Pittsburgh Pirates Trade History: The Florida/Miami Marlins Edition

Today’s This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History article looked at the Rule 5 draft pick made by the Pirates in 2009, when they selected outfielder John Raynor from the Florida Marlins. So today I decided to continue our 30+ part series called Pittsburgh Pirates Trade History. This is the 13th article in the series.

The funny thing about my reasoning for doing this article is that the Raynor deal doesn’t qualify for this article, which is going to be a short one obviously. The Marlins haven’t been around that long in baseball time, especially not compared to a club that played its first game during the 1882 season. In this series, we look at trades that involved players on each side, with at least one big league player involved. As long as someone in the deal appeared in a Major League game, we will include it here. That means no player purchases, no waiver pickups, no Rule 5 picks, and no minor league deals that didn’t go anywhere for either team. Now that you know the standards, let’s get into the trade history.

The Marlins played their first game during the 1993 season, though they were making trades and signing players during the previous year. However, these two sides didn’t make their first transaction of any kind until their seventh season in the majors, when the Pirates sent outfielder Brant Brown to the Marlins for outfielder Bruce Aven on December 13, 1999. Aven was 27 years old in 1999 and in his first full season in the majors. He did well, hitting .289 with 12 homers and 70 RBIs in 137 games. He did not do as well after the deal, batting .250 with five homers in 72 games with the Pirates. The Pirates cut ties with him in early August, sending him to the Los Angeles Dodgers after placing him on waivers. Brown also had his best season before joining the Pirates in a trade with the Chicago Cubs for Jon Lieber one year prior to this Marlins/Pirates deal. He hit .232 with 16 homers in 130 games during his only season in Pittsburgh. The Pirates somehow won this deal (it was a very minor win), even with Aven playing poorly. That’s because Brown did even worse, in what ended up being his final season in the majors. He hit .173 with five homers in 95 games, posting a -1.1 WAR.

The two teams went three years before the next trade. In between, their only transaction was in 2011, when the Marlins purchased pitcher Cesar Valdez. Trade #2 happened at the 2012 trade deadline, when the Pirates sent young outfielder Gorkys Hernandez and their competitive balance draft pick to Miami (new name in 2012) for first baseman Gaby Sanchez and minor league pitcher Kyle Kaminska. The Marlins received the 35th overall pick in 2013 and they took Matt Krook. He didn’t sign, so they took high school catcher Blake Anderson the next year and he never made it to full-season ball, winding up his career in 2017. Kyle Kaminska never made the majors, so this deal was basically Hernandez for Sanchez.

Hernandez was part of the Nate McLouth deal that the Pirates won fairly easily years earlier, getting two starting pitchers (and Hernandez) for a guy who compiled 1.4 WAR in 5 1/2 seasons after the trade. Hernandez debuted in the majors in 2012, going 2-for-24 at the plate for the Pirates in 25 games. After the deal, he hit .212 and put up -0.8 WAR in 45 games for Miami, then didn’t appear in the majors again until 2015, when he returned to the Pirates as a free agent. Sanchez had back-to-back solid seasons for the Marlins in 2010-11, before struggling during the first half of the 2012 season. The Pirates were hoping for a bounce back, but in 309 games over 2 1/2 seasons, he posted a .722 OPS and 0.8 WAR. You could say that the Pirates won this deal, but they didn’t get much production from a key offensive spot during his time in Pittsburgh, so it’s not much of a win.

After one minor player purchase in 2013, the two sides made another deal in 2014 and it didn’t work out well for the Pirates. They sent reliever Bryan Morris to Miami for a draft pick, which turned out to be Connor Joe. This deal didn’t make much sense when it happened, then made even less sense when the Pirates reached a couple of rounds higher to take Joe. Morris was pitching well (not great by any means) in the bullpen and he still had a long time before reaching free agency. He ended up posting a 2.30 ERA in 121.1 innings over 130 appearances with the Marlins in 2 1/2 seasons before they let him go via free agency. He was arbitration eligible at the time and scheduled for a nice pay bump. Joe had some injury issues with the Pirates and they traded him for Sean Rodriguez in 2017, which didn’t go well at all. So not only didn’t they lose the initial trade, they lost a secondary trade using the piece they got back.

After the Pirates picked up Arquimedes Caminero from the Marlins in February of 2015 in a cash deal, these two teams hooked up for their fourth (and final to this point) trade. The Pirates sent minor league pitcher Richard Mitchell to the Marlins for Trevor Williams. This was a one-sided prospect deal on paper and it turned out that the two sides made this deal as a form of compensation for the Marlins signing two front office people away from the Pirates over the winter. An unwritten front office rule in baseball is don’t take more than one front office person from another team in one year. Williams was the much better prospect here and the Pirates easily won the player part of the trade. The second FO piece signed by the Marlins was Jim Benedict, who they named VP of Pitching Development, but they ended up firing him after two seasons.

Williams was just released by the Pirates after a rough 2020 season. He put up 4.8 WAR in five seasons with the team, though he had 6.3 WAR during the middle three seasons. The records show the Mitchell never pitched for the Marlins, leading some people to believe that he wasn’t even good enough to last until the 2015 season started just five months later. However, I talked to Mitchell quite a few times during his time in Pittsburgh and found out that he was pitching well in Extended Spring Training and believed he should be in Low-A ball, which would have been a jump over two levels from the previous year. He actually needed the money because he just recently had a child, so he took a job offer in his home country of Colombia when the Marlins denied his request to send him to Low-A ball, which would have came with a decent raise in his salary (about double, depending on how they paid). Mitchell went AWOL and it ended his baseball career.

Since that trade occurred, the two teams have only had two transactions, both player purchases. So there you have it. Four trades, none of them made huge differences. Trevor Williams was the best deal, but the Morris deal was pretty bad, especially once Joe was used to get Rodriguez back and then he in turn gave the Pirates negative value at a high price.