Pirates bring Morris back to NL Central
Club deals center fielder Davis, player to be named for starter
PITTSBURGH -- As Tuesday's non-waiver trade deadline approached, numerous Pirates players heard their names floating around.
Jack Wilson to the Tigers? Salomon Torres to Colorado? Damaso Marte to the Red Sox?
Final answer: None of the above.
Just prior to the 4 p.m. ET non-waiver trade deadline, the Pirates finalized a deal with the Giants to acquire starter Matt Morris in exchange for center fielder Rajai Davis and a player to be named.
Needless to say, the deal caught both players off guard.
"I wasn't expecting it. It's something that I've never experienced before," said Davis, who has been with the team since being recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis on June 5. "This is the only organization I've known thus far. I'm pretty happy here."
Davis will be headed to San Francisco, where it is still unclear whether he will immediately join the Giants' big-league club.
Morris, on the other hand, was aware that he was among a list of Giants veteran players that were linked in various trade rumors. But while talking with reporters over the phone on Tuesday, Morris admitted that he wasn't expecting to hear Pittsburgh when he received news of the deal.
"I heard rumors all week about me being traded. Pittsburgh was never mentioned," said Morris, who was in Los Angeles preparing for the beginning of the Dodgers-Giants series later Tuesday night. "I was in a little bit of a shock. It's my first time being traded. I'm excited to get back to the Central."
Morris spent his first eight Major League seasons in the National League Central Division with the Cardinals. It was during Morris' tenure in St. Louis that the right-hander won 22 games in 2001 and became a two-time All-Star. The right-hander has since spent his last two seasons with the Giants.
The 32-year-old right-hander has gone 7-7 with a 4.35 ERA for San Francisco this year after struggling to a 10-15 record and 4.98 ERA for the Giants last season in the first year of his three-year, $27 million contract.
Morris started 2007 out strong, going 7-4 with a 3.25 ERA through the first three months of the season. However, he will be glad to see the calendar page turned after stumbling through July with an 0-3 record and 8.48 ERA.
While the numbers over his past five starts seem concerning, Morris doesn't worry about the struggles being long-term.
"I'm really feeling confident with my stuff," said Morris, who is 6-0 with a 2.37 ERA in eight career starts at PNC Park. "Health-wise, it's been great. The ball's been coming out as good as it could."
It has been no secret that the Pirates have needed a stabilizer in the back end of the rotation, which prompted general manager Dave Littlefield to scour the market for a veteran starter to complement a young Pirates rotation. While Littlefield couldn't find the right fit over the winter, he said the organization kept a number of veteran pitchers on its radar as the deadline approached.
"I think it's the right player that fits in with what we're going to do," Littlefield said. "He's a winner. He's been very successful in the past."
Though the acquisition of Morris was designed primarily to fill a gaping hole in the rotation, both Littlefield and manager Jim Tracy stressed how important it was to acquire a veteran starter who could also be a mentor to the team's young starting corps. And that's a role the 32-year-old Morris said that he is more than eager to step in to.
"I can't help but be [a mentor]," said Morris, who credited the late Darryl Kile and Todd Stottlemyre for helping guide him early in his career. "It's just my nature. I'm definitely willing to talk to guys."
When Morris will arrive in Pittsburgh is still not set, though Tracy said that he would like to be able to plug Morris into the rotation at some point during the team's weekend series against Cincinnati.
"I think it's a very sound acquisition," Tracy said. "This is the type of starting pitcher you like adding to the mix of starting players moving forward."
Morris is in the second year of a three-year, $27 million contract and is set to make $9.5 million next season. The right-hander also has a $9 million club option for 2009. The Pirates will be picking up that entire contract.
The Pirates lose Davis, a backup outfielder who has hit .271 in 24 games with the Pirates this season. Davis was a 38th-round selection by the Pirates in the 2001 First-Year Player Draft. He debuted with the Pirates in August of last season before returning to the club this summer and making 12 starts in center field.
"I'm not too sure of the situation yet," Davis said of going to San Francisco. "But they seem pretty happy to have me."
This deadline deal was the second move the Pirates have made this month, following a trade with the Cubs for Cesar Izturis on July 19 in exchange for a player to be named. The addition of Izturis was touted as a depth upgrade for the Pirates infield.
Though the Pirates didn't have to part with any big-name players in either of the deals, having Morris and Izturis comes at a hefty price financially. If the Pirates decided to pick up Izturis' club option after this season, the infielder will be owed $5.45 million in 2008.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.