The unofficial second half of the season started disastrously. A 1-5 road trip, an injury to SS Jordy Mercer, which, coupled with the earlier injury to Josh Harrison, had forced the Pirates to play bench guys like Sean Rodriguez on a regular basis, and plug Quad-A (at best) players like Brent Morel and Pedro Florimon into the starting line-up. Pirates naysayers were heading to the Clemente Bridge to leap off because, surely, GM Neal Huntington was never going to be able to pull the trigger to make a deadline deal that would help this team. And the first place Nationals, who swept the Pirates last month were coming to town. Armageddon was certainly upon us.
Then, late yesterday afternoon, news came of the trade that Huntington pulled off with the Brewers to land Aramis Ramirez. And what did he give up? Prized prospects like Josh Bell, Alen Hanson, or Tyler Glasnow? Nope. Relief pitcher Yhonathan Barrios. Now, Barrios may turn out to be a good pitcher for the Brewers someday, but in my mind, when you get an every day player, especially one with Ramirez' credentials, for a relief pitcher, and a minor league one at that, you have made a good deal.
And while he money aspects of trades don't interest me - these teams have the money - the Brewers are still going to pay half of the $6 million salary that is due Ramirez for the remainder of the season. How did Huntington, who was in a desperate buyer's mode, manage to get the Brewers to agree to that?
Yes, Ramirez is now 37 years old, and has indicated that he will retire after this, his 18th season in the majors. He is not the dangerous slugger he once was, but even today, after a horrid first month of the season, he has 11 HR, 42 RBI, and a .725 OPS. Put him in the batting order behind Andrew McCutchen, and he is an improvement over every other guy who has been in this slot this season. He will fill the gap at third to allow Jung Ho Kang to play short and cover for the injured Harrison and Mercer. He is exactly the kind of pick up the team needed at this point in the season. And he has now been taken from a team going nowhere and put on a team in the middle of a pennant race. You would think, you would hope, that this will rejuvenate him and motivate him to make this final half season of his career a stellar one. We shall see.
Finally, there is the delicious karma of Ramirez coming BACK to the Pirates in the midst of a pennant race. No need to recount the painful circumstances of the horrendous salary dump deal in 2003 when Kevin McClatchey forced Dave Littlefield to get rid of perhaps the team's best player and brightest young star in years for a collection of used jock straps and batting practice baseballs. (Someday, I hope Dave Littlefield will write a book and explain HIS side of that awful transaction.) If A-Ram can manage 8-10 home runs and 30 or so RBI's over what time he has here, it will be one terrific story.
Seven days remain before the trade deadline, and reports are that the Pirates are in the hunt for another pitcher. I have full confidence that GM Neal is working the phones diligently to pull of something that will help this team down the stretch. He proved yesterday that he can make things like that happen.