Sending waves throughout the baseball world on Thursday, the Pirates parted with popular left fielder Jason Bay as a part of a three-team deal just before the 4 p.m. ET Trade Deadline. The Pirates landed four promising young players in return.
Bay heads to Boston, where he jumps right into a tight American League East pennant race, while the Red Sox sent disgruntled Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers.
In return the Pirates received outfielder Brandon Moss and right-handed reliever Craig Hansen from the Red Sox, as well as third baseman Andy LaRoche and right-handed starter Bryan Morris from Los Angeles.
The megadeal was the second made by Huntington over the past week. On Saturday, the Pirates traded outfielder Xavier Nady and reliever Damaso Marte to the Yankees for four other young players -- right-handers Ross Ohlendorf, Daniel McCutchen and Jeff Karstens, as well as a highly touted outfield prospect in Jose Tabata.
It's all a part of the vision that Huntington set in motion back in September when he was hired. That vision has been simple -- trade players when their values are highest and stock up on young talent in return.
That's exactly what the Pirates did in both moves this week. The club was going to lose Marte after this season, as it would not have picked up his $6 million option. Both Bay and Nady were under the team's control for just one more year beyond the current season. Bay has one year left on a four-year deal and will make $7.5 million next season before becoming a free agent.
In return, the Pirates now have eight players, seven of whom have accumulated less than a year of Major League service time. That means arbitration is still years away, while free agency is even further in the distance. Karstens' service time sits at just over one year.
"In all three cases, these players increased their value by playing very well this spring," Huntington said of Bay, Nady and Marte. "It also made it very difficult to trade all three players because they did play very well. But the bottom line is, for us moving forward we felt like we needed to turn around these players with very limited amount of control into multiple players with extended years of control."
Moving back specifically to Thursday's deal, however, Bay's departure was preceded by a 24-hour frenzy of rumors as to where he would be heading. On Wednesday night, there was speculation that a three-team trade involving the Red Sox, Pirates and Marlins was going to be completed. Those talks fizzled late Thursday morning.
Then the Rays, who wanted to add a quality right-handed bat, jumped back into the hunt for Bay in the final hours of the non-waiver trading period. With the Pirates staying true to their high asking price, the two clubs, however, were unable to agree on a package of prospects.
In the meantime, the Dodgers remained interested in Ramirez, while the Red Sox became more desperate to move him. Well aware of this, the Pirates held the leverage to be able to make high demands. The fact that there was no need to have to trade Bay for any financial reasons also left the Pirates able to keep their asking price high.
According to Huntington, talks about a deal involving the Dodgers didn't begin on Thursday, though a deal did come to a fruition fairly quickly when the three sides seriously rekindled talks close to Thursday's deadline.
"It is something that took place relatively quickly," Huntington said, "but the groundwork had been laid a while ago."
Three of the four players the Pirates received on Thursday will make an immediate appearance on the Major League roster. Hansen, LaRoche and Moss will all join the Pirates in Chicago for Friday's series opener against the Cubs. Morris, 21, will report to Class A Hickory.
The 24-year-old Hansen, a first-round pick in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, has been with the Red Sox for most of the season. In 32 relief appearances, he has gone 1-3 with a 5.58 ERA. He will be used as a middle reliever for the Pirates for the time being, with Huntington speculating that the right-hander could have the makeup of a closer down the road.
LaRoche, 24, will join his older brother, Adam, and will see immediate playing time at third base. He came into the season named as the Dodgers' second-best prospect by Baseball America. After dealing with a thumb injury early in the year, he had recently rejoined the Dodgers, where he had hit .203 with two homers and six RBIs in 27 games.
The 24-year-old Moss will take Bay's spot in left field immediately. An eighth-round pick back in 2002, Moss had been blocked for playing time by J.D. Drew and Ramirez in Boston, but hit .295 in 34 games with the Red Sox. He hit .282 with eight homers and 30 RBIs in 43 Triple-A games with Pawtucket.
Morris remains a few years away from making an impact at the Major League level, but is expected be one of the better arms the Pirates have moving through the system over the next few years. Another first-round Draft pick, Morris has gone 2-4 with a 3.20 ERA and 72 strikeouts this season in Class A.
With a fastball in the mid-90s mph and a power breaking ball, Huntington said that Morris looks to have "the ability to be a mid- to upper-rotation starter."
Unlike the trade on Saturday, which was anchored by the addition of Tabata, Huntington described Thursday's deadline deal as a "quality depth package" in which not one player was seen as the centerpiece.
With the loss of Bay, the Pirates will finish the season without two-thirds of what had been one of the Majors' most productive outfields this season. Bay leaves Pittsburgh with a .282 average, 22 homers and 64 RBIs. He also leaves ranked eighth on the franchise's all-time home run list with 139.
He has been a fixture in left field since 2003, when he was traded to the Pirates by San Diego in a deal for Brian Giles.
His final at-bat with the Pirates was a groundout to short on Wednesday night that ended the game. Preparing himself for the fact that it might be headed to Boston on Thursday, Bay said: "If that's the case, I look forward to that [playoff] atmosphere. That's the silver lining."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.