The Pirates have just completed their second trade of the day, dealing both of the players in the middle infield for prospects.
The second deal involved sending second baseman Freddy Sanchez, the subject of numerous trade rumors this year, to the Giants for Double-A right-handed starter Tim Alderson.
Unlike the other trade carried out by the Pirates today, they won't be sending any cash with Sanchez.
Sanchez was the the Pirates' biggest trade chip this year. He is a former batting champion (2006) who plays a solid defensive second base.
As a way above average hitter for a second baseman, Sanchez is able to provide a .300-plus batting average but virtually no home run power. The most homers he's ever hit in a season was 11 in 2007. He's more or less the NL version of Placido Polanco.
Sanchez does have good doubles power, as he led the league in doubles the year he won the batting title.
Sanchez is having a strong resurgence after an injury-related down year in 2008. Injuries are indeed the knock on Sanchez, and at 31 years old, it's unlikely he'll get any less brittle. However, the Giants only need him to stay healthy for the remainder of this year.
San Francisco will most likely get an extra year out of Sanchez, due to his $8.1 million option that will vest for next year if he reaches 600 plate appearances.
Picking up Sanchez will help the Giants bolster their only remaining area of weakness after the Ryan Garko trade. They're now looking like pretty solid contenders in the NL.
A top pitching prospect, Alderson has been rated as either the third- or fourth-best prospect in San Francisco's system by just about everyone.
Considering that their top two prospects are Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner, that's a high honor. Alderson was actually ranked ahead of Pablo Sandoval on most preseason prospect lists.
Drafted by the Giants out of high school in the first round of the 2007 draft, Alderson made fast work of the low minors. He's currently playing solid baseball in Double-A at a very young age for that level, with a 3.47 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and only five home runs surrendered in 72.2 innings.
Alderson is not a strikeout pitcher, but he has a knack for keeping the ball on the ground when it's put into play and rarely walks anyone. He is said to have masterful control, as he has only walked 14 batters this season. Despite his lack of strikeouts, his lack of walks gives him a very strong K/BB ratio of 3.29 in Double-A.
Scouts are extremely high on Alderson, as are stats-oriented writers. Scouting-based Baseball America ranked him as the 60th best prospect in all of baseball, while stats-based analyst Keith Law ranked him as the 26th best. John Sickels has him as an A- prospect, and midseason rankings all have him in the 25-50 range.
Standing at 6'7", Alderson is the definition of "projectible frame."
Alderson throws an average fastball to go along with a plus-plus curve that most think will be his out pitch. He also throws a two-seamer and is developing a changeup to make his fastball look better.
The Pirates usually develop their pitchers by making them lean on their fastball at the low levels of the minors in order to refine that pitch. Expect Alderson's minor league numbers to regress as a result, similar to the way Jeff Locke and Bryan Morris' have.
But don't panic too much—just remember that he's learning to throw a better fastball. The minor leagues are about development, not wins and losses.
Most everyone sees Alderson as a future middle-of-the-rotation starter at the least, with a ceiling as a No. 2 starter if his changeup comes along.
This trade has had the unique effect of angering both Pirates fans and Giants fans, despite the fact that both teams look to be better off for it.
The Giants shore up the only weakness the team had left on the diamond, so they're now looking like real contenders for a World Series title. It was probably worth one highly regarded prospect to get them there.
Meanwhile, the Pirates acquired a player that's instantly one of their top prospects. Brad Lincoln may turn out to be the better major league pitcher, but Alderson is most definitely the better prospect at the moment. He, Pedro Alvarez, and Jose Tabata make up the core of what's shaping up to be a great farm system.
I'd give the slight edge of this trade to the Pirates. Long-term, Pittsburgh is the definite winner here, but San Francisco had a different goal.