Spring Training, and thus won’t be discussed in detail.
The Deal: With reportedly seconds to spare in last year’s trade deadline, the Pirates dealt Bay to the Red Sox as part of a three-team deal with the Dodgers that netted four prospects : Andy LaRoche, Brandon Moss, Craig Hansen and Bryan Morris.
3B Andy LaRoche .298/.368/.423
RF Brandon Moss .264/.310/.372
RHP Craig Hansen 0-0, 5.68 ERA
The aforementioned trio immediately joined the big leagues following the trade, with LaRoche and Moss both everyday starters. Hansen was placed on the 15-day disabled list (and later moved to the 60-day) retroactive to April 25 with neck spasms that have plagued him since midway through Spring Training.
RHP Bryan Morris 0-0, 0.00 ERA
Morris is currently shelved with right shoulder inflammation and is on the Class-A Advanced roster. The Dodgers first-round pick in the 2006 amateur draft, Morris was shut down last season after pain in his right shoulder and arm (as well as his right big toe) and tossed a combined 20 games for the Class-A Great Lakes Loons and Hickory Crawdads. Prior to his injury, Morris went 2-6 with a 3.47 ERA.
In less than a year the Pirates demolished one of the most promising outfields in baseball, but in evaluating each trade’s early returns second-year general manager Neal Huntington has unquestionably restocked the organization’s depth. For better or worse, the Pittsburgh brass appear content with knowing 2009, and possibly 2010, won’t be their time.
Add in the extra cash flow caused by dumping McLouth and the Pirates should be able to add another top prospect by signing their first round pick in this week’s amateur draft.
McCutchen won’t be expected to match McLouth’s productivity in Pittsburgh right away, but the Bucs have a young, speedy left fielder in [Nyjer] Morgan (.256/.349/.470) and a solid platoon of Moss/Eric Hinske holding down right field. While clearly not the popular move, you have to give Huntington and Co. credit for making a gutsy call and dealing McLouth. Whether he was sold high or will continue to post 20-plus home runs a season remains to be seen. But with 16 straight losing seasons, the Bucs made the choice to invest and patiently wait for their farm system. At this point, it’s all they’ve got.
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Morton has a fastball that tops out at 90 mph and gets by with a good breaking ball and improved change-up.
Morton has been up to 95 mph this year while SITTING 90-93. You made a power arm sound like a finesse one, and it's just wrong.
Then, it's an exercise that's made without employing any available evaluative minor league data (minor league EqAs, for example, or anybody's projections). Add in Kevin's point about getting scouting info wrong, and it struggles all the more to deliver value.
Delivering an answer that, yes, Huntington has delivered depth does not involve asking and answering the more important question, over whether or not that's a worthwhile goal in itself. Does organizational depth advance the Pirates' fortunes at all? Instead of an answer, the piece just sort of throws up its hands with a fatalism that I expect Pirates fans are all too familiar with.
That said, I don't know if she was trying to invite comparison to John when she picked the Pirates as her topic for this week, but it didn't do her any favors. Neither did focusing on a trade that had already been analyzed within an inch of its life, here and elsewhere. The field really picked up the pace this week, and I have to admit that, although she's a really good writer, Brittany's article was the only one I never considered voting for this week.
"While clearly not the popular move, you have to give Huntington and Co. credit for making a gutsy call and dealing McLouth."
This is the kind of content-free pap against which Baseball Prospectus has always stood; somewhere, Gary Huckabay is reading this sentence and crying. I "have" to give a GM credit for "making a gutsy call" and trading a guy signed to a below-market deal for B-level prospects? Really? Why is that? Ghiroli doesn't tell us.
Also, I feel like Ghiroli skated by last week and learned nothing from the experience. Last week, she was criticized for having obvious errors. This week, we're told that Nyjer Morgan is batting .256/.349/.470. Of course, Morgan is actually slugging .343.
And again, I don't want to bag on anyone for a simple typo, but nobody who's ever seen a single Pirates game this year could have possibly written (even by mistake) that slap hitter extraordinaire Nyjer Morgan has a .470 slugging percentage.
Similarly, Ghiroli's piece last week was criticized (correctly, in my view) for its passing relationship with the rules of grammar. This week, we get more of the same:
"This March, his much-older wife was arrested for kidnapping , although it's an incident Tabata had not been linked to."
This is a bad piece from someone who doesn't appear to be listening from good advice on previous bad pieces. It's cool that BP Idol has it's own Sanjaya (I guess?), but it's time for Ghiroli to go.
If one is to talk about Gorskys, they must mention his defense, no? On the defense note, its a slap in the face for her to mention McLouth as a GG winner. As if a GG means anything and he was a good defender.
You have to agree with Kevin on his point as well.
Meanwhile, 3 or 4 other finalists (and I forget the exact count) did try to utilize someone in the industry. They did report. And then they analyzed the information they had.
I'm also disappointed that fielding plays no part in the analysis. A huge part of Gorkys' value is in his awesome range, and you can find some rough fielding numbers over at minorleaguesplits.com for prospects with significant playing time. If he makes the majors it will be for his awesome fielding, meaning McCutchen would likely be the one shifting to a corner spot, giving the Pirates an awesome defensive outfielder.
Defense is also important for McLouth, who rates poorly by the advanced metrics and is more of an average corner outfielder. He's not All-Star caliber, all things considered, although still a good player.
Nice review of all the trades, in what seems like a collection of information from other sources. Nothing wrong with that, but I find myself wanting to know what Brittany thinks of the deals. Guess I'm looking for more analysis of the deals, both individually and as a whole, and more specific analysis of how good the Pirates might be in 2-4 years.
But yeah, the three pieces so far have been ho-hum at best. The talent is clearly there, but it hasn't translated into a killer piece yet. So if/when I vote/d for her, it's voting on upside, and hoping she develops more like Grady Sizemore than Ryan Sweeney.
This was your chance (past tense)
The most amazing part of this trade was NOT that the Pirates traded a viable major league outfielder (though he should be in RF, not CF), but that they traded one of the few fan favorites.
Thus she has tried to connect the article back to MLB; seeking solace in general knowledge that even the most lax baseball fan would be able to draw on.
This most definitely resembles the plainness and simplicity of last weekâ€™s column by Jeff Euston, and as such should probably result in the same outcome.
Brittany, if you're not the ultimate victor in this competition, try writing about what you know better. I can't help but feel that I know more about your topics than you've offered in your articles, but that doesn't mean that you're any less than excellent as a writer.
America- Please end this.
A minor criticism not brought up yet: Leaving out the details on Ohlendorf, Karstens, and the other young players in these trades who have been playing in the Majors does not make this article purely a minor league piece. Those were Major League trades. You might as well have given us a couple of sentences on each of these guys in the same format as the others. Otherwise, it leaves gaping holes.
I like how Brittany summarized each minor league player and his primary stats in bold, but was woefully missing their crucially important ages and level. Of course, the rest of the players acquired in those deals should have been included in that format as well. She was consistent on her format with Ohlendorf and Karstens, but for some reason LaRoche, Moss, and Hansen were indented and bulleted instead of in bold.
Overall as far as its readability and organization, we finally are seeing improvement from Brittany. However, this is so riddled with serious misinformation that there is absolutely no reason to string her along on this competition any further. Her work is blatantly unacceptable, while all the other writers have something worthwhile to offer BP readers, if generally not always quite up to their standards.
For that reason, I'll be voting for everyone but Britany. I wish her well in her other endeavours.
"The 21-year-old McCutchen was hitting .303 (61-for-201) with four home runs, 20 RBIs and 10 stolen bases for Triple-A Indianapolis prior to his promotion."
I know it's formulaic, but shouldn't we also be given his slash stats here, too?
And it's a "Gold" Glove, not "Golden."
Example: "For the Bucs, McLouth was the final piece â€“ and the last star â€“ left in one of the best outfields in the Majors last season."
If he was the "final piece left"--awkward phrasing to begin with--wouldn't he necessarily also be the last star? And it would take a pretty expansive definition of "best" to include Pittsburgh's outfield in the category.
I think Brittany needs to work on simplifying her language. This sentence would have sounded a lot better as: "McLouth was the last remaining member of the outfield with which the Bucs started 2008."
As a Pirate fan I wanted to vote for this article simply because it was about a topic that interested me. However, I didn't really find anything new in the article. For instance, I would have loved to read why Morton's minor league numbers improved so much in 2008 and 2009 (and perhaps why he hasn't yet translated that to MLB success). Perhaps this is an unfair standard since I've read a lot more on this topic than most have, but regardless I decided not to vote for this article. Good luck to Brittany and everyone else nonetheless.
The article was well-written, but there's just nothing here that would make it stand out from the crowd as most BP articles do.
Nowhere are "EQA", "WARP", "BABIP" or translated statistics ever mentioned in this article - the new metrics that have put BP on the map.
I think it's not unfair to say that BP is probably best known for its quantitative analysis, although BP has moved strongly to diversify both its actual content and the public perception of that content in recent years.
So I guess my bottom line is that I don't fault Chris *too* much for saying in an offhanded comment sort of way that Ghiroli's piece seems to lack the kind of sophisticated analysis that we expect (and pay for) from BP.
That being said, with poor assumptions (bad qualitative data), inaccuarate statiscs like the Morgan/McLouth slash rates (bad quantitative data) and inaccurate or incorrect assumptions (bad analysis)... I'll take my chances with other finalists who can write well _and_ analyze well.
My take on BP, as a very general mission statement, is that "BP will provide its readers with useful baseball information, and then support that information with substance and deliver it in an entertaining fashion."
That substance can be a) underlying metrics of success/failure (including traditional and non-traditional stats), and b) insider knowledge (including information from or interviews with scouts, medical staff, front office personnel that is not apparent at many other sites). And that substance is delivered with c) a flair and flavor that keeps it entertaining (Prospectus *Entertainment* Ventures).
Brittany has put a lot of effort into her submissions, and her submissions are weighted towards 'c' and a quite a bit weaker on 'a' and 'b.' In defense of people who complain about the 'lack of stats', I just think of it as 'wanting substance.' She makes more than a few unsupported statements, and without the support, they don't convince me that I've actually learned anything.
And, more frustratingly, the unsupported statements themselves aren't all that informative. There's just not much new, original, or thought provoking being offered in her submissions. Including this one. Here's an abstract for this submission:
"The Pirates haven't had a winning season for quite some time. In an effort to save money and build for the future, they have traded away a relief pitcher and their three starting outfielders in exchange for 11 younger prospects over the past year. This has opened up room on the MLB roster for their players in AAA. This submission will name the prospects they have received in trade, recap the AAA players who have moved up, and provide an overview of their recent performance. The article will provide the above without providing any context to judge whether the Pirates have positioned themselves for future success any better than they were a year ago."
I wish Brittany well in BP Idol and in the rest of her career. Hopefully she can take the information above and apply it to those future endeavors. I think she has the ability to craft an entertaining article, and with some effort and introspection, the rest can come.
I don't think anyone was asking Brittany to create new stats, because that's really hard to do, but instead to utilize the stats available already to make more informed commentary. In other words, they were asking her to be a student of the game, learn something, and apply it in a reasonable manner. None of these things happened.
that being said - and i'm not trolling with this comment - i read things like "this could be found on AOL/Yahoo/CBS/Majormediaoutletit'sconsideredcooltotrash" or "i can't believe this is on BP" and wonder whether you're actually assessing her submissions based on what they are, or whether you're judging them for what they aren't. it seems silly to knock an article because it doesn't meet some criteria you've invented for BP, a criteria BP would probably be the first to tell you - doesn't exist.
Brittany's approach and background are markedly different from the other contestents, which is to her credit. that said, she's turned in poor work for 2 straight weeks; i hope she's able to harness her strengths and turn in a quality piece, should she be given the opportunity.
How is her background different besides having a degree in journalism? We have young college graduates facing off against Ph.D. candidates, statisticians jousting with storytellers. Each of the other finalists have unique backgrounds too. The only other parts of her background that are different is that she had a piece published by MLB.com which would suggest that she is a great writer, and that she is a woman. Her approach may be different too because she has been among the least responsive of the finalists so far to the feedback she has received... meanwhile, the rest of the contestants improved. As a paying customer, I want the winner to be one who responds to feedback.
She already beat out hundreds of other submissions to become a finalist with a very enjoyable initial entry and that is a feather in her cap, but that is the extent of the credit I give to her.
All that said, a comparison to content on MLB.com or CBS Sportsline or ESPN or Yahoo Sports is a *valid* comparison. It is not meant in the derogotory sense. It is much simpler: content on those sites is available for free. Content on BP is not. It seems perfectly fair that if the user is to pay to view content, they would have particular additional expectations of that content. On the most basic of levels, the expectation would be simply that the content on BP be of a different nature that what the user can obtain free of charge elsewhere. That will mean different things to different people; some will want more stats, some more-detailed profiles, some more-detailed injury analysis, etc.
But for all users, it is significantly important that it provide something different from the free sites.
I have enjoyed reading all your articles and loved your article in the 2008 World Series Program. We miss you at the Trop.