Two trades in late August may have a huge impact on the 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates, the National League Central crown, the Wild Card game and the entire postseason itself.
With the Pirates already clinching their first non-losing season in 20 years, their record entering Sunday is 81-60, half a game back of the St. Louis Cardinals) the question that is left to answer for this club is how far can they go?
Two individuals who could and will make a difference either positively or negatively will be the latest additions to the Pirates in outfielder Marlon Byrd and first baseman Justin Morneau.
The question with these two that I have is who will help the team out more the rest of the regular season, and barring a big drop in play by the Pirates, who’ll help the most in the postseason?
It was a smart move for the Pirates to pickup both of these players and giving up little in return. It was also refreshing to see the Pirates ownership actually care enough about winning for the first time since George H.W. Bush was President of the United States, because let’s face it, before the past couple years the ownership of the Pirates hasn’t really cared about winning.
Let’s take a look at the stats of Byrd and Morneau since they’ve been on the Pirates’ roster.
Byrd was traded to Pittsburgh on Aug. 27 by the New York Mets (how lucky is Byrd to leave the underachieving Mets for a Pirates team battling for a division title?), along with catcher John Buck for Dilson Herrera and Vic Black.
Entering Sunday, Byrd has played in nine games with Pittsburgh, compiling 37 plate appearances. In 35 at-bats he has 13 hits (five doubles, one home run), eight RBIs, four runs and two walks to go with a .371 batting average with the club.
Byrd’s on-base percentage is .405 with a .600 slugging percentage, and he’s totaled 21 bases in his short time in the “Steel City.”
For Morneau, the former Minnesota Twins first baseman has played just five times for the Pirates I write this. In his 17 at-bats, the newly acquired Pirate has a .353 batting average with the club, to go with six hits (one double), three walks and a .476 on-base percentage. He has seven total bases, and has been hit by a pitch in his time with Pittsburgh.
The former Twin was traded to the Pirates for Alex Presley and a player to be named later or cash. Morneau was drafted by the Twins on June 2, 1999.
Even without looking at the stats completely, when the Pirates made the trade with the Mets near the end of August, I remember thinking “wow, they basically got Byrd for nothing … he’s going to make the NL Central interesting.”
I still believe that, and there is no doubt about it Byrd makes the Pirates an overall better team in this September run towards the postseason. (I have to be honest, it is weird typing Pirates and postseason run in the same sentence.)
Still, I don’t to want to overlook the capabilities of Morneau, but Byrd has played in the NL more than his newest teammate, and the 36-year old has already paid off with his current stats, and he can make the rest of the younger Pirate players around him better.
But like I said, don’t overlook Morneau either, his body of work throughout his career speaks for itself, but he’s been in the AL for his entire career, except for occasional interleague games, so the new pitchers has to be a bit of a learning cure early one at least.
For the season Byrd is batting .289 with 22 home runs and 79 RBIs. Morneau is batting .260 with 17 home runs and 74 RBIs.
What these two players bring to the Pirates is a veteran presence who have been apart of postseason runs and have seen the ups-and-downs of the regular and postseason. Neither one has to be “the leader” of the Pirates, but them being with the team can only help not just on the field, but in the clubhouse.
Again, what has been the most impressive aspect of this entire deal of acquiring both these players, along with Buck as a backup catcher, is the Pirates are “all in” this season, which is something that can’t be said about this team in the past couple decades.
Both players will make this club better than they already were (which is saying something), I have no doubt about that, but if I had to choose one of the two players who I felt will be more prone to helping out just a little bit more I’m selecting Byrd.