Pittsburgh Pirates GM and fellow UMass Sports Management graduate, Neal Huntington was a busy man today. Hours after trading Eric Hinske to the Yankees, Huntington pulled off a four player trade with the Washington Nationals.
The Pirates traded Juan Pierre clone, OF Nyjer Morgan and LHP Sean Burnett to the Nationals for OF Lastings Milledge and RHP and former Nationals closer, Joel Hanrahan. I see why both teams made this trade, but I think the Pirates got the better of this one by a slight margin.
I am not a fan of Lastings Milledge. Never have been and never will be. His act has worn thin with me and apparently to the Nationals as well. However, he is four years younger than Morgan (Milledge is 25 and Morgan is 29) and the potential is there for him to be more productive than Morgan. I still think Milledge can produce at the major league level.
I see what Huntington is trying to do. He wants to be a build a young, athletic outfield, similar to what the Rays have built in Tampa Bay. He is two thirds of the way there with Andrew McCutchen in center and now with Milledge in left (once he gets healthy). Gorkys Hernandez, who the Pirates got in the Nate McLouth trade could possibly play right to complete the super-athletic outfield.
The Pirates also recieved Joel Hanrahan in this trade. I actually like Hanrahan and I am a little surprised the Nationals gave up on him. Last year Hanrahan had a 3.95 ERA, 9 saves, and struck out 93 in 84.1 IP.
This year Hanrahan has struggled with a 7.71 ERA, but still has 35 strike outs in 32.2 IP. That tells me his stuff is there, he just needs to make some minor adjustments. Joe Kerrigan is one of the best pitching coaches in the game and will work with Hanrahan to make those adjustments.
For the Washington Nationals, I kind of see what they are trying to do. As Dave Cameron of Fangraphs pointed out, the Nationals have the worst outfield defenses in baseball. I have watched them recently against the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees and quite frankly their outfield defense was a joke.
Trading for Morgan gives the Nationals one of the best leftfielders in the game. Morgan can fly and track down balls that Josh Willingham, Adam Dunn or Elijah Dukes can’t get to.
Nationals interim GM Mike Rizzo is trying to make up for former GM Jim Bowden’s neglect of defense. As the Tampa Bay Rays last year and the Detroit Tigers have proved this year, one of the quickest ways to improve your ball club is by improving the defense.
The Nationals received Sean Burnett in this trade as well. Burnett was having a good season as the Pirates lefthanded set-up man. Burnett had a 3.06 ERA and has only given up 22 hits in 32.1 IP. Lefties are only hitting .189 against Burnett this year.
Here is the only thing I don’t understand about this trade from the Nationals perspective. Why trade for a 29-year old in Morgan? The Nationals need to get younger not older. That part is a little puzzling to me. I understand they want to improve their defense, but you can find a guy like Morgan who is younger in most team’s minor league system
While the Nationals got rid of one problem in Milledge, they may be looking to ship out another one in Elijah Dukes. According to MLB.com’s Bill Ladson, the Nationals are also trying to trade Dukes.
Dukes is hitting only .237 with six HR’s and 30 RBI in 190 AB’s for the Nationals this season. Dukes also comes with a ton of baggage, so the Nationals might find it hard to find a taker for Dukes.