By John Dematteis
When last we looked at the 1993 Pirates and my goal of clearing salary to spend on player development, I was considering dealing one of my favorite Pirates from my college days – Andy Van Slyke – to dump the 32-year-old centerfielder’s $5 million contract through 1997. While still rated as a 3-star player, Van Slyke is obviously on the downside of his career, and his salary offers the greatest opportunity for relief.
The Athletics offered Kevin Seitzer, whose contract is significantly less of a hit to the books and is signed for just two years. After leaning towards making that deal, I decided instead to hang on to Van Slyke…for now.
Van Slyke is extremely popular in Pittsburgh, and moving him might mean a dip in fan interest for a team that still has some support following a string of playoff seasons. In fact, I might run an alternate simulation to see just how much trading Van Slyke would impact the team’s ability to make money during the regular season. For now, though, I’m going to hang on to Van Slyke and look to see what deals are available with contenders as we close in on the trade deadline.
I did, however, make a couple of trades during the preseason to add some youth – One with Montreal and another with Minnesota.
I love the trade I worked out with the Expos, sending 30-year-old first baseman Russ Morman and 22-year-old minor league right-hander Reed Secrest to Montreal for 25-year-old utility man Matt Stairs and 19-year-old reliever Ugeth Urbina.
I love players like Stairs who are capable of playing a number of different positions, and, assuming my shaky minor league staff can develop Urbina, he could be a closer of the future.
For now, Stairs is in AAA Buffalo while Urbina’s development begins in single-A Augusta.
In the other deal of the preseason, I moved 37-year-old Lonnie Smith
to the Twins along with left field prospect Ramon Espinosa for 29-year-old Shane Mack and 20-year-old minor-league reliever LaTroy Hawkins. Mack has one year left on his contract and even for that one year, it’s at a bit less than Smith. He can fill the void in left field for now. I like that Hawkins is someone who could have a long career in the Pirates’ bullpen.
Next up: The regular season begins.