The Pirates’ vaunted trading desk was busy at the trade deadline, as usual. The nature of the trading was very different from last year. The Pirates’ core will likely benefit, rather than suffer, from the deals.

They were not deals of core Pirates, but rather peripheral players. The Pirates exercised more discipline, and made better trades, instead of just engaging in a giveaway motivated by salary dump considerations. They did a much better job of making “stealth” trades that caught people by surprise instead of telegraphing their intentions.

Bobby Crosby, Ryan Church, DJ Carrasco, Octavio Dotel, and Javier Lopez were all signed in the offseason. As such, they were “rented” players to begin with.

The first three were traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks for catcher Chris Snyder (plus prospect Pedro Ciriaco). For once, the Pirates were trading quantity for quality (relatively speaking).

Snyder gives the team an alternative to Doumit. He represents a clear improvement defensively, if not offensively. Doumit can play elsewhere, meaning that the Pirates can have “one and a half” catchers, plus fractions of a position player between them.

The second trade, of Dotel for James McDonald and a fielding prospect (Andrew Lambo), is perhaps the most intriguing of all. An established closer was traded for a younger, probably longer-serving advanced prospect (one with some major league playing time) on relief.

He joins two other players, Dan McCutchen and Sean Gallagher, in a hybrid role, of relievers who are potential starters. McCutchen, Gallagher and McDonald came in three separate deals. If just ONE of them works out as a starter, one as a reliever, and one as a bust (and we don’t yet know which is which), the moves would have been good ones.

The trade of Javier Lopez for an inferior pitcher (Joe Martinez) plus a fielding prospect (John Bowker), resembles last year’s trade of starter Tom Gorzelanny for an inferior one (Kevin Hart) plus a fielding prospect (Josh Harrison). But this is much a better deal, or at least gamble, than the Gorzelanny trade. We’re giving up only two months of a reliever (rather than two years of a starter) to get a lottery ticket in the form of the fielding prospect.

All in all, the Pirates’ trading looks better than last year’s. Maybe they’ve learned something since then. Or maybe they just ran out of pieces to trade.

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