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A few more random-ish Pirates trades

Pittsburgh Pirates v Milwaukee Brewers Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

These are just a few more trades that I thought were interesting in some way, but didn’t seem good or bad enough to merit inclusion in one of the previous articles.

April 1963

OF Howie Goss to Houston for OF Manny Mota. This wasn’t a huge trade, but it was a good one. Mota had a 110 OPS+ in six years as a frequently used fourth OF for the Pirates. He put up a 332/383/472 line in 1966. The Pirates lost him to Montreal in the expansion draft, but he ultimately played in 20 seasons. One of the game’s most feared pinch hitters, he had a career .300 average in 593 pinch-hit plate appearances. Goss had one bad year for Houston.

Oct. 1973

2B Dave Cash to the Phillies for LHP Ken Brett. This wasn’t a good trade, but it wasn’t terrible, either. Brett had three slightly above-average seasons for the Pirates. Cash started at second for the Phillies and Expos for the next five years, making the All-Star team three times. He was a good defensive player and roughly league average as a hitter. He also tormented the Pirates, posting a career OPS against them that was higher than against any other team except the Braves, even though the Pirates generally had good pitching throughout that time.

Oct. 1973

C Milt May to Houston for LHP Jerry Reuss. This was pretty much value for value, although the Pirates did slightly better. May played for another 11 years and was generally close to league average as a hitter, which made him an asset as a catcher. Reuss was one of a number of very solid pitchers for the Pirates in the mid- to late-1970s. He won 50 games over the next three years and played a key role on two division winners. He later had a string of strong seasons for the Dodgers after being traded for another of those very solid pitchers, Rick Rhoden.

March 1977

OF Tony Armas, RHP Doug Bair, RHP Dave Giusti, RHP Rick Langford, RHP Doc Medich and OF Mitchell Page to Oakland for RHP Chris Batton, 2B Phil Garner and IF Tommy Helms. The role that Garner played for the 1979 champions makes this trade look good in hindsight, but the Pirates gave up a huge amount of talent to get him. Giusti was about done, but pitched very well for two-thirds of a season with the A’s. Medich was a roughly average starter for six more years. Armas eventually became one of baseball’s better power hitters for Oakland and Boston, with 187 HRs in a six-year stretch, including a 43-HR, 123-RBI season. Langford was an above-average starter for Oakland for the next six years, until Billy Martin fragged his arm. Bair had a 15-year career as a reliever, during which he was usually an above average pitcher. Page had a 154 OPS+ as a rookie for Oakland (by fWAR it was the single best season recorded by anybody involved in this trade) and 134 the following year, but his career sputtered after that. Batton never pitched in the majors again and Helms played only briefly before retiring. Garner had three good and two poor years for the Pirates, with his best season coming for the 1979 champions. He bounced back later with a string of five good seasons for Houston. I don’t see this as being similar to the Bill Madlock and Zane Smith deals because Garner didn’t fill an immediate need for a title-bound team. The 1979 season was two years away. If this trade hadn’t been made, it’s quite possible the Pirates could have, one way or another, gotten even better results out of the talent involved.

Aug. 1988

OF Mike Diaz to the White Sox for OF Gary Redus. Very much like the Mota trade. Diaz’ career ended after one very bad year with the Sox. Redus spent five good years as a platoon player with the Pirates, with a 114 OPS+. That included the 1990-92 playoff teams. Oddly, the speedy Redus moved from the outfield to play mostly first for the Pirates.

Dec. 1989

RHP Jeff Robinson and RHP Willie Smith to the Yankees for C Don Slaught. Another good but not great trade. Robinson had two more good years as a reliever. Smith pitched only a few games in the majors. Slaught was a part of three division winners and spent six years with the Pirates in a platoon role. He gave them a lot of offense from behind the plate, with a 116 OPS+.

Aug. 1990

3B Willie Greene, LHP Scott Ruskin and OF Moises Alou to Montreal for LHP Zane Smith. This one just depends on your perspective. Smith went 47-41 over six seasons with the Pirates. They probably would have won the division in 1990 without him — they won it by four games — but they needed a starter pretty badly to replace First Half Heaton. They would have won in 1991-92 without Smith, but it’s kinda cherry-picking to take one guy off a team that won by nine or 14 games. In Alou they gave up a very good talent who accumulated 47.7 fWAR in his career. (Smith had 15.3 the rest of his career.) Greene ended up with the Reds and was a good-hitting third baseman for four years. Ruskin had just a little success as a reliever.

July 2001

RHP Jason Schmidt and OF John Vander Wal to San Francisco for OF Armando Rios and RHP Ryan Vogelsong. A lot of Pirate fans remember this as a terrible trade, but it’s not fair to evaluate it based on Schmidt’s career with the Giants because the Pirates really only traded two months of Schmidt; he’d have left as a free agent regardless. The end result sure looked bad, though. Schmidt went 78-37 with the Giants, with a 126 ERA+, before arm problems cut his career short. Vander Wal had three more solid seasons, mostly as a bench player. Rios suffered a knee injury in his second game with the Pirates and never seemed to recover. Vogelsong flopped with the Pirates, but resurrected his career many years later, back with the Giants.

Dec. 2001

RHP Todd Ritchie and C Lee Evans to the White Sox for RHP Josh Fogg, RHP Kip Wells and RHP Sean Lowe. This seemed like a great trade for a while, especially after Ritchie fell off a cliff afterward. Wells looked for two years like he might turn into an ace, but he followed that with two bad years and spent another four struggling unsuccessfully to get back on track. Fogg was a reliably below average starter with the Pirates for four years. Evans never reached the majors and Lowe, like Ritchie, fell off a cliff right after the trade.

Dec. 2002

RHP Jon Searles and RHP Chris Young to Montreal for RHP Matt Herges. This was one of the dumbest episodes in an administration that produced an endless series of dumb episodes. It’s hard, though, to call it especially good or bad as a trade. Young proved to be much more talented than the front office seemed to realize, but his stretches of very strong pitching were interrupted by long periods in which he was out or struggling with injuries. In the end, he went 79-67 with a 103 ERA+ over parts of 13 seasons. It’s also hard to say Herges was a bad return, because the Pirates released him during spring training. He lasted another seven seasons as a reliever, some of them very good, so the real problem was the bizarre decision to release him, not the trade. Searles never reached the majors.

July 2007

OF Rajai Davis and RHP Steve MacFarland to San Francisco for RHP Matt Morris. The talent involved here wasn’t much, but it was certainly one of the stupidest trades in team history and was widely ridiculed around MLB. Other GMs were incredulous that the Pirates had picked up all of Morris’ considerable salary, which the Giants were eager to dump. It appeared to be an attempt by Dave Littlefield to curry favor with the new managing partner by bringing in a big name that would make casual fans happy, an approach that had worked with Kevin McClatchy. Davis appeared to be just a throw-in, but he’s actually had a very respectable career, putting up 11.9 fWAR so far, which is darn good for a mostly-fourth outfielder. MacFarland never reached the majors. Morris, of course, was awful for the Pirates, going 3-8, 7.04, before the new front office mercifully released him after five starts the following year. Probably the two most significant consequences of the deal were that it prevented the Pirates from signing any more draft choices that year and it may have contributed to Littlefield’s firing. The latter occurred ahead of the timetable that Bob Nutting had originally set for making a decision. So, in that sense, it was a good thing.