Failure to deal relievers at deadline proves costly for Pirates

When the Pirates passed on Matt Wieters and chose Daniel Moskos in the 2007 amateur draft, fans lashed out with an amount of outrage that I have never seen. It is rare in Major League Baseball for a fan base to react so passionately to a draft pick, but the choice was so absurd that even casual fans were left fuming. It did not help that the decision appeared to be financially motivated, as Wieters was expected to demand a signing bonus of nearly $10 million. On July 31, Dave Littlefield likely sealed his fate when he acquired Matt Morris. Many were dumbfounded, as the Pirates committed eight figures of salary to a declining veteran just months after passing on Weiters.
These decisions were dreadful, but there was another that has mostly flown under the radar. While Littlefield spent July 31 attempting to send Jack Wilson to Detroit and ultimately adding more frustration to the pitching staff, he neglected a more important task. On July 25, the Padres acquired three prospects for mediocre reliever Scott Linebrink. This deal illustrated the value the league placed on experienced relief pitching. Several other teams were searching for bullpen help, and the Pirates had three of the best relievers available.
Shawn Chacon was surprisingly effective early in 2007. Through July 31, he had an ERA of 3.79 and sported a record of 4-2. He was a steadying arm in what was a very shaky bullpen. Damaso Marte had been even better, as the most dominant left-handed reliever in Major League Baseball. He had an ERA of 1.38 and a WHIP of 0.95. Salomon Torres had struggled in 2007 with an ERA of 5.00 and several blown saves. However, his success in the past meant Torres could bring some value in a trade.
There is no way to be sure what offers were available to Littlefield as the trade deadline approached. However, it seems safe to assume that he had options to deal his relievers. He chose to keep each one. Chacon, Marte and Torres responded by posting ERAís of 4.50, 4.97 and 6.48 respectively the rest of the way. The Pirates had the opportunity to sell high while Chacon and Marte were outperforming their career numbers, but instead waited as those statistics returned closer to what one would expect. Now Shawn Chacon is expected to leave as a free agent, and the Pirates will receive absolutely nothing in return.
A smart way for the Pirates to improve would be to trade veteran relievers (who are often overvalued in the league) for hitters. The performances of relievers are much more variable from year to year, and it is much easier to build a successful bullpen than a potent offense. But at this yearís deadline, Littlefield demonstrated his belief that the Pirates were close to contending. He kept his bullpen intact and added a fifth starter for 20% of the teamís payroll. Two months later, the Pirates finished another season in last place. Failing to unload even one of his relievers was a costly mistake by Littlefield.

8 Responses to “Failure to deal relievers at deadline proves costly for Pirates”

  1. lisa gray Says:

    well, who knows what was being offered… IF anything
    after all, the astros got ty freaking wigginton, a guy yall DFA’d for dan wheeler
    then again, that WAS tim purpura, so who knows…

  2. Pizza Cutter Says:

    I remember at the deadline thinking “What exactly are they saving them for?” Sure, no GM wants to be seen as giving up, but it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that there would be no playoff joy in Pittsburgh this year. They were in demand (relievers having a decent season always are) and would have fetched a nice price from someone. Maybe that’s why Littlefield is now your ex-GM. Enjoy Neal Huntington. We in Cleveland will miss him.

  3. Horatio Says:

    It’s too bad that a great franchise like the Pirates is led but literally the dumbest man is baseball: Littlefield.
    What a moron.

  4. Horatio Says:

    but = by

  5. Newmie Says:

    Littlefield will be remembered as much for the moves he didn’t make as for the ones he made. Huntington has one of the best jobs in baseball. How can he not “seem” successful. This team needs to be blown up and I hope he can put all the pieces back together.

  6. Ray Says:

    Committing 20% of a team’s payroll to a pitcher whose career is in a freefall was the single stupidest baseball decision I can remember. In my 37+ years as a Pirates fan I’ve never been so stunned by a move made by the team. Of course, after the Moskos-Wieters fiasco, I should have seen it coming.
    P.S. I’ve been a regular reader of this site throughout the season. Thank you, and here’s to hoping you guys keep up the outstanding work!

  7. Phillies Says:

    “mediocre reliever Scott Linebrink”
    Well is not, mediocre is what you have all over Pittsburgh.
    Look at his numbers with the Padres, look at the road numbers, since u gonna mention the petco effect.
    retarded m-ther f-cker

  8. Matt Bandi Says:

    I admit that “mediocre” probably was not the best adjective to describe Linebrink. He has been a pretty steady reliever the past few years. But since you mention his home/away splits, here are his 2007 numbers with San Diego before the trade:
    Home: 3-0, 25.2 IP, 2.10 ERA, 2.14 K/BB, 1.4 HR/9, 0.90 WHIP
    Away: 0-3, 19.1 IP, 6.05 ERA, 1.43 K/BB, 2.33 HR/9, 1.66 WHIP

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