Once upon a time Lastings Milledge was a top prospect whose on-field upside was clouded by his problematic personality. Three teams and 1,655 plate appearances later, it turns out maybe he just wasn’t all that good.
Milledge has hit just .269 with a modest .723 OPS in his five-season career, including .277 with a .712 OPS in 113 games this year, and last night the Pirates non-tendered him just before the midnight deadline.
The move came out of nowhere in part because Milledge is still just 26 years old, but mostly because he was arbitration eligible for the first time and would have been in line for a modest raise to around $1 million.
For the perpetually rebuilding Pirates to cut bait on him for that price shows that they soured on him completely in the 18 months since acquiring Milledge from the Nationals along with Joel Hanrahan for Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett.
General manager Neal Huntington told Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette that the Pirates “remain open to continuing dialogue with Lastings” and possibly re-signing him for a lesser salary, but that makes little sense given that his salary would have been just $1 million or so. You don’t cut a player projected to make $1 million and then try to re-sign him for, say, $500,000 if you think he has any kind of upside.