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Perrotto: Pirates, Like Others, Look for Hope in Cracker Jack Boxes



The Pittsburgh Pirates’ annual estate sale is underway.

On Thursday’s off day, the Pirates traded first baseman Carlos Santana to the Milwaukee Brewers. In return, the Pirates got Jhonny Severino.

Only the hardest of hardcore baseball fans know of Severino. The 18-year-old shortstop was playing in the Arizona Complex League for the Brewers, a place where the attendance for games is usually 25 or less.

You’ve got to really scour the back pages of Baseball America or the depths of to find much information about Severino.

However, that is all the Pirates were able to get for Santana, a 37-year-old who was hitting .235/.321/.412 with 12 home runs in 92 games while playing outstanding defense. The switch-hitter’s contributions also included being a mentor, particularly to the club’s young Latin American players.

Now, that is not an indictment of Pirates general manager Ben Cherington. A player like Severino is the going rate for a run-of-the-mill veteran.

Severino was ranked as the Brewers’ 21st-best prospect by Baseball America had him at No. 28. FanGraphs did not rank Severino among the Brewers’ top 39 prospects.

Perhaps Severino will turn out to be a good major-league player. He was considered one of the top amateur players in the Dominican in 2022 and received a $1.23 million signing bonus from the Brewers.

Yet if Severino does turn out to make any kind of impact, it’s going to be far down the road. He almost certainly needs to play at all four levels of the minor leagues in the United States to continue is development.

Maybe Severino will work out and maybe he won’t. The odds lean heavily toward won’t.

Baseball people like to term players like Severino who are acquired in trades as lottery tickets. You take a chance and maybe – just maybe – you hit the jackpot.

To paraphrase Meat Loaf (please Google him, youngsters), it’s pretty much like hoping to find a Coupe de Ville at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box.

The Pirates also could make the same type of deals for left-hander Rich Hill, catcher Austin Hedges and first baseman Ji Man Choi before Major League Baseball’s trade deadline next Tuesday.

I can’t begin to count the number of emails, Twitter (or is it X?) DMs and Facebook messages proposing potential trades that Cherington should make. Most of them go something like this: “Rich Hill to the Red Sox for their No. 4 prospect.”

Well, that’s not going to happen. Hill is 7-10 with a 4.82 ERA in 21 starts.

Teams view Hill as a depth piece, not someone who can push them over the top to win the World Series. The same holds true for Choi, who has an odd .189/.209/.500 slash line with six homers in 20 games during an injury-marred season. Defense aside, Hedges’ .181/.234/.231 isn’t going to fetch even a second-tier prospect.

Now, if designated hitter Andrew McCutchen changes his mind and decides he wants to be traded, the Pirates would probably get a little something for him. And if they choose to part with right-hander Mitch Keller and closer David Bednar, the Pirates might get more than a little something.

But for guys like Santana, Hill, Hedges and Choi – the usual return is hope.

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