Reviewing The Jeff Clement/Jack Wilson/Ian Snell/Others Semi-Blockbuster

Going Away

Jeff Clement: You should all be familiar with the Clement story by now. Promising lefty power bat capable of drawing a walk who didn't hit in his extended big league audition. Drafted as a catcher but doesn't have the knees for the job. It's no coincidence that the reports on this trade are calling him a first baseman - that's his realistic long-term position. Clement has taken a marked step back at the plate in AAA this year, his OPS dropping by 260 points and his contact rate falling by nearly 8%, and at nearly 26 years old, his stock is the lowest it's ever been. Even so, there remains a good bit of potential in his bat, and a change of scenery that gets him out from behind the dish could be just what he needs to arrive as a sort of approximation of, I dunno, Ryan Garko. He very clearly didn't have a place here, which made him eminently tradeable, but he should get a shot with the Pirates.

Ronny :(edeno: If Ronny hadn't turned into a pile of crap overnight then we wouldn't have needed to make this trade in the first place. Cedeno has been as advertised in the field, but in all seriousness, his swing is the worst I've ever seen in the Major Leagues from a position player. The worst. His at bats have been painful to watch from the beginning, and he needed to get out of here and get a fresh start somewhere else in the worst way. Just a miserable four months with but a scattered handful of that-just-happened home runs.

Aaron Pribanic: 22 year old college arm struggling to miss bats in A-ball. He has a full repertoire, but it isn't fully developed, and his big asset at the moment is a heavy low-90s fastball that's allowed him to keep two-thirds of batted balls on the ground. Probable reliever long-term.

Nathan Adcock: 21 year old who will be judged unfairly by the nightmarish numbers he's put up in High Desert. Not much of a fastball - hangs out around 87-90 - but Baseball America has had good things to say about his curveball, which he used to great effect a year ago against both righties and lefties. The big question will be whether or not his breaking ball is able to sustain its success against more advanced competition. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure Adcock doesn't have much of a changeup yet, without which he is also a probable reliever long-term. But there's upside.

Brett Lorin: The prize of the three-headed pitching bounty, although you wouldn't know that from Neal Huntington's assessment.


"Brett has been noted by our scouts for his plus makeup, competitive nature and desire to win and succeed," said Huntington.

A 22 year old college arm having good success in the same A-ball rotation as Pribanic, Lorin has a live fastball that touches the mid-90s and what's been billed as a pretty tight and sharp curveball. As is the case with pretty much everyone at his level, his change is a work in progress, but his heater gives him an advantage over Adcock in terms of sticking in the rotation in the upper levels. Though by no means a top prospect, Lorin's a decent one, and the right sort of guy for a rebuilding organization to stockpile.

Coming Back

Jack Wilson: Aesthetic foil to Franklin Gutierrez, Wilson's a below-average bat with a glove that's a good bit above-average by any worthwhile measure. He is not a star, and at 31 there aren't a whole lot of useful years left in his career, but he's the sort of player I thought Ronny Cedeno was going to be, in that his offense/defense combination makes him a somewhat unappealing but still all-around average asset. He has an $8.4m club option for 2010, and while that isn't cheap, it isn't unreasonable, Pittsburgh is throwing in money, and this gives us a good 1+ season stopgap while the front office searches for a longer-term solution. It's worth considering, though, that we could just as easily turn around and sell him again. Wilson gives us security without tying our hands. He's a better player than people think he is, and a massive upgrade for as long as he's here.

Ian Snell: How this trade looks five years down the road will depend on how Snell handles the change. Snell was a good starting pitcher in 2006 and 2007, but he has since taken a huge step back despite no evident decline in repertoire. Between 2007 and 2009, Snell's strike rate dropped from 65% to 59% and his swinging strike rate dropped from 11% to 8%. Those are really significant red flags, but the factor you have to consider here is how much of that was due to Snell and the Pirates wanting little to do with each other. The Pirates famously called Snell's contract extension "a mistake", and for Snell's part, he asked to be demoted to AAA and then publicly stated his reluctance to be recalled. Snell was obviously unhappy in the Pittsburgh organization, which makes him both an intriguing acquisition and an enormous risk.

What's encouraging is that, upon ending up in AAA, Snell has gone on to recover his ability to throw strikes and miss bats. There is still a lot of talent in there, which is why so many teams were interested in his services. The only issue is that it's hard to depend on a full recovery for psychological reasons when the statistics look so bad. I am cautiously optimistic, but there is no guarantee that Snell will be able to get back to being a good starting pitcher in the Major Leagues. If he does, the team has club options for both 2011 and 2012. If he doesn't, he'll be gone by next fall at the latest. We'll see. Big gamble with big upside.

Money: I love money. Money can be exchanged for anything! Willie Ballgame could only dream of being so versatile.

Overall

Of the various possibilities, this was not the trade I was expecting, and my immediate reaction was that we gave up a lot for two potentially helpful but by no means spectacular players. And I still think that's true. Like Dave has said, Snell was most interesting as a buy-low candidate, but we didn't really buy low, and Wilson shouldn't have had too high of a cost. But while I'm surprised by the price we paid, and while I thought Zduriencik would be able to do better (now we have to wonder what happens with Wlad and Washburn), I want to make clear that nobody ripped anyone off here. We didn't take advantage of the Pirates, but at the same time they also didn't rob us blind, and both Wilson and Snell could occupy important roles in our run at the playoffs in 2010. Don't be misled by Wilson's mediocre bat. He's a decent player and a big upgrade. And Snell, though risky, was perhaps the most attractive change-of-scenery option in the league. Three years ago he had a better tRA+ than Felix.

An interesting trade that's going to be hotly debated, I'm sure. At the end of the day, though, we upgraded our team without giving up any potential stars, and while it's weird to see a team in our position trade prospects for veterans, that's an oversimplification. This isn't so much buying for 2009 as it is buying for 2010 and beyond, and it's by keeping that in mind that I'm able to keep from being particularly disappointed. Our organizational pitching depth is now even thinner than it was last night, but we've also improved at the upper levels, and that's worth a whole lot.

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