Pirates acquire versatile pitcher Oliver from Tigers
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Pirates got into the Winter Meetings trade action in a "Minor" way on Wednesday, acquiring left-hander Andrew Oliver from Detroit in exchange for catcher Ramon Cabrera.
The swap of Minor Leaguers brings to Pittsburgh a 25-year-old Ohioan -- Oliver celebrated a birthday on the first day of these Meetings -- who will present manager Clint Hurdle with a lot of options, and with a very high ceiling.
Prospect acquired by Pirates
Andy Oliver: Oliver, ranked No. 5 on the Tigers' Top 20 Prospects list at the time of the trade, made a beeline to Detroit, but was never able to establish himself there. Consistency has been elusive for the left-hander out of Oklahoma State, with command really keeping him from becoming the workhorse starting pitcher the Tigers envisioned when they drafted him in the second round of the 2009 Draft. The pure stuff is still plenty good, with a fastball that touches the mid-90s. His secondary stuff hasn't been as consistent, but he'll show glimpses of a good breaking ball and changeup. The key for Oliver will be to throw more strikes. If he can do that more consistently, he still has the chance to be a big league starter. He did pitch out of the bullpen after a July disabled list stint, and some see that as his eventual long-term role.
"We've talked to Oliver about starting or relieving," said Pirates general manager Neal Huntington. "We'll have him come to camp to compete as a starter; if [that is] not [going to happen], we'll look into the bullpen, and then, if not that, have a conversation about going to Triple-A."
Oliver is a 6-foot-3, 215-pound hard-thrower, with both the prototypical "big arm" and the proverbial "left-hander's disease." He has had growing control issues.
Oliver sipped cups of big league coffee with the Tigers in both 2010 and '11, combining to go 0-5 in seven starts with 21 walks in 31 2/3 innings. A second-round choice in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft out of Oklahoma State, Oliver was 5-9 with a 4.88 ERA in Toledo last season, his third in Triple-A. He struck out 112 in 118 innings, but also issued 88 walks.
"We couldn't get him to throw strikes on a consistent basis," noted Detroit general manager Dave Dombrowski. "We think a change of scenery is not a bad thing for him. If he does throw strikes, with his arm, he has a chance to be a very fine pitcher. It's a good gamble on their part, and I hope it pays off for them."
"He seems capable of filling a lot of roles for us," Huntington said. "We like the arm, like the fastball, like the breaking ball, like how he does things, and as tough as it is to give up a young switch-hitting catcher that we like, a lot, we felt Andrew was a good addition to our club."
Cabrera, 23, went on the Pirates' 40-man roster for the first time a couple of weeks ago. He has a considerable upside -- he was the Florida State League batting champ in 2011 with a .343 average for Bradenton -- but the recent signing of free agent Russell Martin gave the Pirates a catching surplus. Tony Sanchez, the 2009 No. 1 Draft pick, is stacked behind Martin and Michael McKenry.
"We think he is a prospect, and he gives up good catching depth in the organization," Dombrowski said.