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Nats, Bucs swap pitchers, outfielders in four player trade!

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Milledge is no stranger to trouble.Deal sends troubled Milledge to third team in as many years.

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Washington receives centerfielder Morgan and lefty Burnett, ship righty Hanrahan to Pittsburgh.

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WASHINGTON — The Nationals and Pittsburgh Pirates completed a four player swap yesterday, sending flawed and injured outfielder Lastings Milledge and right-handed fireballer Joel Hanrahan to the Steel City for fleet-footed centerfielder Nyjer Morgan and lefty middle reliever Sean Burnett.

Although Hanrahan had a fairly successful season as the National’s closer in 2008 and Burnett has been a valuable piece to the Buc’s bullpen this season, the centerpiece of the deal is the Milledge, Morgan exchange.

Last year, 24-year-old Milledge showed promise in his freshman campaign by leading a punchless National’s offense in home runs, runs batted in and stolen bases. Milledge, a former first-round draft pick by the Mets, however, displayed indifference on the field and his off field behavior was a cause for major scrutiny. When he missed a team meeting earlier this season, failed to work the count for bases-on-balls in the leadoff role, and misplayed several routine flyballs, National’s management demoted him to AAA Syracuse, chiding the youngster for resting on his laurels instead of playing towards them.

Milledge suffered a broken finger during his stint with the Chiefs, but is expected to return to action any day now.

The Pirate’s represent the third team, in as many years, that has taken a chance on Milledge. Pittsburgh should offer Milledge the opportunity to play every day, especially with the departure of outfielder Eric Hinske to the Yankees in a deal the Pirates completed earlier in the week.

Washington outfielder Elijah Dukes was optioned to AAA Syracuse today to make room for Morgan in the National’s own crowded outfield.

The Nationals receive a defensive upgrade they desperately need in Morgan. While Morgan played mostly left field for the Pirates this season, he should take over immediately in center for the Nationals following Duke’s demotion. The speedy 29-year-old can cover a lot of ground in Nationals Park, making up for any of the bumbling corner defensive combinations of Adam Dunn, Austin Kearns, and Josh Willingham.

Morgan represents a major defensive upgrade for the Nationals.

Morgan acted as the Pirate’s leadoff man and left fielder this season, batting .277 with 27 RBI and 39 runs scored in 278 at-bats. While he offers substantially less power than Milledge, he could be a force at the top of the lineup if he can become slightly more selective. His on-base percentage of .351 is a few points higher than current leadoff batter Christian Guzman, so where he will bat in the Nationals lineup is still up in the air.

The call-up of Pirate’s uber-prospect Andrew McCutchen made Morgan expendable to the Pirates.

The Hanrahan, Burnett part of the deal should end up a wash if Hanrahan continues his downward spiral towards AAA pitcher. However, if he gets his stuff together and returns to 2008 form, this could end up an absolute steal for the Pirates. Burnett emerged as a viable left-handed option out of the bullpen for the Pirates this year, although his upside is as an able lefty one out guy, or LOOGY.

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