The Pirates' deal with the Marlins this weekend is a trade of two unknown quantities: The No. 39 overall pick could be a star or a bust, and the book on Bryan Morris' career could be a long way from closing. Given what we know today, though, this is a steal for the Pirates.
Morris is 27 years old. He has never, to this point in his career, had a good big-league season. You might look at the ERAs (1.80 in a small sample in 2012, 3.46 in 2013, 3.80 this year) and think, "Eh, that looks decent," but that's not the right way to look at it. Look at the career 5.5 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9. Look at the career 4.33 xFIP, which suggests Morris has been a much worse pitcher than his ERAs indicate. Look at the career 4.05 SIERA, which is pretty bad for a reliever. Think of how anxious you felt every time he entered a game. Morris has been a drag on the Pirates throughout his short career.
Morris does have two things going for him. He gets ground balls, and he throws hard. That's not nothing, and that's why I didn't mind the Pirates keeping him on the roster as long as they didn't use him in high-leverage situations (which they sometimes did, unfortunately). He was an interesting project. But since he was out of options, he was basically a 27-year-old Rule 5 pick. He wasn't helping. Maybe someday he'll be productive -- he wouldn't be the first hard-throwing reliever to figure things out in his late twenties. But in the meantime, the Pirates were probably going to have to put up with more sub-replacement-level performances. With Morris gone, the Pirates added Casey Sadler to their active roster. Sadler, while not a world-beater himself, projects to be better than Morris anyway.
And, of course, the Pirates added the No. 39 overall pick in the draft. Chances are they'll take a pitcher with that pick, and the most likely outcome is that he'll bounce around the minors for a while and maybe get a cup of coffee in the big leagues, and that will be it. But maybe he won't. This draft doesn't have a ton of obvious superstar talent at the top, but it does have lots of interesting depth -- this is a great year to have an extra early-round pick. And historically, plenty of good players have come out of the No. 35-45 range: Noah Syndergaard and Taijuan Walker in 2010; Tyler Skaggs and Garrett Richards in 2009; Lance Lynn and Wade Miley in 2008; Travis d'Arnaud, Brett Cecil, Sean Doolittle and Neil Ramirez in 2007, and so on. The Pirates have at least a reasonable shot at landing someone really good here. They also get the right to spend more money, moving their bonus pool amount from the bottom half of MLB teams to the top half.
I wasn't a big Morris fan, but this is clearly a good deal no matter how you slice it. There's still a chance for Morris to have a decent career. Maybe being in a different organization will help him. But in trading him for a pick, the Pirates are getting a much more interesting horse to bet on.