Christina Kahrl of ESPN.com gives her take on what's made the Pirates better this year. It isn't simply that the drafting and minor-league pipelines are better, she says, but that GM Neal Huntington's series of controversial trades is paying off.â†µ
Rounding out the front five are three middling prospects picked up by Huntington in his various modest-yield deals necessarily tearing down Littlefield's weak, going-nowhere rosters: Jeff Karstens came over from the Yankees in the deal sending Damaso Marte and Xavier Nady to the Bronx in 2008; Charlie Morton from the Braves as part of the package received for Nate McLouth in 2009; and James McDonald from the Dodgers in last year's Octavio Dotel dump. Nobody expects any of these three to become world-beaters by themselves, but getting top prospects in deals would have required better talent to work from than Huntington inherited.â†µ
Right. Not all the Pirates' trades have worked, but Huntington only had the core of a 67-win team to work with, and when all is said and done, he got three-fifths of this year's strong starting rotation from them. Who knows if these guys will be able to keep this up - I don't think anyone could have foreseen Karstens' 2011 success - but it might be time to start thinking about these trades somewhat differently.