clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Revisiting the Pirates' deadline trades

New, comments
Kenny Karst-USA TODAY Sports

It's now been a month since the Pirates' deadline trades. With a bit more time to reflect, and with a month more data, here's a look back at how those deals went.

-P- Mark Melancon to the Nationals for Felipe Rivero and Taylor Hearn. Melancon has been terrific for the Nats, allowing just one run since the deal. Rivero has been equally effective with the Pirates, allowing just one run over 15 innings while striking out 23 batters. Hearn, too, has been tremendous at West Virginia, with 27 strikeouts in just 17.2 innings pitched.

So everyone's happy, although that might be partially incidental. I looked up the Pirates' relief numbers in August and was very surprised to see they actually rank 26th in the big leagues in fWAR over that period, despite their 2.49 team ERA. That's because their peripherals have been underwhelming. Take Rivero, for example -- the runs allowed and strikeouts have been off the charts, and of course his stuff is impressive, but he's walked 11 batters in his 15 innings so far, and that hasn't caught up with him at all. (Perhaps that won't matter in the long run, though -- he didn't have walk problems with the Nationals this season.) And Tony Watson, who took over for Melancon at closer, arguably hasn't pitched very well this month, despite his 2.84 ERA -- he's allowed two home runs and five walks in 12.2 innings and has sometimes looked shaky. The Pirates' bullpen hasn't been as good as its results this month, and one need only look at Rivero (who took Melancon's roster spot) and Watson (who took his role) to see why.

But perhaps we're getting too granular. It looks like the Pirates aren't going to pay too heavy a price for Melancon's departure, and they're going to have Rivero and Hearn for years beyond this one. And besides, Rivero is a ton of fun to watch. It looks like this trade is going to turn out just fine.

-P- Jon Niese to the Mets for Antonio Bastardo and cash. Not that this was a huge trade, but I can't believe the Pirates got away with this. Bastardo -- a flawed reliever whose pitching with the Mets nonetheless probably wasn't as bad as it looked -- has had a strong month with the Pirates. As with Rivero, Watson and a few other Pirates relievers, Bastardo's underlying numbers aren't as strong as his results. But he's still a functional reliever, and the Bucs got him in return for Jon Niese, who pitched six horrific outings for New York before heading to the DL with a knee injury. Advantage, Pirates.

-P- Two players to be named later to the Yankees for Ivan Nova. Please, just ignore everything I wrote about the deal at the time, except the part where I drew parallels between Nova and J.A. Happ. Nova has been crucial to the Pirates' rotation this month, and with just one walk in 31.1 innings since joining the Bucs, it's actually Nova himself who looks like the biggest winner in this trade -- if he can keep pitching well, he'll earn several times what he would have on this year's bleak free agent market, perhaps even nearing the $36 million deal Happ got from the Blue Jays last winter.

A bit of the shine on this trade came off when it was revealed that the two players to be named were Tito Polo and Stephen Tarpley, and it's still hard to imagine why the Pirates felt they had to let the Yankees have access to prospects that good, based on Nova's value at the time of the trade. If Nova is going to keep pitching as he has with the Bucs, though, this still will have been a good deal. It's also another feather in the organization's cap. Some of the Pirates' recent off-brand pitching additions, like Niese, haven't worked out, but Nova's acquisition looks like another in the grand tradition of Happ, A.J. Burnett and Melancon.

-P- Francisco Liriano, Reese McGuire and Harold Ramirez to the Blue Jays for Drew Hutchison. This was a bad, bizarre trade that doesn't make any more sense a month later. Liriano has pitched somewhat better since joining the Jays organization, demonstrating somewhat better control, although there isn't yet enough evidence to say how he'll pitch going forward.

McGuire and Ramirez have both spent time on the DL since the trade and haven't done much to affect their prospect statuses either way. McGuire and Ramirez currently rank fourth and fifth, respectively, on MLB.com's list of the Jays' top 30 prospects. Following the deal, we saw a lot of odd justifications for the Pirates' inclusion of both McGuire and Ramirez, including the notion that both have had seasons that showed their limitations and reduced their value as prospects. I understood that argument in Ramirez's case, but not McGuire's -- McGuire has actually hit better this season despite moving up a level and being one of the younger players in his league. Both McGuire and Ramirez are still just 21 (although Ramirez turns 22 this week) and are already in Double-A. It would be very premature to draw firm conclusions about either one of them.

Meanwhile, Neal Huntington's assertion that the Pirates' "goal in trading Ramirez and McGuire was to acquire Drew Hutchison" makes no more sense now than it did then. Hutchison has pitched poorly for Indianapolis, with a 5.46 ERA, 23 strikeouts and 14 walks. Perhaps the Pirates still have some sort of plan for him, but given that they've been able to fix other project pitchers (like Nova and Happ) seemingly almost immediately, that's looking even less likely. Hutchison's overall line for the year at Triple-A is fine, but he's still 26, and will still be eligible for arbitration next year. If he had been acquired any other way, we'd almost certainly be calling him a non-tender candidate. I assume the Pirates will tender him, but I also wouldn't be shocked if they didn't.