PITTSBURGH -- Opting to build on their strength, the Pirates on Tuesday night acquired left-hander Wandy Rodriguez in a four-player deal with the Houston Astros.Dealt to the Astros for the 33-year-old veteran were three prospects -- outfielder Robbie Grossman and left-handers Rudy Owens and Colton Cain, who are ranked seventh, 12th and 16th, respectively, among Pirates prospects by MLB.com. Houston is also sending Pittsburgh cash to cover part of the approximately $19 million guaranteed remaining on Rodriguez's contract. Rodriguez, 33, went 7-9 in 21 starts for the Astros this season, posting an ERA of 3.79. He pitched a quality start on Monday night against the NL Central-leading Reds, holding them to three runs in six innings. The native of the Dominican Republic has a career record of 80-84.
The Pirates' total financial obligation is $1.7 million for the remainder of this season, $8.5 million of Rodriguez's $13 million salary for 2013, and $7.5 million in '14 if the pitcher elects what reverted to a player option upon completion of this deal. If Rodriguez exercises the '14 option, the Astros would cover the remainder of his $13 million salary; the option includes a buyout of $2.5 million.The deal was announced following the conclusion of the Pirates' game at PNC Park, a 5-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs. While the Astros' 4-2 loss to the Reds at Houston was still in progress, Rodriguez was seen traversing the dugout, hugging teammates. "I understand for the Astros organization, they want young guys," Rodriguez said. "Pittsburgh is very, very good and playing really good now. I've been in this organization for a long time. The city and the fans have been great to me." Rodriguez will get a chance to bite the hand that has fed him for eight years, and very soon. He is on schedule to make his next start on Saturday -- against his former Astros teammates, in the third game of the Pirates' four-game weekend series at Houston's Minute Maid Park. "Wandy Rodriguez is a quality starting pitcher, and we are pleased to add him to our club," said Pirates general manager Neal Huntington. "Wandy has quietly ranked among the upper echelon of Major League starting pitchers the last three seasons in ERA, innings pitched and strikeouts, among other categories. We believe he will be a solid addition to our rotation for the remainder of this season and beyond." Since the start of the 2009 season, Rodriguez ranks third among NL left-handers in wins (43) and strikeouts (626). Only 2011 NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers and the Phillies' Cole Hamels rank ahead of him during that 3 1/2-year stretch. Now that Huntington has made his move, the next belongs to manager Clint Hurdle. The Pirates' rotation is full with five members, all of whom have recently been on their games. Given that a six-man rotation is unlikely -- although the Pirates doubtless will employ six starters during a rugged August stretch that will have them playing 20 games in 21 days -- either Kevin Correia or Jeff Karstens, who has considerable relief experience, will have to be bumped. Lefty Erik Bedard and righties A.J. Burnett and James McDonald are untouchables. Hurdle has known Rodriguez as an adversary both as Colorado's longtime manager and briefly as Texas' batting coach, a role in which he had to debrief the Rangers on the lefty. "I've had my eyes on him for awhile," Hurdle said. "He competes. He's been tough to hit, on any team that I've had. He's been tough to beat. I really feel that him getting an opportunity now to make a change, get to a [new] club, maybe a fresh start, I think it's going to help. "We're excited to have him. I'm happy. That clubhouse is going to be happy."
The Cubs' Paul Maholm, a former member of the Pirates' rotation, and Minnesota's Francisco Liriano had been other southpaws of interest to the Pirates."The pitching market is much more plentiful than the position-player market," Huntington said. "We had an opportunity to make a move for a player we liked at an acquisition cost that we felt was appropriate and made the deal." The appropriate cost was not cheap. Grossman, 22 and in his fifth professional season, was the organization's Minor League Player of the Year last season, when he drew 104 walks and scored 127 runs while hitting .294 at Class A Advanced Bradenton. He was hitting .262 with an on-base percentage of .374 in his first Double-A season with Altoona. Owens, 24, was 8-5 with a 3.14 ERA for Triple-A Indianapolis. Cain, in his third pro season and only 21, was 3-5 in 16 starts with Bradenton, with a strikeout-to-walk ratio (51-to-25) of nearly 2-to-1. Huntington first inquired about Rodriguez during the offseason, when the Astros made it known he was available. Rodriguez was one of several veteran starters under consideration until the Bucs decided to sign Bedard.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.