Some quick thoughts on today’s Milledge-Hanrahan for Morgan-Burnett trade, followed by quotes from all the interested parties…
— The two sides began discussing this a couple weeks ago, but the key to getting it done was the Pirates including Burnett. Mike Rizzo really wanted him to be part of the deal.
— Morgan will bat leadoff and play center field. Willie Harris returns to his utility role. Morgan’s speed and defensive ability, the Nats believe, will help the young pitching staff greatly.
— Burnett is not a lefty specialist. He’s effective against both righties and lefties, and will be used in middle and late relief. The fact he hasn’t reached arbitration yet (and thus is in the Nats’ control for several more years) was a key.
— Both players will arrive here in time to play tomorrow afternoon. At that time, the Nats will need to remove someone from the 25-man roster. Austin Kearns and Ronnie Belliard are the obvious candidates to be released or designated for assignment.
OK, Plenty of quotes for everyone to parse through while I write my trade story for tomorrow’s paper. Enjoy…
How did it all come together? “The groundwork was laid several weeks ago when Neal Huntington and myself started discussing parameters of a deal. They were broad parameters, and the closer we got to today, obviously the scope narrowed.”
Thoughts on Nyjer Morgan? “Nyjer is a high energy, speed type of player with plus-plus defensive capabilities. We see him as an everyday center fielder for us and will hit at the top of the lineup. We see him as a speed type of player that can play above average defense for us in center field and give us a top of the lineup bat that can create a little havoc on the basepaths and get you a stolen base when you need it. But it gives us the defensive center fielder that we’ve been missing here. It helps the young pitching staff with his defensive ability. His attitude and makeup and high energy level is really a big part of his package as a player.”
Is Burnett more than just a lefty specialist? “Definitely. His numbers bear it out. Hitters hit .180 against him left-handed and right-handers aren’t much better, .212 or .214. He can give you multi innings if you need it. He’s a two-way pitcher. He’s not strictly a situational type of guy.”
Overall assessment of trade? “You’ve got to give to get when you’re making major league trades. You give up an upside corner outfielder in Lastings Milledge — who has great ability and has a chance to be a productive player in a major league lineup — and a big ‘stuff’ guy in Joel Hanrahan. We were dealing from what we thought was an inventory and a strength. Right-handed corner outfielders, we think we’re very deep in those skill-set players. And what we got, we addressed two of our biggest needs: athleticism and speed and defensive ability in center field, a guy who can hit at the top of the lineup and steal bases, and addressed a real need in a bullpen guy that we can have control of for the next three years.”
How disappointing was Milledge’s performance here? “I wouldn’t say it was a disappointment. I don’t think things went right for him this season. First of all he had a very slow spring training and a slow beginning of the season. I think we asked him to do things that he possibly wasn’t capable of doing. Putting him in center field position and leadoff position when possibly he wasn’t prepared for that at this point in his career didn’t help. Being the competitor he is, he really was pressing to improve and to play well. And then when we sent him down, when he was just starting to put it together with the bat he hurt his finger and he was out for a period of time. So very frustrating for him, probably disappointing for him and it didn’t work out the way we expected it to work out either.”
Final feeling on Hanrahan? “He tried his best and he competed well. He’s got the stuff to pitch at the back end of a baseball game, hasn’t put it together yet. But never gave excuses, never whined about it. I feel possibly a change of situations and some new faces and a fresh start for him, he’s got the stuff to be a competent major league bullpen guy.”
What was key to finalizing deal? “The second piece of the trade was the main part that took us to this point to get the trade done. There were several names bandied about. We felt that Burnett was a guy we had to have in the deal because he’s left-handed, his track record and being a piece for us not only in the short term but for the long term.”
“I think it’s a good trade for both ends, the way trades are supposed to be. We’re trading two guys who we felt were part of the long term solution here for two guys who they also felt the same way. I think it was done mainly because they do have a center fielder there, probably more depth than we have at that position. Lastings is a corner guy who has a very good chance to be a good ballplayer in the big leagues. Burnett comes over here as a left-hander, he’s done a good job. And Hanrahan, they’re getting a very good quality arm who is healthy and who I think a change of scenery will help.”
How will Burnett be used? “He’s a former starter. We’ve seen him start before. He’s pitched really well out of the pen since last year. He’s going to come in here and pitch in the middle, not necessarily just being a situational lefty but pitch even multiple innings if we need him to.”
Help relieve pressure on Villone and Beimel? “Yeah it helps a lot because Burnett is a young guy and has been very effective since last year and as of late Ron has struggled a little bit. So this guy coming over here could boost our bullpen.”
Morgan leadoff? “That’s what we’re projecting, to have him play center field and lead off and take advantage of his speed and on-base percentage.”
How disappointing that Milledge didn’t blossom here? “It is going to happen for him. I still believe in Lastings Milledge and I think he’s going to be a good player in the big leagues. Fact is, here he was blocked by the Dunns and the Willinghams of the world in left field, corner outfield. He’s going to get an opportunity to go over there, they have McCutchen to play in center, so he’s probably going to be playing corner outfield. He’s only 24 years old. I’m a big believer in him. I think it’s going to happen for him. It’s just tough that it didn’t happen here.”
What happens to Willie Harris? “It makes our club better. Willie is going to continue to be a very useful guy in his utility role. I think this guy [Morgan] is going to make our club better. He’s going to improve our defense back there and he’s going to give us some speed that we don’t have. Heck, we have 23 stolen bases as a team. This guy has 18 alone. So it’s going to help. We got some reports about him being a high character guy with a very good personality. We’re looking forward to having both those guys over here. At the same time, we feel bad to see these two guys go because they’re both young and talented, Hanrahan and Milledge.”
Was it going to be too tough for Hanrahan to bounce back here? “I don’t know if our plan was eventually to bring him back over there. My plan for him has always been that I believe he was part of the solution here, whether it was in the middle or closing. But as up to now, I just want him to get his confidence back and be as useful as possible, seventh or eighth inning. I don’t know what the future hoilds for him over there. We all know he does have the stuff to do it. But that being said, there are a lot of guys who have that kind of stuff that still are not closing games. But you don’t have to be a closer to be a quality part of a bullpen. I believe in the end he’s going to be fine.”
Surprised by trade? “It was a surprise. Obviously things haven’t gone the best here this year so far, and it’s a fresh start over there. So I’m looking forward to that. It’s unfortunate things didn’t work out well here.”
Can a change of scenery be good for you? “It could be. But I can’t say that it is or not. It never really hurts to get a change of scenery, and it’s good to know that somebody else likes you, even when you’re not doing your best right now. That’s a positive.”
What will you remember about your time in D.C.? “Obviously, this is where I got my first shot at the big leagues. I made the decision to come here in 2007 as a minor league free agent. That was when Bowden was here. They gave me an opportunity here, so I was thankful for that, and I’ve been through a lot this year. And I thank Manny and I thank Rizzo for sticking by me even throughout the year, and I have a good relationship with the guys here, and that’s the hard part about it - leaving people and leaving DC. But career-wise, it might be a good move.”
Why hasn’t this year worked out for you? “The year is not over. The first half didn’t go as planned, and obviously I pictured being the closer and 30, 40 saves. But that didn’t work out for me. I went through a lot, went up and down, from being the closer to being out and being back, and struggling a little bit. So it’s kind of been a tough year mentally so far, but now I get a fresh start in Pittsburgh and see where things go from there.”
NYJER MORGAN, to reporters in Pittsburgh
Shocked by trade? “A little shocked, but it’s business. I’m very happy that I opened up somebody else’s eyes and somebody wants me. It’s flattering. I look at it as a positive thing, not a negative thing. I loved going to war with these boys here. It’s unfortunate that I have to go, it sucks leaving, but that’s part of business.”
Coming to D.C.? “I don’t mind our nation’s capital. But there was something about being in Pittsburgh — the fans, just the baseball tradition. It’s the “City of Champions,” you know? I definitely wanted to be part of that. Hopefully, the pieces they bring in will be part of the new turnaround.”
SEAN BURNETT, to reporters in Pittsburgh:
Reaction to trade? “This is tough. This is all I know. I came here the same time as Nate (McLouth). I know everybody in the organization, from guys at Pirate City (in Bradenton, Fla.) all the way up to the big leagues. It’s definitely tough and shocking. The hardest part is all the relationships I built in nine years. With all the sturggles I went through, they stuck with me. I guess it’s good because now I’m in a situation where somebody wants me. There’s been some tears already.”
Can you handle bigger role in DC? “Yeah. That was the goal. I sat in the bullpen next to (John) Grabow the past two years and learned from one of the better left-handed guys in the game. I’ve done better getting righties out this year, trying to prove myself as more than just a lefty specialist. Hopefully, Washington sees some more in me than the Pirates did and will give me an opportunity to succeed.”