Friday, July 12, 2013

McLouth trade (finally) paying off

By Jeff

One of the most frustrating things about trades in Major League Baseball is that it sometimes takes years to figure out if a trade worked out for your team or not. A perfect example of this is the Nate McLouth trade of 2009.

McLouth was coming off a career year with the Pittsburgh Pirates. After a few years of toiling as bench player, McLouth won the center fielder job and became an All-Star that year. He finished with a career-high 26 home runs, .276 average and 23 steals. The breakout year earned him a three-year, $15.75 million extension with the Buccos. The extension gave Pirates fans hope that they were serious about building around their young players.

The Pirates then traded him in June of 2009 to the Atlanta Braves, which caused some outrage from fans. I admit, my immediate reaction was anger. Here was a player that it seemed had the potential to be real good player for the Bucs, and the organization moved him for three players I had never heard of in Gorkys Hernandez, Charlie Morton and Jeff Locke. It seemed like the typical Pirates salary dump that Pirates fans had grown accustomed to over the years.

I reached out to my friend at Baseball America when it happened to try and gain an understanding/hope about the trade. I didn't receive much hope. He told me Hernandez was a light-hitting center fielder, Morton could maybe be a No. 4 or 5 starter and Locke would be lucky to make it as a starter in the big leagues. It was not an encouraging conversation.

The trade was somewhat forgotten over the years because McLouth was one of the worst players in the league for the Braves. He never came close to replicating the 26 homers from 2008 or broke .230 in either of his two full seasons with the Braves.

On the Pirates side of things, we saw all of 26 plate appearances out of Hernandez in a Pittsburgh uniform. He was traded last season in the Gaby Sanchez deal.

Morton has been a roller coaster ride. He was one of the worst starters in the league in 2010 with a 7.57 ERA and 12 losses. He then decided it would benefit him to try his damndest to replicate Roy Halladay's deliver, and it worked wonders! Morton came back in 2011 and had an ERA of 3.83 in 29 starts. His 2012 was cut short by injury, but he has come back in 2013 and become a reliable No. 4 or No. 5 starter.

Then there is Locke. He had tryouts with Pirates in 2011 and 2012 that showed no promise. He had the Pittsburgh media and fans saying he could not be a Major League pitcher. Well, Locke is proving us all wrong. Preseason injuries and a solid spring training gave Locke a chance and he took full advantage. He hasn't given up more than three runs in a start since mid-April and will be an All-Star this season with a 2.15 ERA. People who look at those advanced stats will say he it playing above himself, and that may be true, but for right now he is team's best starter and has made the Pirates a winner in the McLouth trade.

It only took four years...

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