This past December saw a bunch of new faces in baseball's Winter Meetings, perhaps none more important to meet than Neal Huntington, new head of one of baseball's most volatile deadline-deal feedlots.
As the new GM of the perennially second-division Pittsburgh Pirates, he inherited a team that was all-but-guaranteed to be selling talent by this time of the year. As the one-time guru of player development for the Cleveland Indians, he has cast a hard eye toward determining his assets and holes to be filled. With a farm system overpopulated with "organizational players" and "six-year minor-league free agents," according to a <i>USA Today</i> preseason report, the ledger has been busy already.
As we approach the critical few weeks of rumor, speculation, and deal-seeking leading up to the July 31st trading deadline, the process of restocking will likely begin in earnest.
The only players on the 40-man who
aren't nailed down? Perhaps Nate McLouth, Ryan Doumit, Matt Capps, and power
prospect Steve Pearce, returned to Triple-A after a short time watching from the
It's a desperate approach, though, and when closing time came each year, Littlefield often found his leverage destroyed and his options few. The resulting final-hour couplings were often tawdry and embarrassingly shallow in meaningful return. A sad summary follows:
2007: Adding useless junk to the garage.
· Acquired Matt Morris and his entire contract from Brian Sabean's Giants, inexplicably giving away $20 million of salary cap relief. Received no prospects.
· Helped the Cubs solve a positional logjam by acquiring Cesar Izturis. Received no prospects. Dumped Izturis at the end of the year. Received no compensation.
· Failed to trade Jack Wilson, despite surprising interest around the league.
2006: Four separate July 31st deals produce one useful player.
Unloaded the barely healthy Kip Wells to pitching-starved
· Bolstered the Mets' playoff hopes with crafty Roberto Hernandez and enigmatic Oliver Perez, in return for Nady. While Perez made this deal look foolish early, Nady has unexpectedly held up his end, and then some.
2005: The hot stove was cold.
· Traded away their starting right fielder, Matt Lawton, to the Cubs. This resulted in the dawning of the Pirates' Jody Gerut era. All 18 at-bats of it.
· Debuted top prospect Zach Duke to the majors, who showcased a 3-0 record and 0.87 ERA on July 27th. Sadly, his potential trade value may never again be as high.
2003: Oh the humanity!
· Cemented the Cubs' hot corner for a decade, giving Aramis Ramirez and Kenny Lofton free passes to the playoffs while taking on immobile strikeout machine Jose Hernandez and Bobby Hill, ne'er-do-well.
· Followed this up by passing Randall Simon through waivers to further bolster the Cubs' bench. Forced baseball-reference.com to engrave the name "Ray Sadler" and eight career at bats into its database, as a result.
Five years of deadline deals,
resulting in Freddy Sanchez, Jose Bautista, Xavier Nady, a potential reliever,
and a 2003 playoff run for the Pirates' major league affiliate in
The news is abuzz in
© 2008 stlcardinals.scout.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed.