Not every general manager is going to win every trade. That’s just the way sports work, with baseball being no exception.
So, it is not a surprise that Ben Cherington has had his share of forgettable trades during his three-plus years as the Pittsburgh Pirates’ GM. Some have even been regrettable.
However, for a low-budget team like the Pirates to be competitive they need to occasionally hit it big with some deals. Yet the Pirates’ list of players designated for assignment in recent months doesn’t put Cherington’s trade record in a very good light.
It seems every time the Pirates DFA someone, it was a player Cherington had dealt for:
- Infielder Michael Chavis was acquired from the Boston Red Sox for left-handed reliever Austin Davis on July 30, 2021. Chavis played in 141 games over two seasons for the Pirates and batted .242/.274/.400 with 15 home runs.
- Right-hander Bryse Wilson was acquired from the Atlanta Braves for closer Richard Rodriguez the same day the Pirates traded for Chavis. Wilson had a 4-13 record and 5.37 ERA for the Pirates in 33 games (28 starts).
- Infielders Hoy Park and Diego Castillo came from the New York Yankees for reliever Clay Holmes on July 26, 2001. Park had a .202/.293/.348 slash line with five home runs in 67 games for the Pirates while Castillo got into 96 games last season and batted .206/.251/.382 with 11 homers.
- Zach Thompson, a right-hander, was acquired from the Miami Marlins on Nov. 29, 2021 along with two minor-leaguers – right-hander Kyle Nicolas and outfielder Connor Scott – for Gold Glove catcher Jacob Stallings. Thompson was DFA’d on Thursday after going 3-10 with a 5.18 ERA in 29 games (22 starts) last season. At Double-A Altoona last season, Nicolas was 2-4 with a 3.97 ERA in 24 games (22 starts) and Scott hit .247/.308/.390 with seven home runs and 10 stolen bases in 109 games.
- Granted, the only one of those four trades that greatly backfired on the Pirates was the one for Holmes. He became an All-Star closer for the Yankees last season.
The trading of Stallings could be considered regrettable despite him hitting .223 and going from Gold Glove status to minus-12 defensive runs saved with the Marlins last season. The Pittsburgh Pirates wound up using eight different catchers in 2022 as free-agent signee Roberto Perez tore a hamstring on May 8 that required season-ending surgery.
Conversely, Davis pitched in 69 games for the Red Sox over the past two seasons and it wasn’t always nice as he had a 5.37 ERA.
Rodriguez totally flamed out with the Braves, failing to make the postseason roster in 2021 when Atlanta won the World Series. He then got suspended by Major League Baseball last year for violating its performance-enhancing drug policy.
We’re cherry-picking a bit here, to be fair. Ben Cherington has certainly made some good trades.
The Pittsburgh Pirates got a potential top-of-the-rotation pitcher in Roansy Contreras from the Yankees in the Jameson Taillon deal. Slugging outfielder Jack Suwinski came from the San Diego Padres as part of the return for Adam Frazier. Trading Joe Musgrove to the Padres netted All-Star closer David Bednar from San Diego and top prospect Endy Rodriguez from the New York Mets as part of a three-team swap.
However, Cherington needs to get better value on a more consistent basis if the Pirates are ever going to turn things around. The DFAs continue to be a reminder.