Pirates find short-term first base solution

By Matt Meyers
December 7, 2005

For the last two years, the Reds have had five players to play in the outfield and first base. They solved that problem Tuesday by sending first baseman Sean Casey to the Pirates for lefthander Dave Williams.

A Pittsburgh area native, Casey had his number retired at Upper St. Clair High in suburban Pittsburgh. Originally drafted by the Indians in the second round in 1995 out of the University of Richmond, Casey came to the Reds in 1998 in a trade for righthander Dave Burba. The lefthanded hitter broke out in 1999 by hitting .332/.399/.539. A three-time all-star and a career .305 hitter, Casey has seen his power dwindle but remains an excellent contact hitter and on-base threat.

Casey’s departure will allow the Reds to shift Adam Dunn to first base while playing Austin Kearns, Ken Griffey and Wily Mo Pena together in the outfield. Casey is due $8.5 million in 2006, the last year of his contract, so the trade saves Cincinnati money, though they are reportedly sending money to Pittsburgh as part of the deal. Casey is known as “The Mayor” in Cincinnati for his engaging personality and community involvement, so this trade is sure to disappoint some fans.

Williams, a 17th-rounder in 1998 out of Delaware Tech Community College, went 10-11, 4.41 with 88 strikeouts and 58 walks in 139 innings in 2005. Most of his success came on the road, as he posted a 6.68 ERA and gave up six home runs in 62 innings at home. Away from Pittsburgh he had 2.65 ERA in 78 innings.

He features a two-seam fastball, curveball and change, all of which are average pitches, but uses a high leg kick combined with a three-quarters arm slot for maximum deception. With runners on base, he uses a slide step and is excellent at holding runners and controlling the running game.

The 26-year-old has bounced in and out of the majors over each of the last five seasons and compiled a career record of 17-26, 4.25 in 336 innings. The Pirates have a slew of young arms either in the big leagues or on the verge, making Williams expendable.

Casey will slot in as their everyday first baseman, which will allow Brad Eldred to get more seasoning in the minors. While Eldred homered 12 times in 190 big league at-bats, he fanned 77 times and his feast-or-famine approach needs refinement.