One of the things I dislike most about the off-season is how simple the analysis can be. Usually it all boils down to good ratings for the teams that spent money and added names, and poor ratings for teams who didn’t make a move or made low key additions. The analysis only views the off-season in a vacuum, and doesn’t consider the roster leading up to the off-season, the internal improvements on the team, or how the new additions — big or small — fit in with the overall team.

I was talking with a friend of mine about this recently. We were discussing the Seattle Mariners and their spending this off-season, and how that spending is probably going to land them at the top of most predictions heading into 2014. We were talking about how this happens every year. Each year there is a team that goes “all-in” during the off-season, then gets a ton of predictions of winning their division, or winning a World Series as a result. We’re in the month of February, which means we’re starting to get predictions for the upcoming season. A lot of those predictions will revolve solely around what happened during the off-season, and specifically how much money was spent and what names were acquired. So I thought I’d go back and look at two of the biggest spenders from the previous two years to see how the simple off-season analysis has worked out.

2012 Marlins

The Marlins got a new stadium in 2012, and went crazy spending free agent money to justify the new stadium. They committed $106 M over six years to Jose Reyes, $58 M over four years to Mark Buehrle, and $27 M over three years to Heath Bell.  They finished the 2011 season with 72 wins, but the free agent additions were enough to get them a lot of playoff predictions.

ESPN always has a large amount of experts making pre-season predictions each year. They had 50 people making predictions about the 2012 season. Out of those predictions, 11 people picked the Marlins to win the NL East. The Marlins were more popular in the Wild Card, getting 18 votes. Only one person had them making the World Series, and losing.

A year after winning 72 games, the Marlins spent big in free agency, which resulted in 58% of ESPN predictions to put them in the playoffs. The end result was that they won 69 games — three fewer than the previous year — and finished dead last in the NL East.

As an example of the other side, Oakland traded away Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill, Ryan Sweeney, and Andrew Bailey. Their biggest signing was Coco Crisp for two years and $14 M. Oakland won 94 games, which was a 20 game improvement over their 2011 finish. They also won the AL West, despite zero ESPN pre-season predictions that they would make the playoffs.

2013 Blue Jays

This could also be “The 2012 Marlins 2.0”. A year after Miami signed a ton of high priced free agents, then went on to a losing season, the Blue Jays traded for pretty much all of those free agents. I’m not sure why this was considered a good idea, but people bought into it (Toronto also acquired R.A. Dickey from the Mets).

ESPN had 43 people making pre-season predictions. 20 of the 43 picked the Blue Jays to win the AL East. Of the remaining 23 people, 12 picked the Blue Jays to win a Wild Card. One person picked Toronto to win the World Series, while three others picked them to lose the World Series.

The irony here is that only four people picked the Red Sox to make the playoffs, and all of those picks were Wild Card spots. The Red Sox didn’t make a lot of big splashes over the off-season. They made a lot of mid-level moves that worked by complementing what they already had on the roster, and eventually got praise for such an approach. They ended up winning 97 games, which was the most in baseball. Oh, and the World Series. Meanwhile, Toronto won 74 games (one more than they won in 2012), and finished last in the AL East.

Making Good Decisions

The focus on payroll and spending money in the off-season is a distraction from where the real focus should be: the talent of the team and making smart decisions to add talent. Baseball is largely seen an individual game. Each play in baseball is a battle between the pitcher and the hitter. It’s not seen in the way that football is seen, where you have defensive linemen who are good in the 3-4 scheme, and other defensive linemen who are better suited for the 4-3. In baseball, the idea is that you just go for the best possible player at every position, and that approach will lead to a contender.

I think we’re starting to see that this isn’t the case. We’re starting to see more teams focusing on a scheme, and getting the right players, rather than putting together an All-Star team. Oakland focuses on pitching and defense, which is an approach the Pirates have also taken. You’ve got focuses on ground balls and infield defense, and more focus on how to properly value players for your home ballpark.

I also think that people generally over-value individual players. Boston didn’t get a lot of credit last off-season for adding mid-level free agents, but ended up with a World Series and after-the-fact praise for their approach. The Pirates had two of the best off-season signings with Russell Martin and Francisco Liriano. Then there’s the value signings. The Rays constantly add people who look like they have no value, only to see those players put up tremendous value.

The off-season is always graded with a cookie cutter approach. The grading process doesn’t focus on the actual teams, the plan the team has, the players already in place, and the idea that there isn’t much of a drop off between a top free agent and a mid-level free agent. Most off-season analysis just focuses on who the team added, and how much money they spent. And as we’ve seen the past two years, a “winning” off-season doesn’t guarantee winning, just like an underrated off-season doesn’t guarantee losing.

NOTE: I originally wrote this article back in December, but it was bumped after another topic came up that night. I dusted it off last week, but once again it was bumped. I decided to use it tonight, after spending the entire day cleaning up the Super Bowl mess in my house, and recovering from the Super Bowl food. From what I saw, Sports Illustrated released their off-season grades, giving the Pirates an “F”. That’s not a surprise at all. They really haven’t done anything this off-season, and if you’re going to be grading an off-season on the basis of making moves, then a team that didn’t make moves would get an “F”. This article isn’t really about the SI grade. It’s more an idea I had back in December, after discussing the Marlins and Blue Jays with my friend (around the time of the Robinson Cano deal). But it probably applies to the SI grades, and any future grades that come out.

Links and Notes

**The 2014 Prospect Guide is now available. You can purchase your copy here, and read about every prospect in the Pirates’ system. The book includes our top 50 prospects, as well as future potential ratings for every player.

**Last week we finished our countdown of the top 20 prospects in the Pirates system. The number one prospect was Gregory Polanco. Click the link to read his scouting report, along with the complete list of top 20 prospects. If you enjoyed all of the reports, you can get more by purchasing the 2014 Prospect Guide.

**POLL: Who Will Be the Top Pirates Prospect in 2015?

**Our own James Santelli was Nominated For a SABR Award. The award is based on a vote. Click that link for information on how to vote for James and Pirates Prospects.

**Pirates Add Five Minor League Players

**Winter Leagues: Recap of the Remaining Pirates Players

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  1. Tim, these are the type of articles that your detractors feed off of.
    Lets face it, if the Pirates would have made a few high profile deals the Pirates would have been getting kudos from all over and Pirate bloggers including you would have been eating up all the praise.
    I am not knocking you, I support your blog with donations and I buy your PP guide to help you continue what I believe is the most important site in Pirate Nation.
    The point I would like to make is whether people support this regime or not, none of us sit in the conference rooms when all the top execs sit around and formulate their strategies going forward not only for the up coming season but for the next five yrs or longer. It is easy to criticize not spending or giving up draft picks but the fact is we don’t know and we will never know the inner workings of this business, all we can criticize is the results

    Hindsight is the best judge, it is always right.

    • “Lets face it, if the Pirates would have made a few high profile deals the Pirates would have been getting kudos from all over and Pirate bloggers including you would have been eating up all the praise.”

      What kind of high profile deals? I’ve been against a lot of the ideas for a big move (adding a RF to block Polanco, making a trade using the prospects, adding a guy like Morales).

  2. In the past Huntington has talked about a minor league hitter facing the league twice before a promotion so pitchers can make adjustments. Then the hitter can counter with own adjustments. Did AAA pitchers get more than one look at Lambo last year? I am concerned that Lambo won’t be able to hit major league off-speed and breaking balls.

  3. Tabata was a 1.1 WAR player last year playing in just over 106 games and only defensively in 90 in OF. His value was diminished by his defense more than bat (4.7 vs. -4.5 WAR). He played nearly half of his outfield games in LF (40) out of ideal position — also without the benefit of Marte and McCutchen in LF/RF and at his better suited RF position (especially at PNC). A healthy Tabata playing primarily in RF could even make a Snyder platoon unnecessary unless Snyder or Lambo force the issue. He handles RHP ok. It’s always been injury and attitude. It seemed like something finally clicked in the 2nd half last year – he’s still only 26 and the increased maturity could pay dividends.

    If this was the Littlefield or Bonifay FO, Tabata would have been deemed a lost cause and dealt for a box of donuts to save a few bucks or just to deal for the sake of dealing (ie Jose Bautista and Jose Guillen). Sometimes standing pat is the best play, especially if it’s the right move and you ignore all the criticism it may entails.

    • BigB…he is the ONLY firstbaseman out there that is (supposedly) available for trade, that I would want.

      With one caveat: Depends on the price. Back end starter or reliever and 10-20 prospect would do it for me.

      But, if we don’t get him, I am happy to see what Slambo and Gaby the Great can do.

  4. Good teams don’t need to make many moves in the off season while great teams don’t have to make any as they couldn’t improve their team by replacing what they have. Let’s hope the Pirates merit many offseason “F’s” in the future.

  5. If anyone is predicting the Mariners to win the AL West, do not listen/read another word from them.

    I agree that most offeseason grades are worthless, but the individuals arguing about the Pirate’s payroll, did not want major acquisitions merely Burnett’s services secured for another year and possibly an more certain option batting against RHP at first.

  6. The press and many fans have 3 issues with the Pirates offseason.
    1. First base
    2. Right field
    3. Burnett
    The answers are actually simple for each one.
    First base…If you take the salaries that Lambo and Sanchez make and subtract it from the salaries of who they could get the money spend would equal a loss for the Pirates, there simply was not any player available that was 4-6 mil better than Sanchez and Lambo.
    Right Field….There was no talent available better than the option of Polanco for 3 to 4 months.
    Burnett…..Probably will pitch for the Pirates in 2014, argument is futile until Burnett actually signs with another team and GOES

  7. For those looking at us to pick up Ike Davis, here’s an article about their first base situation:

    “The Mets are hopeful Davis will not uppercut as much, that he will forget about trying to hit home runs — less loop, more contact, more backspin.
    Davis, 26, hit only .205 last season with nine home runs and was demoted to the minors to try to clean up his swing. He blasted 32 home runs in 2012.
    Ike’s dad, Ron, a former Yankee reliever, ripped the Mets last month for how they have handled trade rumors involving Ike, saying: “The Mets really screwed up in that situation.’’

    (Btw, I never knew that Ron was Ike’s dad)

    • Lee, that article makes it seems like Ike has first dibs on 1B, and that they’d only trade him if he has an awful spring (talk about trading at a low). Any chance this is the Mets attempt at gaining trade leverage (before ST), like the Bucs tried by saying they’re fine with Gaby full time at 1B?

    • Good stuff WTM. Funny thing, the only team that got an A last offseason was the Nationals, mostly due to adding Dan Haren and Rafael Soriano. Oh and they went on to lose 12 more games than in 2012. I’m starting to think these rankings aren’t all that important.


        • Thanks David. I stand corrected. Didn’t realize I was looking at NL only. And now my point is 2 for 2, not just 1 for 1.

  8. I realize that this article wasn’t supposed to be about the failing grade. But i just found that article. and it’s awful.

    “However, Burnett’s indecision is no excuse for the Pirates’ inaction.” WHAT!? Are they somehow supposed to perform Inception on him to make him decide?

    They mention the situation in RF. But all it takes is one freaking glance at a freaking Baseball America list to see that their 1st/2nd best prospect is almost ready to take over. That’s just poor. It’s not even that hard to do. PLUS Tabata is at the very least an acceptable band aid and at best an average regular. it’s not like they’re throwing jeromy burnitz out there (then again, if the pirates spent 6 mil on jeromy burnitz this offseason, SI probably wouldve given them a C for the offseason.)

    And I hate it when they mention the trade deadline acquisitions as big losses. they didn’t have them for 70% of the season. and every contending team is losing the guys they got in rental deals. They’ll get rental players again if they have to.

    it’s just annoying. i’m sure they’re talking on the radio about the failing grade from Sports Illustrated, and a bunch of fans are getting all up and arms. It’s not SI’s opinion that bothers me as much as it is that it molds other people’s (including fans of my favorite team, the pirates) opinions in an ignorant fashion.

    • Frankly, I don’t see a problem with what the SI article said at all–well, except for the suggestions that the club should bring in Nelson Cruz and/or Kendrys Morales. The Pirates went into the off-season with holes at first, right field, and possibly/likely a hole in the rotation. The off-season moves (and remember, the article was an analysis of those moves) have been signing Edinson Volquez and trading for a couple of Quad-A types. I don’t see the reasoning as flawed or the conclusions as indefensible.

      • wkk,
        That’s kind of the point of the whole story. The Bucs could spend untold millions and bring in Cruz and Kendrys (as SI actually suggests?), give up draft picks as well, and 90% of us know that wouldn’t make this team any better than standing pat. But it would probably get the Bucs a B or C on this stupid report card and would really show how committed they are to winning, even if it didn’t help them win at all. That’s what this “ranking” boils down to.

        I have no problem getting an F, and frankly couldn’t care less. The totality of the Bucs offseason has been Volquez and a couple of guys that will have to fight in spring training to make the ML roster. As others have noted, they barely had any holes to fill and filling one of them would block one of the best prospects in the game. And why exactly shouldn’t they give a guy who had one of the best minor league seasons in all of AAA last year while he’s still age appropriate? I wouldn’t mind seeing Ike Davis added, but not for anything close to what the Mets are asking for.

        I’d love to see the Bucs improve their bench. I think the Cards signing Mark Ellis was genius, unfortunately. But they probably think whoever survives the fight the RF and 1B slots will provide depth and by default, a stronger bench

      • If they did bring in Morales, as the article suggests (I ended up reading it this morning), then they’d surely get a better grade. But Morales can’t play first base, so he’d go completely against the defensive scheme that the Pirates have.

        Then there’s also the upside. Morales is a big name, but he’s not a very good player. He’s good for about a 1.5 WAR. It’s not hard to expect those results from someone internally, without giving up a lot of money and a first round pick.

      • wkk,

        i’ll give you the first base one. the pirates certainly can be dinged for that. i wanted an upgrade, but i find it interesting that we as a fanbase can go all #FREELAMBO to #OMGWeNeedZeUPGRADE within just months.

        But i refuse to say that they shouldve gotten a RF. Unless of course Byrd came back on a 1 yr deal. other than a short Byrd deal, what should they have done in RF?

        And the quote “However, Burnett’s indecision is no excuse for the Pirates’ inaction” is moronic. they basically said “even though burnett hasnt decided yet, the pirates should have signed him without him knowing.”

        And they don’t have a hole in the rotation. That doesn’t mean that it can’t be better via a Burnett upgrade. But hole is kind of an extreme discription.

        The pirates didn’t sign a bunch of players. that’s clear. but my argument is that they didn’t have to sign a bunch of players. They’re a very deep team set at almost every position for multiple years.

          • Understood wkk. Our point (at least mine) is that SI would give the Bucs more credit for a bad signing (Cruz and/or Kendrys) than they give them for going with internal options. So these “rankings” are inherently flawed.

          • Yeah I saw you said that. You mentioned those guys specificially, but still seemed to think that something else should’ve happened.

            I wasn’t trying to be critical of you as much as critical of the article. You seem to agree that they should not do something stupid, whereas SI thinks they should. and it doesn’t present any alternative plans of what should’ve/should happen.

            My only point is that the Pirates didn’t do anything, but they didn’t really have to do anything. would a team with a good player at every position, but that didn’t do anything in the offseason get a F, a C, or an A?

            i guess when it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter what SI thinks. The Pirates are still one of the favorites to land AJ Burnett (i refuse to get mad about Burnett until I hear that he signed with another team and that the PIrates didn’t give a competative offer), have a top OF prospect in Polanco who can provide value with the glove even if he doesn’t hit at all for RF (and a solid-enough .280/.340/.360, 1.5 WAR type in Tabata until then), and a guy who we as a fanbase screamed #FreeLambo for just a few months ago for 1b. All of a sudden, he isn’t good enough.

    • … and you hit the nail right on the head Jay: If we had splashed a lot of money on a bad fit for our needs , say Nelson Cruz in RF, SI would have been loving’ us long time! Meanwhile we would have had the pleasure of watching Mike Easlers’ glove in RF while Polanco rots on the bench or gets traded. I also expect Tabata to blossom the moment we trade him for peanuts. As for 1B, there simply wasn’t a better fit in FA than Lambo/Gabyj, but SI would have kissed NH on the lips if he had outbid TB with $27M/3yrs for Sid Bream v.2 aka Loney… which surely would have led to Lambo’s release after the AAA season, only to become ROY for Toronto in 2015.

      UGH, it’s soooo nice to finally believe our FO knows more about baseball than SI writers.

    • I also hate when trade deadline additions are seen as losses. Morneau and Byrd were around for one month. Morneau was bad, and it wouldn’t be hard to top the production seen from him, or Jones. Byrd was good, but they’ll have Polanco this year for three months, and he could be just as good or better. So they’ve pretty much replaced the production of those two internally.

      • Tim: Disagree about Morneau – IMO, he provided strong defense down the stretch, but I agree his bat was pitiful; after going Drano the past two years with late collapses, Marlon Byrd became one of the most consistent hitters we had down the stretch and a very good clutch hitter in the middle of the order. People who see those two moves as losses forgot that the Pirates could not afford another collapse, and come hell or high water, the Pirates needed to play above .500 in 2013. Did KC make any moves down the stretch? I do not remember them doing much, but I’ll bet they wished they had. The Pirates had better than Black, Herrera, and Presley. Our FO saw 2013 as a must to get help down the stretch, and it paid off, giving this team a little bump of confidence at the time when it was most needed.

        • They were 76 – 54 when they acquired Byrd, with Liriano, Burnett, Cole and Morton all healthy. I’m pretty sure they had a winning season locked up at that point. A few days later they were 78-56 when they got Morneau. With or without those 2, they were making the playoffs. Byrd obviously helped in the playoffs and I think in the dugout as well. Morneau not so much.

          I have no idea if KC made any moves at the deadline, but I know several teams did that still missed the playoffs anyway.

          • it’s just unfair that if they hadn’t acquired Morneau and Byrd in the first place, then people would probably rate the offseason better because they didn’t “lose” as much.

            It it better to have had and lost than to never have at all? Things just got #deep.

            • Right, but then they’d get a poor grade for mid-season trades.

              Basically, grading a team based on transactions during a specific time period is a ridiculous concept.

    • Inception. Classic.

      Grading the offseason with nearly two months to go and 10 of the top 50 free agents (MLBTRADERUMORS) unsigned is kind of a pointless exercise to begin with. It’s like giving a student a grade before the final exam and term paper.

      And why are we grading off seasons anyway? I guess the answer is obvious based on the number of comments here and anywhere these grades are published, mine included. It’s sports porn.

      But it’s not like it has any predictive value. And no front office exec reads the grades and says “guys, we gotta fix this!” The last time I checked, you don’t get any hardware for winning the offseason, the draft or the trade deadline. The guys running the team always have more information than the guys writing about it. Even in Seattle, Philadelphia and Kansas City.

      • It just stinks that pittsburgh sports radio is probably talking about the failing grade that SI gave the Pirates and angry fans probably started calling in and stuff. I get upset with this stuff because that these articles help form peoples’ opinions.

  9. Tim —

    So that your SuperBowl watching time wasn’t wasted, note that the best defensive team in football beat the best offensive team. There might be an article in that for the next time people are claiming defense doesn’t matter and just grab the best home run hitter out there.

  10. What were they supposed to do? they have a minor hole at 1b and didnt even lose AJ Burnett yet.

    Just because they’re a team who is good in the bullpen, C, 3b, ss, 2b, lf, cf, and rf and decided 3 yrs was too much for james loney and couldn’t draw in Josh Johnson they get an F?

    that’s the stupidest thing i’ve ever seen.

    AJ isn’t even on another team yet. an F? F that.

      • I’d like to second (or third?) the motion to “F” that. As I mentioned above, the front office has to be smarter than the money. They can’t just spend it because they have it like I do. They have assigned values to players they like and they need to stick to them. If they wind up with some millions unspent this year, they can roll it into next year. If they refuse to make bad moves, it may pay for an extension of a core player later, or a better FA later. The goal is not to win next year. It’s to win next year AND in the future. That said, we’re still in the off-season and we have no idea who’s going to step up in 2014. Neither do the talking heads with their eager F’s. I still think that Sanchez has promise as a 2-3 year stopgap if nobody can fill the platoon role. It’s not like they’ll start the season without a warm body.

  11. Yes, I too would be concerned about SI grading us as an “F” for our off-season improvements. As our Aussie friend Roberrto21 stated, there is no consideration whatsoever about the Pirates best move being the one that is not made to try to do something that is totally unnecessary. Gregory Polanco was busy winning the MVP Award in the Dominican Winter League. Would we care if going out and getting an inferior RF possibility in a bad market would have given us a C instead of an F? These people at SI just do not understand the game. Burnett “retired”, but no love for signing Morton for 3 years and picking up Volquez? And having a guy like Jameson Taillon waiting to earn the “necessary experience” at AAA before coming to Pittsburgh and being one of the Top 3 guys in our Rotation – any credit for that? I am perfectly happy with what we have to throw at 1B for 2014. Gaby Sanchez is as good as it gets against LHP, and we have 4 or 5 possibilities for the other side of that platoon. Maybe we should have overpaid to improve our grade?

    Everybody thinks the odds-on favorite for AJ will be B’more – good luck pitching in the launching pads of the AL East, and in the AL where the umpires like to see the ball a little North of the knees to be a strike.

    • .

      It’s hard for me to understand/accept the notion that the writers at Sports Illustrated “do not know the game.”

      imo, some of their implied criticism does have some merit, although agreed perhaps not to the extent of a failing grade.

      And remember, their assessment was made on the success of externally improving each team, not on whether or not each team was (or was not) pretty good to begin with. Any team, good or bad, can and should always try to become even better. Even if that only means picking up one or two key additions over the off-season.


      • Robs….I know you’re not up yet, but the Pirates best off season move? Not picking up a first baseman so Slambo can wreak havoc at PNC this year.

        🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

        Btw, has Denver recovered yet?

        • .


          Denver may never recover. From this morning’s local news, I hear there’s now an official petition going around — to be presented next month to the Denver City Council — to officially change our name from ‘Denver’ to “Schmucktown, U.S.A.’


          Agree with you (as usual) about not making a move is sometimes/often the wisest move. Never do a trade or pick up a FA just for the heck of it. And yes, this year, as you astutely point out, that may quite validly apply to our situation at 1B.

          But I still would have liked to have picked up Ike Davis. If Davis and Lambo both worked out swell at the plate, Lambo could easily be a better 4th OF’er than any of the other players who right now might be slotted into that role.

          And I sure would have liked to have picked up either Porcello or Fister.

          And I certainly would have liked to have improved our bench strength.

          Oh well . . .


          • I think the Davis trade is very likely to happen–it makes too much sense for each team. Davis fits the Pirates’ needs very nicely, and the Mets have a) payroll constraints, though self-imposed, every bit as stringent as the Pirates and b) two left-handed hitting first baseman who can’t play anywhere else (Duda has played the outfield, but both the advanced metrics and the eye test scream “Greg Luzinski.”) The Mets seem hell-bent on getting rid of Davis, and I think the deal gets done once Sandy Alderson sets a realistic price on Ike.

            • Wk : while I am no fan of Davis,I think you are correct . Whether Alderson tries to get real is the biggest question.

    • The only thing SI ever did right was their swimsuit issues and the other thing they are infamously known for is jinxing the careers of people they put on the cover. I wouldn’t lose any sleep over an SI rating!

  12. Given where the Pirates were to where they are now, I, for one, put my trust in the FO, and not some SI pundit. NH and his staff know what we have, what’s on the horizon, and understand how to go about executing the plan. No outside expert is privy to this information. Thus they come up with their own ideas and punish an organization for not executing their plan. So really, who cares what they think? Not I!

  13. I think you could still argue that 2012 Marlins off season was a success. It might not have worked out initially, but it resulted in them restocking their minor league system. In the Reyes/Buehrle deal they got back Marisnick, Nicolina, and Descalfani. Who KLaw ranks as their #3, 4, and 6 prospects. As it turned out the Marlins were a lot farther from contending then most thought and those signing helped kick start a rebuild.

  14. .

    Those SI grades, I’m not sure they were awarded merely on the number of deals that were made. In which case, being successful on only a few lesser additions may not have been why the author awarded our Buccos a failing grade.

    For example, Arizona did quite a few deals, but still only received a D- on their report card. (In the author’s mind, the ‘right’ deals weren’t made.) Conversely, the Washington Nationals only made one or two noticeable improvements, yet while few in number they were important ones.

    Comments on the SI article mainly responded (in a highly critical fashion) using the counter-argument that the Buccos didn’t need to make many off-season improvements — and that therefore the grade (and the SI author who awarded it) are both full of . . . well, you know what.

    Which may be overly harsh, while at the same time ignoring (or failing to understand in the first place) the criteria SI was using in the first place.

    Getting back to the Nationals, they were praised for picking up Fister, relatively cheap, and for making necessary improvements to their bench.

    If we had signed up Fister (which the Nationals did via trade w/o resorting to the — everyone agrees — woefully unappetizing FA market) or someone of equal caliber, then I’m sure the Pirates’ off-season grade would have been higher.

    It’s not as if we couldn’t use another quality starting pitcher, just in case. And by now practically everyone on the planet (including SI) realizes this. So Edinson Volquez was the best we could come up with ??? Yikes !! Me, I’d hardly call that a A+ move. And I’m sure THAT didn’t improve our overall grade.

    And in assigning us our SI rating, the author was disappointed that off-season we didn’t add not even one stellar bat. Of course, the counter-argument is also valid here. We all expect (or at least hope) that Polanco and/or Lambo the Slambo come though In A Big Way. And maybe they will. But even if they do, that doesn’t (and shouldn’t) be taken into account in terms of *improving* the status quo (in ways, unlike the D’backs, that are truly helpful and meaningful).

    And that bench of ours, one of the wurst in The Majors last season, over the winter has anything been done (in a meaningful sense) to up-grade it ?? The Nationals (according to their SI grade) had the same weakness, but in the case of the Nats, apparently they have at least tried to address it.

    Overall, maybe that’s why the Nats were awarded a B+ whereas in the eyes of SI our Buccos deserved an ‘F.’

    Personally, I agree with everyone who is suggesting that a failing grade of F may be a bit unwarranted. But by the same token, merely “standing pat” is only rarely the best way to *improve* a team during the off-season. (imo)

    And how-much-improvement seems to be the achievement being graded. Not whether a team (any team) is adequately good (or good enough) in the first place.

  15. The pirates shouldn’t go on a free aren’t frenzy like the Marlins but they have shown that one quality signing like Russell Martin can make a huge difference.

    I think the pirates will have a good year because of internal improvements, but it would be better if they had signed a quality first baseman. The first base market was pretty weak though, so I wish they had offered Aj the QO.

    • I think if you look at 1B this year, versus catcher last year, there’s a huge difference internally.

      Last year the catcher position would have been McKenry/Sanchez if they didn’t bring in Martin. I’ll admit that I thought that was better than Martin at the time. But I was only considering McKenry/Sanchez to be a good defensive combo, with no offense. So there wasn’t a lot of upside internally.

      This year at first base they’ve got Andrew Lambo, who just came off a season where he combined for 33 homers at the age of 24, with some good stats across the board in the upper levels of the minors. There’s much more upside giving him a shot, especially if his power ends up translating over to the majors.

      • Your article makes for the point of why I really would try Lambo and save that few million for either signing Burnett or even a deal at the ASB. I understand many long time Pirate fans not trusting the farm system but that has been greatly upgraded the last few years. And I believe the plain truth for small market teams is plug and play from within your farm system to win consistently over the long term.

  16. Thankfully baseball is not at the point where money buys championships, and hopefully it will never be corrupted that way. If that were the case, we’d have a Dodgers – Yankees World Series every year, and could forget about (or skip!) the regular season entirely. What’s nice and fun about baseball is that it really matters how a team is constructed, not what names are on it, and that smart teams like the Rays, A’s, and hopefully the Pirates can contend if they acquire talent intelligently through the draft and international signings and do a good job of player development and on-field strategy pitching, defense, shifts). Of course there’s no substitute for pure talent, you have got to have a Cutch, a Cole, a Liriano, a Marte, a Polanco, a Pedro – and guess what, we’ve got all of that& more! I will bet anything that the Mriners will regret paying Cano 24 million a year when he’s in his late 30s, will the production be worth the money? I highly highly doubt it! And look at the mess that is the Yankees infield – Texeira coming off serious injuries, black hole at 2B, Jeter (who has been a great player) at 40 coming off missing nearly an entire yea, who knows whether he’ll hold up, and the literal Black Hole created by the totally justified A-Fraud suspension (should have been a lifetime ban in my opinion!). And are those who say the Pirates deserve an F for the off season seriously thinking that they should have blocked Polanco, a virtually certain impact player, with a free-agent signing? I will take the Pirates with Marte and Cutch over the Yankees paying Ellsbury $153 m and a 37 year old Beltran who knows how much more. Any day. And that is not even to count in Polanco. The Yankees are a money-corrupt, big time bore, give me the Pirates any day of the week!

    • I like your optimism but I have to disagree wholeheartedly about the money. The Yankees have won 27 WS titles. That is almost 1 in 5. They also have 40 AL pennants which means almost every third World Series has featured the Yanks. Money wins championships. New York could double their payroll and still come out ahead financially. The only reason they are trying to get under the cap is so that they can give out less annually to other teams. If they see an opportunity to get out of ARod’s contract, they will; but they would probably do it all over again. A few teams generate enough revenue to save up and compete every few years. The only other way is to be smarter than money. Teams like the Rays, A’s and now our beloved Pirates are doing that; but mark my words, if they have too much success, changes will be made just like what happened with the draft. MLB exists to make money. New York has the money.
      Go Pirates…

      • Most of the Yankee’s titles came way before all of the free agent madness. They really haven’t won too many lately. But it’s true that they buy a good enough team to always be in the hunt.

        • Since the last time the Pirates won a series, the yankees have had 8 appearances winning 5 of them. Who comes close to that sort of performance in the last 35 years?

          • Have you ever heard the saying about comparing apples to oranges. Well comparing Pittsburgh and New York is the same thing.

          • The Cards have been in 7 and won 3 in that same time frame. Also, Cards have been in 4 and won 2 in just the last 10 years. And if a couple of game 7s go their way in the 80’s, they’d look even better. That’s pretty close overall and in the last decade, it’s not even close in the Cards favor.

      • Agreed with the money means so much… It may not buy a “championship” per se, but it gets you into the playoffs almost like clockwork. If you just make the playoffs but do not advance it was a failed season.
        There was an article here not long ago outlining this. The big spending teams are generally always making the playoffs. While teams like Pittsburgh, Minnesota and Oakland make appearances once in a while but not consistently over time because they simply cannot make up for a bad signing or bad year or injuries like the Yankees or dodgers or rangers…etc. Those teams go and buy a player and plug him in. They get them when they need them. For the Pirates and similar teams everything must go well in order for them to make the playoffs.. A rash of injuries will derail them. It will not derail a big spending team because they will eat the injured players’ salary and go spend more.

    • Its not a useful comparison. Yes, overspenders often times overpay and end up no better. But teams that do nothing in the face of glaring weaknesses, do not suddenly wave a magic wand and have those weaknesses go away. Can other places help hide those weaknesses? Sure…..until the playoffs. Team weaknesses get exposed in the playoffs against better teams. If Lambo and Polanco both end up having great years then its all good, BUT there is no downside to signing a player that you can always trade later, the argument of blocking anyone is folly for that reason.

  17. Tim. You really have to stop making so much sense. It will piss people off. I believe the Pirates got a crappy grade last year as well.

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