Neal Huntington repeatedly described today's swap of relief pitchers with the Angels as a "change of scenery deal." For obvious reasons, he couldn't call it what it really is, a "Mark Melancon-like deal."
Certainly, there is no guarantee that today's trade will work as well for Pirates as the Mark-Melancon-for-Joel-Hanrahan deal did, but as Charlie pointed out, the similarities between the two moves are striking.
As Huntington was describing Ernesto Frieri during this afternoon's press conference, you didn't have to squint too much to see the template the Bucs are following.
"Ernesto is a guy we've pursued for a couple of years. He's going through a rough stretch right now, but there are a lot of things there that we like, that our scouts like, that our analysts like. We feel like we've had some success with guys like this in the past."
Today's move caught Pirates' fans off guard, probably in no small part because most doubted Jason Grilli had much trade value left. But it appears that the deal did not take too long to consummate once discussions began.
"This is one of those that came together pretty quickly. Couple of conversations about general things that led to a potential match, then it came together in a hurry."
Among the things that Huntington listed that the team likes about Frieri are his stuff, strikeout rate, ability to induce "soft contact" and underlying "indicators." Asked what those underlying indicators were, Huntington grinned and said, "That would be giving up some of the things that we rely on to hopefully identify some guys that are undervalued."
"We don't think it's any magic," Huntington said of the variables they look at when evaluating pitchers. "But some of the indicators were there. The stuff was there and our belief in our coaching staff allows us to make these moves and work to have a better outcome more often than not."
It is not clear whether Frieri will arrive in time for tomorrow's game. When he does join the bullpen, Huntington said he will give Clint Hurdle a "high leverage option in the middle innings."
As for Grilli, Huntington said that the club appreciated everything he has done, "not only on the field, but in the clubhouse and the community." Huntington added that Grilli was "emotional" when he received the news.
"He's got guys that he loves here. He's got guys who love him here. He loves the community. ... He was shaken up. He was surprised, truly surprised that we moved him at this point in time. We can appreciate that he wanted to remain a part of this and he felt a part of this, and he was a big part of this. We can't ever take that away. Jason Grilli helped us do some great things since he's been here."
After the game, Hurdle said described the move as a "baseball trade."
"I know this about Jason, every time a new opportunity has come to him he has been able to find another gear," Hurdle said. "Very thankful for everything Jason's brought in so many different ways while he was here."