Trading Spaces: How Altoona has been involved in Pittsburgh’s deadline deals

By Garett Mansfield

The Major League trade deadline is just around the corner. By Friday, August 28, the Pittsburgh Pirates have already added one player via trade (RHP Austin Davis from Philadelphia) and traded a player away (OF Jarrod Dyson) leading up to the 4 p.m. deadline on August 31.

Acquiring players to build a consistent winner takes a variety of methods. Last month, we looked back on the volume of homegrown, drafted products that came through Altoona on the way to Pittsburgh. That strategy combined with international signings is the foundation of building a strong farm system.

The trade deadline is the another exciting time frame that helps build that winning pedigree.

The Pirates have dipped into their Double-A roster to complete deadline deals on several occasions. In other years, they’ve brought a valued prospect back to Altoona after the sale of a Major League talent.

Looking around the Alternate Training Site, you can see a handful of players that were added to the system by using this strategy.

Oneil Cruz (from the Dodgers in the Tony Watson deal in 2017), Liover Peguero (from Arizona for Starling Marte, offseason 2020), Jason Martin (from Houston for Gerrit Cole, offseason 2018) and Cody Ponce (from Milwaukee for Jordan Lyles, trade deadline 2019) were all trade acquisitions.

In fact, the Pirates have been very active at the deadline and have used a Double-A player to complete a trade or acquired a Double-A player in each of the last five seasons.

Ponce was the latest example of a player involved in a Pirates trade that suited up for the Curve.

Cody Ponce pitching in a sim game at the Pirates’ Alternate Training Site in Altoona

The year before that, Curve LHP Taylor Hearn was dealt to Texas for RHP Keone Kela as the Pirates made a push for the postseason, one that ultimately fell short. The Curve roster was used after the non-waiver trade deadline in 2017 to acquire INF Sean Rodriguez from the Braves while 1B/OF Connor Joe was shipped to Atlanta.

Connor Joe (Photo: Rob Lynn)

The 2016 deadline saw C Reese McGuire, OF Harold Ramirez and LHP Francisco Liriano dealt to Toronto for Drew Hutchison (McGuire and Ramirez were on the Double-A roster). OF JaCoby Jones was just a few days past a promotion to Double-A when he was traded to Detroit for RHP Joakim Soria at the deadline in 2015, helping add to the Pirates bullpen for the playoffs.

Harold Ramirez led the Florida State League in hitting in 2015 with a .337 average (Photo: Mark Olson/MiLB)

Several other examples are highlighted throughout Curve history:

  • July 31, 2010 – Received Andrew Lambo from the Dodgers in the Octavio Dotel deal
  • June 3, 2009 – Received Gorkys Hernandez from the Braves in the Nate McLouth trade
  • August 17, 2003 – Added Ray Sadler from the Cubs in the Randall Simon deal
  • July 31, 2001 – Added Adrian Burnside from the Dodgers in the Terry Mulholland deal
  • June 29, 2000 – Received Jack Wilson from the Cardinals for Jason Christiansen
Jeff Keppinger

The most complex of all deadline deals that involved players with the Curve was July 30, 2004. Jeff Keppinger was hitting .334 for the Curve through 82 games but had to complete his Eastern League batting-title season with another club. Keppinger and Curve pitcher Kris Benson were dealt to the Mets while the Pirates netted Matt Peterson, a pitcher that reported to Altoona after the trade, along with Ty Wigginton and Jose Bautista. Bautista is clearly the most interesting piece of the deal looking back on it 16 years later. Originally a Pirates draft pick, he was chosen in the 2003 Rule 5 Draft by Baltimroe, claimed off waivers on June 3, 2004 by the Rays, purchased by the Royals on June 28, traded to the Mets on July 30 and then flipped to the Pirates on the same day. The following spring, Bautista was in a Curve uniform for the duration of the 2005 season until he was called up by the Pirates in September.

Jose Bautista (MiLB)

While the Curve is not involved in any way with helping craft these deals together, the club is clearly sees the ripple effect. Not every player received in return is Major League ready and the Curve have given several future Bucs their first taste of the organization.

The 2020 trade deadline ropes the Curve into a very different duty than before. Players on the Alternate Site roster could be shuffled up to fill vacated spots on the MLB roster with newly acquired talent brought in to replace them.

All in all, the folks in Altoona are always on alert on deadline day. That won’t be any different during a year as strange as this.

This contribution to the Around the Curve Blog is presented by Microtel. Plan your stay at one of Altoona’s three Lion Country Lodging locations. Click here to make a reservation today.

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