Think about some of the worst trades that the Pittsburgh Pirates have made. What comes to mind? Some, or maybe everyone nowadays, would say the Chris Archer deal. Some might say the Aramis Ramirez/Kenny Lofton trade in 2003. Others, like our own Robert Kelley, might search the history books and talk about the infamous Doc Medich deal in 1975.
Today, however, we take a trip back to the 2008 non-waiver Trade Deadline, where first-year general manager Neal Huntington made one of the worst trades in team history. So much so, that he’s gone on record saying he regrets it himself.
On July 31, 2008 – after finishing the first half of the season 44-50 – Huntington pulled the trigger on a three-team trade that sent perennial All-Star Jason Bay to the Boston Red Sox and, in return, the Pirates received outfielder Brandon Moss and pitcher Craig Hansen.
Additionally, the Los Angeles Dodgers received outfielder Manny Ramirez from Boston and sent third baseman Andy LaRoche and pitcher Bryan Morris to Pittsburgh.
Bay was in the midst of a bounce-back season with the Pirates after struggling the previous year, and hit .286/.375/.519 with 22 home runs and 64 RBI. While this was no prolific season for the Pirates’ star outfielder, it was a significant improvement after hitting just .247 in 2007 – a career-low at the time.
Bay went on to excel with Boston, nabbing a 2009 All-Star appearance while finishing seventh in that year’s MVP race in the American League. This, however, would be the last season Bay would find success in the MLB before retiring in 2013.
In a 2016 interview with then-Pirates beat reporter Adam Berry, Huntington voiced his disdain for the move and, in so many words, indicated that it was a terrible move.
“The worst trade outcome was Jason Bay. At the time, it was very positively received by the pundits and by the experts. ... Most everyone felt like it was a good return.
“As we look back on it, so did we, obviously.”
The aforementioned return shaped out to be a major bust.
Moss, the main headliner for the Pirates, yielded poor results in two-and-a-half seasons in Pittsburgh. After hitting .298 with Boston in 2008, he posted an abysmal .222 average in 45 games. The next two seasons saw the same, if not worse, production from Moss, as he hit .236 in 2009 and slashed .154/.185/.192 in 2010 before the Pirates released him.
Hansen barely pitched for the Pirates, as his playing time was limited due to a rare nerve injury, according to Berry. He went 1-4 with a 7.47 ERA in 16 games with the Pirates in 2008 and pitched just 6.1 innings in 2009. He spent some time in the Pirates’ Minor League system but was released in 2011.
LaRoche, for lack of a better term, was a hot mess in Pittsburgh, posting a collective .214 average over two-and-a-half seasons. He was DFA twice by the Pirates in 2010 and elected free agency following that season.
Morris was the odd one out, as he garnered relative success with the Pirates organization. After a rocky 2009 season with the Lynchburg Hillcats, Morris kept his numbers in check and quickly progressed through the system, leading to his MLB debut in 2012. That season, he allowed just one earned run in five innings pitched.
His best season came in 2014, where he went 4-0 with a 3.80 ERA with Pittsburgh before he was ultimately traded to the Miami Marlins for a competitive-balance Draft pick.
Huntington ironically mentioned that the trade was a learning curve for future trades.
“[The Bay trade] certainly reinforced our belief coming in the door that we needed to shift how we do things, who’s doing it and how many people are doing it.”
If only he knew what would come in 2018.