I was shocked when I learned last night that the Pirates dealt Nate McLouth to Atlanta for three prospects
. Why, I wondered, would they trade their best overall player for minor leaguers? Why would they sign the guy to new contract this past winter, only to trade him before the season is half over? The team is hanging around .500 without Ryan Doumit, how does this make sense?
And then I started looking at the trade from a baseball viewpoint. McLouth had a great year last year, not a lot of 20hr/20sb guys out there, but look at his career numbers. He's a career .261 hitter. He's hitting .256 this year, right around his career average, and nowhere near the .276 he hit last year. Most of his homeruns were hit at PNC Park (not suprising), but how much of a factor did that short right field fence play? Andrew McCutchen, called up from AAA to take McLouth's place is just 22 years old, hitting .303 with 10 stolen bases, and is by all indications a better centerfielder. The Bucs got two of Atlanta's top prosepects, plus a pitcher who is probably ready to pitch in the Majors.
This trade indicates that the Pirates are building to be a contender in the long term, and not just playing for .500 this year. Time will tell if it plays out the way we all would like, but this was a baseball move, and not a salary dump.