If the Pirates had traded Andrew McCutchen at the deadline, his three-home-run performance on Sunday against the San Diego Padres would have been a pretty swell swan song.
Of course, McCutchen, along with most of his teammates, are still in Pittsburgh. And the end of hot stove season is undoubtedly a welcome sight for players looking to avoid an untimely move.
“It’s a relief because it’s over,” McCutchen said. “Everyone has their eyes and ears, just keying on everything, seeing what’s happening, seeing who’s moving, seeing who’s coming, seeing who’s going. It’s always a little taxing.”
At this point, McCutchen has been a Pirate for longer than any player in the clubhouse. When Cutch was called up to the big leagues in 2009, the Pirates lineup frequently featured the likes of Ryan Doumit, Delwyn Young, and Ramon Vazquez. Things have changed significantly over the past eight years and McCutchen has been the only player in the clubhouse who has seen it all happen.
As far as intrigue is concerned, this season's Hot Stove was a dud in Pittsburgh. The Pirates, stuck in an uncomfortable middle ground between contending and rebuilding, only made two trades and did little to help or hinder a team that is 51-55 and 6.5 games behind the first-place Chicago Cubs.
When asked about the Pirates' deadline moves, McCutchen said that it's not his job to make trades and that everybody on the team has to control what they can control in order for the Pirates to have a successful second half.
"We didn't make many [moves]," McCutchen said. "That's what I think about it."
One of the few moves the Pirates did make was to ship veteran reliever Tony Watson to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a pair of prospects.
The left-handed reliever came up through the Pirates' system as a starting pitcher before he was moved to the bullpen in 2011. There Watson became one of the most frequently used relievers in baseball, notching 450 appearances with the Pirates. Watson earned an All-Star berth in 2014 while serving as Mark Melancon's setup man.
Manager Clint Hurdle commended Watson on his determination and adaptability was a major league reliever.
“[Watson] is a guy that I’ve watched grow up personally and professionally,” Hurdle said. “He’s committed to his family off of the field and committed to his team on the field. He became a clubhouse leader and he experienced everything that the game can throw at you and continued to show up.”
Watson went to Twitter to express his gratitude toward the Pirates and their fans.
A message for Bucco Nation from Tony Watson. pic.twitter.com/QvGU5OUz7O— Pirates (@Pirates) August 1, 2017
During an interview on 93.7 The Fan, Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said that the team would only move assets if they garnered a good return and that what the Dodgers offered for Watson was too good to pass up.
For Watson, the Pirates received Oneil Cruz, an 18-year old shortstop who figures to move to third base permanently once he fills out his 6'6" frame, and Angel German, a 21-year old reliever with a live arm. Both youngsters are lottery tickets, but ones that Huntington apparently feels are worth the marginal gamble.
Watson's replacement comes in the form of 40-year old veteran reliever Joaquin Benoit, who was acquired from the struggling Philadelphia Phillies for minor league reliever Seth McGarry.
At 6'4", 250 lbs., Benoit is physically imposing in a way that most baseball players are not. The 15-year veteran made his debut with the Texas Rangers in 2001 and was a fixture in their bullpen for the next seven seasons.
The Pirates are the eighth team for the 40-year old and it's the second time he's been dealt at the deadline. Last season, Seattle dealt him to Toronto.
“This is my second time in 35 years,” Benoit joked. “I’m getting used to it. Hopefully I get about ten more of these.”
The veteran has had a pretty good year for Philadelphia, posting a 4.07 ERA and 3.80 FIP out of the Phillies bullpen.
Benoit said that he is willing to do whatever the manager asks, but Hurdle said that the veteran will essentially replace Watson as the team's primary seventh-inning guy.
“He’s not going to come in, trying to change things, and flip over tables,” Hurdle said. “He’s excited to be in a situation where the games are much more meaningful than where he was.”
Hurdle said that Benoit's experience will have an impact on the team's young relieving corps, especially closer Felipe Rivero.