By the time Kenny Lofton made his way to the Pittsburgh Pirates, he was a long-established veteran of the sport. For 10 seasons from 1992 to 2001, Lofton was a premiere center fielder for (mostly) the Cleveland Indians and Atlanta Braves.
He wasn’t the biggest hitter, turning in a productive 303/.379/.428 line and 112 wRC+, but he could sure run and field. He led the American League in stolen bases every year from ‘92 to ‘96 and in total, stole 477 bags. He racked up 15 defensive WAR in this time as well and won four Gold Glove Awards for his efforts. With a 47.7 fWAR in this 10 season span, Lofton ranked as the 5th most valuable outfielder in baseball among the likes of Bernie Williams, Gary Sheffield and Larry Walker.
Lofton left Cleveland in 2002, splitting the season with the rival Chicago Cubs before eventually being traded to the San Francisco Giants. That’s when the Pirates signed the speedy outfielder to a one-year deal.
Lofton put up his typical low power, high contact numbers with a .277/.333/.437 line and 99 wRC+ in 374 plate appearances. Though Lofton was no longer the defensive wizard he was in his prime with the Indians, he could still get it done in center field with a 5.0 UZR/150 and 3.8 outfield arm runs above average across the entire season. Lofton was approaching his late 30’s at this point, as this was his age 36-season, but that didn’t seem to slow him down. He stole 18 bases in 84 games with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
However, Lofton would end up being part of one of the most ill-fated trades in Pirate history. Along with Lofton, the Bucs sent young third baseman Aramis Ramirez to the Chicago Cubs for Matt Brubak, Jose Hernandez and Bobby Hill. Brubak never appeared in the Majors, and Hill and Hernandez combined for -0.1 bWAR in their Pirates tenure. We all know that Ramirez became one of the best third basemen in the league, but Lofton was also very productive for the third of the season he was with the Cubs. In 236 plate appearances, he hit .327/.381/.471 with a 120 OPS+ and 1.8 bWAR. He tacked on 12 more stolen bases and his defense improved moving to Wrigley.