Pittsburgh Pirate cast-off, Freddy Sanchez
They read like a litany of shame: Brian Giles, Jason Bay, Aramis Ramirez, Jay Bell, Jeff King, Jason Kendall, Jason Schmidt, Jack Wilson, Freddy Sanchez, Jeff Suppan, Kenny Lofton, John Grabow, Daryle Ward, Sean Casey, Randall Simon.
Just some of the many established players involved in an annual salary purge by the formerly hapless Pittsburgh Pirates.
With the exception of Brian Giles (who was traded for Perez and Bay) and Jeff Suppan (who was traded for Sanchez), the Pirates usually got little of value in return.
Such deals served to anger the fan base and helped make Pittsburgh an annual laughingstock. Fans would repeatedly phone the sports call-ins and demand, "Tell me again who it was that we got in that deal."
This year, fans have been treated to a fundamentally sound, winning ballclub. The city is abuzz with excitement at seeing a competitive team sporting black and gold during baseball season that has nothing to do with Pittsburgh Steelers' summer camp in Latrobe.
In a recent interview with Sheldon Ingram, team President Frank Coonelly spoke enthusiastically about being "buyers" rather than "sellers."
"We've said since the day I got here that we look forward to the day where we approach the trade deadline, looking to add and we're there, now," Coonelly gushed. "Neal [Huntington, Pirates' G.M.] is out aggressively looking at the market and seeing if there are players out there that won't cost us the future of this organization."
A NEED FOR CAUTION
Pirate fans will wince at recalling a series of questionable deals made by Larry Doughty the last time they fielded a winning team.
In one such transaction, veteran left-hander Zane Smith was acquired from the Montreal Expos for a package of players that included a young prospect named "Moises Alou," who went on to have a spectacular career that ended after the 2008 season.
Smith helped them to capture a couple of division titles but was out of baseball by July 1996.
THE RUMOR MILL
The Pirates can ill afford to repeat similar mistakes. Not now, if ever.
Rumors of who's available to interest the Pirates are varied. Pirate announcer Greg Brown indicated during the Cubs series that Aramis Ramirez and also first baseman Carlos Pena have been bandied about.
However, Brown stopped short of confirming any team interest in either player. Pena's 17 homers might fit in the Pirates' power-hungry lineup, but, his anemic .225 average and 88 strikeouts in 97 games certainly won't.
Ramirez would be a right-handed power bat the team covets (Pedro Alvarez would be shifted across the diamond to first), but Ramirez is a free agent at the end of the year, and that wouldn't bode well for a trade back to where it all began for him.
There's also a matter of a no-trade clause, which would translate to increased spending all the way around for Huntington.
Ideally, the sort of player(s) the Pirates are seeking would be those signed to long term contracts or those who are signable at a reasonable amount of money, since the team has pour most of its fiscal resources into signing amateur talent.
No more has-been hangers-on, either. The club still has a nasty taste left in its mouth from past deals with the likes of Derek Bell and Jeromy Burnitz.
One Cub who could possibly interest the Bucs is Reed Johnson, currently batting a crisp .328, just four home runs and 22 RBI, but a .922 OPS (on-base plus slugging).
Johnson is a right-handed bat, plays the corner outfield slots and could even give you an occasional game in center-field. He's not a home run hitter but has solid line drive power.
The Cubs are starved for pitching and Pittsburgh has a glut of capable arms.
DREAMING A LITTLE MORE
A player who might be a little on the pricey side to sign long-term would be Minnesota's Michael Cuddyer, an AL All-Star, a right-handed power bat that not only could be the permanent answer in right but also brings experience at every position with exception of catcher, pitcher and shortstop.
He's sailing along at .298, 13 HR, 43 RBI and even has stolen seven bases in eight attempts. Minnesota also needs pitching.
Former Chicago White Sox third baseman, Josh Fields, one of the last players cut in spring training has been tearing up the Pacific Coast League at .365, 11 HR, 45 RBI and an astounding 1.103 OPS for the Colorado Springs Sky Sox.
Manager Clint Hurdle could sure use that kind of right-handed pop at the moment.
It could be worth bringing back Eric Hinske, as well. While he's a lefty hitter, he does own a .261 B.A., with 8 HRs, 21 RBI, and a .731 OPS. Additionally, he can offer help at both infield and outfield corners.
Former San Diego Padre Kevin Kouzmanoff is ripping up the PCL in Sacramento, hitting .324, six HR, 32 RBI and a .983 OPS. Kouz has ex-Detroit Tiger Scott Sizemore and ex-Pirate Andy LaRoche in his way at the major league level, and Hurdle could use a big right-handed stick at third.
Any way you look at it, the pickin's are rather lean in the ideal price-range. Coonelly and Huntington are savvy and methodical baseball minds. They won't be making moves just for the sake of making them.
The two men know that a few folks are due back from the DL, too and that will add much-needed offensive help. Look for the Pirates to drive a hard bargain.