I'm sure anyone who has the MLB Network has seen the show Prime 9. Well it got me to thinking about who the top players at each position the Pirates have given up on since the new millennium began. I'll take a look at each position and say who I think the top player is. I'll show off some cards I own of that player in a Bucs uniform and move on to the next position.
Why Prime 9?
This is my Prime 9 of the Players the Bucs gave up on for nothing.
When thinking about pitchers that the Pirates had let go for nothing 2 names came to mind and oddly enough they are both connected.
In 2001 the Pirates traded Jason Schmidt to the San Fransisco Giants for Ryan Vogelsong. Schmidt went on to have 3 All-Star appearances and a 78-37 record with the Giants while averaging a strikeout per inning. Damn! Imagine that type of pitcher taking the hill every 5th day with the bats of Kendall, Giles, Ramirez, and later Bay, Sanchez, and Wilson.
Consequently the player the Pirates acquired Ryan Vogelsong went on to have a terrible career with the Bucs. He appeared in 2 games before needing Tommy John surgery. Once returned from the surgery he struggled mighty and was later sold to a Japanese team. His return to the states though in 2010 showed vast improvement in his performance. Since begining anew with the Giants, Ryan went on to become a 2011 All-Star and a key piece in the 2012 Giants World Series Championship run.
The card pictured above is from 2006 Topps Update. There aren't any hits of Schmidt wearing the black and gold that I know of, but for $2.84 shipped I couldn't pass up this card of the former Bucco wearing the black and gold at the 2006 All-Star Game in Pittsburgh representing the National League and the Giants.
|2001 Upper Deck eVolve AUTO Bat/Jersey|
Sure, Jason's career was on the downward path when the Bucs traded him to Oakland after the 2004 season. He was a 30 year old catcher whose main offensive tools (contact and baserunning) were trending in the wrong direction. In 9 seasons with the Bucs, Kendall had an average of .306 with 140 SB and 65 runners caught stealing. Those are numbers you normally don't see come from the catcher's position. However after leaving the Pirates, Kendall went on to hit .271 with 22SB and a .321 slugging percentage in 2 1/2 seasons with Oakland. Good numbers, but nothing great.
A more interesting choice is a player the Pirates decided to non tender a contract that signed a one year deal with the Minnesota Twins last year, then a 2 year extension. Yes I am talking about Ryan Doumit.
Doumit is one of those players that is made for AL baseball. He can't play any position well, but can play corner outfield positions, 1B, and Catcher well enough so he doesn't make too much of an embarassment of himself. Well then I remembered this play and it reminded me that Kendall was the player the Pirates wish they had probably kept.
3) 1st Base
|2007 Allen & Ginter Adam Laroche|
Ok so Adam LaRoche is generally thought of as a slow starter. His April and May numbers are generally down right awful. However come mid summer, LaRoche is downright scary what he can do with the bat and glove. He never gets recognized, but will put up 25+ homeruns every year and play above average defense at 1B. The Pirates traded away LaRoche to the Boston Red Sox for two minor leaguers. LaRoche lasted only 6 games with Boston before being traded to the Braves for Casey Kotchman.
The above 2007 Adam LaRoche was picked up for $1.40 from COMC and I gotta say I didn't overpay one penny for this card.
4) 2nd Base
|2008 UD Jersey|
When you ship out a player who won a batting title a few years after winning it, your organization is generally looked upon as dumping salary. When that same player is a fan favorite, your organization is generally looked upon as not caring for the fans. When that same player is traded for a failed prospect who hasn't pitched successfully at AA even at the age of 25, well you can be sure that you have made a pretty bad trade. Such was the case in 2009 when the Pirates sent fan favorite Freddy Sanchez to the San Fransisco Giants for Tim Alderson.
The above Freddy Sanchez UD Jersey card was won for $2 with free shipping on ebay. The seller tried to stuff the card into a normal size toploader, then must have realized the card wasn't going to fit properly so he proceed to ship it in a PWE with a piece of cardboard and half the card sticking out of the case. The card above is the results of AN IDIOT. It would have been a nice addition to my collection and I guess still is for the price paid, but c'mon use some common sense.
5) 3rd Base
|2002 Stadium Club License to Drive Bat Relic|
Ramirez committed the most errors at the hot corner among all 3B in 2003, but would go on to hit 239 HRs in 9 seasons with the Cubs before joining the Milwaukee Brewers as a free agent in 2012. He currently has the 9th most career homeruns at the hot corner with 342 round trippers.
The License to Drive card above is one of my favorite ARam in my collection. Something about the simple design made to mimic a Pennsylvania driver's license with the bat relic just makes me love this card. The fact that it was just a couple bucks makes me appreciate it even more.
When you think of the Pirates shortstops over the past decade, there is one name that stands out above the rest...Jack Wilson. Jack was a fan favorite and one of the most undervalued players at the position. He deserved to win gold gloves, but was never considered. He was traded to Seattle in 2009 for a bunch of players that didn't work out for the Pirates.
However, the player the Pirates should have held onto, but was never given a fair chance to perform is a guy the Red Sox picked up for nothing. NOTHING!!!!
|1/1 Blank Back 2011 Topps Heritage Pedro Ciriaco|
The Red Sox grabbed Ciriaco and he played in 76 games for the team as they battled through injuries at 2B, SS, 3B, and the outfield. In only 76 games he posted a .293/.315/.390 line which means his OPS was .705. Pedro is a slap hitter that doesn't take many walks, but he does have a habit of turning singles into doubles by swiping 16 bags and being caught only 3 times while with Boston. Pedro has since gone on to be acquired and released with 3 teams this year (Boston, San Diego, Kansas City). If John McDonald can continue to get work, I'm sure the speedy Ciriaco will continue to find a role as a super utility pinch runner, defensive substitution with some team.
I don't have many cards of Ciriaco, but this blank back 1/1 Topps Gimmick card seemed appropriate to highlight. I won it a few years ago for $9.99 when I was trying to put together the entire 2011 Heritage Blank Back Pirates set..
7) Right Field
This is probably the hardest one because there are two players that went on to have successful careers at the corner outfield position after being traded by the Bucs
Brian Giles and Jose Bautista
|2011 Topps All-Star Jersey Relic 19/60 (jersey number)|
I picked up the above Joey Bats jersey relic for less than $10 a year ago. It's an "ebay 1/1" cause the card is numbered 19/60 which is his jersey number.
8) Center Field
It's hard to imagine the Pirates without a good centerfielder since Cutch arrived. Before Cutch there was Nate McLouth who was also pretty good (All-Star, Gold Glove, 20/20 production). Before McLouth though there was Tike Redman who was not so good. However if you can go way back to 2003 there was the speedy Kenny Lofton patrolling center for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
|2003 Donruss Signature Series 125/500|
Lofton was already in his age 36 season when he signed with the Pirates during the 2002 off season. Proving that he still had plenty of gas left in his tank he went on to hit .305 with 96 stolen bases through the next 4 years. What I find to be the most impressive though is that Lofton stole bases at a 82% rate from his age 36-40 seasons. That's incredible! Lofton went on to finish his career with the Indians, but was part of the "Salary Dump" to the Cubs in the 2003 season along with 3B Aramis Ramirez.
The above Lofton is from 2003 Donruss Signature Series and is numbered 125/150. I managed to grab this auto of the potential HOFer for a small fee of $14 shipped. I've often seen this card sell in the $40 range so I was pretty excited to grab it for such a great price.
9) Left Field
|2005 UD Artifacts AUTO 317/599|
The above 2005 UD Artifacts (on card) AUTO of Jason Bay is the cheapest Bay AUTO I've ever purchased. Numbered 317/599 this gem cost me a measly .99. I love buying AUTOs off the dollar menu.
ADDED BONUS: Relief Pitcher
Juan Carlos Oviedo aka Leo Nunez
|2003 Just Minors x/25|
The above 2003Just Minors Leo Nunez was purchased from COMC over a year ago when everything came out about Juan Carlos Oviedo. I decided to use that opportunity to grab an autograph because most likely his stock would never be lower. I was right as I managed to grab the above card for $2.25.
So to recap who took the Pirates Prime 9 players.
Looking at this makes me really happy that the deal with the Red Sox this offseason for All-Star closer Joel Hanrahan and Brock Holt for the best setupman in baseball (Mark Melancon) and prospects is working out well. Our Red Sox trades never work out in the past.
Boston Red Sox:
Pedro Ciriaco, Adam Laroche, Jason Bay
San Fransisco Giants:
Freddy Sanchez, Jason Schmidt
Aramis Ramirez & Kenny Lofton (same trade!!!)
Toronto Blue Jays: