First Pitch: What the Pirates Need to Do to Remain Contenders Over the Long-Haul

The prospect ranking season has been going on for some time now, with every outlet releasing some kind of top prospect list over the last few weeks. Those include team top ten lists, top players by positions, and the biggest ones, the top 100 lists. Last week saw two of the big top 100 lists released, with Keith Law and MLB.com both publishing their rankings.

The Pittsburgh Pirates finished with five prospects in Law’s list, and led the majors with seven prospects in the MLB.com list. They also had Nick Kingham just outside the top 100 in Law’s rankings.

Law also released his farm system rankings, putting the Pittsburgh Pirates at number seven overall. That’s a bit of a drop from where they were heading into the 2014 season, when they were ranked as one of the top three systems by almost every outlet.

The fact that the Pirates continue to have so many of the game’s top prospects is a good sign, especially when you consider the fact that they have graduated a top 20 prospect in each of the last three years, with Starling Marte in 2012, Gerrit Cole in 2013, and Gregory Polanco in 2014. Tyler Glasnow seems to be their consensus top 20 prospect this year, and doesn’t project to graduate to the majors, so he should be around next year. However, Jameson Taillon and Nick Kingham are two of the top prospects who could lose prospect eligibility by the end of the 2015 season.

As for the system, they lost Polanco last year, and saw a ton of injuries to pretty much all of their top prospects, which limited progression and potential breakouts. They have also been buyers in the last two years, trading prospects like Dilson Herrera, Vic Black, Blake Taylor, and more recently Buddy Borden and Joely Rodriguez. The fact that they’re still considered a top ten system reflects the amount of talent they’ve been able to build up, even when they were a top three system last year.

But what about going forward? Kingham and Taillon could graduate from prospect status this year, along with Alen Hanson. Josh Bell and Tyler Glasnow could join them in the majors next year. And if the Pirates continue to be contenders, that means they’ll be trading away prospects, picking low in the draft, and subject to low bonus pools on the international market.

The most important thing is how the Pirates do at the major league level, and they’re certainly set up to be a contender for several years to come. Now they face a new challenge of trying to keep the farm system churning out talent, despite the hurdles mentioned above.

Adding projectable prep pitchers like Mitch Keller will keep the Pirates' farm system stocked with talent.
Adding projectable prep pitchers like Mitch Keller will keep the Pirates’ farm system stocked with talent.

One way to do this is to continue their approach from last year’s draft, which isn’t really a new approach for the Pirates at all. The pick of Cole Tucker is largely going to reflect on their scouting abilities, and the success of that pick is up in the air, since we don’t have many success stories to base it on. The picks of prep pitchers like Mitch Keller, Trey Supak, and Gage Hinsz are a little easier to project, since the Pirates have had a lot of success in this area. They took mid-round picks like Tyler Glasnow and Nick Kingham and turned them into some of the top prospects in the game. They’ve got a great coaching staff, with a lot of good results on the pitching side of things from the lower levels to the majors. As long as they continue taking highly projectable prep pitchers, they should continue having this success.

Another way to re-stock the farm system is to trade away talent that is nearing free agency, and reload the lower levels with high-upside guys. This should only be done when they have a viable replacement ready to take over in the majors. We saw this last week, when they traded Travis Snider for Stephen Tarpley — a lefty who can hit the mid-90s with his fastball — and a player to be named later. Snider will be replaced by Andrew Lambo, who compares favorably to Snider, showing no big signs of drop off in talent for 2015.

The decisions going forward might be a bit more difficult. Do they trade Neil Walker at the end of 2015 if Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer, and either Jung Ho Kang or Alen Hanson are making up a solid infield? What do they do in the outfield if Austin Meadows lives up to his potential, and they have Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, and Gregory Polanco performing like the best outfield in baseball? Should they eventually trade Mark Melancon if someone like John Holdzkom steps up as a closer candidate?

All of these scenarios are good problems to have, because they show an excess in talent. But they don’t lead to easy decisions. Look at the negative reaction to the Snider deal, and that was just a bench player. Imagine if Kang or Hanson is ready to take over at second base and they trade Walker.

So what happens if the Pirates don’t do this? Winning now is important, but they can’t disregard the future. With the way major league baseball is set up, if you aren’t a large market team, and you don’t keep a farm system churning out talent, then you’re going to go into a tough rebuilding period. The Brewers right now are one example of what happens when you focus too much on the present and disregard the future.

The Pirates are a contender right now. The prospects they have that are making top 100 lists will only strengthen their chances to contend over the next few years, and for several years beyond that. In the long-term, they’ll need to show that they can continue building a strong farm system while being a contender, so that they can remain a contender. So far it looks like they’re making some good decisions to focus on that long-term goal, without taking away from the most important thing: contending right now.

**Pittsburgh Pirates 2015 Top Prospects: #5 – Reese McGuire. We wrap up the top five prospects this week. If you’ve enjoyed the prospect countdown, buy a copy of the 2015 Prospect Guide, which has our entire top 50, plus profiles on 200+ prospects in the system.

**The Pirates Finally Have a Third Base Prospect in Wyatt Mathisen. All about his transition to third base last year, which led to better offense and better health.

The latest prospect rankings:

**Nick Kingham Just Misses Top 100, Tyler Glasnow’s Fastball Ranks Near the Top

**Seven Pirates In MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospects List

Some transactions from over the weekend:

**Pirates Purchase Independent League Catcher

**Pirates Sign Josh Wall to Minor League Deal With Spring Training Invite

**Pirates Sign Chris Volstad to Minor League Deal

If you missed it on Friday:

**Will the Pirates See Any Drop Off Going From Travis Snider to Andrew Lambo?

  • If Pedro has a bad season this year, he’ll be non-tendered. If he has a good season, I expect him to be traded for prospects next winter. Bell will be close enough, and I imagine we’ll be able to find another option, internal (Lambo) or otherwise, hold down the fort until Bell is ready by the middle of 2016.

    If Kang and/or Hanson prove to be of Major League caliber, Walker may also be dealt this winter, or used as the first-base stop-gap between Pedro and Bell. A Walker trade seems likely to me to bring back Major League assets, probably under a similar contract situation and of similar value, but at a position of need. A catcher, for example, of Cervelli and Diaz don’t work out, or a starting pitcher to deepen the rotation. If the roster is in a good enough place, though, and we go for just prospects, he should bring back a nice haul.

    The outfield is interesting. If Meadows ends up being as good as he can be, I expect Marte to be the one dealt, especially if we can get Polanco under any sort of contract extension. Marte’s success, of the three, is the most predicated on his speed, and as he ages, he could lose some of that skill and value. McCutchen, I think, we should try to lock up for life. There are few players worth doing that with, but he’s in that category, and due to his patience and smarts, he should remain a useful player until he retires.

    The rotation could also prove interesting, but I think Liriano is a player we just let play out his contract and take the draft pick when he leaves as opposed to trying to deal him. But by the time his contract is over, we should be fine on arms without him, given how many promising arms we have close to the Majors, as well as NH’s ability to find starters at low value. I don’t expect us to keep Cole past arbitration, and I expect him to be dealt for prospects and/or Major League assets, as the situation calls for.

    If the farm keeps producing useful Major Leaguers as it has recently, we should have no shortage of assets in the trade market, both dealing prospects for Major League pieces and vice versa, as the situation calls for it, and succeeding at the Major League level for a long time.

  • They need to keep working hard to find prospects in Latin America, continually focus on developing starting pitchers, and continue to draft wisely. But most importantly – the Pirates need to lock up their prospects long term (a la McCutchen, Marte, and hopefully Polanco).

  • Tetrapharmakos
    February 3, 2015 2:31 pm

    What do the Pirates need to do to remain contenders?

    Continue to employ Rene Gayo.

  • Identify diamonds in the rough early in their career and sign them to long term contracts – Easier said than done.
    Convince players in the lower levels that they have a track to reach the majors.

    The ground up approach is what will best serve the Pirates organization. Meaning that big name free agents should be avoided, especially when signing them blocks someone in the lower levels of the organization.

  • You spent the whole article talking about what the Pirates have to do to remain a contender, and nothing at all on what they have to do to actually take that next step.

    Right now, I call them contenders for a wild card with an outside shot at the division. That’s not good enough for me.

    • Everything Tim said is the next step, he is talking about the most important part of being a contender and that is system depth. “contender” means they are good enough to win it all, how they get there is unimportant. IMO, how strong a contender the Pirates are is up in the air, probably when depth is included in the evaluation, as good as anyone, IMO, if anyone dissects the Giants from last year one would have trouble making a case for that lineup and that depth as WS winners at the beginning of the season.

      • No- he outlined how the Pirates can remain a middling wild card contender, not how they can become a strong World Series contender.

  • The new style draft is going to hurt us.One of the reasons the Pirates system is so strong is because they were willing to spend big on signing bonuses . If these current draft rules were in place in 2011 We wouldn’t have Josh Bell. MLB is doing everything they can to keep small market teams down. There is a pitcher in the top 10 draft prospects that we drafted in the late rounds a couple years ago that we could have offered a better bonus to if not for Slotting. Walker Bueler I believe

    • I think this has proven not be not that big of a deal.

      By no means does that justify the silly rules in the first place, but I don’t think they’re hurting the Pirates nearly as much as some expected – if at all.

    • i have no idea why the Yankees didn’t already do this, but they could have bought every single Josh Bell type that fell to rounds 2-20 any year they wanted, and then the Pirates would be super screwed.

      Ya it stinks that they changed the rules because they were working for the Pirates at the time, but that could have gone out the window at any time.

      I don’t think it’s cool that the MLB is keeping the value of the draftees so artificially low because it is ultimately unfair to them (brady aiken would probably be worth $50 million if he was Cuban and not American). But in the long run it will make it impossible for the small markets to be totally screwed in the draft.

      • The Yankees – or any other team – never did this because it is logistically impossible in a draft system where teams cannot negotiate prior to taking players.

        • not sure i follow. All teams know these players will take more money to sign than normal because they know they will need to be drawn from their strong college commitments.

          If they didn’t know that these players would be tough to take away from school, then these players wouldn’t drop in the draft. Let me know what I’m missing in my logic.

          • Unlike international free agents, every club generally gets one selection for each selection another club makes.

            Without large-scale pre-draft negotiations, the Yankees would be at the mercy of every other club who could also spend overslot money to get these players. There just aren’t THAT many available per draft to worry about tilting the balance of power.

            • The Pirates were always lauded for going overslot on these players. This is true because look now. Some of us are still salty that they changed the rules. Therefore, there was some advantage to taking these couple expensive amateurs per draft who had signability questions.

              “the Yankees would be at the mercy of every other club who could also
              spend overslot money to get these players. There just aren’t THAT many
              available per draft to worry about tilting the balance of power.”

              that’s my point. the yankees and other rich teams could have quickly gobbled up these “signability issue” players by increasing their draft pools by even just a few million dollars. This could have happened at any time and taken away the perceived advantage that the Pirates had.

              • Teams were already doing this long before the Pirates, Jay.

                • Lee Foo Young
                  February 3, 2015 3:44 pm

                  but not the Yankees.

                • then that brings us to the point that we were both making, regardless of how you and i both arrived at the conclusion.

                  The new system does not hurt the Pirates nearly as much as some pretend.

    • I’m going to throw myself on the third rail for Pirates fans, but can some actually connect the changes and direction of the MLB over the last say 10 years and with the idea that, MLB is doing everything they can to keep small market teams down.

  • The Cubs rebuilt their farm in about 3 years from near the bottom to the top with some shrewd moves and a lot of luck.
    The Pirates did not have the talent available that the Cubs had when the Pirates built their system. Many think it was Huntingtons drafts that built the Pirates back up, but that is not true, the Pirates only have 2 players in the starting lineup that came from Huntingtons drafts and only 1 starting pitcher that came from Huntingtons drafts, everyone else was acquired from trades, international scouting or previous management.

  • The key is amateur scouting and player development. If you do this well, then the GM can let a player walk when he hits his final year. If you don’t do it well, then you have to trade players away to re-stock the farm, like Hart did with the Braves this off season.

  • Dave Parker's Unfiltered Camel
    February 3, 2015 8:12 am

    Tim, you mentioned Hanson as a player who could be called up this season. Who do you think he would replace?

    • Lee Foo Young
      February 3, 2015 8:57 am

      DPUC…I felt the same way. No way Hanson gets called up unless it is in Sept for a few PHs or PRs. Same thing with Taillon….Sept, if at all.

      • I have to agree as I think the only way Hanson gets called up is if 2 or 3 really really bad things happen like Kang is a bust, Walker gets hurt and either Polanco or Alvarez bomb.

        • 7….gawd I hope NONE of those things happen….lol. Talk about a nightmare.

          • Ha yeah, we’d be getting into murphy’s law territory at that point. I think we could handle Kang struggling to adjust to the MLB and maybe Alvarez only hitting .230 with 20 HR but Walker getting hurt for 2+ months AND Polanco not adjusting to the Majors would put the Pirates in the 80 to 82 win area.

      • Let’s not forget this team had Morel, Nix and Martinez as IFs for a stretch last year. Anything is possible and if Hanson shows something in AAA, most importantly some maturity, he could be one of the first call ups if there’s an injury to an IF in PIT.

    • If Kang shows he can play, Hanson will be dealt at the deadline. Look for him to go back to shortstop to start the year to improve his trade value. Of course that move could diminish it as well. If he can keep the offensive tools going and play a reasonable short he will have significant trade value.

      • That’s funny.

      • I don’t think Hanson’s value is high enough to even be worth dealing. Last year it took one of the top SS prospects (Addison Russell) to get an above average number 2 quality pitcher in Jeff Samardzija. Who would Hanson get in return?

        • a key distinction is that it was for 1.5 years of Jeff Samardzija. Hanson should be able to net at least a very good rental pitcher come deadline time.

          • True, although very good rental pitcher may be someone of Samardzija quality. I really don’t think that it is worth it. Now if Hanson were on the same level as Russell, then sure, trading him for 1.5 years of Samardzija makes sense. Then again, maybe another team might value Hanson pretty highly, still, I’m not a big fan of rentals as almost all of the time the team getting the prospect either gets more value or it is a wash.

      • With Walker and Pedro set to move on, I don’t think they’ll trade their only IF prospect that could possibly contribute in the next 3 years.

    • I think that not everyone will stay healthy all year, which will create a spot eventually.

  • Before worrying about restocking the farm system, the Pirates first have to prove they can turn good Minor League pitching prospects into good Major League pitchers. The next two years will be critical in that process. Between Glasnow’s graduation and the 2014 draft class, the Pirates won’t have an impact starter in the system.

    To this point, professional scouting has far, far outproduced amateur scouting under Huntington. Knowing what you’re good at is important, and should be relied on moving forward. Having a top system isn’t critical to long term success if you can find major leaguers instead.

    • Lee Foo Young
      February 3, 2015 8:58 am

      Cole doesn’t count?

    • Interesting. Definitely not a topic i’ve seen approached before.

      I guess now that you mention it, Wilson, Black, Cumpton, Sadler, and Cole are basically the only Huntington pitchers to really be anything in the majors since NH’s first draft in 2008.

      This crop of Taillon, Glasnow, Kingham, Sampson will be critical for judgement of their player development. I think turning Glasnow and Kingham, and to a lesser extent Sampson into legitimate prospects shows that the scouting is adequate. It’s the development that is still a coin flip.

      Even if the pitchers do flop, they should be fine. They have enough cheap hitting, and have been efficient enough finding FA SP diamonds in the rough that the team will be in fine shape regardless. Taillon and Glasnow turning into #2s and Kingham into a #3 would just be gravy.

      • Brandon Cumpton and Gerrit Cole are the only Huntington draft picks or trades developed within the system to be worth a single win to this point. I’m not sure how one could argue that is successful player development.

        The baseball people Huntington assembled were extremely green, and I think initial failure was to be expected. Producing quality arms out of Glasnow and Kingham would absolutely signify growth, and success, over the initial few years of drafting and development. However, failure of those prospects, combined with previous lack of success, would be a rather damning indictment on what is now seven years of work.

        Your last paragraph hit on my overall point, and I believe is very true. The Pirates have been able to succeed thus far *in spite* of their drafting and development of pitchers. That’s a lesson. If they believe that is a skill and not luck, it might make more sense to focus of position players in the draft, where resources are now much more finite.

        • i think the 2009 draft is the only real failure so far. Pretty awful. Then again, most of the pitchers we wanted them to take instead of Sanchez are failures or just bullpen types too. Wheeler or even Shelby Miller would have been nice though. Black, Pounders, and Cain at least turned into assets, and it’s not their fault Chambers passed away.

          The top of the 2008 draft was all hitters, except for Tanner Scheppers. And he would be in the majors if he’d signed. Pedro, Scheppers, Jordy, d’Arnaud, Wilson, Grossman is actually a pretty impressive top of a draft. All those guys made it to the show. Just Scheppers didn’t sign and Wilson ended up in the ‘pen.

          And the 2010 draft is still just Incomplete and contains Taillon and Kingham. It’s a shame that Kubitza, Kime, Hursh, and Emmanuel didn’t sign. Theyre all good prospects now, and the fact that they were all drafted by other teams in later years in earlier rounds shows that the scouts knew what they were doing. Those guys just didn’t sign.

          So i guess my conclusion is that the only draft we can call a failure is 2009. 2008 was a success, and anything after 2009 still… IMO… deserves an “incomplete” grade.

          This season will probably allow us to grade 2010. 2010 can still be good if Taillon and Kingham are decent.

          2011 can still be amazing between Cole, Glasnow, Bell, Holmes, and heck… maybe Jaff (from Alex Dickerson) can still carve out a career. And wow. I forgot they drafted Trea Turner that year.

          2012 was weird cuz that was the Appel year. If we count Meadows as the 1st rounder there, that can still be great.

          and 2013 and 2014 are wayyyy too soon to tell.

          • 2009 was a bust for most teams.

          • My goodness, I certainly didn’t want to turn this into a good/bad overall draft discussion! I appreciate the effort, but would rather not derail Tim’s topic too much.

            I tried to specify drafting and development *of pitchers* since there seems to be a bit of dissonance between what the team is perceived to be good at and what they’ve actually produced to date.

            • i just figured going year to year was the best way to come to a conclusion because I myself wasn’t convinced one way or another. It was more for myself than it was me trying to make some grand argument. I tried to focus mostly on the pitching aspect of things, but i had to talk about hitters too because when they were taking hitters, they weren’t taking pitching.

              I agree that they may perceived to be great developers of pitching but yeah it’s just way too soon to tell whether they’re good, bad, or in between.. Most of their pitching has been via trades and FA. and that’s totally okay.

              • Sure sure, I understand. Just trying to make sure conversation doesn’t devolve into arguments over minutia.

                You’re obviously correct in that it doesn’t matter where the talents comes from, but I think *understanding* how it was acquired is crucial to long-term success. The Pirates have been vocal in making a habit of taking “tall, projectible HS pitchers” in the draft. How successful they actual are at turning those into big leaguers should absolutely influence their decisions moving forward. Maybe a draft strategy more along the lines of what the Cubs have done recently suits them better. Kingham/Glasnow will go a long way in answering that question.

                • I agree, Huntington has repeatedly said that top line pitching is the most expensive thing to purchase and his biggest unifying theme over this tenure was to find the Gerrit Cole’s before they are top 10 picks.

                  A lot does ride on Kingham/Glasnow and maybe some out of nowhere guy, if you get a front line starter and a middle of the rotation guy out of say 10 draft picks I think that is a success, given the attrition rates of pitchers.

                  However given some of the recent developments with acquiring major league talent I don’t think as much rides on tall, projectable HS pitchers” as did two or three years ago.

    • I don’t know if there’s an issue with developing pitching. They didn’t really draft many pitchers in 2008. The one guy they drafted and signed early was Justin Wilson. The 2009 draft was the first one where they targeted pitchers, and that didn’t work out. In 2010, they didn’t sign a lot of prep guys, and two of the guys they did sign were Taillon and Kingham, who should both arrive this year.

      Both of those guys were prep pitchers, and if they’re arriving in 2015, that means they spent about five years or less in the minors. That’s not bad for a prep pitcher. It would be like Mitch Keller, Trey Supak, and/or Gage Hinsz arriving in mid-2019.

      From there, it’s kind of early for the other classes. Glasnow is a prep pitcher from 2011. Holmes is in the same boat, and missed a year due to TJ. Adrian Sampson was taken out of the JuCo ranks in 2012, and could arrive this year.

      This isn’t a situation like some teams have where they have top prospects and can’t turn them into MLB players (the Tigers come to mind as an example). This is a case where the Pirates haven’t really reached the point where they could show that they can turn top prospects into good MLB pitchers. I agree with you that the next two years will be critical, but mostly because they will be our first real indication of how the Pirates can handle this process. Considering their MLB pitching coaches, I think they’ll be fine.

  • Tim, please read Buster Olney’s comments on the breakdown of all thirty teams chances this year. When the national media says something like this, we as a fan base need to realize how good we have it right now, sit back and enjoy.

  • I think the one point you missed tim was that having prospects come up and succeed at positions/rotation spots/BP means you don’t have to trade prospects and have time to let the system percolate. Extensions have the same effect. We don’t need a LF for 6 years, a CF for 4 and hopefully a RF for 6. This allows our system so much time that talent our system will eventually produce a heir.

  • Scott Kliesen
    February 3, 2015 5:26 am

    As fans, we want to cheer for the same guys year after year. Having familiar faces in place gives us a sense of comfort and confidence. However, as the GM, NH needs to have the mindset he will move whomever, whenever, in order to keep the organization on track for prolonged success.

    I envision a day where Walker, Alvarez, Marte and even Cutch are dealt away, or allowed to leave in FA, in order to for the franchise to remain relevant for the long haul. Quite frankly, if NH is running this franchise by taking the pulse of the community, he’s not doing his job.

    • Scott: A small part of me agrees with you, but overall, I agree that Alvarez not may but will go as early as this afternoon if the price is right. Marte has a nice long term, reasonable contract. Neil Walker and Andrew McCutchen are unique. ‘Cutch has proven beyond any doubt that he is a genuine Superstar in the game. In the last 3 years he has averaged 35 doubles, 6 Triples, and 26 HR’s. The biggest knock I hear about him is that in his 30’s his legs will diminish, and we should not spend a lot to keep him in Pittsburgh for his entire career. His defense is strong, and the power numbers are consistently excellent for a middle-of-the-order hitter. Walker is the home town boy who is making good with a WAR that stays consistently on the increase even though there are plenty of folks who cannot understand how he is doing it.

      I think one of the biggest things on the horizon for the Pirates is talent, but if they want to continue to compete somewhat equally in MLB, their next TV Contract has to be enough to provide a steady flow of income – that does not come without the likes of Superstars because that is what sells the team. ‘Cutch and Neil are the marketing Superstars of this franchise – do what needs to be done to sign these guys and then get prepared to begin negotiations with Root or whoever. I think we are in year 6 of a 10 year contract, and the TV folks are presently gushing revenue to lesser teams who are relatively nameless and faceless. The system is Tops, the attendance is at record levels, but the real bucks come from TV and the Pirates have to do what it takes to max out.

      • If “TV folks” are gushing revenue to teams who are relatively nameless and faceless, that might tell you something about what they are and what they aren’t looking for.

        • NMR: Much of that comes just from the trend, and the fact that the overall Revenue of MLB looks like a 45 degree line over the past 20 years – it is now an $8 bil per year industry. The TV deals are the icing on the cake. The Dodgers $7 bil, the Phillies $2.5 bil, and the money to the Rangers, Houston, and a few others leads the way. But, along the way teams like SD and Cleveland have also benefitted. I think the last I heard, the Pirates were getting $18 – $20 mil a year from Root, and they will share in new MLB TV Contract and the 34% that comes off the top of all the individual team deals. They and Kansas City are at the bottom. Their new TV Contract will go up and possibly double – how much higher than that they go, IMO, depends on the marketing of locked-in superstars, and the promise for more to come in the future. How many Nationally televised games would the Pirates have been offered 5 years ago? It’s like the Steelers – they are competitive and the TV folks are thrilled to offer them great nationally televised exposure.

          The Pirates of 10 years ago made an excellent living from trading their best players and then maxing out on Revenue Sharing – they were paid well to lose. I hope we will not morph back into some form of that, and if we have to break the mold on a long term contract extension to keep our best Superstar since Barry Bonds, I see no better person than Andrew McCutchen.

          • Well written response emjay. I agree with you about McCutchen, I can live with Alvarez being traded if you are able to keep a star person like McCutchen around long term .

          • I don’t think that is at all how TV contracts are awarded.

            What network in their right mind would hand out billions of dollars based on a player that could be traded or injured tomorrow?

            • Agreed NMR. I’m pretty sure the Pirates making the playoffs for 6 straight years and maintaining the increased attendance/popularity will affect the next TV deal more than if an aging Cutch is roaming CF.
              Keep winning and the fans will keep coming (watching).

      • For the record, I’m in favor of keeping Cutch for entirety of career. I absolutely adore not only his game, but also his leadership and attitude toward baseball in Pittsburgh. The thought of seeing him in another uniform makes me sad.

        I’m not sold on Walker staying past the next couple years. The fact he grew up in Western PA should not figure into the equation of signing him to an extension. IMO, that is a foolish way to do business. Walker is a good player, but he’s certainly not a franchise defining player like Cutch.

        You hit the nail on the head with regard to local TV deals. Their next deal needs to be much more lucrative in order to make it possible to be more competitive financially. I will disagree and say fans will watch a bunch of no names if team is winning, while even a superstar like Cutch won’t make people watch a loser.

      • Superstars are nice, but winning is what sells. His defense is O.K. he has no arm & has extra bases taken on him regularly. If Meadows reaches his ceiling & the Bucco’s are winning, Cutch in his mid 30’s won’t be missed

        • Joe/Scott: Who brought those fans? The team did, but the face and name on this franchise is Andrew McCutchen. If we are going to keep him beyond 2018, the deal better be made soon. Cannot wait to see if Meadows will reach his ceiling – he played last year at Lo A and will probably not be at PNC before 2017 at the earliest at age 22.

  • As long as the current coaching and fo staffs stay intact the future looks bright for the pirates. What will probably happen though is that some big market team(s) will try to poach the pirates coaches.

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