The response to the deal in Pittsburgh has been overwhelming favorable. One poll had 90 percent of the respondents approving the trade. The Pirates needed to make the trade a lot more than did the Braves. Aside from righthanded hitting Jason Bay, who led the team with 35 dingers, the leading home run hitters on the team last year were lefty Jeromy Burnitz and Jose Bautista, who both hit 16.
The Bucs havenít had a lefthanded power hitter to take advantage of PNCís short porch in right field since Brian Giles. That changes now.
Also, many in the ĎBurgh believe the Bucs won because they didnít have to give up one of their core young pitchers, like Paul Maholm, to get the deal done or center fielder Chris Duffy. Shortstop Brent Lillibridge had good numbers in the low minors, but at 23 it remains to be seen whether he can succeed in Double or Triple-A.
As far as the bullpen situation goes, Salomon Torres takes over. Heís proven to be a bit of a head case over the course of his career Ė he quit baseball altogether for four seasons before signing with the Pirates in 2002. Heíll be 35 in March and is a power pitcher with a good sinking fastball. His arm has less wear and tear than a normal 35-year-old because of the time off but it still makes you wonder how much longer heíll be able to bring the heat. He didnít show any signs of slowing down in 2006, leading the majors in games pitched with 94. Torres also converted 12 of 13 save opportunities in September. The only possible red flag there is that there was really no pressure on him. That will change this year.
As for Mike Gonzalez, he has great stuff, plenty of heart and is fearless. He also loses his focus at times and struggles with the strike zone. Heís usually either really good or really bad, sometimes in the same at-bat. Heís an injury risk, too, even if his elbow tendinitis isnít an issue. He wore a knee brace in 2005 for the last couple months. Donít get me wrong, though, when heís on heís one of the better pitchers around.
Wouldnít it be something if ex-Bucco and newly-acquired Braves hitter Craig Wilson hit more home runs than Adam LaRoche? Thatíd be a real kick in the pants to Pirates GM David Littlefield (I donít think it will happen as Wilson will platoon but you never know).
Relief pitchers who get a slight bump up in the Pittsburgh bullpen because of the deal include Torres (obviously), righty Matt Capps and lefties John Grabow and Damaso Marte. A darkhorse is Josh Sharpless, who has an excellent offspeed out pitch but struggled with his command in his short time with Pittsburgh.
All in all, this was a trade the Pirates had to make for their players Ė Jack Wilson and others had publicly lobbied for it, their fans Ė management had done little this winter other than re-signed Jose Hernandez for a third time, and for GM Littlefield, who is on the hot seat after five years of abject failure.
Posted by jtopper at 1/19/2007 2:54:00 PM