The trade deadline is behind us and the Pirates had a fairly boring time of it. I think it is impossible to be critical of either of the two small moves they made but I’ll give my opinion of them anyway.
Trading Watson was predictable and the infielder they got back, Cruz, seems rather interesting. I don’t keep a running prospect list anymore but he seems like he would be a safe bet for my personal top 30. The pitcher they got in the deal, German, looks like he has some upside but is a complete wildcard. So essentially two lottery tickets for a struggling relief pitcher who would have been gone at the end of the year. Fairly standard move here.
Adding Benoit to essentially fill in for Watson the rest of the year was a bit puzzling but at a cost of just McGarry I don’t see it as much of an issue. McGarry is not completely uninteresting but an older relief pitcher in A+ is nothing to fret about trading. I think I’d have preferred to see the team try one of their internal options in the Watson role but overall this is no big deal either way.
I didn’t expect the Pirates to make any major moves but I was hopeful we would see a little more action. The soft sell/soft buy approach was probably the way to go here but more should of been done. I would of liked an outfielder and a different relief pitcher who was under control next year brought in. I would have also liked to have seen Nicasio and Jaso traded away.
The Pirates should of been looking to better position themselves for next year and maybe they were but the execution of such failed. I’m not going to harp on these moves excessively but the action certainly didn’t feel appropriate for the given situation and considering they had several lanes that would of worked (big sell, big buy, a better buy/sell combo) it is disappointing.
The deadline didn’t change the fact that the Pirates are not a good or bad baseball team. They are merely ok and that makes things rather boring. The time is rapidly approaching where the Pirates are going to have to pick a lane and I hope they are better prepared for that decision than they were this trade deadline.
The trade deadline is fast approaching and how the Pirates should handle it is becoming a very popular topic. There are reasonable arguments that they should buy, sell, stand pat and even buy and sell at the same time. The division appears winnable but this iteration of the Pirates doesn’t seem to be a strong club. I’ve gone back and forth many times but barring a massive hot streak coming out of the break I think I have settled on a strategy.
Deal Anyone You Can Not Controlled Beyond 2018
Players fitting this criteria are Tony Watson, Jordy Mercer, Chris Stewart, Juan Nicasio, John Jaso, Daniel Hudson and yes even Andrew McCutchen. Now obviously a lot of these guys have basically no value but even a lottery ticket could be worth it in a lot of cases. As for McCutchen I do not want to see him traded and would be looking for a fairly big deal but I know sadly it is probably in the organization’s best interest to move on.
Listen On The Guys Controlled Through 2019 (And Josh Harrison)
This is Josh Harrison, Gerrit Cole, Francisco Cervelli, David Freese and Ivan Nova (Drew Hutchison, Wade LeBlanc and Jung-Ho Kang technically are here too but none have enough value to move at this point). It would be insanely difficult to pry Cole away for me but a high end prospect like Gleyber Torres from the Yankees would be difficult to pass up. As for the rest a good offer and getting the contract off the books would be enough.
The Rivero Question
There has been some speculation that the Pirates should trade Rivero and see what type of massive haul they could get. While I don’t doubt they could get a massive haul I’d shy away from moving him unless the offer was insane. Relievers have limited shelf life so I don’t think any team would really view it as getting him for 4.5 years and teams like relievers with long track records. For those reasons I think Rivero won’t be valued highly enough to move so keeping him and building a bullpen around him is a good idea.
With my apparent willingness to sell pretty much every short term asset you would think I’d be against the Pirates buying but that isn’t really true. The team despite its flaws is close enough to contending this year and next that I don’t want to simply pass up those opportunities. Because of this I’d look into buying but likely only flawed assets. I’d be willing to look into productive players controlled beyond this year who have contracts that are make them slightly overpaid. For example Ian Kinsler is a 35 year old 2B who has really fallen off but he is still productive. He has a 10 million dollar option next year that while not terrible is far from a bargain. If he could be had for a small return bringing him makes a certain amount of sense.
I think the Pirates are better than they have been playing but the facts are the deck is stacked against them this year and things just aren’t breaking right. The bottom line is with the trade deadline fast approaching the best move is likely going to be them being sellers. Yes that means likely trading away Andrew McCutchen. I’m going to hate that move when it comes and it won’t be do to whatever the return is but as a baseball fan its going to be a hard day but as a realist I know it is the right thing for this club to do.
In addition to McCutchen the Pirates are going to have to consider shipping off other short term assets including yes even Cole (though unless blown away I’d keep him for the start of 2018). Its going to be disappointing but shouldn’t really be unexpected a run of 3 very good years is about all a small market team usually has in them before the cycle needs to restart.
A rebuild is on the horizon and though the Pirates have enough of a core that they could probably justify waiting until next year to start it I don’t think this GM is going to play it that way and honestly I think that is the right move. A rebuild done correctly doesn’t have to be a long death sentence and the Pirates aren’t at a point where they have to burn it all to the ground. I do think we are in for a rough next two years though as the team transitions towards their next period.
The inevitable rebuild is going to be tough but I’ve stuck around through much worse than what it is going to throw at me. The team has some exciting young talent in the majors and coming up through the system so it is always possible they surprise us but as of right now I am coming to terms with the fact that my attention is going to start to shift slightly away from the present and more towards the future.
It goes without saying that Tony Watson needs removed from the closer role and probably needs the Daniel Hudson treatment of being sent to the middle inning for a while or even the Antonio Bastardo treatment of disappearing to the DL. However that is not what I am writing this little blurb about.
Watching Watson on the mound last night made me sad. Of course sad that the Pirates blew a late lead but just in general a sadness for Tony Watson. Watson was a tremendous pitcher for the Pirates to an extent where I think most fans don’t understand just how good he really was. I’m not going to bore you with stats but from 2013-2015 Watson was pitching at a level of one of the top 10 relievers in all of baseball. He was that good. Things started to fall apart a bit last year and have obviously continued this year.
The success of the Pirates is correctly largely accredited to guys like Andrew McCutchen, AJ Burnett and Russell Martin but it was the back end of the bullpen that really solidified those clubs as legitimate contenders. Seeing Watson fail is as hard for me as it is watching McCutchen struggle. It is just difficult to watch these once great talents play like shells of their former selves.
The Pirates must do what is best for the longevity of the club which is letting Watson and McCutchen both go in the near future but even though I fully agree those are moves that need to be made I’m not going to be happy about them. As for now Watson at a minimum needs removed from the closer role.
As for how I’d structure the bullpen. I’d move Nicasio to closer and promote Hudson back to a set up role where he and Rivero would be used in the 7th and 8th innings. Watson would take on Bastardo’s old role of middle inning lefty. Santana or Schugel should come up to replace Marinez. The final spot I would give to Kuhl once Taillon returns.
This gives the team LeBlanc and Kuhl for long relief (though I’d like to see Kuhl get a few shorter outings as well). Watson and Santana/Schugel for middle relief. Hudson and Rivero for late inning relief and Nicasio closing things up (perhaps let him try a few 4-6 out saves).
There are many reasons for it and many people to blame but the Pirates just aren’t a good baseball team and while there were some legitimate reasons to think they might be good enough to compete for a wild card at the beginning of the year we have enough evidence now to know that probably isn’t happening.
The first reaction of a lot of fans is to blame the ownership and the front office and they deserve to share some of the blame. One of my biggest pet peeves with this group is that they haven’t done enough insulating. What I mean by that is they always seem to be lacking depth in a key area. This year there were three or potentially even 4 areas including outfield, back of the rotation, right handed relief and depending on how you choose to view it shortstop (if you want to count Kang there they were probably fine).
The blame doesn’t simply stop there nor is that the primary reason the Pirates are struggling. The Pirates two best position players find themselves banned from the league right no because of their own actions. It is inarguable that the absence of these two has had a huge negative effect on the offense and will continue to do so. Very few teams can survive let alone thrive if they lose two players as good as the Pirates have.
There is more to the story then simply the front office failures and the poor decision making of a couple excellent players. Injuries are currently preventing the team from using the primary backups to those two great talents and another great talent finds himself with a potential scary medical diagnosis. Clint Hurdle has also made his share of poor managerial decisions and players the Pirates are counting on (and had reason to count on) are struggling.
The bottom line is the Pirates are lacking some of their top end talent, missing some capable guys due to injuries, have other guys struggling, have made a few poor personal and managing decisions and just aren’t getting any favors from the baseball gods. It is an organizational failure and there really isn’t much that can be done to fix it at the moment.
The team is not doomed to years of non-competitiveness though. Currently the roster has 9 rookies (a number even the Steelers struggle to reach) meaning they are an exceptionally young group that will grown. Brighter days are likely ahead but man is the present ever going to be rough.
Look I’m not going to say April went well for the Pirates because it quite clearly did not. In fact nearly everything that could go wrong did. The team lost its best player for a half a season to suspension and its best power hitting appears at the very least highly questionable to make it to this country anytime this season. Add in some terrible offensive and defensive play along with some bullpen and Glasnow meltdowns and you get a rough month.
Still despite all of that the team managed to go 11-13 in a month where a full quarter of their schedule was against the defending World Series champions and probable best team in baseball. Even outside those Cubs games the schedule wasn’t particularly easy. The team survived the month and there is something to be said about that.
My expectations of this team have undoubtedly changed. I was thinking they would stick around the edges of the wild card race all year with a chance to grab one and now I see them as a team just a step below that. You know what though there is no reason they still can’t stay in this thing.
It is less likely sure but the schedule softens up a bit here in the coming weeks and the starting pitching looks like a strength. The bats and the gloves likely won’t be great but they won’t be as bad as they were for the first month of the season (at least I don’t think they will). The team is going to start playing better and facing competition that isn’t quite as stiff.
This Pirates team may not be what any of hoped for but it is what we have and it is still a pretty good team. For years we would have all loved a team anywhere near this talented but the last few seasons have spoiled us some. If this team is good enough to survive a terrible month where everything went wrong then it is good enough to compete once things start going well. It may not be pretty at times but I still feel we may be in for an exciting summer.
Battling Bucs is returning but just barely. I find myself wanting a place to journal my thoughts and here is as good as any. There won’t be posts every day and in fact there may not be any for an entire month. I expect absolutely no one to read this but I needed somewhere to write my thoughts down.
Not too long ago when you looked over the Pirates farm system you seen a lot of cows (prospects) out in the pasture (outfield) but now I find myself wondering just where did they all go. The Pirates have for some reason or other not just dried up their supply of outfield prospects but are barely carrying any at all on their minor league squads and it perplexes me.
MLB: Gregory Polanco, Andrew McCutchen
AAA: Austin Meadows, Danny Ortiz
AA: Jordan Luplow, Elvis Escobar, Michael Suchy
A+: Logan Hill, Casey Hughston, Kevin Krause*
A: Ty Moore, Sandy Santos, Clark Eagan, Alexis Bastardo
Listed above is every true outfielder the Pirates have on the active rosters of their five highest levels. Note the top two levels have just two outfielders when there are three starting spots. Even down in A+ where they have three outfielders Kevin Krause is a catcher being converted to the position. The only level where there is an outfielder on the bench is in A ball.
It is a weird trend and there isn’t just one cause. The Pirates have had trouble signing quality Latin American talent lately and have also not done too well at developing college hitters which combined with a large quantity of infielders they are trying to find playing time for has led them to a development process where players are being developed to play both spots. This is fine in theory but the lack of outfielders will likely hurt the Pirates in the long run.
The Pirates do have a fairly large collection of young Latin American outfielders in the lower levels of the system and perhaps they will end up being the answer to this growing problem but early returns have not been promising. My suggestion is for the 2017 draft to be heavy with college outfielders. There needs to be a few quality picks early on but largely this is about a quantity approach. The organization needs outfielders to cover the middle levels of the system and will likely have to bring in more minor league free agents to cover AAA in the next one or two seasons.
It was a good sign to see the Pirates rely so lightly on minor league free agents this year but the downside of that is it has let them with a glut of utility infielders and a shortage of outfielders. This in turn has led to guys like Adam Frazier, Jose Osuna and John Jaso getting significantly more outfield time than they should. Solving this problem will likely have a ripple effect on another organization weakness in defense. These are issues that are slowly but surely rotting away at the solid foundation this front office has built and it needs addressed soon before everything comes tumbling down. So Neal Huntington go get us some cows.