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News Roundup: Pirates Look for Nady Deal

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-P- Some interesting tidbits from the Post-Gazette: First, the Pirates may trade Xavier Nady, which comes as no surprise. The shock is that, if they can't deal him, they may non-tender him before the deadline on December 12. Now, I'm no fan of Nady, and I'm interested in any move that clears the way for Steve Pearce to start, but I'm still a little baffled by this news. Nady surely wouldn't make much more than $4 million next year, and that's a reasonable amount to pay for what he offers. Surely they can find a trading partner, and if not, they can hope to find one at the deadline. And even if they're set on Pearce as a starter (which would be a good sign - I'd say Pearce is about even money to outhit Nady next year anyway), Nady can be perfectly useful as a spot starter, especially since Jason Bay is fragile and Adam LaRoche can't hit in April or May. In other words, I see no reason to non-tender Nady except to cut costs. And if the Bucs are going to play that game again, I'm not sure I want to watch.

Also, the Post-Gazette reports that GM Neal Huntington isn't "looking for immediate upgrades to his everyday eight," and it also sounds from the article like he still sees Ronny Paulino as the Bucs' starting catcher and Ryan Doumit as the backup (this is confirmed in the interview linked in the next paragraph). I can't fault the Pirates for not trusting the fragile Doumit with the starting job, and there are good PR reasons for the Pirates to express confidence in the players they already have (to not appear to desperate in trades, and to protect the egos of Paulino and company). But still, this is the sort of news that makes me dread the possibility that Huntington might actually be Littlefield Part II.

-P- Here's a hint that he won't be, though. Here's a long-form interview with Huntington, which is nice to see because it means we have to guess a lot less than we do with a couple of short quotes in a Post-Gazette article.

Unfortunately, some of this interview consists of the sorts of frustrating non-answers you expect from big-league GMs. (My favorite little tautological dodge is "If someone has aptitude, we can teach him." In other news, if someone has appetite, he is hungry.) But Huntington does let on that the Pirates have hired a "statistical consultant," and it does seem like he's pretty serious about both statistics and scouting and at least has an idea of how to incoporate both in an intelligent way:

In a perfect world, the data provides one perspective, and the evaluators provide another. We will balance and blend the perspectives to make an optimal assessment of value. I place a lot of value in numbers, but there are some things that can't be quantified, and there are times scouting reports are needed to understand the elements behind the numbers. For instance, you could be looking at a pitcher in A-ball with high strikeouts and low walks. This pitcher features an 82 mph fastball which leads to frequent contact (low walks) but also has a decent changeup and a big-breaking curveball that he uses as a chase pitch to get a lot of strikeouts in A-ball. A scout is likely to recognize that while Low-A hitters will chase the breaking pitch out of the zone, hitters at the higher levels--especially in the major leagues--won't chase and will make him throw his soft fastball over the plate where it is likely to get hit hard. The scout's observations will confirm that the strikeout numbers at the lower levels are an exploitation of immature hitters and likely will not translate as the player progresses toward the big leagues. When scouting amateur players, there are key statistical indicators that have to be weighed more subjectively because of the level of competition. We want the data, because it will tell us something, but we also want the scouting reports to augment that data.

Later, Huntington writes:

The quick fixes that have been taken in the past--that you see happen around the league with some teams--are not something we'll be interested in here. Free agent signings that make a small, incremental difference in on-field performance don't have much of an impact on wins. Those decisions are decisions we need to try and avoid, especially when they come at the expense of money that could have been better utilized in player acquisition and development.

That seems like a possible argument for non-tendering Nady. In general, I agree with Huntington about not paying for marginal upgrades, but in Nady's case, the Pirates have the opportunity to control a player for a lot less than he'd cost on the open market. They should take advantage of that, in my opinion. (UPDATE: As I was typing this, the Post-Gazette reported that the Pirates have denied they're considering non-tendering Nady.)

-P- The Bucs hired Red Sox minor league coach Lou Frazier to coach first base for them.

-P- I can't believe I wasn't around a computer for the most perplexing trade in at least a year, a trade that's so weird on so many levels that it's even more surprising than Pitt knocking off WVU. The Mets dealt top outfield prospect Lastings Milledge for catcher Brian Schneider and outfielder Ryan Church.

Now, Milledge's name has been mentioned in nearly every Mets trade rumor for the last four years or so, but until now, New York GM Omar Minaya has held onto him, despite surely receiving about a thousand offers more enticing than this one. It's especially strange that Schneider is in the middle of this deal. Since 2005 his hitting has become practically Kendallesque, as he has slugged .329 and .336 in the last two seasons. No amount of good defense can make up for that sort of hitting, and just weeks ago the Mets acquired Johnny Estrada and re-signed Ramon Castro, and both those catchers are much better hitters than Schneider. The Mets also nearly signed Yorvit Torrealba a few weeks ago; Minaya's acting like a robot that's only programmed to acquire mediocre catchers. I've always liked Church and thought he deserved more playing time than he got from the Nats, but he's already 29. He's a little like Nady - a decent enough stopgap, but not anything special. Milledge, meanwhile, has a well-earned reputation for being a jerk, but he's still got loads of star potential.

Nationals GM Jim Bowden has now pulled off two of these crazily one-sided trades - this one and the Austin Kearns deal. It makes me wonder how he's found two of these sorts of deals and Dave Littlefield never found any despite plenty of attempts. Maybe Bowden knows how to pick his spots; maybe he's just lucky. In any case, though, he deserves some credit - this isn't the same guy who gave Cristian Guzman a ridiculous four-year contract immediately after becoming GM. In fact, Bowden's been making good decisions for a couple of years now.

(By the way, thanks to Econolodge for posting this in the diaries.)

-P- The Astros signed Kaz Matsui to a three-year, $16.5 million deal. While this is about the contract I expected Matsui would get, this is exactly the sort of  uninspired move that new Astros GM Ed Wade seems to specialize in. Really, are the Astros going to contend next year? And really, is Matsui that much better than the cheaper, younger Chris Burke? Yes, Burke stunk last year, but he's 27 and his career OPS+ is 80; Matsui's 32, and his career OPS+ is 82.

-P- I'm back in California, finally, so updates should be more regular now. Thanks for your patience.