By John Perrotto
One of the biggest knocks on Neal Huntington during his nearly two years as Pirates’ general manager is that he hasn’t been able to land any truly can’t-miss, blue-chip, big-time, first-rate prospects in trades.
That changed Wednesday night when the Pirates acquired right-hander Tim Alderson from the San Francisco Giants in a trade for second baseman Freddy Sanchez.
Alderson is one of the top pitching prospects in the game and there are no warts. He doesn’t have attitude problems, an injury history or slippage in performance.
Baseball America ranked Alderson as the No. 4 prospect in a deep Giants’ farm system before the season began and No. 45 in all of baseball.
No one would dispute those rankings as scouts and analysts universally love the 20-year-old as he has already risen to the Class AA level just two years after being the Giants’ first-round draft pick from Horizon High School in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Alderson can dial his sinker up to 94 mph, faster than most pitches’ regular fastballs. He also had a slider that touches 87 mph and an outstanding curveball that is a swing-and-a-miss pitch.
Alderson has been assigned to Class AA Altoona.
Amazingly, Huntington did not have to throw any money into the trade to cover part of Sanchez’s $8.1-million club option for 2010 that vests if he reaches 625 plate appearances this season.
It had been perceived in baseball circles that no club would be willing to trade a top prospect for Sanchez without getting some form of financial relief.
Alderson immediately supplants
Class AAA Indianapolis’ Brad Lincoln as the Pirates’ top pitching prospect. That is no knock on Lincoln but a compliment to Alderson. Alderson has to also be slotted as the Pirates’ No. 2 overall prospect behind Altoona third baseman Pedro Alvarez.
The trade for Alderson capped a fine day for Huntington as he was able to trade shortstop Jack Wilson and Indianapolis right-hander Ian Snell to Seattle on Wednesday afternoon for five players 26 or under in shortstop Ronny Cedeno, Class AAA first baseman Jeff Clement and Class A right-handers Nathan Adcock, Brett Lorin and Aaron Pribanic.
The Pirates had to kick $3.3 million into the trade to cover the salaries of Wilson and Snell for the remainder of this season and they did not get any prospects on the level of Alderson.
However, it was some good maneuvering by Huntington to get five young players in return for two players who didn’t have much of a market.
Boston was the only other team interested in Wilson and everyone in baseball knew the Pirates had to trade Snell after he was optioned to Class AAA Indianapolis last month and said he would prefer to stay there rather than ever return to Pittsburgh.
It is hard to call Clement, who was assigned to Indianapolis, a prospect as he has played 76 games at the major-league level and not lived up to his billing as the third overall pick in the 2005 draft from the University of Southern California.
However, he is a left-handed hitter with power and the Pirates have a need for a possible long-term answer at first base as Steve Pearce does not appear to be the answer.
The three pitchers coming from the Mariners are all considered solid prospects with a chance to be starting pitchers in the majors. Adcock, who has an outstanding curve, is the best of the three at this point and has been assigned to high Class A Lynchburg while Lorin and Pribanic are headed to low Class A West Virginia.