Pittsburgh Pirates Trade History: The Arizona Diamondbacks Edition

The Diamondbacks have only been around since 1998. That’s really not long enough for an article, but they did just make the most recent big trade with the Pirates, so it’s good filler for the top of a First Pitch article. It feels like it was forever ago when the Pirates sent Starling Marte to the Diamondbacks for two prospects (Liover Peguero and Brennan Malone) plus some international bonus pool space. It’s going to be quite some time before we know which team won this deal. Other trades between the two clubs have been long enough to render a decision.

The first trade between the two clubs happened in February of 1999. I always thought this trade was extremely one-sided until just recently (as in a year or so) when I looked into the deal more. Tony Womack was sent to Arizona for Paul Weichard and Jason Boyd. The Pirates got almost nothing from the deal, with Boyd pitching four games before he was lost on waivers.

Womack helped the DBacks win the 2001 World Series, he scored 111 runs in 1999 and led the league with 72 stolen bases. Seems like a one-sided deal BUT his best season for WAR happened in 2004 after free agency, when he had a 3.3 WAR for the Cardinals. The rest of his 13-year career, he was a -0.9 WAR, giving him a meager 2.4 WAR career. For reference, Mike Benjamin was a 2.4 WAR during the 1999-2000 seasons for the Pirates when he got extra playing time because Womack wasn’t there. Dbacks clearly won the deal, but just as clear now is that it wasn’t a big loss for the Pirates. If anything, they should have got a better return.

In December of 1999, the Pirates sent pitcher Brad Clontz to Arizona for minor league pitcher Roberto Manzueta, who never made the majors. Clontz ended up back with the Pirates by April after being released by Arizona, so this was a nothing deal.

Two years later, the Pirates acquired minor league IF/OF Bry Nelson for minor league infielder Chris Petersen. Both had brief big league careers, though neither played for their new team in the majors.

In 2002 the Pirates acquired Duaner Sanchez for reliever Mike Fetters. The veteran Fetters pitched poorly for Arizona in 24.1 innings after the deal. Sanchez had three solid seasons of relief work after the trade (2004-06), but the Pirates lost him on waivers before he briefly became a nice bullpen piece. He pitched very poorly for the Pirates before that, giving up 15 runs in 8.1 innings over two seasons.

The Pirates/DBacks have had a few players swapped for cash over the years, but the next trade after the Sanchez/Fetters deal took eight years to happen and it ended up being a big one, involving five players and cash. The Pirates got Chris Snyder and Pedro Ciriaco, while Arizona took on salary with DJ Carrasco, Bobby Crosby and Ryan Church.

Ciriaco hit .333 in 31 games for the Pirates, but they got rid of him and watched him have his only good season with the 2012 Boston Red Sox. Snyder put up an 0.4 WAR in 74 games over two season with the Pirates, mostly with strong defensive numbers. Church had a solid finish to the 2010 season, but he never played in the majors again. Crosby was released almost immediately and never played in the majors again. Carrasco did a solid job in 18 relief appearances, then left via free agency. Advantage, no one.

After the 2010 season, the Pirates sent Zach Duke to Arizona for Cesar Valdez, a minor league pitcher with minimal big league time. Valdez went seven years between big league appearances and did nothing with the Pirates. Duke was himself in a starter/reliever role, posted an -0.5 WAR and left via free agency after the season. He still pitches, sometimes with success, as a reliever who bounces from team to team (up to nine already).

The next trade was the last one before the Marte deal. Pirates acquired infielder Phil Gosselin for minor league pitcher Frank Duncan. Gosselin was a -0.6 WAR for the Pirates in 28 games, so you can almost give Arizona the win here, despite the fact Duncan never made it to the majors (he pitched Indy ball in 2019). He had a lot of trouble pitching in Reno, which you can say about almost everyone who pitches in Reno. Duncan got great results for the 2016 Pirates in Altoona and Indianapolis, but he didn’t throw hard and relied on off-speed pitches and command. I never saw him after 2016, so I don’t know what happened besides the typical Reno stuff.

It’s a whole lot of nothing here, other than Womack being in the middle of a World Series run. The WAR numbers tell you that his mediocre defense and lack of power made him a replacement level player (or worse) most of his career. So even the one trade that had a clear winner here, really didn’t amount to much of a loss for the Pirates (or no loss if you plug in Benjamin as the fill-in for Womack). He was at least exciting to watch on the bases, so there’s that.