More Thoughts on the Nate McLouth Trade

Please use this thread to continue discussion of the Nate McLouth deal; the last one is getting pretty unwieldy. 

-P- The more I think about this trade, the more I like it (although I still wouldn't say I love it). The Pirates are finally developing a farm system that befits a team in their position, and there's a chance it could be one of the best in the majors once this draft and Latin American signing season are over. None of the players the Bucs acquired--Jeff Locke, Gorkys Hernandez and Charlie Morton--are world-beaters yet, but all three have considerable upside.

-P- I will miss McLouth, though. He battled for playing time against Dave Littlefield and Jim Tracy, who were totally indifferent to his talents, and played a well-rounded, intelligent brand of baseball that was just totally different from the kind most of his teammates played during his time in Pittsburgh. There are big portions of the years he was here that I just remember as one stupid, bungled play after another. Whatever his shortcomings, McLouth was involved in very few of those plays. The 2009 Pirates are actually pretty low on the groan meter, but McLouth was one of only a few players from the '06-'08 editions who kept the needle from breaking.

-P- Based on what I've read so far, there seem to be two main criticisms of this trade. One is that the Pirates didn't get enough for McLouth. That, to me, is a perfectly legitimate criticism and an area where reasonable people can disagree. The other expresses outrage about the constant cycle of trading star players for prospects.

A few points here: first, I strongly suspect a lot of people who are now furious about this trade are the same ones who were furious at the Pirates' management for giving McLouth playing time over Nyjer Morgan last year anyway. Second: there will always be roster turnover. Good teams and bad ones watch stars leave all the time. That's just the nature of the game. Third, for a team in the Pirates' situation, getting angry about trading veterans for prospects is like getting angry at doctors for giving you shots because every time they've ever given you a shot, you were sick. These sorts of trades are medicine, not the disease.

Whether they're effective medicine is the issue here. But there's no doubt that the Pirates need it, and that McLouth, at age 27, probably wasn't going to be part of the next great Pirates team.

-P- It's a shame that Andrew McCutchen will have to begin his major league career as the stand-in for a beloved player who was dealt in a move that, judging from what I've seen so far, the fans don't exactly love. McCutchen deserves better. And actually, McLouth's loss might not be felt much. McCutchen isn't yet McLouth's equal with the bat, but he should be far better defensively, and it isn't much of a stretch to think that the Pirates could have the best outfield defense in baseball for the rest of the year, even with Brandon Moss in right. (UZR rates Moss as a good defender; all I can really say is that I think he's better than Xavier Nady, and that's not saying much.) Someone like Jeff Karstens, who gives up a bunch of fly balls, could suddenly look like a much better pitcher.

-P- As for Gorkys Hernandez, I think a lot depends on him developing some power. I've seen descriptions of him as a leadoff-type prospect, and that's a prospect class I'm generally very bearish on, because that sort of description is usually a way of saying that a prospect is like a leadoff guy from the 1980s, or something. Most good leadoff hitters today--Nate (despite his not being a leadoff hitter this year), Curtis Granderson, Jose Reyes, Brian Roberts, Derek Jeter--do have some power. Hernandez needs to develop his power, even if it's only gap power.

-P- I'm kind of psyched to have a Pirate pitcher named "Charlie." Welcome aboard, Mr. Morton.

UPDATE: I may have undersold Hernandez a little; Baseball Prospectus had him in their preseason top prospects list at #78, ahead of Jose TabataBaseball America ranked Hernandez #62, also ahead of Tabata. Hernandez had a hamstring injury that may have supressed his numbers a little bit last season. I suppose the reason I'm less high on him than most is that, again, I'm skeptical of these speedy centerfield prospects who don't have power. Lefty starters who can throw gas like Locke, on the other hand, are a rare breed, which is why I described Locke as the top player in the deal. The Pirates obviously don't see it that way, and now that I've studied the situation more, I suppose I can see why. If Hernandez develops any power, he's probably going to be very good, because he'll hit for a high average and his defense is potentially spectacular. I'm just skeptical that he'll develop much power, he's, say, Jacoby Ellsbury minus a few homers and steals. Which is fine, but nothing special.

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