Welcome to Pirates Flashback, a weekly look back at some of the best players of the worst teams in Pirates’ history.
Today’s player is Nate McLouth, who played from the Pirates from 2005-2009 and then again in 2012.
BEFORE THE BUCS
McLouth was drafted by the Pirates out of Whitehall High School (Michigan) in the 25th round of the 2000 Amateur Draft. He dropped that low because it looked like he was college bound, but the Pirates convinced him to sign with a massive $500,000 bonus. For reference, there were players drafted in the second round that year making less than that.
He steadily advanced through the minors and made his big league debut June 29, 2005.
TIME WITH THE PIRATES
While he was a well regarded prospect, McLouth spent a lot of his first three seasons on the bench. He still played a couple times a week, but the center field job was held by another young hopefully named Chris Duffy. He did not become a starter until 2008- the year he beat out Nyjer Morgan for the gig in center. (Don’t worry. There will be Chris Duffy and Nyjer Morgan episodes soon enough.)
Counting a cameo appearance he made in 2012, he hit .256/.334/.451 in six seasons with the Pirates. He hit 60 home runs and stole 64 bases.
McLouth was the highlight of the 2008 season, hitting .276/.356/.497 with an MLB best 46 doubles. He also won a Gold Glove, making only one error the entire season, but his work in the field was not as praised in analytical sense. His -23 defensive runs saved were, shall we say, below average.
He did make at least one brilliant defensive play, gunning down Dioner Navarro at home in the 10th inning of the All-Star game. McClouth also was the Pirates’ Roberto Clemente Award recipient. He was worth 3.8 fWAR and 2.4 bWAR.
McClouth was unexpectedly traded to the Atlanta Braves on June 3, 2009. In return, the Pirates received Jeff Locke, Charlie Morton and Gorkys Hernandez. Hernandez has bounced around the league for a couple years, and Locke and Morton had their moments.
The real key to this trade was it opened up a spot for Andrew McCutchen. Rather than forcing one of them to a corner, it just made more sense to cash in on the veteran who had a career year. All told, this is probably one of Neal Huntington’s best trades.
McLouth played three disappointing years in Atlanta. His struggles was so bad in 2010 that he was demoted to AAA. He hit .190 and posted a -1.4 fWAR. An oblique injury limited him in 2011 as well.
The Pirates brought McLouth back as a free agent in 2012, joining Locke, Morton and Hernandez. He was designated for assignment in May, signing with the Baltimore Orioles. After two seasons there, he signed a two year, $10.75 million with the Nationals in 2014. He tore his labrum on August 21 and has not played professional ball since.
I can’t find any official word on if he has actually retired, but he is still just 35, so a last gasp run at the majors isn’t completely out of the question. Assuming he doesn’t come back, he ends his career with a .247/.332/.410 line with 101 home runs and 191 doubles. He was worth 10.1 fWAR or 6.3 bWAR.
His Wikipedia page says he’s now living in Knoxville, Tennessee with his wife and two dogs, but he sold his Knoxville house in 2016 for $1.6 million.
DID HE DESERVE BETTER?
McLouth did pretty well for himself. Sure, injuries probably robbed him of reaching his ultimate potential during his peak years, but he was probably never going to be more than a three or four win player.
He still was an All-Star, made over $30 million and got to make a couple trips to the playoffs. That ain’t bad. He also has a Gold Glove in his trophy case that he probably didn’t deserve. It was a good run.