The Pirates made a move to improve their starting rotation Tuesday night, acquiring left-handed starter Wandy Rodriguez and cash from the Houston Astros in exchange for three minor leaguers.
In doing so, they got a veteran left-hander under contractual control past this season while having the Astros assume a significant chunk of his remaining contract.
"The pitching market is much more plentiful than the position player market," general manager Neal Huntington said after the loss to the Chicago Cubs. "We had an opportunity to make a move for a player that we liked at an acquisition cost that we felt was appropriate."
The Pirates sent pitchers Rudy Owens and Colton Cain and outfielder Robbie Grossman to the Astros in the deal.
Rodriguez's contract pays him $10 million this season and $13 million next year as part of a three-year, $34 million contract he signed before the 2011 season. He has a $13 million club option for 2014 that becomes a player option because he was traded.
According to an industry source, the Pirates are responsible for $1.7 million of Rodriguez's remaining salary in 2012, $8.5 million in 2013 and $7.5 million in 2014. The Pirates only receive cash from the Astros in 2014 if Rodriguez exercises his option.
Rodriguez, 33, was 7-9 with a 3.79 ERA for the Astros this season. He has 89 strikeouts in 1302/3 innings.
"We like the innings, we like the strikeouts, we like the ERA, we like the competitor," Huntington said.
Rodriguez's 6.1 strikeouts-per-nine innings is his lowest since 2005, but his 2.2 walks per nine is the lowest of his career.
"There is the trade-off, he's pitched to contact more, he's tried to work deeper in games," Huntington said. "Our scouts have still seen the quality curveball. If we can get him back to four-seam in, two-seam away, curveball and changeup, we still feel the ability to strike hitters out is there."
Huntington would not specify how the trade would affect the Pirates' rotation. Rodriguez is expected to stay in Houston until the Pirates arrive there later this week to begin a series against the Astros.
"I've had my eyes on him for a while," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He competes. He's been tough to hit [for] any team that I've had."
Huntington said having Rodriguez under control for at least the next season and a half made him an attractive target. He said the trade did not affect the club's pursuit of a hitter.
Grossman, a 22-year-old switch-hitter, was hitting .262 for Class AA Altoona. Owens, a 24-year-old lefty, went 8-5 with a 3.14 ERA in 19 starts for Class AAA Indianapolis. Cain, a 21-year-old lefty for Class A Bradenton, went 3-5 with a 4.20 ERA this season.
"While we've given up a significant amount in prospect value, we recognize that we do still feel like we have enough to have a very deep system and potentially to make another move or two," Huntington said.
Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published July 25, 2012 4:00 AM