Pirates Trade Eric Hinske to Yankees, Morgan and Burnett to Nats

The Pirates have traded Eric Hinske and cash to the Yankees for minor league pitcher Casey Erickson and minor league outfielder/catcher Eric Fryer. Garrett Jones will replace Hinske on the 25-man roster.

Erickson was mostly used as a starter last year and he pitched well, but he was too old for his level. He struggled in a few starts this year but took off upon being sent to Class A+ Tampa's bullpen, where he's struck out a batter per inning and posted a 1.10 ERA.

Fryer had a strong year in 2008 for West Virginia, back when the Power was a Brewers affiliate, then got shipped to New York for Chase Wright. He's been terrible so far this year and, at 23, needs to get moving to be a real prospect. This is only his second full year in pro ball, so I suppose it's possible he'll do that. Milwaukee scouts were supposedly furious when the Brewers traded him, but he hasn't done much since the deal. His solid 2008 numbers were propelled largely by a .335 batting average, and I'd best against him putting up a number like that again. He steals bases and is pretty athletic in a way that's unusual for a catcher. He looks like a pretty good buy-low player, but he is still 23 and is posting a .677 OPS at Class A+.

Both these players are fringe prospects, but then the Pirates really weren't giving up a lot. Hinske had only received 106 at bats for the Bucs. I like him a lot better than I like Jones, who's just a garden-variety AAA player, but if neither of them will ever play, the issue is moot. If either Erickson or Fryer make the big leagues, the Bucs come out ahead here.

The Pirates could also end up trading Nyjer Morgan to the Nats for outfielder Lastings Milledge today. As I implied a few days ago, I'd be very much on board with this deal. Morgan is a nice defensive outfielder but really has no offensive ability, and while Milledge is pretty likely to be a complete bust, he does have at least some chance of becoming a star.

UPDATE: The Post-Gazette reports that the final Morgan/Milledge deal also includes Joel Hanrahan coming to the Bucs and Sean Burnett going to the Nats. Hanrahan is an occasionally frustrating pitcher who was nonetheless very good last year and throws really hard. (Last time I saw him, he hit 97 repeatedly.) Burnett has pitched better than ever this year, but he still has just a 95:77 K:BB ratio in 160 big-league innings. Hanrahan has a 7.33 ERA this year, but has struck out more than twice as many batters as he walked. He also struck out 93 batters as a reliever for the Nats last year. This looks like a great sell-high, buy-low opportunity for the Pirates. I wouldn't bet on Burnett continuing to be successful. I'll take the hard-throwing guy who strikes people out. Even though I think Neal Huntington generally overvalues that type of reliever, I think he's got it right here.

UPDATE: The Morgan/Burnett deal is done. The Hinske trade didn't wow me, but I love the Morgan/Burnett deal. The Pirates are trading two fringy big leaguers at what could be the peak of their values for two players they couldn't have bought lower on. It's far from clear that Milledge or Hanrahan will contribute, but both have upside, especially Milledge, who PECOTA compared to Dwight Evans, Ellis Burks, Andre Dawson and Grady Sizemore before the season. Milledge is a much worse defensive outfielder than Morgan, and even I think it's a longshot that he'll become half of what Sizemore is or Dawson was, but I love that the Pirates are taking the chance. Morgan has become a great defensive outfielder, but that's really all there is to recommend him. And Burnett has posted dismal strikeout and walk numbers for about half a decade now; that he has an ERA around three right now owes to the Pirates' defense and plain luck. Hanrahan has struggled last year, but he was a horse last year, he strikes batters out, and he has very good stuff. He also has an incredible .451 batting average on balls in play this year, which basically means you can dismiss that high ERA, because luck and/or the Nats' defense has simply killed him. (Burnett's BABIP is an absurdly low .218.) Buy low, sell high. This is a really nice deal, in my opinion.

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