Free agent signing Scott Hairston was excited to join the Cubs this past off season, citing memories of coming to Wrigley and watching Sammy Sosa play. Hairston even took Sosa’s number 21 as his own for this season, but the platoon outfielder’s tenure with the North Siders was not as impactful as all parties involved had hoped. The left handed pitching killer failed to get his batting average over .200 at any point in the season in limited action. The lack of lefty pitching faced and the consistent play of Nate Schierholtz combined to limit Hairston’s playing time, in turn affecting the outfielder’s ability to produce regularly. Considering the limited action, however, Hairston has been able to total eight homers so far in 2013. Two of those came over the weekend against the league best Pirates, improving his batting average to .172.
Considering his subpar numbers, it came as a bit of a surprise when news broke that Hairston had been traded to the Nationals. But even more eye brow raising was the fact that the Cubs were able to get back a touted pitching prospect in return.
Why were the Nationals that interested in a struggling platoon outfielder? The very reason the Cubs had signed Hairston this prior offseason: his career ability to hit left handed pitching. While Hairston’s average against south paws was slighter higher than his running total average of .172 at .179, all eight of his long balls came against lefties. Furthermore, 18 of his 19 RBI came against left handers. In his career the outfielder has a .268 average against LHP with a .318 OBP, approximately 40 points higher in both statistics when compared to his numbers against RHP. Nationals GM Mike Rizzo is familiar with Hairston back when their paths crossed with the Diamondbacks, the team that drafted the right fielder. Washington plays in the left handed starting pitching heavy NL East, where teams like the Braves and Phillies are sending names like Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and Paul Maholm to the mound.
In Ivan Pineyro, the Cubs get a Class A pitching prospect that was rated as the 27th prospect in the Nationals’ system. The 21 year old has an arsenal that features a low to mid 90’s fastball, an above average change up, and a curveball as his weakest pitch. The statistics that should excite Cubs fans are that Pineyro boasts an 8.3 strikeouts per nine innings ratio versus a 2.5 walks per nine figure. High strike out numbers are nothing new to North Side fans, but the low walk totals is an area that the Wrigley faithful will find refreshing if Pineyro can translate that success through the minors and up to the Major Leagues.
The deal also includes both teams tossing in a player to be named later, but initial comments from the Cubs camp imply that those two throw ins will not be of much consequence in terms of determining long term whether or not this trade will go down as a win for the Cubs.