Pittsburgh Pirates Roundtable #2

What do you think of the Pirates’ performance at the Winter Meetings? How did we did we grade out as compared to the rest of the NL Central?

Bones from Honest Wagner:
Rather than putting on his clinic of mind-numbing stupidity usually scheduled for this time of year, DL simply did nothing. The inactivity wasn’t intentional though, as DL began his publicized quest for a young lefty slugger by making an offer to 35-year-old RH Kevin Millar, who slugged .399 and .437 the last two years. Later in the week, the LaRochegate debacle revealed how few irons DL had in the fire. Once Schuerholz changed his mind at the last minute over Gonzo, DL was left stammering to the press, instead of proceeding with another deal to bring home any other version of Lefty McThump. While inactivity trumps DL’s past atrocities, it’s still failure, especially when DL had so many quality bargaining chips to dangle.
The rest of the division didn’t do much at the Winter Meetings. The Astros and Brewers didn’t make any moves, and the Reds only took a flier on ex-cracksmoker/phenom Josh Hamilton. The Cards just extended Carpenter’s contract, and the Cubs added Lilly and made a minor trade. However, all of these teams at least made an effort to improve earlier in the offseason. So in that context, the Bucs’ inactivity through the Winter Meetings seems more indicative of gross incompetence than calculated strategy. DL can stockpile all the young starters and assorted relievers he wants, but unless the Bucs (last in 2006 NL for runs scored) acquire more offensive talent to score more runs, they’ll likely lose another 95 games in 2007. Winter Meetings grade = F.

Jim from Sportsocracy:

By not making any moves at all, the Pirates automatically get a failing grade. Flubbing the would-be Adam LaRoche deal and then not moving any combination of one of their young left-handers, Damaso Marte, or Jose Castillo further shows that there is no one awake at the wheel of this team. If Kevin McClatchy and the Nuttings are so cost conscious, they should have just saved the money and kept Dave Littlefield at home. DL has been quoted as describing the team’s efforts at the meetings as “aggressive” and “very active”, but apparently he was talking about his actions at the lunch buffet and not in relation to any actual baseball transactions.
No one in the NL Central made much noise at the meetings, most of that was done prior to with the Cubs signing Alfonso Soriano. But, when your team is already inferior to the rest of the division, and holding several cards capable of being dealt to improve it, it’s unacceptable to merely tread water and stay the course.
Mondesi’s House:
I don’t like, I love Dave Littlefield’s approach: let’s take a 95-loss team and not make any significant changes. Pretend like we’re chasing Suppan, briefly flirt with Adam LaRoche, and then end up maintaining the status quo. That way we can tell the fans we tried, but we’re so poor and baseball’s economic system is set up to make us fail. So he gets an “A” for perceived effort, and as usual, an “F” for the actual effort.

Pat from WHYGAVS:

The Pirates came in to these meetings with a clear need, a young left-handed power bat, and they left the meetings with the same need. They came close to filling the hole with the now infamous near-deal for Adam LaRoche, but in the end things fell through. I’m not sure we’ll ever know who’s account of those events is closest to the truth, since there are several floating around out there. My guess is that Schuerholz played Littlefield like a fiddle to pry Soriano cheaply from Seattle. Regardless of what actually happened, the Pirates now have to move forward. It’s disappointing that Littlefield hasn’t made any moves yet, but it is encouraging that he hasn’t made any bad moves yet. In years past he’s signed people just to sign people and traded people just to trade people. I’d rather he did nothing at all than to start up with that crap again. It’s hard to tell where the Bucs should go from here. Ryan Church might be a relatively cheap (in that he might not cost Gonzalez) option that could offer comparable production LaRoche. Littlefield is still holding an incredibly valuable chip that I think he can afford to trade this winter with Gonzalez, though I doubt Gonzalez alone would be enough to pry a blue chipper like Kotchman or Loney. Still, we’ll have to see what these Winter Meetings set the table for before we can pass judgment on Littlefield’s off-season. Often in the past, I’ve been hardest on him for making a bad move instead of no move at all. In itself, that’s a condemnation of what he’s done in Pittsburgh. There clearly are moves that he can make to improve the Pirates next year and yet some of us will simply be happy if he doesn’t do something to screw things up even worse.
As for the rest of the division, the Cubs kept making noise by signing Lilly and Marquis to ridiculous contracts. They aren’t great pitchers, but they’re better than what the Cubs had and they might be enough to make the Cubs competitive in the division with that monstrous line-up they’ll have next year. The Astros lost out big-time when Pettitte went back to New York. If Clemens doesn’t come back their rotation will be a nightmare next year. Besides the Cubs (moving forward) and the Astros (going backwards), the rest of the division seems to be treading water right now, just like the Pirates are. That’s a good thing since the division was bad last year, but it’s still going to be next to impossible for the Pirates to make up the gap between them and the guys at the top without making some kind of move this winter.

Carson and Corey from We Should Be GM’s:

What performance? Did David Littlefield actually attend the Winter Meetings? I heard some rumors buzzing around about interest in Jeff Suppan, Jon Lieber, Ryan Church, Adam LaRoche, Brad Hawpe, Clark Kent, King Tut, and even the Grim Reaper, but last time I checked none of those mentioned are on the squad. I was very disappointed in the lack of player movement on the Pirates behalf. I don’t want Littlefield to deal players just for the sake of making waves, but I do want upgrades! As much as I’d love to see the Phils trade Lieber, I’d be pissed if it were to the Buccos. So if I were grading Littlefield as of now he’d recieve a D-. How did we did we grade out as compared to the rest of the NL Central? The Cards, Cubs, Astros, and Reds at least caused a ripple in the player movement waters…the Buccos–nadda-damn-thing. I’m just a bit disgusted right now, because I was hoping for positive news to report in this week’s special Winter Meetings edition of Pirates Roundtable…there’s always next year.

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

Wow, I don’t even know where to start on this one. Before the Winter Meetings, everyone knew that Dave Littlefield was a flop of a GM for his tendency to overvalue his players during trade talks. Then, right out of the chute, he says that he has no intention of trading any of our four, young starting pitchers for that left-handed power bat. He has lowballed pretty much every other GM out there in the past, and then when he has an opportunity to consummate a deal that would make sense for both teams (and especially us) he drops the ball yet again. I don’t buy the reports stating that it was John Schuerholz that held up the deal; it just seems like the trade falling apart is too much of a Pirates’ trademark to think otherwise. Adam LaRoche would have been the perfect fit for our ballclub right now, but it appears that his price has already gone up since the Braves acquired Soriano from Seattle and no longer need help at the back of the bullpen. I think that Maholm and Castillo–the current rumor–would be too steep a price to pay for LaRoche and that Dave should turn his attention elsewhere, maybe inquiring about the availability of Casey Kotchman of the Angels.
Of course, I wouldn’t expect that DL would be able to make a reasonable deal with Los Angeles because of Bill Stoneman’s reluctance to trade his younger players and the Angels not having a need for pitching. More likely than not, he will abandon his quest for a young power-hitter and will go the route of the ever so popular short-term fix, a la Doug Mientkiewicz. It’s already been reported that our awesome GM tried to pry Kevin Millar away from the Orioles, and the tragic thing is this: it didn’t shock me at all. This is what Pirate fans have been relegated to: waiting until January for the Dave Littlefield Annual Dumpster Dive to commence, when we unsuccessfully try to get excited about that Pokey Reese or Raul Mondesi signing. The rest of the NL Central didn’t get much accomplished during the Winter Meetings either, but every other team at least made progress before the meetings. That’s the difference. One thing I thought was hilarious was that Cubs GM Jim Hendry was wheeling and dealing from his hospital bed and Diamond Dave couldn’t get a deal done under regular circumstances. The Cubs acquired two solid pitchers in Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis and they will provide lots of insurance for their oft-injured pitching staff. I also like what Cincy did in trading for Josh Hamilton (formerly of the D-Rays, selected by the Cubs in the Rule 5) who was a former first overall pick. This is exactly the type of gamble that the Bucs should be making right now, but Wayne Krivsky makes DL look like the guy who’s been GM for less than a year. What a shame.
Steve from The Parrot:
The Pirates would get an F for Dave Littlefield’s performance at the Winter Meetings. He had a list of positions to fill, and succeeded only in playing the fool for the Atlanta Braves in the Adam LaRoche mess.
Not a lot happened this at this year’s meetings; the rest of the NL Central didn’t make any major deals. The Cubs signed Ted Lilly to an obscene contract, the Cardinals may or may not have flirted with Barry Bonds, and the Brewers picked up a minor piece or two that probably won’t help them at all.
Most of the action seemed to happen in the NL West, as the Dodgers got Jason Schmidt ant the Padres got Greg Maddux. The Winter Meetings were an anticlimax, to say the least. Where will the Bucs go from here?
Jake from Bucco Blog:
The Pirates walked away from the winter meetings with a failed opportunity in one hand and egg wiped off their face in the other hand, but overall, they accomplished exactly what I expected them to accomplish–nothing. It is pretty hard for a small market team to compete in the winter meetings when so many free agents are still available in the market and values haven’t been set for the one commodity they wanted to offer–relief pitching. The market has to shake out before our players will be sought out. Personally, I am very pleased Littlefield walked away from Orlando with his roster intact. He has plenty of time to do business and the value of his assets will only increase every hour that passes.
Tony from The Confluence:
Well, the easy answer is that their performance was horrendous. However, my expectations going into the meetings were so negative that the horrendous performance didn’t make me feel as bad as if I thought that Littlefield would actually pull something off. I will admit, however, that as of early Wednesday night, I was pretty excited that the LaRoche trade seemed to be near a done deal, pending the Braves’ review of Gonzalez’ medical records. I have no doubt that LaRoche’s addition would have been (and may still be, who knows) extremely beneficial to the Pirates’ ultimate success in ’07. He’s close to a perfect hitter for PNC Park and it’s short porch in right field. Irregardless of who you believe in reference to what ultimately led to the pulling of the trade, the results of the winter meetings, or lack thereof, leads us back to the following conclusion; The Pirates will not acquire any decent player that will be any noticeable asset to the ’07 Pirates unless they finally realize that they must trade either one of their starters, or one of their closers. Trading Grabow and/or Castillo does relatively nothing in terms of acquiring the real needs of the Bucs.
Randy from Buried Treasure:
A D+ for Dave Littlefield. I look at this in two ways. First, did DL harm the team? Second, did he improve the team?
No moves were made. He gets an A for that (lack of) effort. He didn’t do any damage. No boneheaded trades. No bumper crop of Bucco minor leaguers was taken in the Rule 5 draft. He gets a solid F for failing to improve the team. Since the team needs to be improved, I’m grading on a scale that favors actions toward improvement, hence the D+.
The Mike Gonzalez/Adam LaRoche trade that almost was is indicative of Littlefield’s inabilities as GM. The Pirates strength is in the surplus of bullpen arms. They lack a lefty power hitter. Here’s where I see a general lack of planning on the Pirates part. Shouldn’t you have an idea going into the meetings who you would be willing to give up for certain players? Shouldn’t you know what players might be available from other teams? Before the meetings sit down with your staff and determine which players you’d trade Gonzo even up for. Or which players are worth a package of a reliever or a starter plus Jose Castillo or whomever. Then there’s no hesitating on the Pirates part, as the Braves claimed, when a deal is proposed. You pull the trigger, pending the all important physical.
IMO, the bullpen is only really important to teams that are playoff bound. Here’s my simplistic way of seeing this: in 2006, the Pirates had a pretty good bullpen. They were middle of the pack with 21 blown saves. The combination of offensive support/good starting pitching/quality middle relief put the Pirates in position to win 88 games. They won 67 and blew 21 save opportunities. Going back the past four years, the ML leader in fewest blown saves have been 10 (in 2006), 12 (the Bucs in 2005), nine (by LA in 2004) and 8 (by LA in 2003). Let’s say that by keeping the full complement of bullpen arms that have been amassed, the Pirates have the fewest blown saves in 2007 with 10. And various other things (luck) put the Pirates in position to win 95 games. So, if the Bucs blow 10 saves, they win 85 games. That would’ve won the division in 2006, but I don’t believe an 85 win season will bring October baseball to Pittsburgh.
Matt from Wait ‘Til Next Year:
The first instinct is to call the Pirates’ performance at the winter meetings disappointing at the very least. Not only did the team make no moves to address their serious needs, but it was gut-wrenching to watch the Adam LaRoche trade fall through after getting so close. However, the end result is not terrible. Dave Littlefield did not do anything stupid. He did not pick up Trot Nixon. He did not sign a mediocre reliever to a multi-year deal. He did not trade a young starter for a veteran well past his prime. He could have done much worse. Maybe he didn’t do all he could to get Adam LaRoche. Or maybe he did and just got screwed by another GM. Who knows? I am not happy with the lack of progress made this past week. But at least we didn’t go backwards by making a dumb move. Final Grade: D+.

Wilbur Miller from Pirate Player Profiles:

Not a great deal to say here, since Littlefield’s only achievement was to grub a little money in the Rule 5 draft. Then again, at least he didn’t do anything that actively hurt the team, which makes it a better than average showing for him. The failure to acquire LaRoche is a bad sign, though. He’s looking for an extremely rare commodity–a young LH power hitter whom somebody is willing to trade–and he has little beyond relievers to offer, since he hasn’t bothered to build up the farm system. Littlefield’s usual tactic of waiting out the market isn’t likely to work here. As teams satisfy their needs, the very small universe of viable trade partners is going to contract rapidly. He needs to move on this or be left choosing between Trot Nixon and Michael Tucker…which he’d probably be more comfortable with, anyway.
Except for the Cubs, who continue handing out money like Halloween candy, the rest of the division did little. Of course, their needs aren’t as severe as the Pirates’. The Astros could be in a bad spot if they fail to acquire Garland , with Pettite gone and Clemens maybe not wanting to return as a result. Beyond that, the other five teams in the division aren’t looking for core players the way the Pirates are, so they don’t face the same level of urgency.
Cory from A New Pirates Generation:
I was driving through last week’s snowstorm late one night on my way to work, listening to XM Radio’s coverage of the Winter Meetings and praying for them to mention the Pirates. Something. Anything. Nothing. The roads were mess, powder was pouring out of the sky, and all I cared about was baseball. Suddenly, I lost control of my car, and began skidding towards the guard rail. I was inches away when a last second swerve of the wheel kept me out of a ditch. Shaken, I was again on my way. I continued driving, shivering from the bone-chilling temperatures, and becoming annoyed with the other drivers on the road who were being much too cautious.
It seems as if Dave Littlefield and I had similar experiences last week. I had my eye on the prize (of heading to work), and was moving in a good direction–only to get sidetracked. When I restarted, I found the chilly conditions (market) to be unbearable, as I wanted to make a move (to my job) but couldn’t because of the other clowns on the road (general managers in the lobby).
I don’t want to give DL a free pass because John Schuerholz is a crafty general manager–that wouldn’t be fair to the fans of Pirates’ nation who have been waiting so long to see a winning club. But, for the first time in awhile, I think our GM knows what needs to be accomplished. I think we’ll see moves made sooner rather than later, and I think that they’ll be transactions that benefit the long-term future of the club. We’ll get our Lefty McThump, and we’ll find a right-handed pitcher from the scrap heap. Jose Hernandez will eventually return as a utility infielder.
As for how DL grades out against the rest of the NLCD: A big, red F.

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