The Pirates have launched the Dave Littlefield Online Q&A exclusively on pirates.com. Fans can submit questions, and Dave will answer a limited number, posting the responses here at pirates.com on a regular basis.
I like the Matt Morris trade. We got a veteran starter without the long-term contract risk. Why did you make the move now rather than in the offseason?
-- Joe M., Cranberry Twp, Pa.
We've tried the last couple of offseasons to acquire a veteran pitcher through a trade or free agency because we felt it would be a very good fit with so many young starters. At one time, we were the only Major League team to have a starting rotation consisting of players that we drafted and developed ourselves, but it is a tough task to have all of your starters lack big-league experience.
We felt all along that it would beneficial to have a player who was durable, could give us some innings and who obviously was productive, as well. Morris is a good fit not only because he fits this profile, but he also will be very beneficial for our young pitchers and help us become a better team. In this situation with Morris, we have him for the rest of this season, next season and we also have a club option in 2009. A guy like Morris is someone we've tried to get in the offseason, but did not because it usually takes a three- to five-year contract to acquire such a player.
What kind of impact do you think Morris will have on young guys like Ian Snell, Tom Gorzelanny and Paul Maholm?
-- Buddy C., Bethel Park, Pa.
Morris is a veteran starter that has been around successful teams and has had a great deal of success as an individual. Although he may not be at the peak of his career, he continues to produce solid performances, which is the primary issue. But in addition to his performances, he's a winner, he's got great character and he's a guy that will be able to help our young pitchers by the way he goes about his business like the pro that he is.
Was there a lot of interest in our relievers [prior to the trade deadline], and why did you hold off on making any of those moves?
-- Ron B., Tampa, Fla.
There was a great deal of interest in our relievers, but as I have mentioned many times, we're in a much different situation than we've been in years past. The only two players that we don't have under control for the next couple of years are Shawn Chacon and Tony Armas. In previous years, we've had a lot of people heading towards free agency during the trading deadline; therefore we would try to acquire talented prospects in return for a "two month rental". This year, we've had excellent performances from some players that we have under control for a prolonged period of time and feel they will be helpful in getting us back to winning in the near future.
We are always open-minded to trades and have made quite a few of them at different times, but we just didn't feel we would have gotten the kind of value that we desired in return for these players.
Is there any chance of seeing Cesar Izturis at second and Freddy Sanchez back at third? I have heard Izturis has some experience at second base.
-- Nate W., East Liverpool, Ohio
At this point in time, we are very happy with Jose Bautista and the job he has done at third base. Because of this, barring injury, we don't want to move Sanchez around unless it is for a prolonged period of time. Due to his ability to play second, third and shortstop, Izturis will give us some flexibility, give us some good quality depth and he will also help protect us from injury.
Why was John Van Benschoten sent to Triple-A instead of putting him in the bullpen to work with pitching coach Jim Colborn?
-- Mike B., Doylestown, Ohio
Van Benschoten was sent to Triple-A to work at improving his performances and work on some of the things that he knows he needs to get better at on the Major League level. He is a guy that we have high hopes for based on the quality of his stuff, and although his recent performances weren't overly impressive, he showed a lot of life to his fastball, solid velocity and a quality curveball and changeup at times. Obviously with the results, he needs more work and there is nothing that can help improve a player more than game experience. He will get plenty of opportunities to work on his craft in Indianapolis.
I have recently read that Yoslan Herrera has greatly improved his performance in Double-A. Do you think he will make an impact on the big-league club next season?
-- Bryan C., Sandwich, Mass.
Herrera is a very interesting pitcher in that we signed him last spring as a Cuban defector that was working out in the Dominican Republic. Louie Eljaua, our special assistant to the general manager, along with Rene Gayo, our director of Latin American scouting, and our Dominican staff, was instrumental in getting him signed.
Herrera has a really good feel for throwing strikes, has an interesting repertoire of fastball, curveball and forkball and has tremendous poise and maturity. He got off to a slow start in Double-A, which we think is explained by the fact the he hadn't pitched competitively for the last few years due to his status as a Cuban defector. He has been very successful in the second half of the season and we hope this continues. We think much brighter days are ahead for Herrera with the Pirates, but it is difficult to say when he will make an impact at the big-league level. I think it makes sense that it will take some time to overcome the rust from not playing competitively for an extended period of time.