Pittsburgh Pirates'' Garrett Jones and Travis Snider right, congratulate Neil Walker after his grand slam against the Chicago Cubs.
By Bill Brink Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
CHICAGO -- When negotiating with teams in advance of the non-waiver trade deadline Tuesday, the Pirates operated under the constraints of both their internal value of short-term solutions and the asking price for established players.
As a result, they chose to acquire players who remain under contractual control in future years.
The Pirates first acquired Miami Marlins first baseman Gaby Sanchez and minor league right-hander Kyle Kaminska in exchange for outfielder Gorkys Hernandez and the Pirates' 2013 competitive-balance lottery draft pick. Shortly before the deadline, they sent infielder Casey McGehee and cash to the New York Yankees in exchange for right-handed reliever Chad Qualls.
Those deals, in addition to the acquisition of outfielder Travis Snider from the Toronto Blue Jays for Brad Lincoln in the wee hours Tuesday morning and the trade for Wandy Rodriguez last week, gave the Pirates players that they have under contract past 2012.
"This year, the rentals were very expensive, and, as we were looking to give up something of value, something of significance, we were looking to get years of control in return," general manager Neal Huntington said.
In 2011 the Pirates traded for Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick, who both became free agents after the season, at the trade deadline.
"A year ago, the market dictated that there weren't very many players with years of control available," Huntington said.
The Pirates control Sanchez through 2015. They control Snider through 2016, and Rodriguez is under contract through 2013 with a player option for 2014. Qualls is a free agent after this season.
The moves assured the Pirates had control of promising players in future years, but the team also took the risk that the acquisitions will help them for the playoff hunt. The Pirates entered the game Tuesday night against the Chicago Cubs 14 games over .500, three games back of the Cincinnati Reds in the National League Central Division and tied with the Atlanta Braves in the wild-card race. Snider and Sanchez played well in the minors this season, but their recent major league performances have not matched it, and Qualls has struggled this season.
"We've talked about wanting to be good short term, moderate term and long term, and we felt like these moves improved us short term and gave us a legitimate shot to continue to get better moderate term and long term," Huntington said.
Manager Clint Hurdle said he thought the moves made the Pirates better at present.
"You look at the moves we're able to make this year and look at the couple moves we made last year, we kind of changed the direction and the mindset of who we are and what we're trying to become," he said.
The Pirates inquired about established players closer to free agency, such as the Philadelphia' Phillies' Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino, Huntington said, but the price for such players was higher than the Pirates were willing to pay.
"We looked at adding rental pieces and felt like the costs were too significant for us to be able to take those risks," Huntington said.
Victorino went to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Pence to the San Francisco Giants, both teams in the NL playoff hunt.
The draft pick the Pirates traded to Miami was the second selection in the competitive-balance lottery, a new addition this season that allows teams in small markets and with low revenues to receive extra draft picks.
The Pirates had tried to land Sanchez, 28, right-handed hitter, for two years, Hurdle said. He made the All-Star team in 2011 and hit .266 with 19 home runs that year.
This season, though, he hit .197 with one home run in his first 36 games before the Marlins sent him to the minors. He returned in June, but hit .213 with a .262 on-base percentage in 19 games before returning to the minors in early July. He hit .202 in 55 games for the Marlins, but .302 with five home runs in 34 games for Class AAA New Orleans.
"We still see the same bat speed, we still see the same impact," Huntington said. "We saw him start to use the middle of the field again with authority in our most recent scouting looks."
Snider, 24, hit .335 with 13 homers for Class AAA Las Vegas before the Blue Jays recalled him July 20. He hit .250 in 36 major league at-bats this season before joining the Pirates, and .225 in 49 games in 2011. His best major league showing came in 2010, when he hit .255 with 14 homers.
"We've got some people who were pounding the table for this guy," Hurdle said.
Qualls, 33, started this season with the Phillies but was designated for assignment after allowing 16 earned runs in 311/3 innings. He joined the Yankees and allowed five earned runs in 71/3 innings.
"We like the ability to get ground balls, we like the stuff," Huntington said.
Snider will get the majority of the playing time in right, pushing Garrett Jones to first with Sanchez. Alex Presley will move to a bench role.
The Pirates also designated Drew Sutton for assignment and recalled Daniel McCutchen from Class AAA Indianapolis to take Lincoln's bullpen spot..