This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: July 29th, the Jack Wilson Trades

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, plus four trades of note.

On this date in 2009, the Pirates traded away Jack Wilson, Ian Snell and Freddy Sanchez in two separate deals, bringing back six players total. The Pirates received four minor league pitchers, along with shortstop Ronny Cedeno and first baseman Jeff Clement. The deals didn’t particularly work out for any of the teams involved. The Pirates got nothing from their four pitchers, losing two in the Rule 5 draft (Nathan Adcock and Brett Lorin). Tim Alderson (the return in the Sanchez deal) was traded away for a minor league veteran who never played for the Pirates, while the final player (Aaron Pribanic) was injured for a large majority of his time with the Pirates. Clement played 77 games with the Pirates and hit .193 with seven homers. Cedeno’s contributions far outweighed everyone else combined, with three seasons in Pittsburgh, in which he batted .254 with 15 homers and 91 RBIs.

The Pirates were trading Wilson on an expiring contract, so his time was nearing the end and he was making a large salary. Snell was in a different situation, struggling in the majors, but still had a normal salary and time left before free agency. Wilson ended up re-signing with Seattle and played two full seasons there, while Snell had a 5.12 ERA in 110.2 innings in Seattle, which ended up being his last stop in the majors. Sanchez was also on an expiring deal when he went to San Francisco, but just like Wilson, he re-signed with his new team. He had a .619 OPS in 2009 after the trade, but still signed with the Giants for three years, in what turned out to be a bad deal due to injuries limiting him to 171 games.

Nine years prior to trading Jack Wilson, the Pirates traded for him, sending pitcher Jason Christiansen to the Cardinals in a straight up deal. This deal was one-sided for the Pirates, who got nine seasons and 1,159 games out of Wilson before the trade mentioned above. Wilson had 21.3 WAR for the Pirates, driven by outstanding defense. The Cardinals got just 29.1 innings and a 4.91 ERA from Christiansen, who was being used as the lefty specialist out of the pen. They traded him in the middle of 2002 for a pitcher named Kevin Joseph, who pitched just 11 big league innings.

On this date in 1916, the Pirates traded veteran second baseman Otto Knabe and catcher Art Wilson to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for veteran outfielder Frank Schulte and catcher William Fischer. Knabe was nearing the end of his career and was actually sent home by the Pirates prior to this trade because the veteran second baseman wasn’t in good enough shape to play everyday. He was once considered an All-Star caliber player, who could field his position and handle the bat well. Wilson was a 30-year-old backstop, in his first season with the Pirates, ninth year overall. He had played in Chicago the two years prior, playing in the Federal League. He was hitting .258 in 53 games for Pittsburgh, throwing out 37% of base runners, which was below average for the day. The catcher coming back to the Pirates in the deal, Fischer, was the youngest player of the group at 25 years old. He was the opposite of Wilson that year, having success on defense, but he was hitting below .200, which was well below his .329 the previous season. The odd thing about these two being traded for each other was the fact they platooned behind the plate for the Chicago Federal League team the previous year. Schulte, just like Knabe, was a star nearing the end of his career. He was the 1911 MVP, when he had the first ever 20-20-20-20 season, hitting 31 doubles, 21 triples, 21 homers and stealing 23 bases. Schulte was hitting .296 over 72 games at the time of the trade, but it was obvious he was slowing down.

After the deal, Knabe played out the season in Chicago, then finished his career in the minors the following year. Schulte hit .239 with no homers in 85 games for Pittsburgh, before they put him on waivers in June of 1917, where he was picked up by the Phillies. Fischer played well after the deal, sticking with the Pirates through the end of the following year. Despite hitting .286 over 95 games that last season, the Pirates went with Walter Schmidt the next year as their starter. Fischer went to the minors, where he played off and on the next ten years. Wilson stuck around the majors the longest of the group, playing until 1921. His time with Chicago wasn’t that good though, with a .206 average and a high error total over 117 games played.

The Players

Mike Williams, closer for the Pirates from 1998 until 2003. He began his career with five seasons for the Phillies, the last (1996) spent as a starting pitcher, going 6-14, 5.44 in 167 innings. After pitching just ten games in the majors in 1997 with the Royals, the Pirates were able to sign Williams as a free agent that December. He didn’t become the team’s closer until his second year, but that first year he was a lights out reliever, posting a 1.94 ERA, with 59 strikeouts in 51 innings. He closed for the 1999-2001 Pirates, saving between 22-24 games each year, although he accomplished part of that with a 5.09 ERA the first season. On July 31, 2001, the Pirates traded Williams to the Astros for pitcher Tony McKnight. Pittsburgh re-signed Williams in the off-season as a free agent, putting him back in the closer role, where he responded with an All-Star season. He pitched 59 times, with a 2.93 ERA and a team record 46 saves, which has since been surpassed. He made the 2002 All-Star team as well, although his stats were nowhere near the previous season. Williams had a 1-3 ,6.27 record with 25 saves for the 2003 Pirates. Pittsburgh traded him to the Phillies on July 21, 2003 in exchange for minor league pitcher Frank Brooks. For Williams, his struggles continued in Philadelphia, and he never pitched in the majors again after the 2003 season. He ranks third in Pirates history in saves (140), trailing only Elroy Face and Kent Tekulve.

Tommy Gregg, outfielder for the 1987-88 Pirates. He was drafted by Pittsburgh in the seventh round of the 1985 draft. It was the third time he was drafted, with the first two times being done by the Cleveland Indians in 1981 and 1984. Gregg hit well in low-A ball that first season, batting .313 in 72 games. He jumped to Double-A the next year and posted average numbers, causing the Pirates to repeat him at the level. He broke out in 1987 playing for Harrisburg, hitting .371 with 84 walks, 82 RBIs, 35 stolen bases and 99 runs scored. Pittsburgh brought him up that September, giving him ten games off the bench. He went 2-for-8 at the plate and played all three outfield positions during his brief stay. Gregg began 1988 at Triple-A, earning a promotion at the beginning of July. He hit .200 in 14 games, two as a starter. He was sent back to the minors, then on September 1st he was sent to the Braves in exchange for Ken Oberkfell. He ended up playing parts of seven more seasons in the majors, finishing with a .243 average, 20 homers and 88 RBIs in 446 games.

Dave LaPoint, lefty pitcher for the 1988 Pirates. He began his Major League career in 1980 with the Brewers, and by the time he reached the Pirates eight years later, he had already played for five other teams in the majors. LaPoint had won as many as 12 games in a season prior to 1988, both times (1983-84) coming with the Cardinals. He was with the White Sox to begin the 1988 season and was pitching well, going 10-11, 3.40 in 25 starts. In early August, the Pirates sent pitcher Barry Jones to the White Sox in an even up exchange for LaPoint. He made eight starts for the Pirates, going 4-2, 2.77, with 52 innings pitched, giving him a career high 14 wins on the year. He became a free agent at the end of the season and signed with the Yankees, spending two years in New York, before finishing his career with the 1991 Phillies. LaPoint had a career record of 80-86, 4.02 in 227 starts and 67 relief appearances over 12 seasons.

Erv Dusak, outfielder for the 1951-52 Pirates. He originally signed with the Cardinals in 1938, though prior to the 1946 season he had played just 18 Major League games, partially due to time missed during the war. From 1946 until 1948, he played at least 100 games each season for the Cardinals, although his average slipped to near .200 during the last year. Dusak spent all but one game of the 1949 season in the minors, then was buried at the end of the Cardinals bench the next year. He began pitching in July and would make two late season starts, finishing 0-2, 3.72 in 36.1 innings, while getting just 12 plate appearances the entire season. On May 17, 1951, the Pirates sent shortstop Stan Rojek to the Cardinals to get Dusak and Rocky Nelson. He was being used as a mop-up pitcher exclusively in 1951 until he reached Pittsburgh. The Pirates used him almost everywhere, albeit with little playing time. He played 21 games, seeing time at six different positions, including three games on the mound, one as a starter. He was with the Pirates for the first two months of 1952, only seeing limited action in the outfield. He went to the minors in June and remained there for the next three years before retiring. While in Pittsburgh, he played 41 games, hitting .273 with two homers in 71 plate appearances.

George Cutshaw, second baseman for the Pirates from 1918 until 1921. Cutshaw played college ball at Notre Dame, then spent six seasons with Brooklyn, before joining the Pirates in a big trade that involved two future Hall of Famers. On January 9, 1918, the Pirates sent infielder Chuck Ward and pitchers, Burleigh Grimes and Al Mamaux to the Robins in exchange for Cutshaw and outfielder Casey Stengel. Cutshaw was a slick fielding second baseman, leading the NL five times in putouts, four times in assists and twice in fielding percentage during his career. He was a .260 hitter, with 360 RBIs and 350 runs scored while with Brooklyn. In his four seasons with Pittsburgh, he batted .275 with 219 RBIs and 204 runs scored in 494 games. He hit .285 with 68 RBIs during that first season with the Pirates, but his big year was actually his last. In 1921, Cutshaw hit .340 in 98 games, missing some time in August. The Pirates decided to part ways with the 35-year-old second baseman in the off-season, sending him to the Detroit Tigers for the cost of a waiver pickup. Cutshaw almost retired before the 1921 season, then asked to be released following the year, figuring a change in scenery would be good for him.  He had one decent season in Detroit, before his numbers tailed off in 1923, which ended up being his last season in the big leagues. He played three years in the minors before retiring from baseball

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