The Pirates Plunder Toronto

I have to admit that I have not been a fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ moves in recent years, but things are beginning to change. The Manny Ramirez deal, which the Pirates were involved in as the third team in, netted the organization some interesting players, as did the Xavier Nady trade with the New York Yankees.

After dealing with two powerhouse AL East teams, the Pirates made a smaller deal with another team in the division, the Toronto Blue Jays. The Pirates sent underachieving Jose Bautista, a former Rule 5 player who was playing at Triple-A and is eligible for arbitration after the season, to the Jays for a player to be named later. Bautista will help fill in for the perennially-injured Scott Rolen at third base.

The player-to-be-named-later was named yesterday, and it was Triple-A catcher Robinzon Diaz. I don’t like the trade from the Jays’ perspective because general manager J.P. Ricciardi – once again – sold low on a player. Diaz is a bad-ball hitter who has excellent hand-eye coordination and is a .300-plus career hitter (.306 in seven seasons), albeit with no power. He had been struggling at Triple-A, but had also missed a good portion of the season due to a severe ankle sprain.

Diaz was made expendable for Toronto because of the emergence of catcher Brian Jeroloman (Triple-A), and J.P. Arencibia (Double-A), both of whom were drafted and acquired under the Ricciardi tenure, while Diaz was not (Ricciardi seems to have a large bias for his own players).

The soon-to-be 25 year old catcher is very athletic and can play just about any where but shortstop and center field. He has an average arm for a catcher and pretty good catching skills, but his game calling has been criticized by Jays’ minor league pitchers. He should make a great third-string catcher and back-up at third base and second base.

Diaz will not be a superstar but he will be a solid addition to a National League club in rebuilding mode. With both of Toronto’s catching facing free agency this winter, he is also someone that organization could have used more than an arbitration-eligible utility player who cannot hit above .250.

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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Tom Au
Tom Au

(As a former Pittsburgher) I HATE most of these trades.

The one that I approve of was Marte for two other pitchers, say, Karstens and Ohlendorf. Otherwise, Nady, a solid and steadily improving player, was in essence traded for a third pitcher and Jose Tabata, who I consider to be the next Manny Ramirez at best (a talented bundle of headaches). I didn’t want to see Nady go but if the idea was to free up money to keep Jason Bay, then it would have made sense.

Trading Bautista, who is correcting his past attitude problems, and showing signs of breaking out, and (I believe) will have a break out year in 2009, was a move made at the wrong time.

Worse yet, replacing Bautista was part of the motive for trading Jason Bay, the worst move since the Bosox traded Babe Ruth to the Yankees and established the curse of the Bambino. If it’s 86 years (from 1979) till the Pirates win their next World Series, that will be 2065, after I’m gone. Bay was the fourth best left fielder in 117 years of Pirates’ history (after Giles, Stargell, and Kiner), meaning that the next one will come along some time in the 2030s. He was begging to stay in Pittsburgh, meaning that he could have been signed to a multi-year contract extension for the $10 million a year that Giles is making (plus a no-trade clause), even though he’s worth perhaps $12-$14 million on the open market. And like Stargell and Kiner (and unlike Giles), Bay had great potential value to Pittsburgh A.B. (after baseball)

The consideration for Bay, the Pirates’ “birthright,” was “a mess of pottage;” Andy LaRoche, a downtrade from Bautista, Brandon Moss, a downtrade from Nady, and two more pitchers, which they didn’t really need. The Pirates’ starting pitching problem is basically self-correcting, because Snell, Duke, and even Gorzelanny all have FIPs well below their ERAs (although Gorzo’s FIP is still above 6.) An emerging Maholm, middle of rotation Snell and Duke (on FIPs), plus Karstens, Dumatrait, and Jason Davis gives them enough to work with. “Regression to the mean” might have suggested a WPA of about 0 from Pirates’ starters in 2009, meaning that a strong bullpen and what was the best outfield offense in baseball could have made the Pirates competitive in 2009.

If Tabata and Pedro Alvarez (who cost Bay’s $6 milllion salary to sign) turn out to be the “new Nady” and “new Bay,” I’ll eat my words. But Alvarez doesn’t even have the decency to show up for “work.” Trading to the two “good citizen” veterans for two bad-boy rookies plus some pitching isn’t my idea of a good deal.

My money is on the Toronto Blue Jays (for 2010). They will have a breakout Bautista, plus an inside track to signing Bay (a Canadian) after 2009. Combining their pitching with the offense that the Pirates just dismantled makes them potential champions.

And did I say Pirates? My new name for them is “Piroches.”