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Thursday, June 02, 2005

Craig Wilson's Pending Return

So finally a bit of sanity comes to the Pirates. As Dejan mentions, Freddy Sanchez has become the everyday third basemen. In addition to removing the useless Wigginton, it now moves the team's hottest hitter, Mackowiak, into center to replace the equally useless Tike Redman. Spectacular. Sanchez's potential was long-known and many of us wondered why Lloyd was so loath to play Sanchez and Hill. Part of the problem is that Lloyd has always favored players who had the same style he did--tough, scrappy players. Sadly, these are not the most successful players. Ty "Full Contact" Wigginton won over McClendon with his propensity for running over catchers really for no apparent reason. For Freddy and Bobby to crack the lineup, they had to prove that they were equally scrappy and tough. After Sanchez got nine stiches in his hand by trying to save a game despite a shard of bat flying at him as well, he suddenly becomes the starter. Has Sanchez done anything differently than he has all season as of late? No. Has Wigginton's performance dropped. No, in fact he's collected many garbage-time homers. It took such an injury to Sanchez to finally catch Lloyds eye and enter the starting lineup. Lets hope Tike doesn't run into any catchers otherwise he may continue to suck at-bats away from Mack in center.

Assuming Wigginton and Tike stay on the bench where they belong (or better, the waiver wire) the Pirates will have a nice problem when Craig Wilson gets back. Who sits? Does Craig push Bay to center and Mack to 3B and Freddy to the bench? Does Daryle get the bench or some goofy platoon with Craig? Honestly, I don't see this problem coming to fruition. Craig won't be even swinging a bat for weeks. He'll still need a minor league rehab stint. By the time he comes back, it could be mid-July, which is, of course, right before the trading deadline. I would not be surprised if Craig's return coincides with the trade of our most expendable and marketable piece--Matt Lawton. Craig could slide into right with Bay in left and Mack in center and Restovich as the 4th outfielder. Lawton is making around $7.75 million this year, however some of that is covered by the Indians. After this year Lawton is a free agent, so the Pirates will surely ship him off to the highest bidder, likely for nothing more than an AAA or AA prospect. Lawton has been a solid player for us this season (if a bit clueless on the basepaths and in the outfield), but he is nothing that a revitalized, non-slumping Craig Wilson can't cover.

Other possible trade prospects include Jose Mesa who has a $4.5million option for next season that the Pirates can buy out for considerably less. He'll likely be shipped for anything the Pirates can get. Holding him until the end of the season would not be awful either, because his contract is fairly low. The club should only trade him if the return is anything meaningful. Its a given he won't be back next year, so I don't see any problem with dealing him for whatever A or AA spare part we can find and then using the rest of the season to groom Gonzo as closer. If he won't be around next year, why not pick up whatever we can get at the deadline rather than nothing at the end of the year.

One person who I can almost guarantee won't be traded is Mark Redman. He's still under contract for next year at the same $4.5million that he's making this year. This is, realistically, a bargain for a veteran who has proven to be a solid, anchor-type pitcher. Next year the Pirates will have Kip and Fogg entering their second arbitration years, making them expendable if the trade could net a solid bat for the middle of the lineup. Although next year will see Duke, Snell, (possibly) Gorzellany and Bullington ready for the rotation as well as the returns of Burnett and VanB (who may never be the same again after labrum surgery) competition will be high for rotation spots. Torres will be in his second year of arbitration and Meadows in his third, making the return of one, if not both, unlikely. With Ollie, Redman, and DWilliams virtually guaranteed to return, the glut of pitching arriving next year likely spells the end for Torres and/or Meadows as a non-tender as well as one of Wells or Fogg in a trade. Such a trade could even occur this year at the deadline with Duke and Snell both having superb AAA seasons thus far.

Lawton and Wells for a solid hitter like a Victor Diaz, David Wright, etc? I see something like this happening.



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