Pirates Take Morris’ Contract Off Giants’ Hands

The Deal
While it wasn’™t quite akin to the Rangers’ sell-off of Kenny Lofton, Mark Teixeira and Eric Gagne, the Giants cleared salary by trading veteran righthander Matt Morris to the Pirates for outfielder Rajai Davis and a player to be named. Neither the Giants nor the Pirates were in contention for a playoff spot, making this an unusual trade.

On Aug. 27, San Francisco received low Class A righthander Steve MacFarland to complete the trade.

The Big Leaguers
The Giants were actively shopping a few of their high-salaried players and found a suitor for the 32-year-old Morris, a 10-year veteran who has won 118 games. He spent his first eight seasons with the Cardinals, who made him a first-round pick from Seton Hall in 1995. Morris missed the entire 1999 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, but resurfaced in 2001, going 22-8, 3.16, as the ace of back-to-back playoff squads in St. Louis. Though he’s lost a lot off his fastball in recent years, Morris can still rely on his curveball, and he remains a durable mid-rotation starter. He’s 7-7, 4.35 this season and 118-84, 3.83 in 291 career games.

A natural center fielder, Davis, 26, runs extremely well and was leading the Triple-A International League with 27 stolen bases when he was recalled to the majors in June. A 38th-round pick in 2001, Davis already has beaten the odds by making it to the major leagues, but his defensive prowess–including a very strong throwing arm–and foot speed might allow him to stay there. He hit .318/.384/.469 in 211 at-bats for Indianapolis this season and has hit .271/.357/.354 for Pittsburgh.
The Prospects
MacFarland, 21, signed as a ninth-round pick out of Lamar in 2006. The Pirates used him primarily in relief, and he went 3-2, 4.80 in 38 games at low Class A Hickory this year. He had a 69-48 K-BB ratio in 66 innings, while opponents hit .236 with five homers against him. MacFarland has a low-90s fastball, but he’s still searching for consistent secondary pitches and command.
Quick Take
Morris figures to lessen the burden on youngsters Ian Snell and Tom Gorzelanny atop the Pirates’ rotation, but Pittsburgh is on the hook for Morris’ remaining salary this season (more than $3 million), his full payout in 2008 ($9.5 million) and either a $9 million option or a $1 million buyout in 2009.

" Trade Central 2007