Trades impact Pirates present, distant future
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The reverberation of the Pirates' double-play trades of Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez likely will be felt for years within the franchise. And, if management has its way, most of that will come well down the road.
Start, though, with the present ...
The new double-play combination, beginning tomorrow against the Washington Nationals, will be Ronny Cedeno, one of the five players from the Wilson trade, and Delwyn Young.
Cedeno, 26, spent his first four years with the Chicago Cubs before being acquired by Seattle in January. He was batting .238 for the Mariners, and his defense, while competent, is not -- and never has been -- a match for Wilson's.
"We like the glove, and we feel Ronny will do a good job of protecting our pitching staff, which was important to us to have right away," general manager Neal Huntington said. "We also feel like we'll be able to help him bring the bat along."
Young's .316 batting average has pushed management to try to find him a home, and his extensive side work with infield instructor Perry Hill -- who has coaxed the best out of Wilson, Sanchez and Andy LaRoche this season -- encouraged management to give him an extended try there.
"We're going to give Delwyn a look," Huntington said. "We like Perry's chances."
Cedeno, making $822,500, has two more years through which the Pirates can retain his rights through arbitration. Huntington would not commit to doing that yesterday -- he never does -- but he did leave open that Cedeno could be a long-term option.
"He's still young," Huntington said. "If he comes in and shows he can do the job, sure, he could be our shortstop for years to come."
In one or neither pans out, the Pirates' plan is to use some of the significant money they have saved through trades this year -- payroll is down roughly $20 million from the opening-day figure of $51 million -- to find replacements, through trades or free agency.
Also in the present, Huntington strongly suggested last night that recently acquired outfielder Lastings Milledge will make his Pirates debut tomorrow, coincidentally against his former Washington team.
Milledge has batted .337 in 17 games with Class AAA Indianapolis and, by all accounts, has been a model worker and citizen off the field, a main stressing point given some of Milledge's past turmoil.
"We're very happy with what Lastings has done," Huntington said.
His recall is certain to mean a demotion for outfielder Jeff Salazar. That would leave Milledge, Brandon Moss and Garrett Jones rotating around center fielder Andrew McCutchen.
As for the future ...
The clear top acquisition among the six newcomers is the only one who arrived in the Sanchez trade, Class AA pitcher Tim Alderson.
Alderson, a 20-year-old 6-foot-6 right-hander, was San Francisco's first-round draft pick, 22nd overall, in 2007, and he quickly ascended to the point of being rated the Giants' No. 4 prospect entering this season, according to Baseball America, in a system highly regarded for pitching. He also was rated No. 9 among all right-handed starting prospects in the game.
Huntington did not hesitate in pronouncing Alderson "one of our best pitching prospects right away," along with Brad Lincoln, though that in and of itself is faint praise given the state of that position in the Pirates' system.
"He's a young pitcher we are very excited about," Huntington said. "He has quality upside, he's a quality athlete and has terrific aptitude physically and mentally. He has quality advanced feel for pitching. Sometimes, you look at a guy who's big and broad and wiry, and he adds 15-20 pounds of strength. Sometimes, they don't. But there is something to build on here. How much muscle will he be able to put on? Time will tell."
Alderson was 7-2 with a 3.65 ERA, 66 strikeouts and 17 walks in 98 2/3 innings split between Class A San Jose and Class AA Connecticut. His fastball ranges from 88-93 mph, and it is delivered with a funky delivery, one the Giants elected not to change because of his consistent control.
Alderson will start out with Class AA Altoona, as early as this weekend, after the Pirates see him throw on the side tomorrow.
The top acquisition of the four minor leaguers in the Wilson trade was first baseman Jeff Clement.
Clement, 25, was Seattle's first-round draft pick, third overall, in 2005, and signed for $4 million. But he has yet to fulfill his potential: He moved up quickly to the Mariners, debuting in late 2007, and batted .237 with seven home runs in 75 games over that season and the next. This year, he stayed with Class AAA Tacoma and batted .288 with 14 home runs and 68 RBIs.
Baseball America rated Clement the Mariners' No. 1 prospect in 2006 and 2008, the last year in which he was eligible.
"Our scouts have consistently projected Clement to be an everyday major league contributor with the power to hit 20-plus home runs," Huntington said.
Clement has 60 home runs in 1,427 career at-bats in the minors, an unimpressive ratio of one every 24 at-bats.
One player who was Clement's teammate in a winter league said, "They said he was supposed to have light-tower power. We never saw it."
Defensively, Clement has been a greater disappointment: A knee injury limited him to playing 70 of his 92 games for Tacoma as a designated hitter. The Pirates' plan is to have him play first base at Indianapolis, plus a little catcher.
An American League scout said of Clement's defense, "There's nowhere in the field you can put him."
Huntington said the Mariners, shortly before the trade, were planning on using Clement more at first and behind the plate to try to get his bat to Seattle.
"Jeff is a guy with a bat that has big upside, and he was available because he didn't have major league opportunity," Huntington said, referring to Seattle having Ken Griffey Jr. as a designated hitter.
The rest of the minor leaguers are right-handed Class A starting pitchers.
Aaron Pribanic, 22, was 7-6 with a 3.21 ERA in 17 starts this season for Class A Clinton. He was charged with two or fewer earned runs in 12 of his first 13 outings. He was Seattle's third-round pick in 2008. His fastball has been clocked as high as 93 mph, and his sinker has been effective at getting groundouts.
Brett Lorin, 22, went 5-4 with a 2.44 ERA, 87 strikeouts and 25 walks in 16 starts for Clinton. His ERA ranked third in the Midwest League. He has been clocked in the mid-90s.
Nathan Adcock, 21, went 5-7 with a 5.29 ERA in 19 starts with Class A High Desert. He has been clocked at 91 mph and had, according to Baseball America, the best curveball in Seattle's system. Huntington attributed some of Adcock's poor numbers to "pitching in the worst pitcher's park in baseball" because of its close fences.
"All three of these pitchers are big, physical, and all touch 92-94 with their fastballs," Huntington said. "We like what we've gotten there."
Clement will report to Indianapolis, and he has one option remaining if he has to go back next year. Adcock will go to high Class A Lynchburg, Pribanic and Lorin to low Class A West Virginia.