Bucs acquire Michaels, option Morgan
Speedy outfielder sent to Triple-A for more playing time
PITTSBURGH -- In a decision that seemed imminent, the Pirates optioned outfielder Nyjer Morgan down to Triple-A Indianapolis after the Pirates' 5-4 win over the Giants on Thursday.
As a corresponding move, the Pirates also acquired outfielder Jason Michaels in a trade with the Indians. With the addition of Michaels, the Pirates now have 38 players on their 40-man roster.
The decision to send Morgan down was necessary after it became clear that he would continue to be squeezed out of playing time due to the health and productivity of the Pirates' everyday outfielders. Prior to Thursday's game, the trio of Nate McLouth, Jason Bay and Xavier Nady led all Major League outfield combinations in nearly every significant offensive category.
"As we talked about coming out of Spring Training, Nyjer plays a role on the club that's an important role," general manager Neal Huntington said. "But overall, we want him to be more than that. We don't want him to be a role player. We want Nyjer to be an everyday big leaguer."
Since the start of the season, Morgan has made two starts and had 33 plate appearances. Though he sparked Thursday's come-from-behind win, the 27-year-old Morgan has just five hits so far this year.
Morgan will join an Indianapolis outfield already comprised of prospects Andrew McCutchen and Steve Pearce. And his presence will likely cut into the playing time of Kevin Thompson, who currently has a 14-game hitting streak.
"It's been hard because I'm a starter, but they've been hitting," said Morgan, who first came up to the Majors in September of last season. "I can't do nothing about that. That doesn't do me any good by sitting on the bench and watching. I'm a young player and I'm the type of guy that, the more I'm out there, the better I get. I'm looking at it as a positive, it's not a negative."
The move to send Morgan down likely would have come earlier if Thompson hadn't been slowed by wrist soreness that kept the Pirates from being able to call him up in late April. But when Michaels was designated for assignment by the Indians on Tuesday so the Tribe could make room for Ben Francisco, the Pirates were able to benefit from Cleveland's need to shake up its slumping offense.
"Jason is another tremendous presence in the clubhouse," Huntington said. "He has been around a winning environment. And he brings another Major League player to our bench that can give [manager] John [Russell] the ability to rest [the other outfielders]. Similar to the [Tyler] Yates situation, we had a player who was squeezed out on a team that had a lot of depth in that area and we were able to acquire him for a very, very reasonable fee."
While not giving an exact figure, Huntington said the Indians will be picking up the majority of Michaels' $2.15 million contract in exchange for a player to be named later.
Michaels, who hit .207 with nine hits in 57 at-bats for the Indians, has played parts of the last eight seasons in the Majors. A capable corner outfielder, he can also spell McLouth in center if needed.
The 32-year-old had been a platoon player with the Indians since last season. This year, he had started primarily against left-handed pitchers, making 11 starts in left and five in right. He is a lifetime .277 hitter.
Michaels is expected to be with the team prior to Friday night's series opener against Atlanta.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.