Pittsburgh Pirates Roundtable #11

Question #1:
True or false: The Pirates are putting too much stock in their top four starting pitchers.

Wilbur T. Miller from Pirate Player Profiles:
True. The bullpen figures to be deep but not outstanding, especially with Gonzalez gone. The hitting still figures to be below average. It’ll have to be the rotation that produces most of whatever improvement they’re going to show. And some of these guys will get hurt, as we’ve already seen with Burnett, Van Benschoten, and Bullington, not to mention Bobby Bradley and Clint Johnston. (Five straight first round picks felled by injuries has to be some kind of record.) Young pitching just isn’t the basket to put all your eggs in.
Chris from The Unofficial Pittsburgh Pirates Message Board:
The Pirates have no choice but to rely heavily on their starting rotation. It was Dave Littlefield’s original plan to stock young arms and make that the base of the organization. He had hoped to have more young arms to use for trades to acquire hitting, but that part of the plan has failed, mainly due to the Pirates’ problem with talent evaluation. Despite the fact the staff is young, that statement will not be valid after this year. Paul Maholm, Ian Snell, Tom Gorzelanny and Zach Duke will be veterans and the excuses a young pitcher will use will also no longer be valid.The other issue is the lack of hitting in the minor leagues. The Pirates will have trouble in the next several years improving the offense from within. Therefore what could be considered a below-average offense now, will only get better through trades. They will not be able to field a team that can ride their offense on a daily basis, so the pitching is really their only hope to become legitimate contenders in the NL Central.
Randy from Pittsburgh Lumber Co.:
False. I don’t think anybody expects the front four to carry this team to the post-season. At least I don’t think any reasonable person thinks this. Measured improvement and consistency from Zach Duke, Ian Snell, Tom Gorzelanny and Paul Maholm would be great for 2007.
Harry from What’s Wrong With Portland, Maine?:
True. The Pirates have four promising young pitchers in Snell, Duke, Maholm and Gorzelanny, but they certainly are not worthy of the kind of status management has given them. What management is doing by regarding them so highly is giving off the message of self promotion and baseless optimism. Nobody is so good that trade rumors will halt when they are mentioned. You have to give to get. Nobody is untouchable. Nobody. Everyone has his strengths and weaknesses, and the same is true for the Pirates’ pitchers.
Nicolas from “82”:
Well, it isn’t as though the Pirates are hunkering down and hoping that their “four young guns” shaped firecracker is going to suddenly end the 14-year war. These young pitchers have proven at this point that they belong at the major league level, even if they aren’t all #1 starters. You can’t send them all back down to the minors, and you can’t trade them all away, so I guess they might as well pitch. I don’t think “expecting them to be consistent everyday contributors” qualifies as “putting too much stock in them.” It isn’t like the Pirates are so sold on these four that they have stopped developing and drafting pitching talent. So no, they’re fine.
Tony from The Confluence:
False. Top quality starting pitching, especially left-handed starting pitching, is a highly coveted commodity in today’s MLB. The Pirates, in their only enviable position within all of baseball, are fortunate enough to have four young starting pitchers, three of those being left-handed, with loads of potential. So in that regard, and in probably one of the few things that Littlefield has done right to date (outside of finally landing LaRoche), it was wise for him to do all he could to retain all of his starters while gaining the left-handed bat that the Bucs desparately needed at the same time. Now, there’s no guarantee that any of the four will blossom into a #1 starter. However, with reference to the aforementioned commodity that Littlefield is lucky to possess, he correctly held off the temptation to trade one of those starters.
Rowdy from Honest Wagner:
No. It appears they hope to get 25-30 starts from each of those guys, and this is a hard hope to question. I see little evidence that they are being overconfident in their expectations. It’s pretty obvious to everyone that those hopes are best-case scenarios. They should add another starter as soon as (if not before) they see signs of bad health in one of starters five through nine.
Alan from Bucco Wire:
True. The Pirates, in most recent years, have always put too much stock in their starting pitchers (i.e. Kip Wells, Kris Benson, Oliver Perez) only to have it backfire on them. Pitchers are very fragile and can fall victim to an injury at anytime. While it is great that they believe their top four can turn into something special, depth right now should still be the biggest concern. On the trading side of things, I can see why Littlefield wouldn’t want to deal any of his young starters. His plan was to build through pitching and I think he wants to see how they pan out, so he’s giving them their chance.
Andrew/azibuck commentor from Bucs Dugout:
False. I don’t know what “too much” is. They need those pitchers. It’s risky to count on them, but they are the best hope of being consistently competitive in
the short term. It’s easy to figure one or more of them will get hurt, and it’s usually in the context of “so we should trade one before they get hurt.” But what if you trade one, and the other(s) get hurt, then where are the Pirates? I don’t see them keeping those four at the expense of something else.
Question #2:
True or false: The Pirates should lock Freddy Sanchez into a long-term contract now.

Nicolas from “82”:
I was surely in favor of long-term at first, but now that I have thought about it, I think the current idea is fair. They made Jason Bay put up a second solid year as proof against a fluke before they inked him long term, it’s only fair for them to follow that precedent with Freddy. Add that into the fact that he will be 30 by the time the currently reported two-year deal is over, and I think it is a logical move. Pay him reasonably now for a successful year, but don’t pay him pay him until he follows it up. Then (probably after this season) if he does just that, offer a re-done three or four year deal that pays even better, but doesnt cling to him past his prime.
Andrew/azibuck commentor from Bucs Dugout:
True. He’s shown enough. He has over 1000 major league at-bats, and it should be clear that Fred can and will continue to hit. I don’t think the doubles were a fluke either. He may not hit 53 ever again, but he should consistently hit 40 or more. If the Pirates had a plan, it would have him at second base or short stop where his production would be above league average, and they could achieve some savings by locking him up long term now. The two year deal was okay, but they should probably look to sign him through his arb years at least.
Rowdy from Honest Wagner:
Two years is long term, anything longer is an eternity in baseball time. They can play the poor card if it gets them out of five- to seven-year contracts. Not too many of those work out. That said, I think they could be more generous with the one- and two-year deals they offer. They could do more to make up for their reluctance to sign a player to many years by offering more per year for a few years.
Harry from What’s Wrong With Portland, Maine?:
True. Some say that the team needs to give Sanchez another year to see if he can produce like this consistently. Give me a break, folks. Freddy’s minor league statistics show that he can consistently produce in the .315-.325 range, and he has come up to the majors and put up similar stats. The Pirates need a clutch player like him, and should get him for four years, to when he will be 32, and see if he has declined before giving him a new contract. Do it, Dave.
Wilbur T. Miller from Pirate Player Profiles:
False, unless we consider two years to be long term. It makes no sense to commit long term right after what could be his peak year. He’s got two more years of arbitration. Better to wait a year and see what he does and whether he stays healthy. Even then I’m not sure it makes sense. He may be a super two this year, which means he wouldn’t be eligible for free agency by 2011, when he’ll be 33. In any event, he’ll be at least 32 when he’s eligible. By that point he could already be declining. Sanchez probably wouldn’t want to give up just one year of free agency, because his value might be dropping by then and one year of delay could decrease his chance of getting that one huge contract most players hope to get. He’d probably want a very long-term deal that would lock him up into his mid-30s. That’d be a terrible risk for the Pirates. I like Freddy a lot, but he isn’t the sort of guy you sign for 6-7 years.
Tony from The Confluence:
True, although I imagine it depends on what everyone’s definition of “long term” is. I think Bucs fans are probably hesitant to lock anyone into a contract like the one that was given to Jason Kendall, which at the time people didn’t think was too bad of a deal at all (and look how that turned out). Frankly, I can understand Littlefield’s desire only to offer a two-year contract right now. For as great a season as Freddy had last year, there’s nothing that says he won’t revert back to a .280 hitter next year. No guarantee that all of those seeing-eye hits that dropped in front of the outfielders will fall this year. Of course, we hope he hits .344 every year, but that’s a little too optimistic, especially for a Pirates fan. In my view, if he was to be locked up “long term,” that should be for no more than four years.
Chris from The Unofficial Pittsburgh Pirates Message Board:
There is no reason to give a contract to Sanchez right now. He needs to play another season like last year to show he can be consistent. The Pirates have benefitted from waiting in the past–with Jason Bay and Oliver Perez. Bay did prove he was worthy of the long-term contract, and although I would have liked to see the Pirates ante up more cash to buy out some free agency years, they did save money they would have had to pay through arbitration. Many fans were shouting for Dave Littlefield to invest some money into Perez. That probably was one of Littlefield’s better non-moves. Perez might someday revive his career, but he doesn’t deserve to get paid until he does. If Sanchez can put up similar numbers from last season, the Pirates can then start talking long term. One other note on the notion that Sanchez must stay healthy: I think that is an irrelevant argument because any player can get hurt at anytime. Yes, some tend to be hurt more, but it is not something you can try to predict.
Randy from Pittsburgh Lumber Co.:
True, with a caveat. Depends on how much and how long. Sanchez is 29 now and he probably just had the best year he’ll ever have. That being said, he might hit near league-leading pace with a lot of doubles for the next couple of years. The two sides are about $1 million apart in arbitration. I see Freddy winning that case. If the Bucs could sign him for, say, three years at $3-4 million per, then I’d say lock him up now. He should definitely not get a contract like the one Jack Wilson has. My biggest fear, payroll-wise, is that Sanchez will continue to have success, continue to go to arbitration and then when free agency approaches, the Pirates will lock him up as he is in the decline phase of his career, essentially overpaying for mediocrity.
Alan from Bucco Wire:
True. At the right price, I don’t see why not. If he puts up another good season, he’ll be worth more money later. Right now, they could lock Sanchez up to a solid three- to four-year deal for a nice sum. It would solidify a dependable hitter and fielder that the team needs to keep. There’s nothing wrong, in my eyes, to want to keep Sanchez around for a few more years, starting now.

Author: PLCArchives

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