I'm a little behind the eight-ball on this one, but the Pirates made a flurry of roster moves this afternoon that are worth at least talking a little bit about even if I end up being the last person on the internet to weigh in on them. First up, they traded Luis Rico and Luis Santos to the Royals for Vin Mazzaro and Clint Robinson, then designated Matt Hague and Yamaico Navarro for assignment to make room for Mazzaro and Robinson. Then, they traded a PTBNL to Boston for Zach Stewart. Rico and Santos are international pitchers that haven't even made their US debuts yet; more than likely the Royals are just taking a flyer on two guys that they see some smidge of upside in for some roster space. Hague and Navarro are Hague and Navarro. Not much else worth saying on that front.
Robinson, Mazzaro, and Stewart are all fringey 4A guys right now that are all have some potential value but that probably won't amount to more than depth. Mazzaro was drafted by the A's and traded to KC for David DeJesus in 2010. He had a mid-minor-league career shift from sinkerballer to more of a hard thrower that saw a Double-A breakout for him in 2008, but he's never really been able to either strike batters out or miss bats in the big leagues. He's 26 now and out of options, which makes him a weird choice to add for rotation depth, which is what I've got him pegged as. I suppose that having a fastball that has some velocity and a past as a sinker-baller makes him a pretty solid target for the Jim Benedict/Ray Searage treatment, so it's possible that the Pirates just want to get him into camp and work with him and see if there's something there that other teams haven't seen yet,
Stewart is in a similar boat. He's most famous for the players that he's been traded for thus far in his career: the Reds drafted him and sent him to Toronto in the Scott Rolen trade, the Blue Jays sent him to the White Sox as part of the Edwin Jackson trade that netted them Colby Rasmus, and the White Sox sent him to the Red Sox for Kevin Youkilis. He got a ton of strikeouts in the low minors and jumped from High-A in 2008 to Triple-A in 2009, but he's kind of stagnated since then. In the low minors he was striking out more than a hitter an inning, but in the high minors his K/9 hovers around 7.0. In his brief big league stints he's gotten hit very hard and give up a ton of home runs (25 in 103 innings). He's apparently mostly a ground ball pitcher at this point. If "groundball pitcher with a good pedigree that's fallen on hard times" doesn't tell you why Zach Stewart is a Pirate now, you haven't been paying much attention to the Neal Huntington era.
That leaves Robinson, who's the most intriguing of the group. His career started late (he was drafted as a senior) and he hit the ball pretty well at every level of the minors, but he wasn't all that great in the low minors and as a result the Royals moved him through their system slowly. He didn't reach Triple-A until he was 26 and he made his big league debut last year at 27. Still, his minor league triple-slash line is .308/.382/.520 and 65 of his 110 minor league homers have come in the last three seasons. He's also a huge guy (6'5", 240), which means the Garrett Jones comparisons are inevitable here. He's only got four big league plate appearances, so it's impossible to really judge whether his offensive skill will translate to the big leagues, but the age at which he put up his big numbers in the upper minors makes me leery. There are a lot more Quadruple-A mashers that can't hack it in the big leagues than there are Garrett Joneses in the world. That said, Robinson doesn't strike out at an obscene rate and his walk rate is decent, so maybe there's something more to him than there is to the Brad Eldreds in the world. In the back of my mind there's a little voice that keeps saying, "Maybe the Pirates see something in Robinson and they're going to sell high on Garrett Jones this winter because let's face it, that dude's not hitting 27 homers in a season again and he might still fetch a nice trade return this winter," but that's probably nonsense and it's much more likely that he's around to provide depth.
And so that's the Pirates' big day of roster moves. It's hard to see how it's more than innocuous shuffling right now, but offseasons should be viewed as a full body of work and not judged in a vacuum. The winter meetings are next week, and when they're done we'll have a lot more context for the things that happened on Wednesday.