Last night, Pittsburgh G.M. Neal Huntington hammered the final nail in the coffin that was the surprisingly good 2008 Pirates outfield, sending center fielder Nate McLouth to the outfield-hungry Braves for three prospects. McLouth's OPS has dipped a bit from last season but at .819, it's still a good deal higher than Braves regulars Garret Anderson's .668 or Jeff Francouer's .634 rate. The deal easily upgrades Atlanta's offense and keeps them in the discussion for the N.L. East race.
But is this deal a win-win situation? Instead of examining the prospects that the Pirates got in the deal (pitchers, Jeff Locke and Charlie Morton, and outfielder Gorkys Hernandez), let's look at the young man who instantly becomes the hottest prospect around and pushes Matt Wieters' name off the tip of our collective tongues: Andrew McCutchen. The young stud center fielder was hitting over .300 and slugging almost .500 for Triple-A Indianapolis this year, stole 10 bases, and accumulated five outfield assists in 49 games. That's a lot of tools! He's been part of the Pittsburgh plan since being drafted four years ago and forgoing his ticket to the University of Florida.
Most importantly, the money line says it's time:
We've also reached the point in the year where it's unlikely that McCutchen will be named a "Super Two" player. Since McCutchen played a few weeks the year in the minors, the Pirates would've controlled his rights the next six years after this one no matter what, but the 17% of players between two and three years of service time with the most service time also become "Super Two" players and get an extra year of arbitration. That could have cost the Pirates millions of dollars. Now that we're in late May, it's unlikely McCutchen will be one of those players.
Sounds like kismet! Perfect timing for the Pirates to make the McLouth trade, nab some tidy prospects, and free up a spot for McCutchen to spread his wings and fly! Everybody's happy, right?
By trading center fielder Nate McLouth, their best and most marketable player, to the Atlanta Braves, the Pirates have said they have no chance of winning this season, a stance that goes against what they had been saying.
It was a shocking and unexpected trade. McLouth, 27, was viewed as a cornerstone building block of the franchise. Not only does he lead the team in home runs and runs batted it, he led in both categories last season and won a Gold Glove for defensive excellence.
His trade is bound to have a pronounced negative impact on the clubhouse, much like last season when the team collapsed after the July trades of Xavier Nady and Jason Bay.
Oh, Bob Smizik, you codger. Clubhouse, schmubhouse. I'm sorry Huntington traded away all the convivial white outfielders. It's McCutchen time!