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8/31 Deals: Johnny Ray, A-Ram, Shawn Dunston, Justin Morneau, Infield Housecleaning & More

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  • 1953 – The Pirates sold RHP Johnny Lindell to the Phillies. His knuckler fluttered wildly that year, leading the league in walks and wild pitches. He was listed as a pitcher with the Pirates, but was often used as a pinch-hitter and hit .286, once tying a game with a three-run ninth-inning homer. The Phillies released him in May 1954 after his hybrid pitcher-outfielder role proved to be a not very strong pairing. Lindell was an odd story. He entered the league in 1941 as a pitcher, then was converted to the outfield, where he played from 1943-50, earning an All-Star berth once with the Yankees. He came back again as a knuckleball pitcher after a couple of years in the minors, but only lasted until May of 1954. 
Johnny Ray – 1987 Topps Sticker
  • 1981 – The Pirates acquired 2B Johnny Ray and two PTBNL’s (pitchers Randy Niemann and Kevin Houston) from the Houston Astros in exchange for IF Phil Garner. Ray spent seven years in Pittsburgh, hitting .286, and was Rookie of the Year runner-up in 1982 to Steve Sax. Scrap Iron played through 1988 and hit .260 for the Astros, where he also had a seven-year run. Nieman pitched for parts of a couple of seasons for the Pirates and worked the show until 1987, having a pretty good year for the Mets in 1986. Houston never made it out of the minors. 
  • 1985 – The Pirates traded former batting champion Bill Madlock to the Dodgers for prospects RJ Reynolds and PTBNL Cecil Espy and Sid Bream in a pretty solid deal for the Buccos. Madlock would last two more years in the show, retiring after the 1987 campaign at age 36. 1B Bream spent six years in Pittsburgh, four as a starter, and hit .269 in that span. Reynolds, a platoon OF, spent six seasons with Pittsburgh and also hit .269. OF Espy was sent to AAA, claimed by Texas in the Rule 5 draft, and returned as a FA to spend a couple of campaigns in town in 1991-92, batting .254. 
  • 1994 – In one of their better international deals, the Pirates signed 16-year-old Aramis Ramirez as an amateur free agent. A-Ram was the Pirates’ last significant signing from the Dominican until the Rene Gayo era began a decade later. Ramirez had a pair of stints with the Bucs to open and close his career. 
  • 1997 – The Bucs became buyers instead of sellers when they obtained SS Shawon Dunston from the Cubs for future considerations to bolster the chances of the “Freak Show” team sneaking into the playoffs after Kevin Polcovich injured his ankle. Dunston hit .394 with five homers, but after an 18-game Bucco career was lost to the Indians in free agency after the season. He was a pretty good Plan B; the Pirates had first cast their eyes toward former Pittsburgh SS Jay Bell, but the Royals wanted more in return than the FO was willing to give. 
  • 2011 – Pittsburgh shipped OF Matt Diaz to the Braves for a PTBNL, P Eliecer Cardenas, who was quickly released. Diaz hit .259 in his brief spell as a Buc and spent two more bench years in the league before hanging up his spikes after the 2013 season. 
Justin Morneau – 2013 photo Justin Aller/Getty
  • 2013 – The Pirates pulled off their second trade of the week, picking up 1B Justin Morneau from Minnesota for OF Alex Presley and a PTBNL (RHP Duke Welker). Justin hit .260 w/.370 OBP during the month, but his lack of power (0 HR, 4 2B, 92 PA) led the Bucs to let him walk the following year. He still had some gas in the tank, hitting .316 w/20 HR in 182 games for the Rox over the next two campaigns before retiring after the 2016 season. Presley was a depth OF’er for the next five years while Welker was reacquired by the Bucs and got into two games in 2013. 
  • 2017 – In an unusual move, RHP Juan Nicasio was placed on irrevocable waivers and claimed by the Phillies on his birthday. It was odd because Nicasio was a solid eighth-inning set-up guy (2-5-2, 22 holds, 2.86 ERA in 65 games w/60 K in 60 IP) who the Pirates let go for nothing. Nicasio was a FA after the season and unlikely to have been retained, but the Bucs, who were still hanging around in July when they could have traded him with no strings attached, kept Nicasio and then tried to slip him through trade waivers when the team faded. In some one-upmanship, Juan was claimed by the Chicago Cubs to block him from going to another contender. So the FO pulled him back and later put him on the waiver wire, saving some cash ($600K owed for September), opening up his spot to audition for 2018, and finally to reward Juan with a “better situation” (ie, joining a playoff contender) that was foiled when Philadelphia, the NL’s worst team, claimed him but was rectified when they dealt him to St. Louis. 
  • 2018 – The Pirates committed themselves to a full-scale infield youth movement (and saved a few dollars in the process) by trading vets David Freese and Adeiny Hechavarria at the playoff deadline. Freese went to the Dodgers for DSL player IF Jesus Manuel Valdez and Hechy went to the Yankees along with some cash for a PTBNL or cash considerations. Freese left a hole as a utility man with a good bat (.270, 32 HR in three years), versatile glove (1B-2B-3B) and locker room leader while Hechy was a late pickup who only got into 15 games, hitting .233. Sean Rodriguez had been DFA’ed days earlier, cleansing the roster of most of its older infielders save SS Jordy Mercer and 2B Josh Harrison, who would depart in the offseason as FA’s.


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