Pittsburgh Pirates Roundtable #1

Question #1:
What’s your take on the Pirates’ situation within the NL Central? What impact have free agent signings and trades within the division had on the Pirates as they move forward this offseason and enter the 2007 campaign?

Wilbur Miller from Pirate Player Profiles:
This is still a preliminary stage of the off-season, so a lot can still change. The Central theoretically should provide the Pirates with plenty of opportunity, 2006 being a good example, because it doesn’t have any financial juggernauts (the Cubs being a growing exception, but they’re pretty inept). The division is made up of mid-revenue teams that have to make good decisions and pursue successful strategies to succeed. This leads to up years and down years for the division as a whole, so that even modest success in building a team might lead to a playoff spot in the right year.
Unfortunately, the Pirates stand out as the one team in the division that just isn’t trying. The Astros and Cubs have been very aggressive in this market, the Cards always manage to find productive players, the Reds are making a lot of moves (mostly bad ones, IMO, but at least they’re trying), and the Brewers have built a strong farm system and are ramping up their Latin American scouting. Then there are the Pirates, who aren’t making a noticeable effort in any area, whether it’s major league payroll (where they figure to be well below both the Brewers and Reds, which can’t possibly be justified by their market size), amateur scouting, or anywhere else. I see this off-season, so far, as widening the gap between the Pirates and the other teams, not financially but in the effort they’re willing to expend in order to compete.
Jake from Bucco Blog:
The 2007 Pirates are no worse off than the 2006 Pirates. We continue to feature an over reliance on converting balls in play to outs with below average defenders, and streaky, impatient hitters at the plate. All of which is expected from a young team. The recent free agent signings by the Cubs are only a worry if they continue to add to them with guys like Schmidt…then they start to get scary. I don’t see any team in the NLCD better than .500 right now, the Cardinals included. I think the division is wide open.
Randy from Buried Treasure:
The Pirates situation remains the same. Barring a rash of injuries, a string of immense good luck or the acquisition of a legitimate long ball threat for the middle of the order, they’ll be in the bottom part of the division again in 2007. The unfortunate truth is that even if Soriano and the others hadn’t joined the NL Central, the Pirates chances of making the post-season were already relatively non-existent.
Steve from The Parrot:
I think at this point, the 2007 NL Central is still a crapshoot. The Cardinals are still the team to beat. Alfonso Soriano may help the Cubs somewhat, but his presence wasn’t enough to keep the Nationals out of last place in the NL East this season. Carlos Lee will help the Astros offensively, but Houston has pitching problems they have yet to address. The Brewers look to suck without Lee and Doug Davis, and I don’t know what the hell is going on with the Reds. If everything breaks right with the Pirates and they figure out how to win on the road and in one-run games, they have a shot. But if the Bucs do well, we’re in for more Dave Littlefield and shoestring player payroll.
Mondesi’s House:
Hopeless, and each of its synonyms: bad, beyond recall, cynical , dead duck, dejected, demoralized, despairing, desperate, despondent, disconsolate , discouraging, downhearted, fatal , forlorn, futile, gone, goner, helpless, ill-fated, impossible , impracticable, incurable, irredeemable, irreparable, irreversible, irrevocable, lost, menacing, no-win, past hope , pointless, sad, shot down, sinister, sunk, threatening, tragic , unachievable, unavailing, unfortunate, unmitigable, up creek, useless, vain, woebegone, worsening.
They can’t finish below last place, which is where I had them before Soriano, Lee, Ramirez and Williams were signed. So I would say, “no impact.”

Carson and Corey from We Should Be GM’s:

The Cubs and Buccos were both lousy last season, but the Cubs have addressed their needs and continue to do so. The Pirates on the other hand haven’t done much besides not retaining Jeromy Burnitz (thank goodness)! I’d say the Pirates are once again at the bottom of the barrell. The Astros improved their offense, the Cubs improved theirs as well, and the Cards will always be good with Pujols in the lineup. The Reds will probably drop a bit because they’re losing some players, but right now the Pirates are going to have to have a lot of progress from some of their young pitchers if they hope to compete.
Mike Emeigh, Contributing Author to Baseball Think Factory:
The Pirates are probably in the best division for them to become competitive quickly, if they have a plan. The Cardinals are starting to fray around the edges a little bit, although with Pujols, a healthy Rolen, and Carptenter they have the two best position players and the best pitcher in the division, and of the other teams only the Brewers have a solid core of developing players in place. However, they have to have a plan for long-term development of a core of young players, not the constant short-term patching and fixing that the team’s current ownership and management has been following since 1998.

Matt from Wait ‘Til Next Year:

The key for the Pirates is to not get caught up in what other teams in the division are doing. The Cubs finished in last place in 2006, and seemed to decide they needed to do something big to get themselves out of the cellar. So they dropped $136 million on the top free agent available. The Astros barely missed the playoffs, so they threw $112.5 million at Carlos Lee and Woody Williams. The Bucs cannot see these signings, get nervous, and begin throwing around what little money they have available. This would be a great method to end up with the next Jeromy Burnitz in right field. They must mostly stay out of the free agent market, and try to build the team through trades. They have a good core group of young players to build around (Jason Bay, Freddy Sanchez, Ronny Paulino, Mike Gonzalez, starting pitchers, hundreds of mediocre relievers, etc.), but are many pieces away from contention. If they spend their money wisely and make a few smart trades, they can be competitive in 2007 and possibly contend in 2008 (right around the time other teams may be feeling the burden of the huge contracts they handed out this offseason). Trying to keep up with the big spenders in the division is only going to send the Pirates deeper into the cellar.
Cory Humes from A New Pirates Generation:
The Pirates didn’t have high aspirations for 2007 before the moves, and I don’t think much has changed. If anything, the signings of Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Lee proved that the Bucs shouldn’t be in the market for any free agents. At best, the Bucs will finish at .500 in ’07–so why waste dollars on stopgaps? If Jeff Suppan is going to cost $8-9 million per year, is he really worth it? I’d say that he isn’t.
The front office often feels the need to sign names that will keep fans in the seats; as a profit-seeking organization, I suppose that strategy makes sense. To maximize long-term success, though, I think that the Bucs should be centered around building on their young core. Jim Tracy let the kids play in 2006, and he should plan on doing much of the same in 2007. If he gets lucky, mayble the Bucs will pull a Marlins and hang around until August. We might have the best pitching staff in the division if guys pitch at their potential. Even a mediocre lineup should be able to knock around Kip Wells and Claudio Vargas. If we can get outs, the Bucs might be able to stay near .500.
The impact of the offseason to date? All the cash being exchanged shows that the Bucs should be active in the trade market, move their older players with value, and save any available money for possible trade deadline moves (and beyond) as they prepare for 2008. Stay away from “crafty” vets, Mr. Littlefield. You’ll sell more seats when you start winning than you will with a Ryan Klesko bobblehead.
D.J. from The Derek Bell Yacht Co.:
Even though the Pirates didn’t finish last in the NL Central, I looked at the standings at the end of the season and still thought the Bucs were in the worst position heading into ’07. I knew for one thing that there was going to be a change in the dugout for the Cubbies and that there were going to be some major additions to the roster to go along with that change. When they hired Lou Pinella, I immediately thought that he would be reunited with A-Rod, but after they signed Soriano to that monster contract it surprised me to say the least. Retaining Wood, Ramirez, and Blanco; signing Soriano and Derosa; acquiring Neal Cotts; and the possible acquisition of Jason Schmidt makes them a better team. Carlos Lee beat up on the Bucs as a Brewer and Woody Williams did the same as a Cardinal–and both of them shore up some problems for the Astros. Even teams like the Reds (signing Alex Gonzalez and Bubba Crosby) and Brewers (trading for Johnny Estrada and Greg Aquino) have made subtle improvements early in the offseason. Our Buccos? Standing pat yet again. I sincerely doubt that Littlefield will make any drastic changes to the current lineup or rotation. He’s only concerned about bullpen help and bench players, which is what a contender (and not a perpetual cellar dweller) would be worrying about right now. It’s just another example of management’s ineptitude and the lack of accountability from top to bottom in the organization. I mean, I always hear about how Kevin McClatchy wants to win more than anybody, but where is the urgency, Kev? You would think that a decade of owning a team and not seeing even one winning season would make this guy want to do anything in his power to ensure that Pittsburgh fields a competitive team. After observing the recent events so far this offseason, it looks like yet another attempt at the “drive for 75.”
Dennis from Pitt Hoops Blog:
The NL Central is blowing up around the Pirates and they’re sitting there, mouth agape, not sure if they should run or try to fight it. In baseball, winning your division is everything. If you look at the NBA or NHL, five teams can get into the playoffs without winning their division. In Major League Baseball, only one wildcard team makes it through.
What does this mean? It means they need to get out there and not only win on the field, but start the whole process by winning on the free agent market. The catch, of course, is the fact that guys are going for many millions of dollars more than they’re worth. This is killing the Pirates who don’t have the type of money (or at least aren’t willing to spend it) to pull in a big name, big time player. This looks like it will once again equate to more losses to our division foes.
I know you’re saying, “But losing to other divisional teams is nothing new,” but the truth is that it is new. Why? Because prior to this year we could always look forward to the next off season. This year we have nothing positive to look towards because these high salaries will continue to be dished out by the other NL Central teams while we sit back and keep our dough in our pocket.
Pat from WHYGAVS:
It’s kind of hard to judge this with so much of the off-season left at this point. There’s still a lot of questions we don’t have answers to. Will Schmidt sign in Chicago? What’s up with Pettitte and Clemens? Is DL serious about acquiring some left-handed pop? Still, talking about right now, well, we ended the season as one of the two worst teams in the NL Central in a close battle for the bottom with the Cubs. They’ve added Alfonso Soriano. We other haven’t. I think the Reds will also be awful, but not as bad as us (this is pending on a Dunn deal, if Krivsky does something stupid with Dunn it’s gonna be another horse race to the bottom). Lee helps the Astros and their terrible offense a lot, but without Clemens and Pettite that pitching staff will be in shambles. The Cards overpaid Edmonds and Spezio to stay, but they’ve still got the best position player and best pitcher in the NL. Everyone laughs at the Cubs and the money they’re blowing this off-season and I agree that it’s going to kill them down the road, but if they get Schmidt in the next couple of days and one of the young guys on that staff steps up as a solid third guy (behind Schmidt and Zambrano), look out.
Bones from Honest Wagner:
Within the NL Central, the Bucs’ situation as perennial doormat is tenuous, thanks to Krivsky now jealously coveting DL’s Worst G.M. belt. Krivsky has thrown down the gauntlet, repeatedly soiling himself with the signings of Moeller, Gonzalez, Crosby, Stanton, and Castro. DL’s title is secure for now at least, and Krivsky is simply on the outside looking in at the effortless genius of DL. The free agent signings of Soriano, Lee, Ramirez, and Woody impact the Bucs like a flurry of blows about the head and chest. The Cubs look ready to vacate the basement. With the Brewers trading for Estrada, Vargas, and Aquino, all other divisional teams are at least trying. The doubling of free agent prices makes improving difficult for the Bucs, as the ownership group’s priority of fleecing the fanbase over fielding a competitive team will leave little for DL to throw away on another stopgap reject. Meanwhile the poor overall product and DL’s terrible track record provide two convenient but paradoxical excuses to the owners and fans alike for sitting tight in the cellar: this team isn’t good enough to pour money into right now, and even if it was, DL would just louse up the offseason acquisitions as usual.

Tony from The Confluence:

Nothing done within the NL Central, including what the Pirates themselves are about to do in the offseason, really make a hill of beans difference in terms of a 2007 divisional championship and/or a NL wild card. I don’t see them making any significant additions that will get them over the top (and that top is only .500, by the way). My confidence of Littlefield’s abilities are slim to none at this point.
Question #2:
Which pitcher in the Pirates’ organization would you absolutely refuse to trade?


Wilbur Miller from Pirate Player Profiles:

Nobody. Well, OK, Brad Lincoln, because he has no track record yet and so wouldn’t bring enough value for a player with a high ceiling. But nobody on the projected major league staff would be off-limits. None of these guys has a high ceiling, except maybe Gorzelanny, who’s a major injury risk. A legitimate, middle-of-the-order bat would do far more for the team than any of its current pitchers, so I wouldn’t hesitate to trade any of them for one, assuming the other parameters of the deal (like time toward free agency) made sense. Of course, that’s easier said than done.

Jake from Bucco Blog:

Zach Duke. He matches up to PNC Park perfectly, his easy mechanics means he will be durable, he’s smart for his age, and it would be too hard to replace him without it costing an arm and a leg.
Randy Linville from Buried Treasure:
Nobody should be untouchable on this team, except Jason Bay. You can’t trade Freddy Sanchez right after his batting title because too many casual fans would cry foul. But, if I had to pick one pitcher that I had to keep on the club it’d be Zach Duke because he’s the only starter who has had a long stretch of dominance.
Steve from The Parrot:
There isn’t any one pitcher currently in the Pittsburgh organization that I wouldn’t trade. None of the four starters currently in the rotation are staff aces by any means. All of the relievers are also expendable for a good bat–relief pitching is the one thing the Pirates seem to have an overabundance of. I would be willing to part with one (dare I say two) starters or any reliever in separate deals for help on the offensive side. There are possibilities working their way back from injury (Bullington, Burnett, Van Benschoten) that hopefully can step up and fill any gaps left by the departure of a starter in a trade. Ian Snell has already said he doesn’t like Pittsburgh (maybe it’s the losing), so he’s gone whenever his contract is up anyway. Any free agent right hander the Bucs sign makes another pitcher that much more expendable.
Mondesi’s House:
Doug Drabek. But since he retired, I would say anyone is fair game.
Carson and Corey from We Should Be GM’s:
Joe Roa…wait he’s not a Pirate anymore? Seriously, I’d have to say Zach Duke because he’s a young lefty with plus stuff that has the opportunity to become a legit #1. Others in the organization are solid with promise, but Duke has something special.
Mike Emeigh, Contributing Author to Baseball Think Factory:
The only untouchable pitcher or player in this organization would be McCutchen. Everyone else can be had.
Matt from Wait ‘Til Next Year:
None. The Pirates are in no position right now to mark any pitcher as untouchable. They are so starved of offense (.397 SLG in 2006, last in MLB) that Littlefield has to listen to any offer he is given for any of his pitchers. However, for the sake of argument, the two pitchers that should not be traded unless an overwhelming offer is made to DL are Zach Duke and Tom Gorzelanny. I base this on the minor league statistics of the “Big Four,” (Duke, Gorzelanny, Ian Snell, and Paul Maholm) as I don’t think any of their Major League careers are a large enough sample size yet. Their career minor league numbers are as follows (H9/HR9/BB9/K9/WHIP):
Zach Duke: 7.55/0.43/2.30/7.25/1.09
Tom Gorzelanny: 7.08/0.57/3.00/8.98/1.12
Ian Snell: 8.03/0.64/2.32/8.58/1.15
Paul Maholm: 8.45/0.51/3.14/7.22/1.29
Maholm ranks at the bottom in almost every category, which is why he is the most expendable of these four for potential trades. The numbers for Gorzelanny and Duke are better almost across the board. Therefore, although as I said I would be willing to trade any of them with the right offer, it would take something special for me to unload either of those two. (The problem with Littlefield, though, is that he doesn’t seem to make a decision as to who to trade based on what he is being offered. He simply decides who is going, and then forces a trade regardless of what he can get in return. See Craig Wilson.)
Cory Humes from A New Pirates Generation:
Dave Littlefield said that he’d be extremely reluctant to trade Duke, Snell, Maholm and Gorzelanny. Add in the rumor that he wouldn’t move John Grabow last year for Ryan Shealy, and figure that he probably would value Mike Gonzalez highly, and you’re not left with much. You have to give to get, and since the Pirates’ only real commodity is pitching, it doesn’t seem as if DL will be acquiring any big-time names. That having been said, I’m not Dave Littlefield. If I had to trade a Pirates’ pitcher, it’d be Duke: He’d bring the best return. If you trade any of the Big Four, you’re going to be left with three average arms. Why not move the one that gives you the most back? It’s an exercise in marginal utility–better known as win shares to sabermetricians. If you can move Duke as part of a package for a big bat, I think you have to do it.

D.J. from The Derek Bell Yacht Co.:

Well, in the Pirates position “there really is no pitcher who you can label as untouchable.” This may sound a little like DL, but you’re always open to listening to trades that make sense from a baseball standpoint. If there was a pitcher in the Pirates system or on their current roster that another team wanted and made an overwhelming offer for, then I guess that pitcher would be “untouchable” no more. First, let me eliminate one of the guys that other people have suggested when I have brought up this subject myself. Mike Gonzalez. Believe it or not, he’s brought up more often than naught simply because of his talent level as a pitcher. However, in his role, he is not as valuable to the Pirates as he is to other teams. I’m one of those guys in the camp that believes a majority of baseball games are won and lost before they ever get to the ninth inning and that the closer role is overvalued. The importance of having a good closer is not lost on me, but I just think people tend to overrate the position itself. At the same time, some have made the point that having a good back of the bullpen guy to close out games for these young starting pitchers of ours is important for their confidence and psyche. In reality, that’s what guys like Grabow, Capps, Marte and Scott Strickland (had he actually been given a chance at the ML level) are for. Now I’m not saying that I would look to trade Gonzo as “his talent is quite evident” but in the right deal I wouldn’t hesitate to trade him for some help at 1B or RF. With that out of the way, I’ll give a quick answer. I think it’s Zach Duke. Out of the “Big Four” (if you can even call it that), I think that he has the best stuff and is most likely to return to his 2005 form. Just on a side note, isn’t it sad that I really had to pick Duke by default? In five years on the job, Dave Littlefield was supposed to build this team through pitching depth and then have enough arms to deal from a position of strength to shore up a glaring weakness (our lineup). Instead, looking at the group of pitchers he has stockpiled, it would take at least two to pry away a decent hitter from another team “and this would greatly weaken our starting rotation.” I can’t wait to see what Yuslan Herrera is made of.
Dennis from Pitt Hoops Blog:
An indispensable pitcher gives you two names inside your mind: Mike Gonzalez and Zach Duke. Now to choose one of them. It’s actually quite hard to compare a closer to a starter but maybe that’s exactly where the comparison ends. As any baseball fan/sports fan/person with a brain knows, you can only close games if you’re winning. What good is Gonzo if we don’t have a good rotation to get a lead in the first place? For that reason, I’d have to say Duke is the one guy we don’t trade away, or at least until he shows he’s a totally lost cause.
Pat from WHYGAVS:
It’s a cop-out, but there’s no one I’d leave untouchable on this team. There’s still too many holes in too many places to say that anyone is off limits, especially anyone that could bring a good return like Gorzelanny or Duke would.
Bones from Honest Wagner:
None. No one should be untouchable on a 95-loss team coming off its 14th consecutive losing season. The Bucs’ .724 OPS last year was dead last in the majors. DL can’t sit around and wait for offensive help from the minors, because other than McCutchen and maybe Walker, it isn’t coming. In order to upgrade, offers for every single pitcher, including Zach Duke, should be considered. By publicly stating that trading any of the young four would be “unrealistic”, DL has minimized the chances of any serious trade proposal involving quality young offensive talent.

Tony from The Confluence:

I don’t “think” I would trade Duke, but I imagine that I would have to consider all offers before I really say never. Snell is almost at that same no-trade level in my mind, but in order to get something in a trade, you’ve gotta give something, so I it’s feasible if the package is good enough, I might bite.
Question #3:
If you had Dave Littlefield’s job, what’s the first personnel move you’d make?

Wilbur Miller from Pirate Player Profiles:
Fire Ed Creech. The absolute best rating you could give him is mediocre, and the Pirates can’t succeed with mediocrity in that position. If you look back through his drafts, including the ones he conducted for Montreal , St. Louis and LA, there’s nearly a complete absence of impact talent. A couple months ago, I reviewed all of Creech’s draft picks, from his 13 years as a scouting director, who reached the majors, and it’s mostly a collection of relievers and UT players, although most of his Pirate picks haven’t had enough time yet. Most of the minor league rosters below AA the last couple years have been laughable, filled with organizational guys and other teams’ rejects, pitchers who can’t throw strikes, and hitters who struggle to slug .300. Outside of McCutchen, the GCL team has been almost entirely prospect-free for two years. BA already rated the Pirates’ system in the bottom half the last two years, and with a number of players moving up to the majors this year (most of them from the pre-Creech era), the system is likely to slip into the bottom third. Every year Creech stays is one more year that’s going to be needed to rebuild the farm system.
Jake from Bucco Blog:
Fire Ed Creech. I sometimes wonder if Creech prays before a Tony La Russa statute every night before he goes to bed, the way he has been drafting (he was the Cards scouting director for a few years in the 80’s before he took off to the Expos). I guess I can’t help remembering Creech’s penchant to take high school pitchers in the draft when he was with the Dodgers and many of them broke before their first pitch, like Brian Pilkington.
Randy Linville from Buried Treasure:
I’d package a reliever and Jose Castillo in a trade for a young power hitter. Maybe even somebody who isn’t a legitimate big league hitter, the way Ty Wigginton supposedly was. Freddy Sanchez plays 2B and Jose Bautista mans third. The new guy battles Xavier Nady and Brad Eldred for time in RF and/or 1B.
Steve from The Parrot:
I’d trade one of the lefty starters for Travis Hafner of the Cleveland Indians. Hafner, a lefty, hit 42 homers for the Tribe in 2006. He has a high OPS (over 1.00 the past two years) and doesn’t strike out too terribly often. He made less than three million dollars in 2006 and would be a bargain at twice the price. He’s a DH, I know, but first base wouldn’t be too much of a stretch. If the Indians don’t want a lefty, what about me signing a right hander like Jeff Suppan or Tomo Ohka and offering Ian Snell? If that fell through, I would pursue Nick Johnson from the Washington Nationals–the Nats have no pitching and might bite on Paul Maholm, the player I would dangle first!

Mondesi’s House:

Try and make a trade with Dave Littlefield, because he usually gets taken advantage of. But if you consider Dave Littlefield is making the trade, then both teams would probably get worse.
Carson and Corey from We Should Be GM’s:
My first personnel move would be to fire Dave Littlefield. Then I’d hire myself as GM along with my buddy Corey because we’d right the ship! As far as player movement I’d look to bringing Brad Eldred up to see if he can hit with consistent power in the Bigs like another high strikeout slugger, Ryan Howard.
Mike Emeigh, Contributing Author to Baseball Think Factory:
Under this ownership, I wouldn’t want Littlefield’s job, because this ownership has proven since 1998 that they are unwilling to do what the team needs in order to be competitive–build a young core of players and commit to them. The constant short-term signing of the Kenny Loftons, Reggie Sanderses, and Joe Randas in order to put names that casual fans recognize on the field, at the expense of investing in a real player development effort, has held this team back more than anything. If I did have Dave Littlefield’s job, and McClatchy and the Nuttings allowed it to happen, the first thing that I would try to do is to see what the market would bring for Jason Bay and Jack Wilson. Those two guys are the only players in this organization–with the exception, possibly, of McCutchen–who can bring back the Marlins-type haul of young position player prospects that the Bucs really need. Bay and Wilson are still relatively cheap (especially in this market), neither is likely to be around Pittsburgh once they hit free agency, and trading them now–while their value is at a maximum–rather than waiting for the moment when they are about to hit the market is the best way to maximize the return on them. I’d think it would be possible to get three decent prospects for Bay and two more for Wilson, especially if the Bucs were willing to add a pitcher or two.
Matt from Wait ‘Til Next Year:
The first thing I would do is go to the winter meetings and determine the interest in Mike Gonzalez. His trade value is very high right now after posting 24 saves in 24 opportunities and a 2.17 ERA last season, giving him three seasons in the Majors with an ERA under 3. However, there is an excellent chance that his numbers will decline either this season or a few years from now. After posting a phenomenal strikeouts to walks ratio in 2004 (55 K, 6 BB), his walks have jumped drastically the past two seasons (5.37 per 9 innings). He also averaged 4.35 BB/9 in his minor league career, another ominous sign. In fact, his H9, HR9, BB9, K9, and WHIP are all better at the Major League level than in the minors. While this likely can be attributed to the fact that he was mostly used as a starter coming up, it is not a trend that I feel comfortable with counting on to continue. There are always teams looking to give up too much in a trade in exchange for a dominant closer. The Pirates could easily fill this role with another player, such as Salomon Torres, Matt Capps, or any one of the 208 relief pitchers we currently have at the Major League and AAA levels. If the Bucs choose to hold on to Gonzalez, his value will very likely decrease quickly. Let’s trade at the highest possible value for once as opposed to the lowest.

Cory Humes from A New Pirates Generation:

As soon as the Nuttings name me GM, I’m shopping my “geezers”–basically, anyone who has reached max potential. Jack Wilson would go the Red Sox. The Bucs have a ton of arms capable of pitching big league innings, so that’s where I’d go next with my moves. Lots of teams need bullpen help right now, so I’d be trading Torres, Grabow and Mike Gonzalez if the deal’s right. Torres would fit in with the ChiSox, or maybe the Yankees. Grabow’s a proven lefty–any contender would take him. Gonzo could be Cleveland’s new closer. In return, I’d ask for offense: I’d stockpile young power guys with an emphasis on on-base percentage. My focus would be on obtaining guys in AA and AAA–I’d take major leaguers, but no one over 28. I want to keep my roster together through 2010. By then, Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, Brent Lillibridge and Brad Lincoln should be in Pittsburgh and ready to take a run at the division.
D.J. from The Derek Bell Yacht Co.:
I’m the the word personnel is in there, because otherwise my first move would’ve been to prank call Jim Bowden over and over again. That aside, I remember attending a Pirates winter caravan event before this season in Wheeling, WV and Mr. Littlefield was present. He welcomed me with a smug little question: “So, do you have any trades for me?” It was like saying, “Do you think you can do my job better than me?” I refrained from saying anything, even though I had strung a few ideas together, but I didn’t want to sound like any of the other armchair GM’s out there even if my trade ideas sounded more reasonable and beneficial than anything sent to Ed Eagle on the mothership site. In hindsight, I wish I would’ve said something because at least it would have made me feel a little better. Anyway, it’s kind of difficult to answer this type of question because you don’t know what other teams might be offering in a trade or the extra amount of money that agents might be demanding for their players just because it’s Pittsburgh. So, because of this, I’m going to start simple: non-tender/release Humberto Cota. Seriously, he serves no purpose. We already have Paulino/Doumit and Maldonado can probably be brought back at a cheap price for AAA depth. I’d look to trade for players that are somehow blocked in other systems and target teams who need pitching help, like the Arizona Diamondbacks trading for Chris Young last season. Maybe Koshansky (1B blocked by Helton) from Colorado could be brought in for a pitcher or two. I would also look into acquiring Mark Teixeira from Texas for any two of our top-tier pitchers and a second-tier prospect. He would bring some punch to the middle of the order, protect Bay, and is an excellent defensive first baseman. I guarantee you that the Rangers will vastly overplay for Zito and/or Padilla and could use some pitching help from the Bucs. Finally, I would spend every penny that Nutting and McClatchy would let me. Apparently, DL is allowed to spend up to $14 million this year and that is a scary proposition. If I had to overpay in the current market just to get one player (Suppan?) that could potentially put up decent numbers, I would do it. While it may be smarter just to stay out of bidding wars for certain players and reinvest it into your team by locking up a Freddy Sanchez type, I wouldn’t expect the current management to do such a clever thing. All of the money would be back into the Nuttings’ pockets, not helping our team at all. Instead of investing $12.75 million in the short fix (Burnitz, Randa, and Hernandez), why not bring in one player that will actually help the team and prevent the excess money from staying in the ownership’s pockets?
Dennis from Pitt Hoops Blog:
If and when Dave Littlefield sits in his office and thinks hard about who to fire, he doesn’t need to look far. Perhaps if he has a mirror in his office he might see the answer to his question: himself. I know, this is unrealistic, he won’t step down on his own accord but it’s certainly something to think about. During his five year tenure as “master rebuilder” of our favorite baseball team in Pittsburgh, here’s some of his highlights: trading away Jason Schmidt and Aramis Ramirez for next to nothing, giving up on Bronson Arroyo, and trying to get too much out of veterans who were already running on their last drops of fuel. That list includes (but is certainly not limited to) Joe Randa, Jeromy Burnitz and Benito Santiago. And sure Oliver Perez was having control issues but the guy throws in the upper nineties and is still in his mid-twenties. So while Littlefield has made these guys happy by either trading them to better teams or giving them gaudy amounts of money when everyone knows it wasn’t deserved, he’s driving all of us fans to pull our hair out and have to root for a mediocre team.
Pat from WHYGAVS:
Can I say fire Littlefield and hire Paul DePodesta? No? Ok, well, besides recommending going all Syd Thrift with the team and dealing everyone of value we’ve got for minor leaguers and 1-3 guys (which I’d seriously consider doing), I’ll go with firing Ed Creech and Brian Graham. Creech is a piss-poor director of scouting that’s ruined just about every team he’s touched. In the past three years the best three picks he’s made have been the picks he’s made in the top 10 selections of the first round, the easiest picks to make in the MLB draft. Even of those three picks, serious questions have emerged about Walker and, to a lesser extent, Lincoln (I want to see him pitch a full season with us and no one else before judging). Then we move to Graham. Think of all of the players that have slowly gotten worse as they progressed through our minor league system.
Bones from Honest Wagner:
First, I’d call security, and have them politely escort Ed Creech off the premises. Ed inherited a rich farm system built up by former scouting director Mickey White, and has proceeded to collect and hoard as many relief pitchers as possible. With the minors now largely devoid of position player talent, the Bucs have been critically hobbled by Ed’s incompetence. Once Creech was gone, I’d have his office emptied, and the contents piled in a courtyard. Then I’d summon all the other employees around and deliver a stinging invective on failure and complacency. After ten minutes, and just as everyone was starting to think their new GM was a real jerk, the beer trucks and strippers would pull up. Then we’d torch Creech’s crap, roast brats around the blaze and drink until the sun came up. As the party wound down, we’d make one final toast to the end of the DL/Creech regime and look deep into each other’s eyes, No Longer Afraid, and Ready to Win.
Tony from The Confluence:
That’s a loaded question. First of all, I’d try to get my GM colleagues around the league to forget about the Littlefield regime in order to give me an opportunity to make a decent deal. That deal would be a package of one of the four starters (preferably Maholm or Gorzy), a middle infielder (maybe Castillo, Bautista, or maybe even Jack), and a throw-in for a top-flight lefty 1B/OF, and I don’t mean someone like Hawpe, I mean a top-flight 1B/OF.

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  • http://mvn.com/milb-pirates/2007/02/20/welcome-to-milb-pirates/ Sandlot Swashbucklers | MVN – Most Valuable Network » Blog Archive » Welcome to MiLB Pir

    […] This one, I think. It’s the first post from Pittsburgh Pirates Roundtable, an effort that I took part in starting and continue to coordinate. If you’re not familiar with us, you should be. Each Monday and Thursday our panel of bloggers releases a discussion focused around two Pirate-related questions. We’ve come a long way from our humble beginnings, and we’ll continue to improve as time goes on. […]