The Pirates' trade of All-Star outfielder Nate McLouth had some players on the team and fans in Pittsburgh scratching their heads. General manager Neal Huntington tried to explain his rationale for the deal in an e-mail to Pirates season-ticket holders.
Huntington made it clear in the letter that the trade, in which Pittsburgh received three prospects from the Atlanta Braves, wasn't financially motivated.
"I understand why some people, at first glance, may believe this move was financially motivated, but I can assure you that this was strictly a baseball decision," Huntington wrote. "In fact, our owner, Bob Nutting, was as surprised as some of our fans when we sought his approval for this trade. I am grateful that he has the faith in me, our baseball operations staff and the processes we have in place to approve a move like this, despite the risk of public backlash on him personally and the organization as a whole."
On Wednesday, the Pirates dealt McLouth, one of their best players, to the Atlanta Braves for outfielder Gorkys Hernandez, one of the Braves' top prospects, along with pitchers Charlie Morton and Jeff Locke. The 27-year-old McLouth set career highs last season with a .276 batting average, 26 homers and 94 RBIs.
First baseman Adam LaRoche was one of the more vocal Pirates players in discussing his anger toward the trade.
"There ain't a guy in here who ain't [ticked] off about it," said LaRoche, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "It's kind of like being with your platoon in a battle, and guys keep dropping around you. You keep hanging on, hanging on, and you've got to figure: How much longer till you sink?
"It's fine. Heck with it. We're not the GM. We don't run the team. If they feel like it's the best move for three or four years from now, great," LaRoche said, according to the report. "Unfortunately, that does me no good. I've still got to be in here telling guys it's going to be fine with Nate gone. Well, you can only do that for so long until guys just kind of ... well, they know."
In his letter, Huntington points out that the players that Pittsburgh received were also rumored as being discussed in Atlanta's discussions with the San Diego Padres last offseason in talks for Jake Peavy.
Another motivation, Huntington writes, was to promote outfielder Andrew McCutchen -- one of the Pirates' top prospects. McCutchen is batting .231 with three hits in 13 at-bats since being called up after the McLouth trade.
Huntington said in his letter that tough decisions will have to be made as he tries to build the Pirates into a World Series contender. The Pirates have finished under .500 for 15 straight seasons. The Phillies hold the major league mark for consecutive losing seasons -- 16 from 1933 and 1948.
"We have said several times that tough decisions will need to be made as we build and sustain a championship caliber organization," Huntington writes.
"The decision to trade Nate was perhaps the most difficult one both personally and professionally that we have made to date. Tough decisions are not always popular. However, we have a singular focus on our goal of building an organization that can consistently compete for championships, not simply finish above .500. The organizational talent level has been vastly improved during the past two years and, as a result, we are a much stronger organization and closer to our ultimate goal."