On November 18, 1998, the Pittsburgh Pirates swung a trade with the Cleveland Indians that was one of the biggest fleece jobs in Pirate history
For fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the late 1990s and early 2000s, there was no player that gave them more hope and was more fun to watch than Brian Giles. The power hitting left fielder was a two-time National League All-Star with the Pirates (2000 and 2001) and one of the best pure hitters in franchise history.
It was on this day (November 18) 22 years ago that the Pittsburgh Pirates made that trade. On this day in 1998, Giles became a Buc.
In his career with the Bucs, Giles hit for a .308/.426/.591 slash line in 3114 plate appearances. His 156 wRC+ is the highest in Pirate history among batters with at least 2000 PAs, and his 1.018 OPS is the highest among outfielders in Pirate history.
With the Bucs, Giles mashed 165 home runs and collected a total of 365 extra base hits. This made him one of the most prolific power hitters on his era, which is saying something considering Giles played at the height of the steroid era.
With the Pittsburgh Pirates, Giles owned an impressive 16.7% walk rate. As a big time power hitter you would expect Giles to have also been a big strikeout guy, right? Well, think again. With the Pirates, he owned a remarkably low 10.9% strikeout rate. This is incredibly low for anyone, especially a power hitter like Giles.
So, you must be thinking, in order to acquire someone like Giles the Pirates must have sold the farm. Well, think again. All it took to acquire Giles from the Indians was pitcher Ricardo Rincon.
Prior to being traded, Rincon pitched 125 innings out of the Pirate bullpen in 122 games. While Rincon posted a healthy 3.17 ERA and 3.43 FIP out of the bullpen for the Bucs, a relief pitcher is never worth a slugger the caliber of Giles.
On August 26, 2003, the Giles Era ended in Pittsburgh. Giles was traded to his hometown San Diego Padres. In exchange, the Pittsburgh Pirates received outfielder Jason Bay and pitcher Óliver Pérez.
Just as the trade to acquire Giles was, the trade that brought his tenure in Pittsburgh to an end was also a great trade for the Pittsburgh Pirates. While they remained strong, the numbers Giles put up in San Diego never matched what he did in Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, Bay went on to become the only Pirate to ever win NL Rookie of the Year on his way to being a two-time all-star for the Bucs.
While his success was not as long lived as Bay, Pérez still found success in Pittsburgh. This including leading the NL in strikeouts per 9 innings pitched, while finishing 5th in the league in strikeouts in 2004.
The Giles trade tree was one that became a big thing for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Bay was eventually moved in a three-team trade with the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers that largely did not work out for the Pirates. That trade, however, did land the Pirates Bryan Morris who was a workhorse out of the Bucco bullpen in 2013 when they made the postseason.
Pérez, however, was eventually traded to the New York Mets for Xavier Nady. Nady eventually helped the Pirates net Daniel McCutchen, Jeff Karstens, Jose Tabata, and Ross Ohlendorf. Karstens and Tabata played key roles for the Pirates in 2012 when their turn around began, and Tabata went on to be a vital bench bat/fourth outfielder on postseason teams in 2014 and 2015.