The Pirates announced earlier tonight that they've traded outfielder Keon Broxton and minor league pitcher Trey Supak to the Brewers for right-handed 1B/3B/OF Jason Rogers.
Upon hearing this news, I was surprised by what the Pirates gave up, given that Rogers isn't that young and that the Brewers haven't gone out of their way to create opportunities for him. The more I looked into his background, though, the more I liked it.
Broxton isn't an outstanding hitter, but he's a plus defensive outfielder and he's crazy fast, so he at least seems likely to have a career as a fourth outfielder. Supak was an early-round draft pick just last season, and while he hasn't shown much in the low minors yet, he's still a tall, hard-throwing 19-year-old with a good pedigree. That the Pirates gave up Broxton and especially Supak suggests that either they think Supak has a lot less value than an outsider would guess (which is possible), or that they think Rogers is a real big-league player.
Hopefully it's the latter. The Brewers obviously weren't big fans of Rogers -- he'll be 28 before next season starts, and he only has 179 career big-league plate appearances. But his hitting performances are pretty interesting. He's hit .286/.358/.429 in the majors, and .326/.406/.582 in 379 plate appearances at Triple-A. A bunch of that came at Colorado Springs, which is a very friendly environment for hitters, but there are also some promising signs beyond his triple-slash line, like his solid work controlling the strike zone. It's not that surprising, then, that Steamer likes Rogers, projecting he'll hit an above-average .257/.326/.420 next season.
Then again, how will the Pirates use Rogers? He's played a fair amount of third base in the minors, but he's a big guy (6-foot-1, 255 pounds) who has struggled at the position defensively. He doesn't seem like much of an option to play there regularly, although might be able to help occasionally, especially if Jung-Ho Kang isn't healthy to start the season. The Pirates seem to like Rogers as a first baseman -- Neal Huntington says Rogers would be an option at first if the season started now. But both Rogers and Michael Morse are right-handed. Rogers has also played some left field, but it's hard to see that working out for him in the spacious PNC Park left field, at least in the long term.
The idea, then, seems to be that the Pirates are adding a potentially good hitter who can play several positions as needed. Rogers also has an option remaining, and he six more years of team control. That means that, if he hits well, he'll give the Pirates a lot of flexibility. The Bucs value versatility in their bench players, and while Rogers has a lot less defensive value than other bench guys who play multiple positions, he might make up for it with his bat. If you've been cursing your TV when Sean Rodriguez gets a start at first or comes to the plate as a pinch-hitter, this looks like a good trade for you. The move also helps free Rodriguez to play defensive positions other than first base.
Huntington has indicated that the Pirates still aren't done looking for help at first base, which makes sense to me -- they should still be looking for someone better established. (Of course, this deal might suggest the Pirates aren't optimistic about finding a better option to start the season, which would be a shame.) But assuming Josh Bell won't be up to start the season, Rogers and Morse and Jake Goebbert looks like a much better insurance policy than Morse and Goebbert alone would have been. And if nothing else, Rogers looks like a bench player who can actually hit, and players like that are in short supply these days.
Of course, much depends on the players the Pirates gave up. I like Broxton more than most, but he's pretty close to being a known quantity. Supak, though, is a different story. That the Pirates were willing to part with him suggests they believe his chances of becoming a successful pitcher are limited. We'll just have to trust them on that for now.