The Pirates Have Fleeced the Yankees Twice in a Row Now

Photo credit: Associated Press

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This article's purpose is to finally shed that overplayed and annoyingly cliché reputation the Pittsburgh Pirates have gained due to the Chris Archer trade.  The reputation that the Pirates made one of the worst trades in Major League Baseball history even though Archer was the most coveted pitcher at that deadline, Tyler Glasnow can't stay on the field without using sticky substances on the baseball, Austin Meadows has digressed greatly, and Shane Baz has yet to do anything at the major league level.  

However, even with all that being said, and the Pirates front office that facilitated that deal long gone, that trade hangs over the franchise because it's really the last time anyone in the national baseball media even paid attention to a small market club like the Pirates.  They certainly didn't care about them when siding with the players in the most recent CBA negotiations.  So to shed that reputation I present Exhibit A and Exhibit B: The Jameson Taillon trade and the Clay Holmes trade.

And these trades should get the attention of the national media since they both feature the national baseball darlings, the New York Yankees.  You know, the team that even though several rivalries in baseball have risen above them and their nemesis, the Boston Red Sox, we still have to watch every single series between the two on national television.  As if they weren't already bringing in boat loads of cash from their local network deals.  So while the Yankees continue to get as much air time as humanly possible on ESPN, they have made two devastatingly bad trades with the Pirates in the last two years.

So allow me to remind you of the trade details for what took place before the 2021 season began.  In exchange for Jameson Taillon, the Pittsburgh Pirates received RHP Miguel Yajure, RHP Roansy Contreras, OF Canaan Smith-Njigba, and SS Maikol Escotto from the New York Yankees.  

Now, at the time, Yajure was the featured piece of the trade.  He was the Yankees' No. 15 prospect per MLB Pipeline.  Yajure has not performed well at the big league level just yet, but he is still very young and has loads of potential.  

The new featured piece of that trade is Roansy Contreras.  Contreras became the youngest Pirates pitcher to start a Major League game in 17 years when he was rewarded with his debut last September at just 21 years of age.  He also appears to be one of the best pitchers in the Pirates pipeline right now, and is currently ranked at No. 5 on the Pirates Top Prospects list.  

I believe that after Taillon had a 4.30 ERA with the Yankees last season, and showed again that he can never be counted on for a full season, the Pirates would have won the trade with Taillon for Contreras straight up.  Contreras will do more productive work on the mound the rest of Taillon's career, and much longer after, than Taillon will.  

Now, I don't want this to turn into a Jameson Taillon bashing article.  He is a great person, and always seemed like a very hard working baseball player.  The facts still stand that Taillon was a 29-year old, injury prone pitcher with an expiring contract on a team that was still a couple years away from competing.  So any return for Taillon would have been welcome regardless how good of a guy he is.  

Instead of "any return" GM Ben Cherington (GMBC) received four prospects now currently ranked No. 5 (Contreras), No. 16 (Yajure), No. 18 (Escotto), and No. 23 (Smith-Njigba) in the Pirates pipeline.  Contreras is also one of six Pirates to be ranked in MLB's Top 100 prospects at No. 71.  Now, it remains to be seen if any of these guys will actually produce at the major league level, but receiving this return for a guy on an expiring contract is a remarkable victory for GMBC.

When the 2021 trade deadline rolled around last July, GMBC went knocking on a familiar door.  He called on trade partner Brian Cashman and asked if he wanted another Pirates pitcher, who had previously struggled with the Bucs.  As a Pirate, relief pitcher Clay Homes had a 5.57 ERA, and did not appear like a guy who could get back on track while in Pittsburgh.  So Holmes was sent off to the Bronx while the Pirates received infielders Hoy Park and Diego Castillo.  

Now Hoy Park has been disappointing in his play so far with the Pirates and Clay Holmes did in fact find his stride with the Yankees last season.  But, Diego Castillo is the main player of this trade now.  In fact, it was announced that Castillo, the Pirates' 21st ranked prospect, will be joining the team in St. Louis for his first Opening Day as a big leaguer on April 7th.  

With another homerun this afternoon, Castillo now has six homeruns in 13 games played this Spring Training.  Now, I don't buy into Spring Training results as much as some Pirate fans do, but that's impressive enough to catch my attention.  He also is filling a much needed role at second base that, once Oneil Cruz comes up, could set up for a really talented middle infield for the Pirates.  Well, if they let Cruz play shortstop, but that's for another day.  

And maybe Castillo's play won't translate to the regular season when the games actually matter.  And maybe Holmes' last couple of months with the Yankees were not an anomaly.  But right now, it looks like the Pirates received a stud middle infielder for what had just turned into a long reliever option in Pittsburgh.