The Los Angeles Angels cut ties with former top prospect Brandon Wood yesterday, designating the out-of-options third baseman for assignment after another subpar beginning to his season. Wood, a two-time Baseball America top-10 prospect, is now subject to the waiver wire and could be traded within the next three days.
While it could make sense for a few teams to take a gamble on a player of Wood’s caliber, the Pittsburgh Pirates may very well be the most logical choice to take the gamble. Under GM Neal Huntington, the Pirates have a history of acquiring former top prospects for little in return. Examples in the past couple years include Andy LaRoche, Jeff Clement, James McDonald, and Lastings Milledge. Even though Wood holds a pedestrian career line, .168/.197/.259 with 11 home runs in 494 major league plate appearances, his minor league stats are absolutely phenomenal. From 2003-2009, Wood hit .284/.352/.536 with 160 home runs. His best season in the minors came in 2005 when he hit .321/.383/.672 with 43 home runs in 536 at bats. Baseball America ranked him in their top-100 prospects four times as well – #16 (2008), #8 (2007), #3 (2006), and #83 (2005).
Wood to the Pirates makes sense from more than an organizational philosophy standpoint as well. Though he could never figure out major league pitching, Wood’s defense was never a problem in the bigs. Multiple scouting reports from his time in the minors applaud his defensive abilities, and some think he has the range to be an every day shortstop at the big-league level. What reason do the Pirates have to not give him a shot over Ronny Cedeno? Cedeno, now 28, has seen his career flatline before it ever got going. He holds a career .243/.282/.352 line over seven MLB seasons, has never shown much pop in his bat and plays below-average defense. To further the point, Cedeno has no future in Pittsburgh. He is not part of the core that the Pirates are building around, and is certainly not worth what the Pirates will likely have to pay him to stay. While it has never been said by anyone in the front office, one can read between the lines with the Pirates and see that he’s only being kept around because of the team’s lack of organizational depth at shortstop.
The Pittsburgh Pirates and Brandon Wood are a natural fit. Wood will get an opportunity to resurrect his career out of the media spotlight in small-market Pittsburgh, and the Pirates will take on a player with a known ability to hit for power and play respectable defense. It could be another failed attempt to try to get something out of a beat up prospect, as was the case with LaRoche and Milledge, but the possible rewards for the Pirates are too great to pass up.