Now that Major League Baseball’s trade deadline has passed, how well did the Pittsburgh Pirates make out in the wheeling and dealing they performed that brought Aramis Ramirez back to the Buccos and Michael Morse, J.A. Happ, Joakim Soria, and Joe Blanton to the ‘Burgh?
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If J.A. Happ‘s debut for the team that likes to raise the Jolly Roger following a victory is any indication, then Happ has plenty of work to do. On August 4, Happ got the start at PNC Park against the Cubs and surrendered four runs eight hits in just 4 1/2 innings of work. He did strike out six batters but he took the loss in the Bucs 5-0 decision. Prior to switching colors to the Black and Gold, Happ was playing in Seattle where as a Mariner, he won four games in 2015 while dropping six decisions. His ERA was 4.64 and had 82 strikeouts in 108 2/3 innings.
Another pitcher switching leagues is Joe Blanton. Coming over from the red hot Kansas City Royals, Blanton joins the staff of the Pirates that is also playing extremely well this season and stays on the heals of the front running St. Louis Cardinals. Hoping to strengthen the Buccos moundsmen, Blanton brings a 2015 record of 2-2 but has a career mark of 87-91 that saw him lose 14 games in 2013 for the Los Angeles Angels while winning only twice. Blanton’s best season was in 2006 with the Oakland A’s when he finished 16-12.
A third pitcher joining Pittsburgh is who will be expected to bring more relief to the bullpen. Also coming over from the American League, Joakim Soria was a Detroit Tiger that was one of that team’s casualties as they clean house in a season that has gone south for the Tigers.
Soria’s career began with the Kansas City Royals in 2007 before moving to the Texas Rangers and then to the Tigers in 2014. With 18 saves last season, 17 of them in Texas, Soria had saved 23 this year before becoming a Bucco. There is no doubt he will be a nice partner in crime to Mark Melancon in Pittsburgh’s bullpen.
With Pedro Alvarez being provided a chance to improve on his poor season of 2014, this year has not gone well thus far for the former feared slugger. With just 15 home runs to date and a batting average hovering around .232, it was thought that a move to first base might help Alvarez find his game again. But it’s been another disappointing campaign so in comes one Michael Morse via trade with the Miami Marlins.
Morse is a big first baseman at 6’5″, 245 pounds and goes by the nickname “The Beast.” Morse’s carer began with the Seattle Mariners and since 2005, he hast played with several teams. his biggest production for round trippers came in 2011 with the Washington Senators when Morse smacked 31 homers with 95 runs batted in. However, he also struck out 126 times.
In 11 big league seasons, he has 103 home runs and with the world champion San Francisco Giants last year, Morse had an average of .279 while hitting 16 four baggers along with 61 RBIs. Beginning with the Marlins this season, Morse’s average dropped to .213 and he had hit just four home runs. But the hope is that he will be able to provide more production and consistency at first base than has Alvarez produced.
Finally there is the trade that brought Aramis Ramirez back to the Pirates. Originally a Bucco at the start of his career, Ramirez played his first 5 1/2 seasons in Pittsburgh before surprisingly being traded to the Chicago Cubs on July 23, 2003. Prior to the trade, Ramirez had an outstanding year in 2001 when he hit an even .300 while punching out 34 home runs and scoring 112 RBIs. He added 40 doubles and crossed the plate 83 times. He failed to follow that season up with another solid campaign as his average dropped to .234 and his home run production reduced by 16.
In 2003 he was hitting .280 and had 12 round trippers before Pittsburgh management made the decision to rid themselves of Ramirez’s $3 million salary and sent him packing to the Chicago Cubs for Jose Hernandez, Bobby Hill, and Matt Bruback who never became household names in Pittsburgh. As for Ramirez, he would have home run seasons of 36, 31, 38, 26, 27, 25, and 26 again with the Cubs from 2004 until he became a Milwaukee Brewer in 2012. Following the trade of 2003, Ramirez homered 15 more times for Chicago that season. Now a Pirate again, Ramirez was batting .247 with the Brew Crew with 11 homers before returning to his roots.
With the handful of trades comes the question will it improve the Buccos? They are desperately trying to catch the first place St. Louis Cardinals who as of August 7 are six games ahead of the second place Pirates. Pittsburgh is heading for a third straight wild card appearance in the playoffs, currently safely 3 1/2 games ahead for the first entry with the Chicago Cubs 1/2 game ahead for the second wild card spot.
Looking back in history, there have been many trades Pittsburgh has made during the season before the trading deadline so one might ask, what are some of the more memorable transactions that took place while baseball was still being played?
How many Pittsburgh Pirates fans remember the names Ryan Vogelson and Armando Rios? Vogelson came to the Pirates in 2001 along with Rios in a ridiculous trade that saw the Buccos sending pitcher Jason Schmidt and outfielder John Vander Wal to the San Francisco Giants.
While Schmidt would go on to a stellar career with San Francisco that saw him go to three All-Star games as well as win 18 games in 2004. As for the two gifts Pittsburgh received in return, Vogelson never found much success with the Pirates and moved to the Giants in 2011 where he remains. Rios had an average season in 2003 for Pittsburgh batting .264 but left the next season to play with the Chicago White Sox which became his final season in the major leagues.
Back in 1997 the Pittsburgh Pirates had a promising young pitcher named Ricardo Rincon. Two years later he was traded to the Cleveland Indians for Brian Giles. All Giles did was smack 30+ home runs for four straight seasons with the Buccos, 39 in 1999.
How about 1987? That year, Pittsburgh traded with the St. Louis Cardinals sending Tony Pena over in exchange for Andy Van Slyke, Mike LaValliere, and Mike Dunne, all solid contributors once they donned Pirates uniforms.
One trade that 1970’s Pirates fans did not like and perhaps some Pittsburgh brass regretted making was the trade of Willie Randolph, Doc Ellis, and Ken Brett to the American League’s New York Yankees for Doc Medich. Ellis was past his prime, and Ken Brett was a seasoned veteran, but Randolph went on to become a star infielder. As for Medich? He played just one season in the ‘Burgh and lost 11 games while winning just eight.
In the 1980s it was the trade of Jose DeLeon from Pittsburgh to the Chicago White Sox that brought Bobby Bonilla to the Pirates to team up with slugger Barry Bonds and get the Bucs to the doorstep of the world series in 1992, their final year of winning until 20 years later when Clint Hurdle turned the team around.
“We finished last with you, we can finish last without you” Branch Rickey to Ralph Kiner
Finally there was the well publicized trade of June 4, 1953 trade of home run hitting machine Ralph Kiner to the Chicago Cubs. Pirates executive Branch Rickey and Kiner were at odds over the contract Kiner had signed and to rid himself of the problem, Rickey sent Kiner packing along with Joe Garagiola, George Metkovich, and Howie Pollet to Chicago and in return received Bob Addis, Toby Atwell, George Freese, Gene Hermanski, Bob Schultz, Preston Ward, and $150,000 in cash. According to the media, some of Rickey’s last words to Kiner were, “We finished last with you, we can finish last without you.”