Well after the trade deadline passed and when I had assumed everyone was done for the day, word leaked out that the Pirates snuck one more deal in after the deadline: Francisco Liriano, Harold Ramirez, and another prospect to Toronto for Drew Hutchison.
I understand the Pirates’ desire to move on from Liriano; he’s pretty expensive ($13.67 million next year) and he’s more or less regressed back to the point he was at when the Pirates acquired him around Christmas 2012. The difference at this point is that he’s almost 33 now, and, I mean, the Pirates see him first hand every day. If they’re worried that he’s toast, I’d say that’s a decent sign that he might be toast.
I also get why they might want Hutchison; he missed a lot of bats with the Blue Jays in 2014 and Brooks Baseball notes that he’s thrown a two-seamer/sinker without much success, which is probably why he gives up a ton of home runs. Hutchison is pretty young (26 in three weeks) and while this is his first arbitration year, he’s spent a bunch of time in the minors, so he’s got somewhere between 2-3 years of arbitration left after this one. If the Pirates think they can help him add a two-seamer/sinker and make his offerings more dynamic, maybe he’s the type of pitcher that they see more in than other teams do.
The part of the trade that I’m trying to reason out is the Pirates’ inclusion of Harold Ramirez. Ramirez is not a great outfield prospect, but he is a decent one. He’s got what I’d call a Jose Tabata build (5’10″/220), and he’s hit for a high average at every level he’s played in, but he doesn’t hit for much power and I suspect that his long-term position is left field. He was a pre-season Baseball America Top 100 prospect, but as far as I can tell he didn’t make any of the recent mid-season lists. My immediate gut feeling is that Ramirez makes sense as trade-bait since he’s behind Marte/Polanco/Meadows on the Pirates’ long-term outfield plans, but that he seems like a lot to give up to complete a Liriano salary-dump-for-project. Maybe that’s not right, though; if he’s bound for left field and his profile is average-heavy without much power, then maybe the Pirates are thinking that his value will diminish as he gets into the high minors, in the same way that Tabata’s did.
It’s also worth noting here that Hutchison doesn’t appear to be any more of a sure thing than the Kuhl/Brault/Williams trio in Indianapolis. It’d be one thing if the Pirates were dealing from their prospect reserves to get a pitcher that they KNOW they could plug into the rotation and get some sort of certainty from, but instead they’ve picked up another pitcher that they need to work with and audition and evaluate, and chances are good that every inning that they’re doing that with Hutchison is an inning that they’re not doing it for Kuhl/Brault/Williams. Which means that next year’s pitching mystery gets even more mysterious, even if Hutchison, in theory, makes it more dynamic.
My main conclusions here would be these two:
- The Pirates think Liriano is beyond hope. They’re the ones that brought him back from his previous trip to the hinterlands, and I don’t think they’d be selling low if they thought there was any hope of turning him around this year or next year.
- The Pirates must be really high on Hutchison to choose to move Ramirez for him and not for someone else.
Ultimately, we’ll evaluate this trade on a ton of levels: what Liriano does with the Blue Jays, what Hutchison does for the Pirates, what sort of player Ramirez turns into, and what the Pirates do with the money freed up from moving Liriano. It’s hard to say how it shakes out in the immediate future: I have no idea what the Pirates’ plans for Hutchison are down the stretch this year, nor do I have a good sense for how much of a project it would be to get him turned around.
This was not a trade that I expected the Pirates to make, and it’s one that has several levels to be considered; I suspect it’ll be a while before we really get a good handle on it.
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