When the Pirates gave Nate McLouth a 3 year/$15 million dollar extension this offseason, the move was littered with praise. Finally! The Pirates were keeping their homegrown talent to reasonable contracts that will help the organization inch closer towards respectability and eventually, a championship.
However, yesterday's trade threw everyone off guard. Instead of building around McLouth as fans originally thought, the Pirates merely sold off McLouth to the highest bidder only months after locking up McLouth for the long haul
This begs the question: did the Pirates sell high on McLouth?
Performance wise, the answer of course would have to be no. McLouth's numbers have been good this season, but there is still plenty of room for improvement and growth. If the Pirates were truly selling high on McLouth based on his performance, then they would have moved him during last season's trading deadline or during the offseason.
But here is why I think the Pirates sold high on McLouth economically: the contract. The contract extension that the Pirates gave to McLouth is very team friendly and keeps him under contract through 2011 (or 2012, should his option be picked up). Because of the contract, the Braves will not have to worry about giving McLouth yearly raises through arbitration and can instead focus on building around the nucleus of McLouth, Chipper Jones, and Brian McCann; all of whom are signed to long term deals.
I have no doubt that the contract extension placed additional value on McLouth. While we might not totally agree on the abilities of the three prospects that the Pirates got in return from the Braves, what we can agree on (I hope!) is that at this time, the Pirates would not have received such a package if they did not give McLouth this extension during the offseason.
So I guess we can say that the Pirates sort of sold high on McLouth. There is no doubt that the Braves desperation and willingness to part with prospects that the Pirates wanted helped the deal get done.
For Pirates fans, it must be agonizing to watch the Pirates trade away a player of McLouth's ability, who was signed to such a reasonable contract. Let's just hope that GM Neal Huntington knows what he's doing because there is only so long that Pirates fans will sit back and watch star player after star player get traded away in favor of a non existent "rebuilding effort."