Giants exchange starter Morris for rookie outfielder Davis
Pittsburgh sent rookie outfielder Rajai Davis and a player to be named to the Giants, who began shedding salary as they look to rebuild one of the majors' oldest teams.
Normally, teams not in the race don't look to add an aging and expensive starter such as Morris. But the Pirates felt their young rotation needed a boost with their two top starters, Ian Snell and Tom Gorzelanny, struggling since the All-Star break.
"He's been very productive and played for winners, and I think he will be effective in a rotation with a lot of young guys -- a veteran, experienced guy who will help us out a great deal," Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield said.
The right-handed Morris, who will be 33 on Aug. 9, was a 22-game winner for St. Louis in 2001 who is 7-7 with a 4.35 ERA this season. He was rocked for 13 hits and six earned runs in seven innings in his last start, an 8-5 loss to Florida on Sunday. He is 0-4 in his last eight starts since June 11.
Morris knew he might be traded -- but to Pittsburgh, which won only two of its first 15 games out of the All-Star break? That was the stunner when Giants GM Brian Sabean called him Tuesday.
"I heard rumors all week about me being traded, but Pittsburgh was never mentioned," Morris said. "Brian Sabean called and said Pittsburgh, and I was in a little bit of shock. It's my first time being traded and it's all new to me."
Morris no doubt would have preferred going to a contender, but welcomes going to a much younger team that can play better defense than the aging Giants did.
"I'm excited about getting back to the NL Central and getting some better defense and some young guys out there who are looking to play hard," Morris said.
Morris found it difficult adjusting to losing in San Francisco, and the Giants' way of doing things, after spending his first eight seasons in St. Louis.
"It's been hard -- it's almost been that you start to accept it [losing] and I hate to say that, unfortunately," Morris said. "It was different. I was used to [Cardinals manager] Tony La Russa in the past and he kind of runs the show and there's a lot of structure. I went to the Giants where it was totally opposite, a different, laid-back feeling."
Former Giants teammate Mark Sweeney didn't take offense at Morris' remarks, saying, "I think a lot of it was frustration, which was well deserved."
The Giants were looking for a team to take some of their high-salaried players, and the Pirates will pick up the remainder of Morris' $10,037,283 contract for this season. He is due $9.5 million for next season, plus a $2 million payment at the end of the season.
"Almost at the 11th hour we were talking to two other teams I would consider competitors in the playoff situation. Pittsburgh stepped up, not only to take on the player as is -- meaning the contract -- but the potential return," in Davis, Sabean said.
The Pirates hadn't swung a deal for a key veteran player down the stretch in 10 years, or since adding infielder Shawon Dunston in 1997. This deal was more for the future than for an already lost season, and the first sign that newly designated principal owner Bob Nutting may be willing to spend some money to improve a team with one of the majors' three lowest payrolls.
Pittsburgh is headed for a 15th consecutive losing season, one short of the major league record, but does have a promising pitching staff loaded with young starters Snell, Gorzelanny and Paul Maholm.
"Look at Matt Morris' track record since 2001, and it's pretty impressive," said Pirates manager Jim Tracy, who will start Morris against the Reds sometime this weekend. "This guy's been a workhorse."
The Pirates also added veteran shortstop Cesar Izturis several weeks ago, a move that could allow them to trade high-priced shortstop Jack Wilson before next season. They talked to the Tigers this week about a trade, but couldn't work anything out with Wilson owed more than $14 million over the next two seasons.
The Pirates also talked with teams about dealing relievers Damaso Marte, Shawn Chacon and Salomon Torres but, surprisingly, were buyers rather than sellers after making five deals to trade away players at the deadline a year ago.
"Morris and Izturis definitely improve our team, and are solid additions for us," Littlefield said. "We have not given up a lot as far as talent to get these type of players, and feel very comfortable they will be a big plus for us in the future."
Morris is 118-84 with a 3.83 ERA in a career that began in 1997 with St. Louis. He also won 17 games in 2002 and 15 games in 2004. He joined the Giants after signing a $27 million, three-year deal in December 2005.
"He became the odd man out," Sabean said. "It was a difficult bridge to cross because we all know what he meant to the organization and working with the young pitchers. ... At the end of the day, it's a lot about business, too," Sabean said.
The 26-year-old Davis, a 38th-round draft pick in 2001, is hitting .271 with no homers and two RBIs in 24 games. He was a spare outfielder with Pittsburgh who didn't figure to play much in the future.
"I had no idea this was coming," Davis said.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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The Braves made the biggest splash before Major League Baseball's non-waiver trading deadline, acquiring switch-hitting slugger Mark Teixeira and hard-throwing reliever Octavio Dotel. The Red Sox also bolstered their bullpen with Eric Gagne.
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