Bucs acquire Morse, Happ to close Deadline
Huntington satisfied with Pirates' lower-profile trades
CINCINNATI -- Pirates general manager Neal Huntington is fond of entering winters with the advisory his team "will never win the offseason," a deference to other clubs that raise bigger headlines.
The Bucs didn't "win" July, either, but with five lower-profile moves, Huntington hopes to have revamped the club's roster into one that can win a division.
Two Friday afternoon Deadline deals completed Huntington's haul, as left-handed starter J.A. Happ was acquired from Seattle in return for Triple-A righty Adrian Sampson, and the powerful right-handed bat of Michael Morse came from the Dodgers in exchange for Jose Tabata, the thrice-outrighted outfielder.
Happ immediately steps into the rotation spot vacated Friday when A.J. Burnett was placed on the 15-day DL with inflammation in his right elbow. Both had pitched Thursday night, so Happ will make his Pirates debut Tuesday night in PNC Park against the Cubs.
"A.J. made us aware [of the elbow pain] after his start [Thursday night], and it pretty much directly influenced our desire to add a starter," Huntington admitted. "As we explored the trade markets, we felt Happ was our best move."
Huntington began his reconstruction a week ago with third baseman Aramis Ramirez, and stepped on the gas Thursday with two additions to a cracking bullpen, long man Joe Blanton and erstwhile closer Joakim Soria.
On Friday, Huntington "continued to work toward being not only a postseason-caliber team, but a club that can advance deep into the postseason."
"We feel we've been able to backfill with established Major League players," Huntington said by phone early Friday evening. "We gave up some quality players but felt like the return was worthwhile."
Morse had been designated for assignment by the Dodgers minutes after being acquired from Miami as part of the 13-player transaction on Thursday that also involved the Braves. He is expected to join the Bucs on Monday, when they will be back in PNC Park to begin a six-game homestand with the first of three against the Cubs.
Morse in effect becomes the new Corey Hart, who is on the 60-day DL after not being able to live up to his power-hitting pedigree. Morse's numbers with the Marlins were similar to those of Hart -- four homers and 12 RBIs in 160 at-bats -- but he swung a clutch bat for the Giants during their run to the 2014 World Series championship.
"He is one year removed from being a very productive Major League hitter," Huntington said of Morse, who launched 16 homers and drove in 61 runs in 438 at-bats last season.
Happ, who spent the first four years of his career with the Phillies, was 4-6 with a 4.64 ERA in 20 starts plus one relief appearance for the Mariners. The 32-year-old has not been able to keep his ERA below 4.00 since 2010; since, he has gone 46-61 with the Astros, Blue Jays and Mariners.
"Our scouts liked the stuff, and he's a guy we actually liked for years and tried a couple of times to get," Huntington admitted. "We believe he'll come in and help us. And if [Burnett gets well], we have six starters and a decision to make, it'll be a good thing."