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John Grabow, Tom Gorzelanny Traded to Cubs

For pitchers Jose Ascanio and Kevin Hart and third baseman Josh Harrison. Harrison is a small guy who just turned 22 and has shown a bit of hitting ability in Class A, while Hart can start or relieve and has posted good strikeout numbers at Class AAA Iowa but has struggled in the big leagues. Ascanio is the key player here--I haven't seen him pitch recently, but he's supposed to have very good stuff, and he could probably be a good reliever or a passable starter right away.

I'm fine with this trade. Hart, for me, is probably AAAA cannon fodder, but at least he can start. Basically, he's a righthanded version of Gorzelanny. True, he hasn't had the success Gorzelanny once had, but I don't think Gorzelanny will ever have that sort of success going forward, either. 

Ascanio has posted solid numbers as a starter at Class AAA this year, and has struck out more than a batter an inning in 15 frames in the majors. Both those indicators bode well for him; there's really nothing to not like about his AAA line, and if he can be successful as a starter there, he can probably make it as a reliever in the majors. He appears to have tamed the gopheritis he struggled with last year--in 2008, he allowed 10 homers in 54.7 innings and induced just one out in the air for every one on the ground, while he's only allowed one homer in 51.3 innings this year and substantially bumped up his groundball rate in the process. I think he'll probably wind up a good reliever, but if he turns out to be a starter, all the better.

Harrison is a bit of a wild card here. He's hit .327 this year in the minors at a reasonably young age, and he can play second base. He doesn't have a ton of power and, since he's 5'8", I'm guessing he never will, so I think the key for him might be getting pitchers to respect his power. He drew a ton of walks in the lower minors last year, but only has 22 in 373 at bats against more advanced pitching this year. What that probably means is that he has a good eye, but pitchers still know that the worst that's going to happen is that he hits a double. If he sticks at second base and continues hitting for average, though, there's upside here. In fact, his minor league profile reminds me of that of... wait for it... Freddy Sanchez, who also hit well for average in the minors but didn't have much power. And, although I think Harrison's size will probably prevent him from hitting many homers, knee-jerk bias against short guys isn't totally fair. If Dustin Pedroia, who's about four foot nine in platform shoes, can win an MVP award, then the 5'8" Harrison can be a productive major leaguer. Obviously, Harrison is a long way from the majors, but he's still a good prospect, although he probably won't be the best athlete named J. Harrison in Pittsburgh history.

Grabow could have gotten the Pirates compensation picks, but if last year was any indication, teams have gotten wise to the fact that signing a free agent reliever can cost them draft choices. The Pirates would have had to offer him arbitration to have a chance at getting the picks, and I'd say it's fairly likely he would have taken it, which means he would've been on the trading block again next year. He's a good reliever, but not a great one, and he's shown signs of getting a little too walk-happy this year. I think the Pirates probably judged this situation correctly and picked the right time to move him.

And so, it seems like the dismantling of the Littlefield Pirates is pretty much complete. It's possible a few more players (Zach Duke? Paul Maholm? Ryan Doumit?) could be traded in the next year, but nearly all the players who led those awful 67-win teams are now gone. Of course it's not really any of their faults as individuals that the Pirates didn't do better, but I'm happy to see the team moving on, and I think what's in the farm system is finally strong enough that the Pirates can build a solidly competitive team in the next few years.

In other news, Lastings Milledge will join the Pirates tomorrow as a "regular" outfielder.