Moves expected to help Bucs long term
Trades bring big bat in Clement and strong arm in Alderson
SAN FRANCISCO -- When the emotions -- both in the clubhouse and among a fan base craving for the day when there is no longer a constantly revolving door in the Pirates' clubhouse -- of Wednesday's deals subside, general manager Neal Huntington believes he has quite the package of new organizational additions to show off.
Though the Pirates said goodbye to Jack Wilson, who was to be a free agent after the season, Ian Snell, who had worn out his welcome in Pittsburgh and Freddy Sanchez, the organization acquired five young players from Seattle and one top pitching prospect from San Francisco within the span of about seven hours.
All six, Huntington believes, could have a long-term impact on the club.
Though shortstop Ronny Cedeno is the only one to immediately join the big league club, it's first baseman Jeff Clement and right-hander Tim Alderson who, on the surface, appear to be the jewels in the two deals. Clement was one of five players acquired from the Mariners, while Alderson was dealt straight up in the trade that sent Sanchez to the Giants.
Alderson was ranked as the Giants' fourth-best prospect coming into the season and had gone 7-2 with a 3.65 ERA with 66 strikeouts in 18 starts combined for Class A San Jose and Double-A Connecticut. And in listening to Giants general manager Brian Sabean speak during Freddy Sanchez's introductory press conference Wednesday afternoon, it was easy to tell that Alderson was not a prospect that was easy for the Giants to deal.
"We gave up a good prospect," Sabean said during an impromptu press conference with Sanchez dressed in a Giants uniform. "But that's the price of doing business.
Alderson was the 22nd overall pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft and had already ascended to Double-A this season despite being just 20 years old. For those who have doubted the Pirates' return in recent trades, Alderson is arguably as close to an elite prospect as any that the Pirates have received.
"He's really an advanced pitcher for someone 20 years of age," Huntington said. "Tim can recognize swings. He knows when to add and subtract. He can throw his breaking ball and changeup for a strike in any count. The fastball velocity, he locates it in and out very well. He brings a lot to the table that successful Major League starters have."
Huntington described the negotiations with the Giants as lengthy and cumbersome as both sides worked through a number of different scenarios. Huntington said the Pirates identified Alderson early as someone they coveted.
"We feel great about the process," said Huntington, We feel like this is a good baseball trade for both sides."
The Pirates and Giants exchanged no money in the deal.
Last year, which was Alderson's first full professional season, he was named MiLB.com's Class A Advanced Starting Pitcher of the Year after going 13-4 with a 2.79 ERA in 26 starts. He made the All-Star team and led the league in ERA.
Alderson has already developed three solid pitches and can reach 93 mph with movement on his fastball. He has solid command and can throw his breaking ball and changeup for a strike in any count.
Asked if he would label Alderson as a potential top-of-the-rotation Major League starter, Huntington shied away from the label, but certainly didn't rule it out. Alderson has been assigned to join the rotation in Double-A Altoona.
"Those are tough to put on a guy in Double-A," Huntington said. "He has the moxie. He has the wherewithal. He has the stuff to where if he continues to pitch well, sure, he can work his way to becoming one of those top-of-the-rotation starters. But those titles are earned. With the package he has, can he pitch his way into it? Sure."
Clement, the No. 3 overall selection in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, had come up through the Mariners' system as a catcher but this year had been used primarily as a designated hitter and first baseman in Triple-A because of knee problems.
"[The Mariners] were reluctant to talk about a number of players that we got back in this situation," Huntington said, pointing to the inclusion of Clement. "But at the end of the day, they realized they're getting two good players. They need to give up talent to get talent."
The left-handed-hitting Clement, 25, has been assigned to Triple-A Indianapolis, where the Pirates plan on using him primarily as a first baseman even though the organization has not ruled out trying him out behind the plate down the road. While the Pirates are hopeful of making him a serviceable defensive player, there's no question that it's Clement's bat that makes him most intriguing.
"We feel like he could probably come up now and swing the bat, but we don't have a DH in the National League," Huntington said. "We think Jeff is a left-handed hitter with power that's a great fit for PNC Park, regardless of position."
Huntington did not specify a time at which he expects Clement to return to the Majors, though all indications are that Clement will join the organization this season, even if just as a September callup. Clement does have some brief experience in the big leagues, having played in the Majors with Seattle in '07 and '08.
In 75 games with Seattle, Clement hit .237 with 23 RBIs. He played exclusively in Triple-A this season, hitting .288 with 14 homers and 68 RBIs.
"We get Clement who is one of the premier hitters not only in the Minor Leagues, but we feel like he's going to be good at the Major League level," Pirates manager John Russell said. "I saw him a couple of years in the fall league and he's a special bat. You just don't find those guys every day."
In addition to Clement, the Pirates are adding three young arms to the system, all of which, Huntington said, have traits that could help them bud into Major League starters. Two of those pitchers, Aaron Pribanic and Brett Lorin, have been assigned to low Class A West Virginia.
Pribanic, a third-round pick in 2008, went 7-6 with a 3.21 ERA in 17 Class A starts this season. He has a three-pitch repertoire that includes an 88-94 mph fastball, slider and changeup. The 22-year-old was used as a starter and a reliever while pitching at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
"Aaron Pribanic is a relatively high Draft pick of the Mariners that brings a quality heavy sinker to the table, velocity in the low-90s. [His] breaking ball, changeup are in the works," Huntington said. "[He's a] big physical young man with a good delivery."
Lorin went 5-4 with a 2.44 ERA, 87 strikeouts and 25 walks in 16 Class A starts before the trade. He was named to the Midwest League All-Star team and led the league with 77 strikeouts at the All-Star break.
One amateur scout who watched Lorin, a fifth-round Draft pick in 2008, pitch at Cal State University-Long Beach described him as a big-bodied guy with plus fastball velocity and exceptional raw ability. To that, Huntington added that Lorin's changeup has the potential of also developing into a Major League caliber pitch.
The third pitcher, Nathan Adcock, will join the Pirates' high Class A affiliate in Lynchburg. Adcock started the season with a 5-7 record and 5.29 ERA in 21 games (19 starts) at the same level. He was a fifth-round pick out of high school in 2006.
Adcock relies primarily on a three-pitch -- fastball, curveball and changeup -- mix, though he also does have the ability to throw a slider. Huntington said the organization was also intrigued by the frame and arm action of the 6-foot-5 right-hander.
"You hear me say the same things over and over as we talk about these young pitchers," Huntington said. "Frame, delivery, arm action, stuff, aptitude and we've added three more to the bottom level of our system while adding a guy that's going to immediately go on our Major League team, and add a guy that we believe will be a quality Major League hitter for years to come."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.