By John Perrotto
Sometimes, it just seems that there is no light at the end of the tunnel for the Pirates.
Such was the case again on Tuesday night, even though hometown hero Neil Walker’s first major-league home run, a two-run shot in the bottom of the eighth inning, lifted the Pirates to a 3-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park.
Walker’s dramatics came hours after the Pirates’ woeful lack of talent again showed when they felt compelled to trade Class AA Altoona right-handed reliever Ronald Uviedo, a middling prospect with a solid chance of at least reaching the major leagues, to the Toronto Blue Jays for left-hander Dana Eveland, now on his fifth major-league team at the ripe old age of 26.
General manager Neal Huntington’s assessment was both sobering and an indictment of how thin pitching is in the organization from top to bottom.
“He’s had success at various points as a major-league pitcher,” Huntington said. “Our scouts like his stuff package and it represents a probable upgrade over our current rotation.”
When asked exactly how his scouts rated Eveland’s “stuff package,” Huntington replied, “fringe to fringe average.”
Yikes. That doesn’t sound like much of an upgrade, even in a rotation that includes two fungible pitchers in left-hander Brian Burres and right-hander Jeff Karstens.
Eveland was 3-4 with a 6.45 ERA in nine starts for Toronto before being designated for assignment last week. While he shut out the Chicago White Sox on two hits over seven innings in a win on May 7, he proceeded to go 0-3 with a 16.39 ERA in his last three starts as he was tagged for a combined 19 runs in 9 1/3 innings by Boston, Minnesota and Arizona.
Eveland’s career numbers aren’t much better as he has gone 16-21 with a 5.66 ERA in 92 games, 53 starts, for Milwaukee (2005-06), Arizona (2007), Oakland (2008-09) and Toronto (2010). He has walked 4.7 batters and allowed 10.7 hits per nine innings while striking out 6.1. Eveland’s lackluster statistics are not well complemented by the fact that he has a reputation for being out of shape as he packs 240 pounds on his 6-foot frame.
Coming to the National League, where runs are scarcer than in the American League, is a plus for Eveland and so too is moving to a pitcher’s park like PNC Park. Still, it’s hard to imagine Eveland being anything more than, to steal Huntington’s line, a fringe to fringe average fifth starter, which makes trading a prospect of even small value for him an indictment of the Pirates’ system-wide lack of pitching talent.
John Perrotto has covered the Pirates since 1988 and is the editor-in-chief of BaseballProspectus.com and baseball columnist for the Beaver County Times.