07/26/08 8:53 PM ET
Pirates trade Nady and Marte to Yanks
Deal nets four prospects including Ohlendorf, Tabata
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
As of Friday, the Pirates were expected to receive four prospects -- right-hander Ross Ohlendorf, outfielder Jose Tabata, right-hander George Kontos and lefty Phil Coke -- in return for Marte and Nady.
However, that changed overnight as the Pirates dropped Kontos and Coke from the deal and instead picked up right-handers Jeff Karstens and Daniel McCutchen, both of whom have been playing for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
The deal wasn't officially announced until all six players underwent medical evaluations. However, indications that a deal had been struck first surfaced when Nady was pulled from Friday's game after one inning. Nady was in the on-deck circle in the bottom of the first when he was called back into the dugout and told about the trade.
Minutes later, television cameras caught Marte hugging teammates in the dugout, apparently shortly after learning the news.
With the acquisition of four advanced prospects, the Pirates begin the process of filling a barren farm system with players who are near Major-League ready.
"We need a lot of players like Damaso Marte, like Xavier Nady," general manager Neal Huntington said Saturday. "We need depth. We need options. While it would have been probably much more pleasant to hold on to Damaso Marte and Xavier Nady and move forward, I think our lack of depth has been shown this year."
The cornerstone of the deal was Tabata, a 19-year-old outfielder who Huntington said has as much upside as any player in the Pirates' organization.
The five-tool player has been one of the bright prospects in the Yankees' system since signing as a non-drafted free agent out of Venezuela in 2004, and was listed by Baseball America as the third-best prospect in the Yankees' organization coming into the season.
This season, though, has been a challenging one for Tabata on the field. His numbers have been down at Double-A Trenton, where he was hitting .248 with three homers, 36 RBIs and 10 stolen bases. He was also suspended by the organization for three games earlier this season after he stormed out of the clubhouse in the seventh inning after he struck out.
Huntington said the organization has looked into that situation and does not expect Tabata's temperament to be an issue going forward.
"As we did our research on him, we felt like the young man made a mistake, was disciplined, was remorseful and is ready to move forward," Huntington said. "We are excited about the talent. Scouts feel that the tools are still there. Of the players we had on the board, Jose by far has the highest upside."
Tabata is currently nursing a hamstring and will be moved to the Pirates' facility in Bradenton, Fla., to continue his rehab work. He is expected to be game-ready in about a week.
As for the three pitchers, all will be used as starters. While none is expected to join the Pirates immediately, Karstens is knocking on the rotation door. How John Van Benschoten and Yoslan Herrera perform in their next starts, which are Saturday and Tuesday, respectively, will likely determine whose spot Karstens will take.
"We'd like to see him get in the rotation, but Yoslan Herrera threw the ball well last time and deserves another opportunity and John Van Benschoten has thrown well enough to get another opportunity," Huntington said of the command pitcher.
Karstens, 25, combined to make 15 Major League appearances (nine starts) for the Yankees in 2006 and 2007. His Major League totals include a 3-5 record with a 5.65 ERA, 20 walks and 21 strikeouts. He went 6-4 with a 3.80 ERA in 12 Triple-A starts this season.
Ohlendorf, a 26-year-old sinkerball pitcher, began the season in the Yankees 'pen and pitched in 25 games. He went 1-1 with a 6.53 ERA in that role.
The Yankees, however, recently sent Ohlendorf back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to return to a starting role. The Pirates will keep him in Triple-A and have been encouraged by his ability to better maintain a low- to mid-90s velocity deep into games this season.
Because Ohlendorf is still being stretched out, Huntington said he will need at least two to four starts in Triple-A before he would be ready to potentially join the Pirates rotation.
McCutchen started the season at Double-A, making nine starts and going 4-3 with a 2.55 ERA. The 25-year-old right-hander limited hitters to a .219 average. Since then, McCutchen has made 11 Triple-A starts, where he has posted a 4-6 record and a 3.58 ERA.
The 13th-round Draft pick in 2006 was also suspended for 50 games that season after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. However, it later was revealed that McCutchen tested positive for Adderall, a drug prescribed by his doctor for attention deficit disorder.
Because of a heavy innings load already this season, McCutchen will not compete for a spot in the Majors until next year.
Huntington projected Ohlendorf and McCutchen as being middle-of-the-rotation starters initially because of their power stuff. Karstens, Huntington said, lines up as more of a back end of the rotation pitcher, but with the upside to move up.
While the organization expressed pleasure in the quartet of prospects it landed, the Pirates did pay a steep price in terms of current Major League talent.
Nady was leading the team with a .330 average, and his 57 RBIs were second most on the club. However, with one year left before free agency, the right fielder was seen as the most expendable piece in the Pirates outfield.
Marte, who has served as the team's closer since Matt Capps went on the disabled list at the beginning of the month, was the Pirates' premier left-handed setup man. In 47 appearances this season, Marte had limited opponents to a .217 average. He had 47 strikeouts in 46 1/3 innings. Marte has been with the Pirates since the start of the 2006 season.
"As we talked about from the beginning, in order to be a successful, sustainable, championship-caliber organization that plays meaningful games into September and October, we need to have options." Huntington said. "Unfortunately, we've not had the necessary depth to be able to sustain injury, to be able to sustain less than ideal performance. This deal, if it goes through, will begin this process of beginning to accumulate that necessary depth."
While no exact count of teams was given, Huntington did say that a number of teams did express interest in both players. So why not wait until closer to Thursday's non-waiver Trade Deadline to see if another team sweetened their offer?
"We felt like it was the right deal," Huntington said. "When combining [Marte and Nady], we felt like it gave us the ability to get a player with the upside of Tabata to go with the three pitchers. Quite frankly, if we had the opportunity to trade two players of the caliber of Damaso Marte and Xavier Nady [for Tabata] last December, I think we would have done that in a heartbeat."
With Nady and Marte gone, Ohlendorf and Karstens took their spots on the team's 40-man roster. Outfield prospect Steve Pearce was called up from Triple-A Indianapolis and will see much of the playing time in place of Nady. The Pirates will call up a pitcher on Sunday, leaving them one man short in the bullpen Saturday night.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.