Facing a poor short-term outlook with the club's two best players on the long-term disabled list, the Mets traded veterans Marlon Byrd and John Buck to the Pirates for 19-year-old second baseman Dilson Herrera and a player to be named.
UPDATE: Righthanded reliever Vic Black cleared waivers and on Aug. 28 joined the Mets as the PTBN in the deal.
The Pirates, seeking their first playoff berth since 1992, are chasing down the Cardinals and attempting to stave off the Reds in the ultra-competitive National League Central, where three and a half games separate all three teams. The Mets, meanwhile, careen toward their fifth straight losing season with all-stars David Wright (out with a hamstring injury since Aug. 2) and Matt Harvey (torn UCL in right elbow) on the shelf.
The Pirates assume roughly $980,000 million in salary obligations for the remainder of 2013 after receiving $250,000 from the Mets. The contracts for both Buck and Byrd exoure at the end of the season.
Dilson Herrera, 2b
Age: 19. Bats: R.
Career Transactions: Signed as international free agent by Pirates, July 29, 2010.
Herrera hit .321 for short-season State College in 2012 and led the New York-Penn League with 22 extra-base hits, and despite a dip in his raw production this season at low Class A, he remains an intriguing prospect as an offensive-oriented second baseman. A compactly-built 5-foot-10, Herrera makes consistent line-drive contact and ought to develop at least average power to go with a solid average and on-base percentage. He lacks the type of flashy defensive tools to get a look at shortstop, though sticking at the keystone will be no problem thanks to solid range and quick hands. As such, South Atlantic League managers recently selected Herrera as the best defensive second baseman in the circuit.
Vic Black, rhp
Career Transactions: Selected by Pirates in supplemental first round (49th overall) of 2009 draft; signed June 22, 2009.
Black struck out one-third of batters faced as a reliever in Triple-A this season while saving 17 games in 22 opportunities. His riding fastball tops out at 97 mph and his power, mid-80s curveball gives him the weaponry to get outs in and out of the strike zone. He's fine-tuned his control as he's gained more experience in the bullpen, improving his walk rate from 5.0 BB/9 at Class A in 2011 to 4.4 at Double-A to 4.0 this year at Triple-A. Scouts who like Black see him as a first-division set-up reliever or possibly closer.
Marlon Byrd, rf
Age: 35. Bats: R.
Remaining Commitment: Prorated portion of $700,000 salary for 2013.
John Buck, c
Age: 33. Bats: R.
Remaining Commitment: Prorated portion of $6 million salary for 2013.
Byrd, who has punished lefties this season with a .345/.383/.597 batting line in 154 plate appearances, enters a Pittsburgh corner-outfield rotation consisting of lefty-hitting Garrett Jones and righty Jose Tabata. If he continues to produce for the Pirates as he did for the Mets, then Byrd's acquisition could allow Jones to see more regular time at first base.
Buck crushed 11 home runs in April, but he's cooled to a typical level of production in the four months since. Having been supplanted by rookie Travis d'Arnaud in New York, he'll help shoulder the catching load in Pittsburgh in September and, most likely, October. He joins veteran backstop Russell Martin and rookie Tony Sanchez.