Pirates trade that keeps on giving

An unpopular 2009 trade has put the Bucs on track for a playoff berth

Updated: July 12, 2013, 9:49 AM ET
By Mike Petriello | ESPN Insider

Jeff LockeDavid Banks/Getty ImagesJeff Locke has become a valuable starter and been named a National League All-Star this season.

Neal Huntington had been general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates for little more than a season in early 2009 when he made a trade that was intensely unpopular among Pirates fans. Center fielder Nate McLouth was just 27 years old and coming off an All-Star campaign in 2008 that was worth 3.5 wins above replacement, when he was suddenly shipped off to the Atlanta Braves for three prospects.

What made the trade especially sting for the Pittsburgh faithful was the fact Huntington had signed McLouth to a three-year contract extension less than four months earlier, positioning McLouth as one of the faces of the next good Pirates team; this wasn't the usual "trade them before they can leave" cycle that had been happening in Pittsburgh for years and fans felt betrayed.

Worse, the trade was made on the unusually early date of June 3, leaving Huntington vulnerable to accusations that he'd already given up on yet another Pirates season by trading the club's best player -- McLouth was off to a good start, hitting .256/.349/.470 at the time -- when the team was just four games under .500.

After having traded Jason Bay the year before and then proceeding to also move veteran infielders Adam LaRoche, Freddy Sanchez and Jack Wilson, among others, at the July trading deadline, Huntington infamously added that "it wasn't like we were breaking up the '27 Yankees." That only further stoked fan discontent as they stared at yet another rebuilding process, and the Pirates eventually bottomed out at 105 losses in 2010.

Four years after the trade, McLouth has been a disappointment, bouncing from Atlanta, back to Pittsburgh and now on to Baltimore. The Pirates have the third most wins in baseball in 2013 and are virtually assured of their first winning season since 1992. And the McLouth trade, the one that was so reviled at the time? It's the trade that keeps on giving, having brought Pittsburgh 40 percent of its current starting rotation and, by extension, half of its regular first-base platoon.


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