Clearing the Bases: Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pittsburgh Pirates organization has been disastrous since joining the NL Central, and that’s putting it nicely.  Since switching from the NL East in 1994, the team has failed to finish above .500 in any of the last 16 seasons, let alone contend for a playoff spot.

If the Red Sox suffered from the curse of the Bambino after trading Babe Ruth, the Pirates might be victim to the curse of the Barroid.  Reaching the NLCS and forcing the series to at least 6 games in each year from 1990-1992, the Pirates traded legendary outfielder Barry Bonds to the Giants prior to the 1993 season, and the franchise has been stumbling over itself ever since.

However, the franchise finally appears to be in good hands, and those hands belong to general manager Neal Huntington.  Huntington began his MLB front office tenure with the Montreal Expos in the mid-90s before joining the Cleveland Indians and eventually joining the Pirates in 2007.

Huntington spent little time making his intentions known.  He immediately began moving the team’s major league contributors for a much needed injection of minor league talent.  Jason Bay, Nate McLouth, Xavier Nady, Freddy Sanchez, Jack Wilson; all were dealt from Pittsburgh over the past two years.

While these deals brought much ire from the Pittsburgh faithful who, like most fans, yearned for success sooner rather than later, these deals have only benefited the now promising team.  Nady and reliever Damaso Marte netted the Pirates promising 5-tool outfielder Jose Tabata from the Yankees.  Nate McLouth was sent to Atlanta for a couple top prospects, Jeff Locke and Gorkys Hernandez.  The former Pirates middle infield was flipped into a pair of more recent first round picks, the powerful hitting Jeff Clement and promising starting pitcher, Tim Alderson.  Huntington also sent the limited Nyjer Morgan to Washington in exchange for the talent-laced Lastings Milledge.

It’s impossible to predict how these players will pan out, but we have already seen a fruit of Huntington’s labor in last year’s surprise player, Garrett Jones.  The 28-year-old lefty had been in the minors since 1999, seeing a brief MLB stint with the Minnesota Twins in 2007 before he was brought to Pittsburgh and given the chance to play extensively with the big league club last year.  In just 82 games, Jones hit .293, boasted a .938 OPS, slugged 21 homers, and stole 10 bases.

Combine those moves with what appears to be a strong drafting performance, highlighted by their commitment to Scott Boras client Pedro Alvarez, and the Pirates now have something they haven’t had in a while: a future.

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2 Comments on “Clearing the Bases: Pittsburgh Pirates”

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