Change-UpAugust 01, 2007
By Patrick Sullivan

It's 12:21 pacific time on deadline day in Brian Sabean's office at AT&T Park. He has determined that, come hell or high water, he is dealing expensive starter Matt Morris. In all likelihood it will be to a contender looking to stash an experienced arm on its depth chart. And because Morris is guaranteed another $3 million this year, $9.5 million next and a $1 million buyout for the 2009 season, Sabean is resigned to the fact that he will have to eat some of this dough in order to ship Morris.

The phone rings

Sabean: Brian Sabean here.

Dave Littlefield: Hi Brian, how's it going. I would chat but we don't have much time left. What do I have to do to make Morris a Buc?

Sabean: (covers phone mouthpiece and yells to his colleagues) Guys! It's Littlefield. He wants Morris!

Dick Tidrow: You're shitting me.

Sabean: (gets back on phone) Dave, what would your initial offer be for Morris?

Littlefield: Rajai Davis and a player to be named. Straight up. No money changes hands. He's the sort of veteran we could use around these parts and I think Davis and another player in our system is a fair offer.

Sabean: (once again holding mouthpiece of the phone) Oh my God.

Tidrow: What? What's the offer? And how much money would we take on?

Sabean: Hold on, Dave. (puts phone on hold) Rajai Davis and a player to be named, and he bears the all of the financial burden.

Tidrow: You're shitting me.

Sabean: Nope. (takes phone off hold) You have yourself a deal, Dave. Congrats, you will really like Matt. He didn't fit in with us but I think he will make a nice addition.

Littlefield: Pleasure doing business, Brian.


In case there is any confusion, that is probably a pretty decent proxy for how yesterday's swap of Matt Morris and Rajai Davis between the San Francisco Giants and Pittsburgh Pirates played out. It's the most non-sensical, criminally damaging move I can remember seeing executed by a team. Pittsburgh, with a payroll just north of $38 million in 2007, has agreed to a $13.5 million commitment to Matt Morris.

Morris turns 33 next week and has not been even an average pitcher in four years. He will in all likelihood constitute a larger percentage of his team's 2008 payroll than just about any other player in baseball. After a smoke and mirrors start to the 2007 season, he has posted a 7.50 ERA or so since mid June. There is just no overstating, or even accurately putting into words, just how little sense this deal makes for Pittsburgh.

Rajai Davis is 26 years old, a good fielding center fielder and one of the fastest players in all of Major League Baseball. In over 600 Minor League contests, he has averaged about 65 steals per 162 games played, and at an exceptional success rate to boot. In July, he appeared to be turning a corner with his bat, as he hit .389/.450/.500 this past month in limited time. His ceiling is low, but he could conceivably be a decent MLB starting center fielder if he develops a bit more. On top of this, the Giants will get another player from Pittsburgh's system.

The worst part of this is the opportunity cost that their financial outlay to Morris will represent. Just think of some of the ways this money could have been better spent. No, the Bucs will never be playing at the high end of the free agent market and the middle of the market is usually bogged down with the, well, Matt Morris's of the world. But do you think Pirates fans would have preferred Matt Wieters or Rick Porcello to Daniel Moskos? What about Andrew Miller or Tim Lincecum in Brad Lincoln's stead?

There are a number of ways to leverage financial assets, and acquiring mediocrities (say hello Cesar Izturis, Sean Casey, Jeromy Burnitz, Matt Lawton et al) is a fool-proof way to ensure your small market franchise never competes, never excites your fanbase and never develops intriguing youngsters at the top-end of the amateur draft pool. Dave Littlefield's incompetence is well documented, but this latest deal is so criminal in its senselessness that it would warrant the most radical of actions from Pittsburgh fans.

Don't go to the ballpark. Don't buy another piece of memorabilia. Don't turn on your televisions to watch the games. Don't flip on the radio to listen in. Your team does not care about you, and you should not care about it. Not until ownership makes even a token gesture that it is committed to putting a viable product on the field should Buc fans reciprocate with any sort of commitment of their hard earned dollars.


Like you, I cannot imagine what (or if) Littlefield was thinking. I guess he had to offer the Giants something, but Sabean probably would have taken a ticket taker in return. In some ways this seems like a case of the dumb fleecing the stupid. Why in the world was Sabean paying Morris that kind of money in the first place given his plummeting peripherals and declining performance? I wonder if Sabean tried to toss in Barry Zito.

Davis doesn't really make a great immediate addition to the Giants. They seem pretty well stacked with slap-hitting outfielders already. Do you know how long Winn and Roberts are under contract? This deal will become a lot better once the Giants can dump one or both of them and have Davis do their jobs at about 8% of the cost.

The Giants have really seemed like a team in a holding pattern for the last few years. Maybe as the Barry Bonds travelling circus winds down, they can start moving in a new direction. The bulk of the early work in this remodelling job will be gutting the old structure. Sabean swung the first sledge hammer yesterday.

Maybe Littlefield has to spend $30 million on non-assets in order to win $300 million? If so, he just may have the last laugh here.

Just a thought.

I think it's more of a job saving ploy by Littlefield. When people tell him he's incompetent he can say "What? I just traded for a guy that had 22 wins one season and 39 over two and all I had to give up was Rajai Davis and a PTBNL!" Too bad Morris was last good 5 years ago.....

Pirates and Nationals - 2 worst run front offices in MLB. At least the nationals have drafted OK though

Seems like $10M/multi year is the cost of a #4 vet starter so $13M/1 year is what you might expect for a 9-14, 4.85 on a .500 team so if he goes 7-16, 5.15 for Pit in 08, it's hardly a surprise. If he pitches 200 innings, he will probably not hold back any serious prospects and might mildly surprise you with a 12-12, 4.25 that might lead the team in wins, Gorzelanny notwithstanding.
And every lousy team is bound to pick up something like 1984 Ray Burris (33 YO, 211 IP, 13-10, 3.15), whom the A's got from Montreal for someone named Rusty McNealy, and was top dog on a 77-85 squad. That last good year earned him three more years as a replacement-level player...but not with Oakland, who had traded him with some others for 40 YO Don Sutton, who outpitched Burris for the rest of their careers.

Let's not give Sabean any credit. He created the Morris mess, and has for years now been unable to surround Bonds with enough hitting or a bullpen, due mainly to years of disdain for the draft and draft picks.

Look the Pirates are stupid, we know that.

But don't say not to go the ballpark. That is the best park in all of baseball, and since the Pirates are so bad, it's almost never sold out! You can get great seats to weekend games at face value (or maybe below).

Since most of us are lucky enough not to be Pirates fans, I implore to go see your team when they play there, the place is just stunning.

What does WTF mean :-)...

Great site, keep it up!!

Would you consider a Link Exchange to the Internet Radio Network? At the IRN you can listen to over 26 of America's top Talk Shows via FREE STREAMING AUDIO!

The brilliant part is precisely that Littlefield likes Morris more than he liked Wieters. Genius!

Looking at Sabean's record lately, I figured that maybe the ptbn was Villona or someone of that potential, in their system, but, there are no other worthwhile position players in their system, Noonan ? , then it dawned on me that the PIRATES have to give up another player. Then, again, maybe it is Jack Wilson. Maybe for those two GM's it makes sense.

Funny stuff Patrick. I'm in Boston, and despite all the trading hoopla on Tuesday, practically the first thing my buddy says to me is "Do you believe that Morris trade?" Maybe it really is Brewster's Millions...

mike, PTBNL are usually players just drafted, or a short list of minor league players, or someone currently on the minor league DL. if something catt be agreed on usually cash just moves hands. it isnt jack wilson.

Thanks for the info Jonathan, but I was just trying to be funny re: the Jack Wilson stuff.

but if you are a Pirates fan, maybe its no laughing matter

So you don't like the move?

oh sorry, didn't know you were kidding.

its shocking to see how many teams will spend money on crap older players but they could spend that much money and make a major impact in the their drafts. i mean, why not that the money morris is gonna make and use it draft actually someone good next year...heaven forbid, maybe someone for over slot haha

Was this the same front office that let us swipe Jason Schmidt for the low low price of Armando Rios? Rajai Davis is already a hit. He's beating out bunts, stealing bases, has thrown a runner out at the plate and has been hitting. What would you give us to take on Dave Roberts and his salary?