Grabow and Gorzelanny to the Cubs for Kevin Hart, Jose Ascanio and Josh Harrison

The dismantling of the Pirates continues today, as Tom Gorzelanny and John Grabow have been sent to the Cubs for Kevin Hart, Jose Ascanio, and Josh Harrison. I think that the immediate reaction to this trade probably depends on how you evaluate Tom Gorzelanny at the moment. If you see him as a 26-year-old who’s found himself in Triple-A and will eventually be an effective big league starter, the trade probably sees him as a wash at best. I’m not sure about that though; I’ve tended to think of Gorzo has a pitcher who’s lost his stuff and managed to evolve into someone that can get Triple-A hitters out. I haven’t seen him pitch for Indy at all, but in both his call-up last year, his stint in the pen this year, and some write-ups Azibuck did of him on Bucs Dugout, I’ve gotten the feeling that his fastball isn’t coming back and he’s a bottom of the rotation guy at best at this point in his career.

My instinct is to break this trade down into two parts; Hart for Gorzo and Ascanio/Harrison for Grabow. Hart, like Gorzo, is 26 and like Gorzo, he’s put up nice Triple-A numbers and like Gorzo, I’m not certain how well those numbers are going to translate to the majors. He’s looked good in a few starts/relief appearances with the Cubs this year, but check out his peripherals before his starts today: 6.6 BB/9 and 3.7 K/9. The minor league numbers indicate there might be more there and I’d rather see him in the rotation than Virgil Vasquez (which is where he’ll be) because I think his stuff is probably better than VV, but I’m not sure he’s an upgrade over what Gorzelanny potentially offered. Of course, I’m not sure because the team has played Gorzo incredibly close to the vest. We still don’t know if he was hurt last year and how or if that affects his ceiling. Huntington does know those things, presumably, so he’s working from a wider knowledge base than we are.

The second part of the trade, Josh Harrison and Jose Ascanio, is also tough to evaluate because of Grabow’s pending status as a Type A free agent (according to MLB Trade Rumors’ rankings). He’s currently making $2.3 million, so in order to cash in on the two compensatory picks his current team will have to offer him arbitration and he’d have to turn it down and sign somewhere else. The twist is that Grabow will also be armed with the knowledge that he’s a Type A, which makes him a less desirable target on the open market because honestly, who’s going to give up a first round pick to sign John Grabow? I wouldn’t be surprised at all to hear he accepts arbitration, especially if this winter’s market is as depressed as last winter’s.

So in return for a solid lefty set-up man and the vague and distant promise of either keeping him for another year or getting two draft picks for him, we get Josh Harrison and Jose Ascanio. Harrison was a sixth round pick out of Cincinnat last year and he killed the ball in the Midwest league this year, hitting .331/.377/.479, but he did that as a 21/22-year old in A-ball. He’s also very small (5’8″), and looks like a guy without a position, as he’s seen time at third, second, left field, and DH this year. Still, he’s got some speed (26 steals in 36 tries) and he doesn’t seem to strike out at all (only 55 Ks in 683 minor league PAs). If he can find a position, he might be a great pickup.

Ascanio might be the guy that makes or breaks this trade for the Pirates. After some mixed results in the Braves system, he finally seemed to put everything together, first as closer for the Iowa Cubs last year and especially as a starter this year. He’s only 24 and he apparently has good stuff. He’ll likely end up in the bullpen in the long run but I think his stats as a starter in Iowa this year (3.16 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 8.2 K/9, and 3.2 BB/9 in 12 starts, as he’s spent some time in the Cubs’ pen as well) are really interesting and make it worth a shot to keep him there for a while.

This trade doesn’t exactly blow me away like yesterday’s two deals did, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad trade for the Pirates. A lot of it hinges on Gorzelanny, and I’m not at all certain he’ll ever approach his 2007 numbers again. In the end, the Pirates swapped out Gorzo and Grabow for two guys that are certainly more interesting than they are in the long-run, plus they picked up an arm to plug into the big league rotation for now. I don’t exactly love this trade, but I can’t say I don’t like it.

Pat Lackey

About Pat Lackey

In 2005, I started a WHYGAVS instead of working on organic chemistry homework. Many years later, I've written about baseball and the Pirates for a number of sites all across the internet, but WHYGAVS is still my home. I still haven't finished that O-Chem homework, though.