By Chris Kline
December 7, 2005
Before the Marlins dealt Juan Pierre to anyone, the center fielder was expected to carry a hefty price tag. As Florida made what is expected to be its final move to shed payroll, it got arguably the best return of any deal they made this offseason from the Cubs, netting lefthander Renyel Pinto and righthanders Sergio Mitre and Ricky Nolasco for Pierre.
It was the fourth cost-cutting deal Florida made in two weeks, saving them nearly $50 million in payroll next season.
In Pierre, the Cubs land a leadoff hitter with speed and great range in center. The 28-year-old, who made $3.7 million in 2005, is eligible for arbitration after hitting .276, his worst average in three seasons as a Marlin. Pierre led the National League with 221 hits in 2004, a year after he led the majors with 65 steals in helping the Marlins win the 2003 World Series.
In return, the Marlins add to their stockpile of young arms. The only one with major league experience is Mitre, who went 2-5, 5.37 in 60 innings in 2005. He also went 5-6, 4.33 in 70 innings at Triple-A Iowa. A strike-thrower who induces a lot of ground balls, Mitre throws a sinking 86-94 mph fastball, curveball and changeup. Because the 24-year-old isn’t overpowering, he doesn’t have much margin for error, as he has shown in his big league stints.
Pinto, 23, went a combined 11-5, 3.72 with 147 strikeouts in 152 innings between Double-A West Tenn and Iowa this season. Pinto’s best pitch is his changeup, which he will throw in any count with good deception and sink. He throws from a low three-quarters delivery, making it tough for hitters to pick up his 92-94 mph fastball. His slider has shown flashes of becoming above-average, but he must improve its consistency.
Nolasco, who turns 23 next week, has always flown under the radar in the Cubs’ system. He started to get some recognition this year after he made a run at the pitching triple crown in his second straight year in the Southern League, topping the circuit in strikeouts (173), tying for the lead in wins (14) and finishing third in ERA (2.89) for West Tenn. The 6-foot-2, 220-pounder has an aggressive style while commanding the strike zone. He features a 91-93 mph fastball, curveball with good depth and a changeup.