So I sat around at the computer yesterday afternoon right before the trading deadline waiting for something to happen and... nothing did. I waited until twenty minutes after the deadline happened, got extremely frustrated that nothing did, and then left my computer for the day to help my friend move and to go surfing.
Little did I know that I was quitting while I was still ahead. Imagine my surprise this morning to arrive at work and find out that the Pirates acquired... Matt Morris? And around $14 million in salary? I mean, what? Well, I'm sorry I wasn't there to write about it when it happened. But I hope you'll forgive me for not having seen this coming.
The most charitable things I can say about this are that, first, the Pirates didn't give up anything. Well, probably not. The Giants get Rajai Davis and a player to be named later. Davis isn't ever going to amount to anything. I'm going to be seriously angry is the PTBNL is an actual prospect, but for now I'll give the Pirates the benefit of the doubt and assume that isn't the case.
Second, it must be really hard for the Pirates to find free agents willing to sign with them, and they do sort of need another starter next year. The parade of former first-round draft picks just isn't getting the job done.
Beyond that, though, this is an infuriating move on a number of levels. First, I thought this team was supposed to be built around starting pitching - isn't this exactly the sort of contract situation we're supposed to have guarded ourselves against? Granted, admitting you've made a mistake is better than pretending it isn't there, but it's pretty awful that we have to make a move like this in the first place.
Second, Morris isn't the right guy for us. This is only going to end in tears. Morris has allowed a bunch of unearned runs this year - he's allowing 5.23 runs per nine innings. Given the Pirates' offense, he's not going to keep us in games, and that's even if he can keep up those meager rates. Morris doesn't strike anyone out, so he depends very heavily on his defense. The Pirates don't have a good defense. It's like I said last offseason when the Pirates were thinking about signing Jeff Suppan - it's unwise for the Pirates to drop tons of cash on pitchers who don't strike people out, because the Bucs don't have a defense to back those pitchers up. (It's true that Cesar Izturis can help in that area, but then you've got Cesar Izturis in your lineup.) You might as well just run out John Van Benschoten or whoever - well, not really, but with the Pirates' defense and the way Morris has declined in the past year, I'd put the over/under on his 2008 ERA at about 5.50, which obviously isn't worth paying ten million dollars for.
Third, I'm just upset by how uninspired this is. Instead of getting rid of Jack Wilson, the Pirates now have Wilson and his $6.5 million salary and Morris and his $10.5 million salary (that's $9.5 million plus a buyout for the following season) on the books next year - and we may well find in a few months that we're also on the hook for Izturis' $5.15 million as well. If the Bucs were an 85-win team with a desperate need for starting pitching, that'd be one thing, but they aren't. Yet again, they're acting like their goal is to win 70 games rather than to build a good team. If they really wanted a good team, they'd have been willing to spend a fraction of the money they just spent on Morris to sign Matt Wieters. Instead we've got Morris and Daniel Moskos, and we're about $10 million poorer for it. Great.
This trade does address a problem area for the Pirates, but it doesn't address it very well, and the bigger problem is that when you're a team in the Pirates' position, you have to ask yourself what those problem areas mean in the grand scheme of things. It's as if the Pirates have a 1983 Yugo with an engine that doesn't work, busted transmission, and tires that are worn beyond repair, and they've decided that what they really need is some windshield-wiper fluid. No, Pirates, you need to quit wasting money on this car and start saving for a new one.