Sancehz and Wilson are both out of the lineup tonight with various, non-trade related injuries. Zach Duke and Yusmerio Petit take the mound at 9:40 tonight, in a game that will hopefully be much less disappointing than last night's.
No idea what to make of this, but DK just posted at the PBC blog that the Miguel Angel Sano investigation is over and he'll be "partially cleared," meaning that they say that he is who he says he is, but his age is "undeterminded." The Pirates, and everyone who's scouted him, seem to be sure he's 16, but prospects that are caught lying about their ages are suspended for a year. I have no idea how that applies to someone who's age is "undetermined." I'd assume he's in the clear if it's not directly proven that he's lied, but I don't honestly know. I'll post any updates I find this afternoon.
UPDATE (3:57)- DK's post (same link) is updated with all kinds of details, so I'd recommend you check it out. It reads to me like MLB found at least one indication that he was 17, not 16 as claimed (which isn't incongruous with what the Pirates found in their bone density test that placed him between 16 and 17), and is pressing him on admitting his true age because if it's found that he lied about his age at all, the US consulate won't grant him a visa and he won't be allowed into the United States.
The bottom of the fifth inning in this game felt kind of like what I imagine getting hit in the head with a sledgehammer feels like. Uh, metaphorically speaking of course.
Charlie Morton seemed to be cruising along after a rough first and a string of hits (keyed by Andrew McCutche and Garrett Jones' doubles and Ryan Doumit's home run) chased Danny Haren after five innings, making it his shortest and maybe even his worst start of the season. Then, Charlie Morton hit the wall, the game was tied at four in the blink of an eye. That was plenty to give me an awfully bad feeling about the remainder of the game, and Evan Meek, John Grabow, and Donnie Veal showed why, giving up five runs in two innings of work.
I suppose it's par for the course for a team to peter out after cross-country travel, a trade, and an emotional win yesterday, but through four and a half in this one, I thought we had something going.
Adjusted to show the actual final score. I was previously ignoring the two runs given up by Donnie Veal. Just keep reminding yourself how crappy Evan Meek look last year and how good he's looked this year. ... What do you mean he gave up two runs last night?!?
Awesome pitching matchup tonight as Charlie Morton goes up against Danny Haren, the best pitcher on earth in the first half of the season. Seriously, look at those numbers.
First pitch is at 9:40 and I'll be up for all of it, so stop by in the comments if you can.
Over the past couple weeks, with the suspicious handling of Freddy Sanchez and the rumors swirling around the Adam LaRoche trade (I'll get to both of these things in a bit), it's getting harder and harder to not at least address the question of whether or not the Pirates are making these moves to dump salary. It's easy to assume that they are and that it's happening because Bob Nutting is a skinflint owner who's always cut costs, but that ignores much of the work done since Nutting booted Kevin McClatchy, Dave Littlefield, and much of their front office in 2007.
We know the Pirates have spent millions on their facility in the Dominican, that they spent close to $10 million on the draft last year, and that they at least seem willing to do so this year (though we won't know for sure for about three weeks how this draft pans out). They've been cutting salary from the big league team, but so far only in deals that have been made to restock the farm system. The Nate McLouth and Nyjer Morgan trades certainly can't be viewed as salary dumps by rational people. Fans may not be crazy about the return on the Bay trade at the moment, but I think the same can be said for that move as well.
This post is a long one, so follow along after the jump for the rest of it .
First things first; I always thought Adam LaRoche kind of got a raw deal from the fans in Pittsburgh. Dave Littlefield essentially went out and added him to a 67-win team in 2007, then sold him to the fans as the guy that would put the team over the top. Most players in the league wouldn't have put that team over the top, and the backlash against LaRoche was never fair. The fact that most Pirate fans only pay attention to the team in April and May hasn't helped him either. I've always thought that LaRoche is a class act, and his exit interview with DK, along with his decision to stay on the bench after he got the news of the trade hasn't done anything to diminish that.
That said, the Pirates had no choice but to trade the guy. He's not the bat they need at first base and with his pending free agency, it's better to trade him than to get nothing for him. There was no chance the Pirates were going to be able to offer him arbitration and pull in a compensation pick, either. LaRoche is making $7 million this year and offering him arbitration would ensure that he'd make at least that next year. I don't think he'd get close to $7-8 million as a free agent, so he'd immediately accept and be back at far too great a price.
Of course, the Red Sox and everyone else in the league knows the same thing, and when coupled with LaRoche's recent slump, well, the return for him wasn't going to be overwhelming. You've probably heard by now that Argenis Diaz is a very good defender with a very bad bat. That's lead a lot of people to assume that he's going to have a career like Jack Wilson. Don't fall into that trap. At the age of 22, Diaz is hitting a terrible .253/.309/.310 in Double-A this year, and it's made worse by the fact that he'd spent a quarter season at the same level last year. He's young enough that he might pull it all together, but I'd be much more inclined to compare him to Tony Pena Jr. than Jack Wilson right now.
The way the Pirates are handling Diaz is telling, too. They're sending him to Triple-A because they want to keep Brian Friday at short in Altoona. My gut feeling here is that Diaz was acquired to plug the gap between Jack Wilson and whenever Friday/D'Arnaud/Mercer/Cunningham. With that being the case, they sent him to Triple-A figuring that if he's not going to hit, it doesn't matter where he plays. If he's more than a stopgap, he's either going to have improved dramatically or we're going to round in on 20 straight losing seasons.
Hunter Strickland is a much more interesting pickup, if only because of his size. He's got a middling fastball (I've seen it placed at 88-92), but he's a big guy at 6'5" and I'm guessing the Pirates hope that his arm grows into the rest of his body. If it does, he'd be quite a prospect because he seems to have great control. That's certainly not a sure thing, but he's at least worth keeping an eye on. The two players combined don't make for a great haul, but I think they do represent about the best we could've expected in return for a player like LaRoche.
The corresponding move to recall only Steve Pearce is interesting. Lastings Milledge is killing the ball in Triple-A, and he doesn't have much left to prove there. Still, the second he comes up, he becomes an every day player. It seems to me that the front office wants to give Pearce, Milledge, Brandon Moss, and Garrett Jones all a chance to play mostly every day and they've decided this is the best way to do it for now. I still don't think Jones can keep hitting at a level near to the way he's thumping now, but it'd be stupid to bench him until he cools off. Pearce certainly deserves a chance to get regular Major League at-bats before he's written off entirely, and Moss's OPS since May 12th is still around .850 (it was .840 before today) with four of his five home runs coming in July. I'd like to see Milledge with the Pirates, too, but I guess I can't really complain about this arrangement for now.
A full post with a run-down of all of the Adam LaRoche-related news is coming later tonight, but first let's talk about the awesome Pirate win this afternoon.
In one game, the Pirates hit FIVE home runs, including a walk-off by Brandon Moss, blew a three-run lead, and came back from a two-run deficit. And in celebration, Ramon Vazquez untucked his shirt at home plate, which almost certainly assures that he'll be beaned in September by some vengeance seeking Brewers reliever.
In the "huge performance" department for this game, there's of course Moss and his homer, plus Ryan Doumit for his two homers in the first three innings, Garrett Jones for a homer and two doubles, Andy LaRoche and Ramon Vazquez for big ground-rule doubles during the rally to tie the game in the fifth, and Joel Hanrahan, for picking up the mess that Paul Maholm left for him and nailing down the end of the fifth, sixth, and seventh innings with three strikeouts, two hits, and no walks. Great performances all around to get a much-needed series win from the Brewers.
There aren't many wins that are easy to get excited over in a season like this one for the Pirates, but this is certainly one of the ones that is.
Fellow FanHouser Ed Price is reporting that a trade is done. Will update with destination and return as word leaks out.
UPDATE: DK at the PG says speculation at PNC says the elder LaRoche is going to the Giants, though it's currently uncomfired. The PBC is crashing, though.
MORE OFFICIAL UPDATE (12:18): The Post-Gazette's website sucks, but DK just said on Twitter that LaRoche is going to Boston. Ed Price updated right before that to say that the Sox and Pirates had been discussing a deal, so it looks like another trade with the Red Sox.
SPECULATIVE UPDATE (1:07): People are asking me on Twitter if the return is Yeiper Castillo + PTBNL. I have no idea if that's actual the return, but I wouldn't be surprised if the return is something similar to that. Meanwhile, DK says that speculation (again unconfirmed) among scouts (same link as before to the PBC) is that Jack Wilson may be involved in something today as well.
ACTUAL UPDATE (1:12): WEEI in Boston says Argenis Diaz (SS) and Hunter Strickland (RHP) are the return from Boston.
FINAL (FOR NOW) UPDATE (1:44): I'll do a full post when I get home this evening, but this return strikes me as about right for LaRoche. He's going to be a free agent this off-season no matter what (no one is going to risk offering him arbitration and having him accept the offer) and to get a prospect with a good glove at shortstop (which is what Diaz is; all glove no bat) and a young pitcher with some potential is about as much as we can ask in return for a guy that's going to be a bit player in Boston for two months.
The Pirates and Brewers play at 12:35 today, but apparently all of the buzz is going to be focused on the rumor that Adam LaRoche may have played his last game as a Pirate.
Jeff Suppan and Paul Maholm are the pitchers in this one, which I think gives the Pirates a nice chance to win the series. If there is a trade this afternoon, I'll give it it's own thread up above.