Savvy Labor Day shoppers that they are, the Pirates upgraded their middle-of-the-road offense with three veteran pickups via waiver trades in August, the latest being first baseman Justin Morneau, whom they acquired from the Twins for 28-year-old center fielder Alex Presley and a player to be named.
UPDATE: The Pirates sent Triple-A reliever Duke Welker to the Twins to complete the deal on Oct. 5.
Morneau will be owed roughly $2.3 million for the remainder of the season. Pittsburgh previously assumed roughly $980,000 in salary commitment when they acquired Marlon Byrd and John Buck from the Mets.
Alex Presley, cf
Age: 28 Bats: L
Career Transactions: Selected by Pirates in eighth round of 2006 draft; signed June 18, 2006
Presley made a splash as a 26-year-old rookie in 2011, batting .298/.339/.465 in 215 at-bats and making 50 starts for the Pirates. He made 78 starts in 2012 and just 14 this season, batting a composite .242/.278/.402 (87 OPS+) while going 9-for-17 in stolen-base attempts over 133 games. Accordingly, he’s spent most of 2013 at Triple-A Indianapolis, where he’s hit .298 to rank eighth in the International League batting race at the time of the trade. Presley is a solid defender in center field who runs the bases well, but with below-average power, speed (at least in terms of stolen-base output) and plate discipline, he’s stretched as an everyday player on a good team. In the right situation, he could be a valuable extra outfielder/occasional starter, but because he turns 29 next season and has no minor league options remaining, Presley’s future is now.
Duke Welker, rhp
Career Transactions: Selected by Pirates in second round of 2007 draft; signed June 19, 2007
A second-round pick from Arkansas in 2007, Welker’s career prospects brightened when he converted to the bullpen full-time in 2010. In short bursts, he can dial his fastball up to 95-97 mph with a mid-80s slider that touches plus at times. At Triple-A this season, he handcuffed righthanded batters, holding them to a line of .232/.308/.319 with two homers in 138 at-bats, though he allowed a .352 OBP to lefties due to an elevated walk rate. Welker has one minor league option remaining for 2014.
Justin Morneau, 1b
Age: 32 Bats: L
Remaining Commitment: Prorated portion of $14 million salary for 2013, then eligible for free agency.
Morneau just hasn’t been the same hitter since he sustained a concussion midway through the 2010 season. He’s hit .256/.316/.412 in 1,401 plate appearances since the beginning of 2011, which translates into a league average adjusted-OPS+ of 99. Morneau hit nine homers and drove in 21 runs over the course of 29 games in August, and he can still hit righthanders at good clip (.281/.343/.488 with 15 homers this season), so the Pirates could very well get strong platoon production for the next month-plus.