By Charlie Wilmoth
The Pirates have announced that Tito Polo and Stephen Tarpley are the players to be named later they’re sending to the Yankees in the Ivan Nova deal.
This looks, to me, like a surprisingly steep price for the Pirates to have paid. There’s little doubt that Nova has pitched brilliantly since the Pirates acquired him, but theparameters of a player-to-be-named portion of a trade (if not the players themselves) are typically worked out when the trade is negotiated. At the time of the deal, Nova was a rental starter with a 4.90 ERA and a mediocre overall track record. (He had clear potential to perform better in PNC Park and in the NL, but still.) Often, players to be named later turn out to be mediocrities, and I assumed that would be the case in this deal. Polo and Tarpley are both real prospects — not great ones, necessarily, but real prospects nonetheless.
Polo had a breakout half-season with West Virginia this year, batting .302/.368/.551 there before moving up to Bradenton and struggling to hit for power. He’s held his own there, though, posting a reasonable .351 on-base percentage, and he’s very young, so his .346 slugging percentage shouldn’t be held too strongly against him. There’s a decent chance he turns out to be a useful big-leaguer, particularly since he can run — he has 37 steals this season, although he’s been caught 17 times.
Tarpley was one of the pitchers the Bucs acquired a couple years back in the Travis Snider deal. Like Polo, Tarpley performed well with West Virginia but has struggled at Bradenton, with a 4.32 ERA, 8.1 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 this season. He gets some ground balls, has decent stuff, and has at least three usable pitches, though, so he still looks like a decent starting pitching prospect.
On results, of course, this deal is fine. What Nova has been to the Pirates is worth two good-not-great prospects. But Nova only started pitching well when he arrived in Pittsburgh, and the Bucs shouldn’t have had to pay a premium to get him. It’s still a good trade, and still better than I gave it credit for being at the time, but only because of the magic the Pirates have been able to work with pitchers. This was a lot to give up for a rental of a No. 5-starter type, which is what Nova was at the time of the deal.