The Washington Nationals Acquire Chicago Cubs Outfielder Scott Hairston

Recognizing the need to bolster their struggling bench, late Sunday night the Washington Nationals agreed to trade prospect Ivan Pineyro and a Player To Be Named Later to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for outfielder Scott Hairston and a Player To Be Named Later.  Hairston, 33-years-old, has failed to live up to his 2-year $5 million dollar contract he signed this past winter, but the Nationals hope a pennant race will allow him to flourish as a valuable backup and veteran presence in the clubhouse.

Hairston has struggled thus far in 2013, batting only .172/.232/.434 with 8 home runs in 99 at-bats.  However as recently as 2012, Hairston batted .264/.299/.504 with 20 home runs and 8 stolen bases in 377 at-bats.  In addition, Hairston is particularly adept at punishing left-handed pitching, batting .268/.318/.500 (.818 OPS) against them during his career. 

Over his 10 years in the major leagues, Hairston is a .244/.299/.448 hitter with 103 home runs in 829 games while playing for the Diamondbacks, Padres, Athletics, Mets, and Cubs.  Hairston was drafted by the Diamondbacks in the 3rd round of the 2001 MLB Draft, at which time Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo was the director of scouting for Arizona.  At 33 Hairston is no longer a starting-caliber everyday player, but his right-handed power, aptitude toward hitting left-handed pitching, and ability to play all three outfield positions makes him an asset off the bench. 

Currently standing at 38-48, the Cubs primary motivation in this trade is clearing the salary of a slumping veteran player who still has $3.5+ million dollars remaining on his contract.  That said Chicago did well to acquire a 21-year-old right-handed pitching prospect Ivan Pineyro in return for Hairston.  Pineyro has a 6-3 record and a 3.24 ERA in 77.2 innings pitched, giving up 68 hits and 22 walks against 72 strikeouts across both levels of A-Ball this season and was recently named to the South Atlantic All-Star team.  Formerly one of my favorite sleeper prospects in the Nationals system, Pineyro has a loose arm and throws a low-90s fastball, a promising changeup, and a below-average curveball.

This trade is difficult to fully judge without knowing the Players To Be Named Later, and there are rumors of Chicago sending some cash to Washington to offset Hairston’s 2014 salary.  Nevertheless, both teams should be satisfied as this trade fills their needs: the Cubs clear plenty of salary and add an intriguing pitching prospect to their burgeoning farm system and the Nationals receive a versatile, veteran contributor signed through next season. 

Personally I wish the Nationals had traded another player, but general manager Mike Rizzo did well to improve the major league roster without parting with one of their top five to seven pitching prospects.  I will refrain from grading this trade until all the particulars are known, but the Nationals roster is stronger today than it was before.  Hairston should bolster the bench production the next two seasons and add a crucial element, punishing lefties, to the Nationals’ offense in their playoff chase.