The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. - Wm. Blake

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

For Want of a Busy Signal

[This post is #2 of 4 that I wrote all together yesterday, before the latest trades. I was planning to space them out a bit, but time is of the essence. FWIW, other than this note, all of the content in this post and the two following was written before the Morgan/Burnett trade came down]

I’m increasingly seeing the Bay trade as the worst thing that’s happened to the Pirates since Dave Littlefield lost his mind.

Dejan Kovacevic of the Post-Gazette likes to note that, last summer, the consensus was that the Bay trade was the good one, and the Nady trade the bad one. But that’s not how I saw it at the time. I understood all the reasons to trade Nady, although I liked the guy. I was a bit let down to see Marte go, but 2 major league starters, plus the maybe-stud of Tabata, seemed like a good return. Frankly, the Pirates – not the organization, but the team – looked stronger on July 30 than they had a week before.

2008 was still a lost cause – too many starts by Morris, Gorzelanny, and the rotating disaster that was the #6 starter had squandered baseball’s best offensive outfield, and #3 offense overall – but the pieces were mostly in place for a solid 2009.

Then, just when it seemed that Jason Bay would, against all odds, remain in Pittsburgh, the Dodgers called the Pirates and Red Sox one minute before the trade deadline and upped their offer. It was done. The face of the team, their best hitter, was gone. In return, the Pirates got OF Brandon Moss, RHP Craig Hansen, 3B Andy LaRoche, and A-ball starter Bryan Morris.

Moss has been a bust, providing essentially replacement-level offense and defense in right field, one of the two easiest positions in baseball, especially at PNC Park. LaRoche, after an epically inept 2008, has become a solid young third baseman. Hansen has been hurt, and Morris has continued his history of injury - whatever his upside, he has to be considered an if, not a when.

In other words, to date, the Pirates have gotten Andy LaRoche for Jason Bay – a comically bad return for a guy who has been the best player on the American League’s best team. And why? Because Neil Huntington, in my opinion, badly misdiagnosed this team. And because, in this day and age, it’s too damn easy to make last minute phone calls.

[Update: I understated Moss' defense in this post; he has been comfortably above-average in the field. Nonetheless, his offense remains mediocre for RF, a position where late, fat Babe Ruth was stuck because he couldn't do too much harm out there. Moss remains on track for 4th OF status]

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