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April 8, 2010 – The Return of Hayden Penn - In 2009 Hayden Penn was one of the most mercilessly ridiculed players on the site, and with good reason. The former superstud prospect for the Baltimore Orioles has spent his incredibly brief career giving up earned runs as a potentially historic pace. At one point, we even had a Hayden Penn Tracker on the side of the front page of the site, to track Penn’s daily performance; we got rid of that feature when, after 22.0 innings, the Marlins sent Penn to Triple-A New Orleans. We certainly thought we’d never hear from him again, but low and behold, Penn made a relief appearance for the Pittsburgh Pirates this afternoon, giving up four earned runs in one inning pitched. This brings Penn’s career tally to 81.0 innings pitched, 83 earned runs. Oh baby! -ABC

3/29/10: The Worst Move of the Neal Huntington Era (so far) - The good news for the Pirates is that after trading away most of their major league talent last summer, they only lost one player of consequence this winter. The bad news is that it was one of their best young talents and they received nothing in return for him.

The 26-year old Capps was released because he asked for $3.4 million for the 2010 season. This does not seem unreasonable for a pitcher who walked only five batters in 53.2 innings in 2008, including just three in his final 53 frames. Even after he struggled with injuries and inconsistency last season, Capps has a career 3.61 ERA, K/BB ratio over 4:1, and has never walked three batters in an outing in his four-plus major league seasons.

If the Pirates were concerned that Capps would not recover from 2009 (when his fastball still averaged 93.5 MPH), they should have still re-signed him and traded him. Upon his release, at least ten clubs expressed an interest in signing him, and the Nationals wound up paying him more than the $3.4 M he sought from the Pirates. He had value - either as a long-term closer solution or as trade bait - but Neal Huntington and the Pirates squandered it. --KG

11/3/09: The Offseason Begins - The World Series may not be over yet, but for 28 teams, the offseason has already begun. The Rays and the Pirates signaled that beginning by completing the first trade of the winter: Akinori Iwamura for Jesse Chavez.

For the Rays, the move was basically made just to get some return on their salary dump. They did not plan to exercise their $4.85 M option on Iwamura with Evan Longoria, Jason Bartlett, and Ben Zobrist slated to start around the infield. The 26-year old Jesse Chavez went 21-30 with a 4.36 ERA and 1.44 WHIP in the minors, but the minuscule chance that he develops into something more than the 12th man on the pitching staff is better than no return at all, I suppose.

Iwamura provides a similar glove as Freddy Sanchez did for the Pirates, plus a more consistent bat. He is also younger and cheaper than Sanchez, who signed a two-year, $12 M extension with the veteran-loving Giants a few days ago. The Pirates not only have a far better value now in Iwamura, but received former Giants first-round draft pick Tim Alderson from their deadline trade of Sanchez. --KG

6/6/09: Unpopular, But Smart? - You get the impression that Neal Huntington was one giant nerd in high school, because during his tenure as Pittsburgh Pirates general manager, he has made extremely unpopular yet prudent moves, trading stars Jason Bay and Xavier Nady for promising prospects last summer and failing to sign a big ticket free agent for two straight seasons. This flies in the face of previous regime policy, which consisted of locking up aging-yet-popular homegrown players (think Jason Kendall, Kevin Young) to ridiculous contracts and signing marginal free agents (Sean Casey, Derek Bell, perk up your ears) to top-tier free agent money in order to generate fan interest.

In dealing Nate McLouth for Braves prospects Gorkys Hernandez, Charlie Morton, and Jeff Locke, Huntington is as unpopular as ever, however this time he may have out-smarted himself. The idea of selling high on McLouth makes sense, because he is already 27-year old and has a Gold Glove Award that boasts just how overrated he is defensively. That said, McLouth is signed at bargain salaries through 2011 with a decent team option for 2012. The Pirates sold him while his value was high, but neglected to get high value in return. Hernandez and Locke are good-yet-not-elite prospects and Morton has all the makings of a Quadruple-A pitcher. Huntington should have kept hunting for a better deal, particularly since it's early June and he had all of the negotiating power. --KG

3/18/09: Operation Sentdown - Today is the 7-year anniversary of Derek Bell's infamous "Operation Shutdown" comment, made when he learned that he was indeed competing for a starting job in the Pittsburgh outfield while hitting under .200 at the time. He had batted .173 the season before. On this anniversary, Tom Gorzelanny learned that he was optioned to Triple-A after allowing 5 walks and 8 runs (7 earned) over 9 spring innings. His ERA was 6.66 last year. "He was frustrated," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said. "He doesn't want to be a minor leaguer. He doesn't quite understand why we've made the decision." To his credit, Gorzelanny made no comment to the media rather than paralleling Bell's ridiculousness.   --KG

12/16/08: We Feel for Veal - Poor Donald Veal.  When the Pirates selected him in the Rule 5 Draft, he went from one of the worst organizations at developing pitchers to the worst organization at developing pitchers.  Glass half full: Veal doesn't have to be all that good to crack the Buccos' rotation.  Glass half empty: Veal will play for a franchise that sets a record with its 17th-straight losing season.  --KG

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