First Pitch: The Best Approach For the Pirates This Off-Season

At the start of this week in the comments, there was a discussion about the Pirates needing to make a “splash” this off-season. This wasn’t an idea exclusive to the comment section, as I’ve seen the same type of comment many times. This comes up during the trade deadline, during off-seasons, and any other time the spotlight of baseball is on the transaction market.

I’ve never believed in the idea of making a “splash.” By definition, it’s a move with a focus of making noise and drawing attention. Granted, this is done by adding a very good player. But the idea behind it is that you need to make a splash to contend, and that’s just not true.

The Pirates haven’t exactly made many splashes the last few years. The Russell Martin signing was hated. The decision to go with Francisco Cervelli to replace Martin wasn’t popular. Trading Joel Hanrahan for Mark Melancon was another unpopular move. The reclamation projects — from A.J. Burnett to Francisco Liriano to Edinson Volquez to the mid-season addition of J.A. Happ — were also low key, with a growing trust as each move worked out.

The one move where the Pirates might have made a “splash” was when they added Marlon Byrd, but even that move was lower key compared to some of the additions that take place around the deadline.

The problem I have with the idea of making a “splash” is that I don’t think there’s any evidence that this approach leads to better results than a lower key addition of a good player that doesn’t come with the big headlines and World Series predictions.

For example, in last night’s article I wrote about how Johnny Cueto didn’t do much for the Royals in the final two months, and had a few rough playoff outings, but came up big in game five of the ALDS, allowing the Royals to advance. Without Cueto, they might have seen an early elimination. But I wouldn’t use that as evidence that making a splash at the deadline is necessary to win.

On the other side of this, you’ve got David Price. The Blue Jays made the biggest splash at the deadline when they added Price and Troy Tulowitzki. In Price’s case, they got four starts and saw him give up 16 earned runs in 23.1 innings. That includes eight earned runs in 13.1 innings over two games against the Royals, with losses in both games.

Cueto ended up working out in game five of the ALDS, but the idea of a big splash didn’t work for Toronto and Price/Tulowitzki. It also didn’t work for the Rangers and Cole Hamels, the Astros and Carlos Gomez, or the Mets and Yoenis Cespedes.

I’ve mentioned that I feel the playoffs are random, and the above is a big reason why. The idea that a guy like Cueto, Hamels, or Price can make a noticeable impact over a full season is legit. But expecting one player to influence any given series he plays in — such as any playoff series — ignores that even the best players won’t have it every time out.

So what about making a splash before the season, when a player can provide a much bigger impact over the full year? That makes more sense, but the idea of a splash is still flawed.

Last year, the Padres made a lot of big splashes when they spent a lot of money and added a lot of big name players. The Mariners were supposed to be World Series contenders when they added Robinson Cano and any first baseman/outfielder that was available prior to the 2014 season. The year before that, the Blue Jays were the hot team after taking on all of the big salaries from Miami, then trading for R.A. Dickey (in a move that sent Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard to New York).

The reason this didn’t work out for these teams is because they were adding to poor teams. Toronto was a 73 win team in 2012, and they added a bunch of players who led to a horrible season in Miami. So it’s no surprise that they only won 74 games in 2013, despite all of the off-season hype. Seattle made the biggest jump, going from 71 wins to 87 wins. However, they dropped back down to 76 wins this year, and will probably eventually regret that huge deal for Cano. San Diego went backwards, going from 77 wins to 74 wins.

Then you take a look at the World Series winners, and you start to see a trend. The Royals didn’t make a big splash last year. They followed up a World Series appearance by adding Kendrys Morales, Alex Rios, and Edinson Volquez. Those were three mid-level guys who weren’t generating off-season headlines.

The Giants won the World Series in 2012, took a step back in 2013, then added Tim Hudson, Ryan Vogelsong, and Michael Morse in 2014. Again, you’ve got mid-level free agents at best. If you go back to the 2012 Giants (again, two years removed from their last World Series, because the Giants win in even years), the biggest free agent signing was Ryan Theriot. I’m not sure you could call that a mid-level free agent addition.

The Red Sox were praised in 2013 for their additions of mid-level free agents, such as Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Stephen Drew, Jonny Gomes, Koji Uehara, and a trade for Mike Carp. This situation was a bit different than the other two, as Boston unloaded a ton of salary prior to the season, and then hit it big with almost every free agent they signed, leading to a quick turnaround that wasn’t sustainable.

The problem with a splash in the off-season is that it usually ignores the rest of the team. Some teams simply don’t need to make a splash. They can get by with a good player who isn’t the best at his position, but will provide solid production. That’s what the World Series winners did the last few years, adding some reliable players to already strong teams in most cases. Other teams need a big splash because their team is weaker. Those teams win the off-season awards, but those big moves usually aren’t enough to get them in the playoffs.

The Pirates have a strong team. They’re returning most of a team that just won 98 games. They’ll need some additions this off-season, and there are some areas that need upgraded. But the idea that they need something special to win the division, advance in the playoffs beyond the Wild Card game, or just make the playoffs in general, is either severely underestimating this team, or ignoring the not so flashy approach that has worked for a lot of contending teams in the past.

Last year’s approach would be perfect for the Pirates. They added a mid-level free agent in Francisco Liriano. They added another mid-level/bounce back guy in A.J. Burnett. They added a wild card in Jung-ho Kang, and added a sleeper in Francisco Cervelli. They got value in each move, but the risks involved with each player were staggered. There were some long-shots, and some guys who were closer to reliable production. Add that to their strong track record of finding value — either in the off-season or during the deadline — and the Pirates have a sound approach.

They don’t need to go with all sleeper picks in this approach, and they can go with more mid-level guys than just Liriano. But they don’t really need a big splash. The sleeper/mid-level approach has gotten them to this point, and the track record of results suggests their success with these moves should continue. And a quick look at some of the other successful teams around the league shows that those mid-level moves, while not being flashy, can be enough to take a team to the “next level.”

**Early Look at the 2016 Pirates Minor League Rosters – Outfield Edition. A breakdown of the early outfield roster predictions for the minor league affiliates in 2016, along with a note about how this position could lead to some trade depth. Probably not “big splash” trade depth, but enough to get a solid player who can help the Pirates get back to the playoffs again, and contend for the division.

**AFL: Two Hits For Reese McGuire, Trevor Williams Perfect Again. John Dreker with today’s AFL recap. I’ll be heading out for a week of live AFL coverage on Thursday.

  • While I agree that making a “splash” is not always the way to go, the Blue Jays, Rangers and Mets probably don’t win their respective divisions without the moves you just listed. Of course the downside is yet to be seen because we don’t know the impact of what those teams have given will have on future seasons. And the other question is if the season is considered a complete failure because they didn’t win the World Series.

  • That being said, the rest of the article is QUALITY stuff to be fair

  • Tim- Honestly, this statement is downright ridiculous “Cueto ended up working out in game five of the ALDS, but the idea of a big splash didn’t work for Toronto and Price/Tulowitzki. It also didn’t work for the Rangers and Cole Hamels, the Astros and Carlos Gomez, or the Mets and Yoenis Cespedes” – It didn’t work???? Do the Rangers get to the playoffs without Hamels? Doubtful Do the mets get into the playoffs to have the honor in losing the world series without Cespedes? hell no. Your statement here basically says that the ONLY way the splash worked, is if they won the world series AND the player played well, and that is just plain ridiculous. Those moves were ALL done to get those teams into the tournament, and they worked in most of those cases.

    • To be fair to the Mets, yes they do make the playoffs without Cespedes unless you think any one player is worth 7 games in half a year. Which isnt so much a “atta boy” to the Mets but a giant you guys tanked to WSH.

      Unless we think Cespedes was a major reason WSH tanked, the Mets likely could have been worse (and maybe not go to the WS) but still easily make the playoffs. WSH made that division easy by going 11-17 in August. Race went from dead even to a 6 game spread because WSH imploded.

      Without Cespedes, WSH hangs around a bit longer but the Mets arent catering 6 games due to 1 player.

      • I think Cespedes was that key factor that- without them- they never take off offensively. He himself increased the WAR of all the players around him, and combined does that create 7 extra WINS? No, but 7 games in the standings – quite possibly. That team was barely above .500 when they got him, don’t forget- and this isn’t some starting pitcher whom doesn’t affect anything but once every 5 days

        • Its fine to think that, but i see no actual backing for it. Its saying that 1 player can be worth literally 7 wins to his team due to his play or elevating others. And that does compute at all. The Mets were already tied with WSH as he arrived, and WSH playing well under .500 was the biggest difference.

          No, i dont think one move ever creates 7 extra wins for a team. It means you think if Cespedes was on the Mets all year they win about 20 extra games. The team was just over .500 and right with WSH. I agree he had a big impact on that team….but no player ever causes his team to win 7 more games due to his influence. I dont buy that.

          • I’m really not asking you to buy it. It’s my opinion and i’ve made you aware of what i’m basing it off you. You disagree, that’s fine!

            I’m not saying its a slam dunk, but he absolutely between his WAR and impact on that lineup top to bottom could have added 7 games in the standings to that team. Again- NOT 7 wins, because if even one of those extra wins was against the nationals you wouldn’t need 7 wins to win the division by 7 games, so maybe its 6, maybe it only has to be 5???

      • Either way, saying that making a splash didn’t “work out” for the Mets by bringing in Cespedes and the others is a ridiculous statement- he couldn’t have possibly provided more of a boost than he did. Hamels pitched extremely well and I can definitely say they don’t make the playoffs without him, which was the goal behind the trade in the first place. Just like the Mets- did the Mets get Cespedes thinking “hey, we can win it all if we trade for Yoenis?? NO- they thought, “we might be able to overtake washington for the division if we get cespedes-

  • My criticism of the Pirates isn’t so much that they don’t make “splash moves.” It’s more that they often seem to be more motivated my “payroll flexibility” then actually winning championships.

    The discussion really isn’t as simplistic as it’s made out to be here. The reality is that the Pirates have added payroll every year for the last three years and the Pirates have been buyers at the trade deadline rather then sellers every year for the last four or five years. So, the Pirates have spent more money then in years past and the Pirates have given up prospects. Brock Holt was a damn good prospect. So was Dilson Herrera.

    It’s hard to argue with the Pirates success. This past season nearly every move they made worked out. NH is clearly more than competent. It’s possible that they can beat the odds and continue to be as successful. I wonder, however.

    This past season, every team in the playoffs paid more than $120 million for its payroll except the Pirates and Astros. That’s just a fact. Moreover, at the trade deadline every team made a significant move in an attempt to improve their team.

    Though t is true that the Pirates made several acquisitions at the deadline, I am not sure that you could say any of the moves were an attempt to “get better.” At the time of the deadline, both Josh Harrison and AJ Burnett were injured. As such, the acquisition of Happ and Ramirez to have been acquisitions aimed at treading water. You could argue that the acquisition of Soria and Blanton were geared toward strengthening the bullpen and you’d be right. But both were clearly “value moves.” I just wonder what would’ve happened if there were no “value moves” to be made.

    What exasperates me about the Pirates is that their attitude seems to be along the lines of “We want good players but only if they come cheap. We aren’t paying fair market value for anyone even if we have a need. We don’t want a long-term commitment to anyone unless it’s below market value. If we can’t find a major-league player on the cheap, we’re going to go with an unproven internal option. Even if that makes us a lesser team. ”

    That mindset leads to a so-called prospect like Lambo being handed the first base job when he’s never played there before. You could make a similar argument about Pedro’s move to first. I also don’t think Tony Sanchez would have hung around as long anywhere else but, he really hasn’t been a problem for them.

    I don’t really care if the Pirates make “splash moves.” Or not. I just want them to get good players and to try to improve the team however they can. If they continue to make the team better on the cheap, I’m all for it. No one is saying they should overpay for washed up players. However, I’m not sure why it doesn’t make sense to add good players at market value to a good team. The article above seems to suggest that you must not have a good team if you make a “splash move.” I think history would suggest otherwise. This year’s playoffs is just the most recent example.

  • One thing that this article and the comments below show, is that EACH of us know how to GM better than NH. 🙂

    As I intimated below, NH has consistently shown an ability to quietly make under the radar moves that work out great!

    If that is what he does this offseason, that is wonderful. If he makes the proverbial ‘big splash’ that is good, too. I will voice my opinion over whether I think they were good moves or bad moves.

    But, the bottom line is that all I care about is whether they help us on the field. And, so far, most of his moves have helped us.

    That last sentence is ALL I care about.


    • It’s hard not too at this point Lee, isn’t it. I mean every GM is going to make a bust move if he’s making moves… so that doesn’t mean he sucks. He’s generally making more moves that help than hurt… and wins are improving every year.

      Ultimately, is he a great GM? That is like the Dan Marino question – is he one of best if he never won the big game? Of course he is, because so many things factor into winning it – never the less NH will have to continue to find ways to give the team a chance at improving in the playoffs.

      As I’ve said a few times, I think this will be one of the most interesting off-seasons for the team yet – and the discussion here seems to be that more people are watching and more people are waiting for NH to do something they feel they can get excited about for 2016. Me too. It’s called bucco fever.

    • You owe Kovacevic royalties for altering “In Shero We Trust”

  • If the Pirates make a big money acquisition, it has to make sense. Shortstop, for example, first base, or starting pitcher (always starting pitcher). With the prospect of a DH coming soon, Bell would still have a home if we signed or traded for a good 1B.

    I think the reason the Pirates haven’t really made splashy deals in the past under NH isn’t necessarily because they oppose them in principle, but because one didn’t present itself which made sense. Aces cost a ton of money and years for what is ultimately, no matter the pitcher, a high-risk signing (see James Shields this year, for example, or the tail end of the Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay deals the Phillies handed out), and I don’t think there’s been a great pool of short stops or first basemen, our two shallowest positions, in the past couple years when we were actually contending. Anything before we started winning would have been an empty move, too, since there’s not a big point in making a big money signing when you don’t stand a chance at the playoffs anyway.

    NH was in on Price at the deadline last year, but didn’t have the types of pieces the Rays wanted for him. But that he was in on him tells me he’ll make a deal or signing for a big-name, high-price player if that player fills a need and makes sense for the team. I expect the same approach in free agency.

    • Absolutely! Excellent point.

      My problem with this whole “stay the course” business is that all the information we know tells us that Huntington himself intended to break it.

      Friedman might be the only GM out there not to deviate from a plan. Moore, Beane, Ryan, Melvin, all the successful small-to-mid market GM’s who’ve been touted at one time or another since 2000 as having the right “plan” have eventually made moves everyone previously said weren’t their “style”.

      • NMR, I’ve been trying to get from your posts exactly what your hoping the team and NH will do and for the life of me I still can’t figure it out. What kind of action would satisfy you v.s. staying the course.

        Staying the course – being the team has improved each of the last 5 years in terms of wins.

        You mention improving the odds… which should translate to improving wins – right?

        You can call me any name you want, but after 20 years of losing I see an improving roster year after year. Yes it’s not build by Yankees theory, but each year it’s better. So it seems NH is improving the odds, by many methods over time managing both successes beyond his expectations (Happ), and failures (Lambo, etc.).

        It always comes back to $ for many I think. I’ll take the wins – and when the wins don’t happen we can discuss why, but as long as they’re improving I don’t see what all the fuss is about.

        • Well, for one, my point is that the “staying the course” logic is flawed as it relates to not making a “big splash”, as Darkstone just pointed out.

          My point is also that I believe the logic for and against making a “big splash” has been distorted by the article we’re commenting on. And by you, right in this very interaction. Who is talking about Yankees or spending money for the sake of spending money here?


          Not one single person.

          As for what *I’m* hoping to see the Front Office do? No magic bullet or binary choices. I want them to continue evolving. I want modest payroll increases now that Huntington has shown he can make good use of the financial resources he’s been given. And I believe now is the time to make riskier choices based on improving already competent positions. It’s not in my nature to settle on good enough. Doesn’t mean I’m correct, but that’s what drives my logic in getting the Pirates to the next step.

          • Big Splash is exactly Yankee’s theorum. It’s right in the dictionary next to strawman.
            The FO has evolved, the resources have increased, there isn’t much more riskier move last year than signing the first guy (MVP) out of Korea, – and that is the definition of staying the course that NH has us on, along with improving Wins each year.

            Still not seeing your argument other than I won’t be happy until $ threshold is crossed and/or x number of prospects are shipped off.

          • What do you think about Park? Should the Pirates be in on Park?

            • I’m not nearly good enough to tell if whether or not that swing will play, but if so, he’ll still be a steal at Kang-inflated prices.

      • This year, looking at the free agents (and I’m not even sure how many will make it to free agency), there are some starting pitching options who are intriguing, but all the 1B and SS options are either high-risk, reclamation, or not big upgrades. But Ian Desmond would be a solid bounce-back candidate, and Asdrubal Cabrera would be a lower-risk, lower-reward clear upgrade over Mercer, which would also make Mercer a really solid bench option at shortstop. No one else at the position seems to be worth it.

        First base is barren past Davis, and I’m not even completely convinced he’s a good fit for us in a market which wouldn’t inflate his value like this one will, nor am I convinced he’ll even make it to the market, since there’s a decent chance the Orioles keep him. Of course, Park is an option here, as well.

        There are a lot of solid options among the starting pitchers, though, from front end guys like Price, Cueto, and Zimmermann, to a huge density of decent mid-rotation arms like Kazmir, Samardzija, Anderson, Lackey, Fister, and so on, including our own J.A. Happ, as well as some useful back end options like my favorite Bartolo Colon, who can at least eat innings with regularity.

        The Pirates may have the option to be more active than usual overall, though, especially with their potential departures.

        • Interesting thing about this market will be how the top tier SP alter how teams go after mid tier guys. You have Cueto and Price and Zimmerman as big goals, and then that clear 2nd tier. Seems like some teams (NYY reportedly) really value Samardzjia, so guys like Anderson and Lackey will be really interesting to see from a value standpoint. And Happ.

        • Free agent money to any 1B that would move the needle just isn’t something I, personally, think the club should be doing. Take a chance on a guy like Park, maybe. Otherwise, as you showed, you’ll end up paying +$20m per year fr a guy who really only adds value at the plate. Even worse, throwing $8-$12m per year at lesser options usually doesn’t even get you the bat let alone anything else. Just not my kind of risk.

          Not much more inclined to test the FA waters at SS for that matter.

          I think the most likely upgrade at either position will come through trade, specifically an exchange of talented but yet-to-breakout players. Targeting Lucas Duda instead of Ike Davis when both were available. Taking a chance on Jurickson Profar before he regains all his value. Maybe you think Deven Marrero adds some stick and grab him from being blocked by Bogaerts. Or trust that the Giants know what they’re doing with their unheralded infielders and get Christian Arroyo now that Crawford might be the best all around shortstop in the league.

          Very difficult to make improvements at this stage of the game, but I personally would rather see them go down swinging.

  • Has anyone seen anything (any approximate numbers) on Jeff Samardzija? Wonder what his cost would be to see if we could get him back on track on a 2-3 year deal.

    • Fangraphs just put up its projections/medians for top FAs. Draft pick+a median year of 4 and AAV of 16 i believe.

    • I’ve seen large swings in terms of value for Jeff from $12/yr to $16. Most are calling for 3 years at max due to last year fall off.

      • Honestly, I might even consider losing the 1st round pick if we could get him for 3 for $39M. Since 2012, Jeff has been worth an average of 3 WAR. Even with a conservative estimate of $6M per WAR…that means he’s worth somewhere between $15M and $20M per year.

        His GB% was at a career low last year…over 10% lower than his career best year. If he gets back to his career average GB% you’re going to get a 3 WAR player.

  • Now lets look at this from a financial standpoint.

    Salaries coming off the books: 40.5 million, this does include the full salaries of the midseason pick ups so the actual number is closer to 32.5m. Now this number can also increase if certain players are dealt or non tendered. So assumme that Melancon, Alvarez and Locke are let go or dealt that number goes back up to roughly 45 million, or 53 minus Walker.

    Now the idea of the big splash vs the good buy:
    There are a number of big splashes out there that could obviously help the Pirates.

    Chris Davis: Expected salary 16-20m per season
    Jonny Cueto: Expected salary 18-20m per season
    Jordan Zimmerman:Expected salary 16-20m per seasn

    Now Price, Greinke etc are obviously bigger splashes but the estimates on them are crazy, to crazy to even consider as options.

    Now if the Pirates dont resign any pending FA and let Walker, Alvarez and Melancon and Locke go they could sign 2 or possibly all 3 of those mentioned splashes. But that would eat up all the potential money to bolster the team. Yes it would be a great rotation and a good lineup but we would suffer at 2B and take a bit of a hit in the pen. Of course that is dependent on what we could get back in a trade for Melancon or Walker or Alvarez. So it is actually financially feasible to make 2 splashes and still have a simewhat money conscious team.

    On the other hand we can focus on the usual smaller deals that have done us well in the past. So start us with 32.5 million plus 8 for losing Alvarez via trade or non tender. With 40 million these moves are possible.
    Resign Happ, cost 8-10 per season
    Arby Melancon, Walker and Locke cost, add 8.5m
    This leaves roughly 23.5m available for FA, with which the Pirates could do something like,
    Park 5m per season
    Fister 8m per season
    Which then leaves 10m to shore up the bullpen and the bench.


    • I think your math is close. I just wonder how much future stuff equates in their budget. Cutch is due for a decent bump next couple years. JHay is a 10 million dollar player in ’17, after a decent bump this year.

      And Cole. Cole pops out another 19-20 wins his arbitration numbers get pretty steep in a couple years. It’s why I’ve been arguing all day, maybe the last couple years was the time to spend while guys like him and Polanco are making 500k.

  • Fangraphs have their FA list up. They have Happ 26th best FA and they project him to get a 3 year, 33M contract

    • And I think that would be just fine.

    • Seems reasonable. Be nice to have that deal, flip Morton for whatever ya can get, and find a reclamation project to throw into the #4 rotation spot and have Locke stopgap the #5 spot until/if a rookie steps in.

      • Unbelievable, man. Same length and only $6m less than Liriano got last winter for a pitcher that *nobody* would’ve given a multi-year contract until the last two months of the season.

        Un. Real.

        • That does worry me about Happ. He had an absolutely atmospheric rise this year…I would rather see if I could spend similar money on someone like Sharknado.

        • It really is a bit unthinkable, but he’ll get it on the market. Liriano did seem to leave some money on the table to come back to PGH. But yeah, its crazy to consider where Happ was 5 months ago.

          Having said that, i still like paying Happ that than paying somewhere around that+a draft pick for Samardzjiaia

          • I doubt that you’ll see a draft pick for Samardzija. Why? Because I think if he were offered that kind of money on a one-year deal he would take it and try to rehab his value before next offseason.

            • Multiple sites (and Joel Heyman) already reporting the white sox intend to extend the QO, and he’s a lock to deny it.

              Along with this, more than a few reports are saying the Yankees are super high on Samardzjia and that he is a top goal for them this offseason.

          • I honestly don’t know if I take that at three years.

            You have to really, reaaalllly buy into those last two months to believe he’s appreciably better than Charlie Morton, if at all. If Morton is the kind of guy we’re not comfortable giving a relatively small AAV for a relatively short duration, then we;re most certainly going to be having this same conversation about Happ in two years unless he truly turns out to be much closer to what we saw post-deadline.

            • I prefer two years. Im somewhat skeptical anyone offers 3 years, but i can see it if someone does it as a sure way to sign him.

              Id be interested in a 3rd year buyout type year. 3 years 33 million with a 2-3 million buyout on the last year.

        • Not that unreal every year some pitcher rediscovers it. Liriano himself was almost on the scrap heap a few years ago. Volquez was on the heap….

          • See, I think there’s an important distinction here.

            Liriano, Volquez, Burnett did absolutely “rediscover” it. Happ, on the other hand, blew past anything he’d ever come close to touching in his seven year big league career. Maybe there’s not a difference, but I think you have to have a lot more confidence in someone who has returned to a previous level of performance than one who, at the age of 33, all the sudden broke out.

            • What do we think it would take to get Fister here and would he be a good fit? (I have my own thoughts…like how his GB% needs to go back to where it was in his couple really good years and the overall numbers return).

          • Along with what NMR already said, the examples you use did do it over an entire year. Thats not insignificant. AJ and Liriano and Volquez had a full year of looking like former versions of their game.

            Happ had a roller coster year with a lot of bad, multiple months of very good. But its not a 1-1 comparison, for reasons already stated and the fact he only showed it over 2 months. Value wise, its fair for some to wonder if we arent overstating 2 great months. Him getting Volquez money for half of the success of Volquez may be dumb.

            • First off, he hasn’t gotten Liriano money and probably won’t but he was sooo good when he was that he’ll probably get close heck he outpitched Liriano did he not?

              The names of players that find it aren’t the point, the point is players find it – how about Bautista for an extreme case… or the reliever kid with the two fingers… Holdzcom?

              For that matter, they can lose it as well. Blass anyone? How about Panda for all those wanting to make a splash? That was a splash alright… just like a turd hitting the water. It’s a crapshoot and money has nothing to do with it. It’s about good baseball management and so far NH has done pretty good at it.

              • You again say money has nothing to do with it, but you still haven’t answered me from the other day.

                Guys like you were saying money didn’t matter when the Pirates we’re a $70m ball club. Take $35m off of last year’s club and tell me, honestly, that it wouldn’t make a difference.

                Of course money makes a difference!!!

                Money most certainly does not cure all or guarantee success, but claiming it doesn’t matter is an equally extreme reaction.

              • If two months of good play was enough for teams to bully buy in at that level, Snider should have netted a huge return. 2 months is enough to make plenty of guys interesting, but that allocation of funds is fully buying into something he’s only done in 2 months of his entire career and paying him like its truth.

                Its dangerous.

  • Last years moves were fantastic, but obviously not good enough. You have to remember the Pirates keep on failing to get by the Cardinals and continue to fail to get to the NLDS and end up playing in a do or die 1 game sudden death situation. The Window is open now, it wont be forever. Let’s make those deals we have been making with a bigger move. I have full confidence they will assemble another solid rotation,especially with the emergence of Glasnow and hopefully Taillon. We have our ace in Cole, Glasnow,Taillon and Liriano should make fine 2,3,4 starters. . I also have full confidence they will build another strong bullpen. I think they should spend a little more in this area. If I have learned anything the last 5 years and especially this year is you don’t need a top 5 rotation if you have a dominant bullpen to win the World Series. KC showed us that this post season. They need to strengthen their defense and at the same time make this team a more contact oriented team. I’d like to see the Bucs go after Ben Zobrist or Howie Kendrick . I also would like to see us trade for a young shortstop who can provide more offense than Jordy Mercer. I also think it’s in the clubs best interest to move Neil Walker to 1st base to platoon with Michael Morse. Walker belongs at a corner position now

    • Sorry Chris, Neal doesn’t have enough power for the corner. The fact is that he’s out earned his value now… or at least he’s close to it. If he was putting up 20 a year he could play a lot of positions, but he’s not and he’s an injury guy.

      Zobrist is 35. 35 is not the time to sign a long term contract and in fact you already have Zobrist in Harrison. He’s your guy to move around. Find a 3b and Kang is your hitting SS with very capable defense.

  • Does anyone care that in general the rest of the league is coveting young prospects? Why should the Pirates all of a sudden start trading prospects for established players. The Yankees aren’t even trading prospects. The Cubs worship their prospects, ( How can you blame them tho with Bryant, Russell, Soler, Baez, Shwarber, Almora, Ian Happ) the Dodgers, Cardinals and Red Sox are building from within. Obviously those teams can afford big name free agents but to me it says something that 4 of the biggest markets are coveting prospects, why all of sudden should we start moving them for established players. That’s just stupid, Ill take my chances with Bell, Hanson, Meadows, Taillon, Glasnow, McGuire, etc. I like our chances and how the team is run, and if you would of asken me 5 years ago, i would NOT have said the same thing. Stay the course and let Neil do his job.

    • Tell me how the rest of the league is coveting young prospects when we couldnt trade prospects for major leaguers, even to bad teams who were selling hard, two years ago.

  • Again, it is beneath an outfit trying to pass as good journalism to write feature pieces based on strawmen pulled from internet comment sections.

    “By definition, it’s a move with a focus of making noise and drawing attention.”

    Sorry, but that’s only true in the deepest, dumbest corners of the interwebs. Reality is that to most people, a “splash” move is one that adds a premium player. Period. If you think Dayton Moore, riding high off taking Kansas City to the World Series and cruising on his way to a Division title with the best record in the AL traded for Zobrist and Cueto because he simply wanted to draw attention, you’re just plain wrong. Moore acquired those players because he felt they gave his team the best chance to win, which brings us to the whole “playoffs are luck” narrative.

    *Of course* playoffs are “luck”, because baseball in general is “luck”. What that doesn’t mean, however, is that there’s nothing you can do to increase your odds of capitalizing on “luck”. The Royals were unquestionably lucky at times this post season. They likely wouldn’t have even gotten past the Divisional series if Carlos Correa doesn’t boot that grounder in the 8th inning of Game 4. But that alone didn’t end the series…they had to come back and win Game 5, which just so happened to be won with a gem from Johnny Cueto. Nobody could guarantee that, of course not, but do you honestly think the Royals’ chances of winning that game are the same with a guy who didn’t even make the post season rotation? Of course not.

    Honestly, this conversation is getting more rational than it was in the early days of Pirate contention where the argument against making a “big splash” usually contained fear mongering themes of “selling the farm” or “handcuffing” the team’s payroll. Tim’s not at all wrong by saying that the team doesn’t “need” to make a “splash”, but only in the sense that it’s possible to win without one.

    “Need” and “should” are two different words, and I find it hard to argue with anyone at this point who thinks the Pirates “should”, when the right situation presents itself, make a big move designed to maximize their chances of winning.

    • Need and should is a good distinction to make in the discussion. Its really two different discussions as far as process goes.

    • Some of your best work right there NMR. By definition need is objective and should is subjective. The rub is some fans mistake a need for a want.

    • You’ve made comments like this before. First, I’ll say that from day one on this site, I’ve kept in touch with comment sections, message boards, and any other discussion involving the Pirates. I then added my commentary on the subject. I believe that approach puts the site more in touch with what Pirates fans are discussing than other sites that ignore the comments and readers.

      Second, I’ve noticed that when you make this argument, it’s usually in an article that has a ton of comments. Right now it’s not even 1:00, and this article has over 140 comments. That’s the most for any single article since early August. Granted, I haven’t read all of the comments yet, but that tells me that this is a topic that people are discussing and find interesting at this time of year.

      Just because you are on one side of a topic doesn’t mean the other side is only represented by some remote group of fans. It also doesn’t make this a strawman, since these are actual arguments I’m discussing, and not something I made up just to counter. If I wrote an article titled “Should the Pirates Trade Andrew McCutchen For Prospects This Off-Season?” and argued no, then that would be a representation of a strawman and an argument that very few people are making.

      This topic? It’s been discussed many times already this off-season on this site, which is the audience I’m writing for. And it’s also been discussed in other areas, on other blogs, and in traditional media. When it reaches that discussion level, I’ll throw my opinion in there. You can continue to say that good journalistic sites shouldn’t take this approach. I look at it as a service to the readers to discuss something that clearly is a topic of interest, and I’d rather provide those services than try to maintain some traditional label of journalism in an evolving world of journalism.

      • Tim,
        I appreciate the fact that you reach out to respond to criticism. Right or wrong, it’s a big part of why I signed up long term for your site.

        I don’t agree with NMR’s comment about topic, but some good points within his comment.

        I find that this site has become a place for many of us Asylum posters, and new fans, and frankly I’m glad to have a place to go like that place used to be when it was at it’s best.

        I don’t always agree with your content… but I appreciate you listening to us all. Thanks!

      • I’ll give you this, you’re clearly not doing it on purpose. You seem to genuinely not understand what you’re doing.

        You cite the comments on this thread ad proof, except that you won’t find a single one that actually does what you claim. Argue for a “big splash” as no more than a means of generating attention. Misrepresenting one side so that an argument is easily defeated is *literally* the definition of a strawman.

        Every outlet produces topical work. That’s great! But the good ones simply do not distort one side of the argument so that their point hits harder.

        I just don’t see the value in poking at the extremes of the internet commenting world when the work should, and does, stand on it’s own.

        • Wow, who knew NMR was the site police and always perfect in his own right?
          Seriously of all the commentary this is some of your lowest. Move on.

        • “You cite the comments on this thread ad proof, except that you won’t find a single one that actually does what you claim. Argue for a “big splash” as no more than a means of generating attention.”

          That’s not what I’m claiming at all.

          • Fair enough, we must be talking past each other at this point.

            Always appreciate the interaction, regardless of agreement.

      • If you really want to respond to reader desire I think it would be awesome for us to have a forum (where there can be game-day chats etc). Other readers have suggested the same thing. I think it would drive more site-views too.

        Think of how awkward/hard it is for a reader to ask an unrelated question for one of the writers or the community…it is awkward because you have to go to a completely unrelated article and post something and hope it gets seen etc. It would be nice to have this more accessible…in a forum.

        • We tried a forum, but it got very little attention. It’s also really clunky to run a forum on WordPress, since it requires a plugin, and then a bunch of other plugins to format it. Basically, it’s a small feature that requires a lot of resources and a lot of maintenance.

          I’ve always thought of First Pitch and/or Morning Report as good discussion topics. They’re the post of the day, and there’s no rule against discussing other topics in them, especially when I discuss all of the daily articles at the end of First Pitch.

          I also had a though to do a daily discussion thread, especially on weekends when my focus is on the Prospect Guide. That would be totally open to any topic. Also, I got a few interesting comments in the surveys from people who said they enjoyed some of the off-topic stuff that I bring up on the site or Twitter. So maybe I’d put a small blurb there each day, followed by a thread of open discussion.

          My fear with stuff like that is that it won’t be used. The forum wasn’t used the first time we did it because everyone was posting in the individual articles. But I wouldn’t mind trying it out to see if it works for you guys.

          • I think with the way viewership has increased and advanced you would get forum traffic…a lot of it.

  • Stay the course, huh, fellas?

    There’s a very good chance in two years the story goes from “Stay the Course” to “Man, we should have done something while Cutch was in his prime and Cole was under cost control.”

    I don’t know how anyone in their right mind can look at the sheer number of outside players the Pirates have had to bring in over the last 5 seasons and feel confident about what’s in the system now.

    You want to cherry pick Russell Martin and AJ Burnett be my guest. For every one or two of those guys, you have your Rod Barajas, James McDonald, Rony Cedenos, Corrieas and a whole host of others.

    Acting like NH has made all the right moves and will continue to do so with this “value” and “market ineffiency” is foolhardy. Regression to the norm just doesn’t apply to players but Front Offices all over the sports.

    • Typical trolling. You are talking about moves made how long ago ?

      • And your saying they are just going to keep finding undervalue guys when their prospects flop?

        • “When their prospects flop” why is this a given? Apparently because guys like Taillon and Glasnow arent ML mid rotation arms by 4 years into their professional career we doubt the process.

          KC just won a WS thanks to massive patience in all their young hitters, some taking 5+ years to ever be average or better in the ML. No one acts like NH makes all the right moves, thats a false narrative. But its pretty ridiculous to make a list of guys we used 4 years ago and act like what we did at that time is similar to what we did 2 years ago. Pointing to James McDonald as failure is dumb.

          • “massive patience in all their young hitters”

            What, Volquez, Cuteo and Wade Davis didnt help?

            Hell, they used Finnegan to get the World Series in 2014 a few months after they drafted him, then flipped him for a piece in 2015.

            Hey, hows Connor Joe working out for you Luke?

            • Seriously dude, deep breath. You’re making fine points that are getting blown away by the comments like you last line.

            • You ruin a valid point and argument by nearly trolling at the end of every post. If you dont actually want to have the discussion its cool. But c’mon.

              I never said those guys didnt help, i never said they didnt get help from young guys, and the last part is trolling. What i did point out was that we cant get impatient with top prospects just because we expect them to hit some timeline of when they should be in the majors and good.

              At times, as KC showed, patience can pay off. Sometimes it doesnt to be sure, but acting like we are near flopping with a good deal of our prospects is reallllly premature.

              • I wonder, Luke, whether you see the patience work out better with hitters than pitchers, though. And would that change anything considering that the Pirates could use a couple rotation pieces?

                • Idk if it changes anything, they seem to be content (for good reason) in how they bring in guys and get them to perform. Even if they were low on their young arms, id suspect they’d keep going the AJ/Liriano route to find #2-3 type arms. Maybe they spend a bit more for that mid tier FA, but i dont see much more than that.

                  I think patience with hitters is more key. I think some hitters coming up and having great rookie years tends to skew some fans as to how some top hitters take time. If you get a hitter relatively ready development wise for the bigs, it can still take 2-3 years for them to become what they are. Where as i look at a pitcher and see highly talented guys as able to as least be #4 types within 1-2 years. But thats just me.

                  • What would your thoughts be if they could acquire Samardzija for $39M over 3 years?

                    Also, I hate to make this argument because I know the problems behind it…but I really am fearful about what happens IF Bell isn’t the answer at 1B. It seems to me that we really are putting a lot in this basket for a guy who wasnt good at all in the field and where there is no proof, as of yet, that he ever will be when there are still some concerns about his bat. I would be much, much more comfortable with another solid option (maybe Park) than I would be continually leaving 1B as a revolving door.

                    • I dont think they’ll do that+give up a draft pick. Id honestly rather give Happ 3 years at 11-13 million per year. Not that i think Samardzija is poor or unlikely to bounce back, but Happ seems like a capable #3 and a 3 year deal frees up that money by 2018 (so Cutch time).

                      Id rather go Happ+low buy reclamation than Samardzjia+low buy. Both would be neat, but not all that likely unless we get rid of Pedro+Walker/Melancon.

                    • What makes you think we will not get rid of at least 2 of the 3? And, really, could the Pirates not afford both Happ and Samardzija if they did move even 2 of the 3 and still have funds for Park? That is adding (let’s just say) $32-33M in payroll and subtracting $18M or so…

                    • If we bring everyone back, payroll is around mid 90s. So even if we take off 18, but add 32, we head into the year around 110. I think we could do that, but they wouldnt feel as able to add during the year.

                      I’m in the camp that is on board with moving Pedro, trading Melancon for a high yield. They could then go after 2 of Happ+Samardzjia+Park. 2 of those 3 upgrades areas and leaves enough to fill other areas out reasonably well and plan in enough for mid season needs.

                      Im not sure they’ll want to have 4 SPs on multi year deals (included Cole because he’s obviously sticking) with the chance for 2 high ceiling rookies at some point this year or next. It’d be tough to (if it happens) promote both Taillon and Glasnow if the rotation is Cole-Liriano-Samardzjia+Happ.

                    • I am not someone to go crazy about payroll, but I do think this team is able to head into the season above where they ended the season this year and still have some room to add. That means I do think we could add all 3 (again that assumes that the prices I was guessing at were accurate and the names could be replaced etc).

                    • I just dont see them starting at 110-120 and adding anything during the year. Or, they wont add anything worth adding as they’ll spend less than 3-4 million.

                      If they shed 20 million, and add 30-40, i think they will be largely done and roll with the team they paid to have. Park+Happ+Samardzjia is mid 30s to 40 million in payroll. You lose all 3 of Pedro+Walker+Melancon, and maybe you get there. I dont think PGH wants to roll with Hanson at 2B to start the year.

                    • I think this is an interesting conversation to have, though. Because I do not think it would be out of the realm of possibility to see all 3 players leave.

                    • Personally id be for it, depending on the return for Melancon. I have no issue with moving on from Walker+Pedro, but i fully admit it’d mean taking lesser offense in Hanson as a result.

                      Only way i’d be sad to see Walker leave is if they are aware that Kang’s recovery isnt going all that well and he might need easing into things even after healthy. But a healthy Kang makes this offense able to deal with a light hitter at the bottom.

                    • How about this, and I know what you’re going to say…add Kelly Johnson on a low(er) budget deal. Johnson and Harrison fill in at 2B and 3B with Kang taking over 3B once he’s back healthy. Maybe $3M for Johnson…

                    • The defense strays me from Johnson. If he’s a bench guy, he’s basically all bat and thats fine for 3M. But his defense becomes an issue for me.

                      If we are targeting a 3B fill in/bench role guy, i favor Uribe.

                    • I have always loved Uribe.

                    • Why do you think there will be draft pick compensation?

                    • He is going to be offered a QO and will deny it.

            • What did you do, come here when Smizik hung it up ? Same kind of comments I saw in the PG in 2009 & ’10.

              • Its okay Leo, Cole’s still has a year of pre-arbitration to go. Then the excuses here should get interesting.

                Cant wait.

          • I will give him this, though, Luke: it sort of is unfortunate that Cutch is where he is. Too bad he’s not two years younger with two more years of control. I think people, even the extremists, would be more comfortable with things if that were the case.

            • Id love Cutch to be younger, lets look into that (new market efficiency).

              • I think that is where a lot of the trepidation comes from. Cutch’s age relative to the age and readiness of our prospects. And, honestly, I get it.

                • I get it for sure, i just am not quite as worried about that situation. I want him to stay, and without him it’ll be different/tough to continue to be great. But thats a few years of development for guys like Polanco and Marte, and guys not in the majors.

                  For me, its daunting but not end of days stuff. I dont think that his end of contract is the window, and i think we can contend beyond that. It does create unease to see how that works out, but im slightly less freaked about it. Now, in 2 years if Polanco hasnt developed anymore that puts pressure on the FO to keep Cutch.

                  • I am more at ease because of Meadows and the potential for Bell to transition to a corner OF spot if need be (if we had a legit 1B prospect)…but I am also not in the camp where I dont think the Pirates shouldnt at least look to spend (either financially or in prospects) to acquire pieces at legitimate positions of issue: SS and 1B.

                    • SS for sure. If a deal for a young-ish, controlled SS came across the desk NH surely has to listen. If you are gonna spend on this team, id hope it’d be SS. With the Kang injury and most options 3+ years away, SS has to be a priority if possible.

                    • And I think that would be possible in a trade with Washington or Texas…especially if it involved Melancon.

                    • I doubt the Nats are moving Turner for anything. But id do a straight swap of Odor for Melancon and move Odor back to SS.

                      Not sure TEX makes that move though. They can have Mercer in the deal if they throw in a 10-15 ranked prospect pitcher.

                    • What about trading them Walker and Melancon?

                    • Odor has already broken out, though. He’d almost certainly be harder to get than Turner.

                      Profar is the one that’s attainable, and also by far the riskiest.

                    • I think neither Odor or Turner is going anywhere.

                      I just dont trust Profar, not for that price. His bat was already something less than desirable before also wondering about his arm. It’d be a bold move.

                    • Whoa whoa, bat was less than desirable? Come on, man.

                      You’re clearly knocking him for his big league performance, as *20 year old*. Twenty years old! Profar has missed two seasons and he’s *still* a year and a half younger than Gregory Polanco.

                      Bats up the middle don’t get much better than Profar’s.

                    • Its a mix of the bat+injury. Before the injury, ill play the upside on the bat and wait for him to mature and it to show up in the majors. Now, i’ve got injury issues with his ability to play SS (where’s his arm at) and still hoping his bat starts translating at the ML level. For a top closer, those are red flags.

                      Id take him, but bats up the middle dont get much better than his upside, not current numbers. His youth makes improvement logical, but not a guarantee. He could still be a 90 wRC+ hitter next year and while he’s sure his arm is fine, id love to be sure of that before slotting SS to him. All this along with the fact he’s well into his service time.

                      I dont mean to say i dislike his game overall or that the deal would be awful, but its high risk. 1 year of Didi Gregorious offense and he’s fair value (assuming he plays SS with his arm) and he’s really close to FA without any elite offense.

                    • Ha, wait, we were talking about Melancon? Lordy, one year of Melancon for Profar gets you laughed out of the room.

                      Always appreciate the conversation, but we’re way, wayyy off on this one.

                    • If Profar would even be considered for Melancon it should take about 2 seconds to say yes.

                    • I would like Odor or Profar.

                    • The Nationals need a closer, desperately. And they’ve spent a ton of money to have this team put together…they’re time is now…not waiting for a SS prospect.

                    • I dont think they are that shortsighted. They dont have a longterm plan at SS after next year, and if they lose Tuner the left side of that IF is a giant question mark really soon. They can contend and be very good beyond just next year with Harper+Turner+Rendon.

                      Good enough pitching staff controlled for long enough they dont gotta sacrifice that much.

                    • They also don’t have a shortstop without Turner.

                    • What if you could do the following: trade Polanco for Odor or Profar and replace him with the outfielder from Korea to lead-off?

                    • Dont hate it, dont think either of those guys moves for just Polanco alone. Not sure PGH is really going to rush to break up that OF. Rather trade Bell+a Ramirez type and post for Park. (not that Bell+Ramirez for sure gets Profar but it’d net some type of SS upgrade).

        • Please tell me which of their top prospects have flopped? Some have got injured. Some have taken longer to get to the majors than expected. But none that I’m aware of have made it to the majors and been an unmitigated failure.

            • Thats a hell of #$%^ing attrition rate right there, and im not sure it includes Tony Sanchez, Allie and a bunch of other HS arms that are back in college now.

            • Go back and pull every orginzation’s prospects from 2010. Pull some more crap out of your butt……troll.

              • Do you always have to be like this though? You are, honestly, just as bad at times. This isn’t life or death.

              • Been my point all along. Heck, its right it front of your eyes with the current 25 man roster. A lot of those prospects are going to fail, Leo. Yes, they did a good job the last 3 years plugging the holes, making up for it. But expecting them to just continue to do it, over and over again. Man, Im telling you, things have a way of evening themselves out. Isnt that baseball?

          • Well … Tony Sanchez was a complete flop. The Pirates could have drafted Aaron Crow, AJ Pollock, Shelby Miller or Mike Trout instead of Tony with the 4th overall pick of the 2009 draft. Now, they aren’t the only team that passed on Trout but c’mon man!

        • And you are saying they won’t ? I would say the odds of them doing that successfully are much higher than not. Given the fact that they have proven themselves numerous times over the past 3 or 4 years.

      • OK – how about Corey Hart and Ike Davis – “the long term solution to our first base problem”

        And nobody seems to want to acknowledge that keeping Volquez would have made for a much better rotation – and perhaps enough extra wins to catch the Cards. That move was not made to “stay within the budget”…

        I would much rather be a Toronto – and get to play more than one game in October – than the Pirates who have a really good bunch of prospects to brag about.

        • Cool, go root for the Blue Jays, then.

          • Here here William.
            Citing Corey Hart and Ike as something that is typical of NH, but Boston traded for a legit bat in Alan Craig….. oooh. sorry that didn’t work out did it?

            Not everything works out Bruce. For many reasons, many of them not even because of baseball reasons. Family reasons… who knows. Ike may find it next year in a different place… he may not. JD Martinez is a great example he was basically Ike and he found it. It happens!!!

        • Volquez and AJ had the same WAR, and you dont get both. If you get both, no way in hell you get Kang.

          • Why not? I don’t understand why it would have to be in either or proposition. The Pirates would still have been a profitable team if they got Volquez and Kang last season. Just not AS profitable. No way to know for sure but the Pirates likely would have been in a much better position to win the division if they had kept both Liriano and Volqez and signed AJ last year.

  • I prefer that NH have an offseason like he has had since he’s been here….quiet and productive.

    • Goddam, man. Im not asking them to unload the entire farm system and boost the payroll to 200 million. Always extremes in the blog world.

      • Arthur….exactly what did I say that provoked THAT remark?


        All I am saying is that NH has done right by the Bucs so far and I trust his judgment. That is HARDLY an extreme.

  • I’ve mentioned that I feel the playoffs are random, and the above is a big reason why

    I couldn’t agree with you more. In fact, the guys on the PBC Asylum are probably getting tired of my ‘mathematical randomness’ explanations. Heck, I gotta use that PSU Math degree somewhere, don’t I? 🙂

  • I’m all for staying course and I have total faith in NH but it’s fun think about the Bucs going out and signing Cueto or trading for Freddie Freeman. Now granted, I’m in the Josh Bell camp, but Freeman would be a significant upgrade and make the team better. NH is great at finding value though so, again, who knows but him. My biggest issue is the CBA which penalizes teams for starting the season with rookies. If any of Bell, Taillon, Hanson, or Glasnow are ready for the bigs come spring, they should be going north with the team without any strings attached. It’s a shame that we may be looking at “stopgaps” to hold the position warm for a few months until said top prospect can come up. I’d hate to be one of those stopgaps. You’re essentially a sitting duck.

  • I love to read the comments after an article like this…the extremes on either side. I will say two things: (1) I continually see “stay the course” as if we actually know what that course is or what plan NH has had simply based on past moves alone and (2) the vehemence over the splash move, on both sides, as it pertains to money.

    Listen, I think NH should win GM of the year for his work this past year. That doesn’t mean, though, that that was the way we always will or should conduct an offseason (although it would be nice to always find incredible value deals wouldn’t it?). I think that there are ways to satisfy both camps: the “stay the course” and “make a big move” camps and that is through utilization of our prospect depth.

    The attrition rate for prospects is massive…we expect 5 of our top 10 in the majors this year, but realistically how many of those should we expect to really be every day regulars…not based on our evaluations of them or our fandom but based on statistics alone? So we use them to get player(s) who are already productive major leaguers and let the depth step into their places.

    (I am not advocating that these clubs would do these moves or that they should…these only serve as examples). Consider: Gregory Polanco for Noah Syndergaard. That is a splash move with each team receiving essentially the same number of controllable years. Or maybe you sign Park (and still pay less even with the fee than you have been for poor production from 1B) and trade Bell and Hanson+ to Oakland for Sonny Gray. The point is that there are ways to fulfill both camps and get value for the team. Maybe NH will be able to do that or maybe he wont…but just sitting around and hoping on the prospects is folly and so is going crazy and making splash moves all over the place. The

    • You bring up some good points, but I think we can decipher the plan based on what has been done in the past. NH values prospects more than most GM’s seem to, rightly or wrongly, there’s no denying he refuses to trade his best ones for proven players.

      It’s safe to say he is attracted to value off-season acquisitions in order to keep payroll flexibility. Literally every FA has fallen into this category since he became GM.

      My point is it’s highly unlikely he will deviate far from what has proven to be successful just because they lost in the WC round again.

      • See, but I do agree with NMR’s well stated position that NHs rhetoric this year is different and this offseason does have a different feel. Maybe you’re right and that would be fine too…but I don’t think him deviating from his previous norm would be bad, wrong, or detrimental to the long-term vitality of the organization (or at least it wouldn’t necessarily have to be).

        I will tell you that if there is one fault to find with NH it may be that he over values his own prospects so much…because the attrition rate is so high.

        I also think that going after Park could still be a value signing. If the projections are anything close and if the Pirates see him as a legitimate power and offensive threat from 1B then the (guestimating here) $12M posting fee and $20M 4 year deal would be well worth it. He would provide value at 1.5 WAR a year. And create depth bc we would still have Bell…and then 1B from a huge weakness to at least a paper strength.

        • piraterican21
          November 4, 2015 9:11 am

          The hell with Trump, NMR for president

        • The one issue i have with “attrition rate is high” is that trading away from that means the same attrition rate with worse options. So if you do trade from the top tier of that list, that attrition rate hits you harder due to lack of quality options.

          To get a controlled, high quality ML option you lose 2 high quality prospects. That leaves you with lesser, and attrition still holds. I dont hate making moves using prospects, but the idea that him never trading his best 3-4 prospects is dangerous due to attrition seems just as flawed. If he never traded his mid tier guys, its one thing. But to sustain success, mid market teams have to hold onto top prospects like gold. They are cheap, highly talented, and allow you to focus elsewhere so long as you trust your development process.

          • That’s an aaawwwwful big caveat you sneak into that last line, buddy…

            • So the team isnt supposed to trust their development process with high ceiling players? I mean when discussing how high the attrition rate is, we at least have to admit that its far less so for guys that reach AAA and arent the talent level of Brandon Cumpton.

              If Glasnow were still in A ball, im all for high doses of skepticism. Same for Taillon. I just think painting all prospects with a broad brush isnt accurate. High talent guys that have done enough to make it to AAA (particularly in this system where rushing prospects is rare) have a clearly different attrition rate than prospects in general.

              Which isnt to say they are future studs, but the chances of Taillon becoming a useful back end SP and providing value (and relativel soon) is no 50/50 for me. If we defer to the idea that its 50/50 for prospects, that has to change when discussing the upper tier of all prospects and those in the upper levels of development.

              • No, the team is supposed to understand both their strengths and their limitations. That’s true in any walk of life. No organization is going to be great at everything.

                To date, the Huntington administration has been far more successful at professional talent acquisition and development than amateur. And it’s not particularly close. Polanco could break out, Bell develop power, Taillon/Glasnow anchor the rotation for the next half-decade, and this comment will look pretty silly…but from the information we have at hand, it’s true.

                If the organization is truly better at identifying and getting the most out of professional talent, then using prospects to get that is not at all a bad thing. Essentially it’s what has made Billy Beane successful in the past.

                • This! Yes.

                • Why can’t they do both? Continue to grow talent from within and fill holes through professional acquisitions of 2nd tier and below players?

                  You mentioned Polanco, but neglected to mention Cole or Marte as internally developed players. Not to mention Cutch, who has blossomed since Huntington put this coaching staff in place.

                  By all reasonable measurements, this system has worked out exceptionally well.

                  • Jesus…

                  • I dont think you cant do both. I doubt that NMR would argue that either. However, I do agree the Pirates have shown much better acumen at professional development than amateur at this point. Giving up a couple of pieces to acquire more professional talent for them to mentor/further develop would not be the worst thing to happen…

              • But what if Taillon (as you say a better than 50-50 “at least back end” pitcher) could team with some “lower level, high-upside” prospects to bring you back Sonny Gray (again, just a name)?

                • If they did it as a 1-1 trade, im for it. I just dont think any market sets up like that, and it costs 2 Taillon types or Taillon and a decent ML part. And at that point, its close. Its a ton of value for good value, etc etc.

                  If NH were able to part with just 1 Taillon like prospect and a Moroff type, even with throwing in an average ML option like Mercer, im in.

                  • But what if we weren’t talking about a pitcher now and, instead, were speaking about an impact bat at a position of need…say SS or 1B?

                • Yeah, if I were Billy Beane or any GM in his position, thats what I would do. Trade Billy Beane for an unproven due to TJ surgery, high level prospect for a proven piece like a Sonny Gray. SMFH.

          • Two things:

            (1)I am not quite sure that you’re completely correct with fact that attrition hits you harder. Consider this: you have 6 prospects and the attrition rate is 50%. That means 3 of them will be “successful” (lets not get into the varying degrees or definitions of “successful” at this point). That attrition rate does not change at all if you, say, trade 2 of them away. So you now have 4 prospects with 50% attrition rate and 1 “guaranteed” major leaguer (again, let’s just assume that you get a “known” commodity in the deal). That means you would end up with 2 “successful” major leaguers from your prospects and a major league piece. That is not so much different at all from what the potential end result is from the prospects.

            (Note: I think the above is a little fuzzy because I think the attrition rate is much, much higher than 50% and you could likely trade away 3 of the top 6 and only lose one actually successful/every-day player and gain a “star” in the process).

            (2) Your last sentence is absolutely huge. Attrition rate will depend on your developmental system. You have to look at the strengths and weakness of your system objectively and see where you can trade from. I’ll ask it like this: do you think the Pirates are more or less likely to develop a Jose Abreu? (and I just picked a name and you might not like him at all, but that doesn’t make or break the argument).

    • “The attrition rate for prospects is massive…we expect 5 of our top 10 in the majors this year, but realistically how many of those should we expect to really be every day regulars…not based on our evaluations of them or our fandom but based on statistics alone? So we use them to get player(s) who are already productive major leaguers and let the depth step into their places.”

      • This may well be true (and I will yield to you on the topic). However, I do not think it would actually convince me to change my stance much, if at all. Because there is, almost universally, differences in the qualitative data as well.

        I haven’t ever said that we need to play big-money baseball. Nor have I said we need to trade all our prospects or abandon a prospect heavy approach. I have said before, and above as well, that trading from the prospect depth that we have is extremely smart to get talent at positions of weakness (especially at the major league level).

        • I would be inclined to say you’re correct if NH didn’t have a track record of acquiring 2nd tier major league talent and turning it into top tier performing players. Especially from the pitching side of the game.

          For me, I’d rather them trade Melancon this winter if it means acquiring a better SS or 1B than trade prospects to fill either of those spots.

          • That is the point though, honestly…from the pitching side. We’ve done marvelously from the pitching side…but in the field I do have my doubts. I dont love the way we’ve developed Polanco or even Bell at this point (this has been discussed previously). I do not think I would be trading for more pitching. I do think I would acquire a 1B or SS though.

        • It’s not an intrinsic problem that qualitative data differs. The reason: no one claims that one qualitatively based judgement is true beyond a doubt. This is much different than the claim that the vast majority of prospects have failed to become stars. This is a well established fact. The problem with it is that it is true, but also trivial and all but useless when making a decision about a very talented prospect. The Pirates have no positions of weakness if one includes their top prospects and assumes the will become quality MLers. You might reply that most prospects fail and we should not make that assumption. But the fact that most prospects fail does not help us to use identify which prospects to keep and which to trade.

          • “The Pirates have no positions of weakness if one includes their top prospects and assumes the will become quality MLers.”

            Correct. After seven years, the Huntington administration has finally put together a complete team lacking complete back holes at any position. Congrats.

            Now the hard part…how do you improve on “good enough”. No successful organization in any walk of life stops trying to get better.

            • Umm, the prospects in the pipeline promise to make those improvements if they approach their ceilings.

              The Pirates have the prospects in hand that a Pirates 10 year dynasty is a feasible expectation for the future. This expectation would become much riskier if the team traded away prospects for one proven© MLer or if key prospects failed. Mistakes in these matters can produce awful consequences.

              • But I think it is, actually, more risky to put all of your eggs (for example) in the Bell basket than it would be to trade him for someone who has proven to be quite capable in MLB at that position.

              • Oh, that’s all?

                The Pirates *only* have to get prospects to hit their ceiling and they’ll be better?

                Boy, this game is so darn easy!


                • Right. If you believe any of the top ten will fail, tell us who they are and make a case defending the claim that they will fail. Claiming some will is just FUD.

                  • No, Steve, it’s reality.

                    Your prospect fear mongering is just laughable.

                    • Fine. Now is your put up or shut up moment: Which prospects will fail, which will be only disappointing? You must know.

                    • Steve, that’s the entire point!

                      I don’t. You don’t. Neal Huntington doesn’t.

                      Just the same, none of us know which ones will succeed making your “upside” comment nothing but a hope and a prayer.

                      You prefer to live in fear of trading “the one”. That’s fine, and understandable. But to claim with any certainty that simply waiting on the right guys to hit there upside at the right positions is going to be what gets this team to the next level ignores just how improbable those odds turn out to be.

                    • I don’t live in fear of trading “the one.” For thirteen years or so I’ve argued that the Pirates can contend only by building through the draft and by signing IFAs. The reasons have to do with the economics of the game and the inability of low revenue teams to acquire quality players in the free agent market. The Coonington Pirates have performed admirably, having built a contender in the cheap. The best way for the Pirates to acquire cost-controlled, very-productive players is to develop these players themselves. That’s exactly what they have done. Even the reclamation projects count as development gains. These players improved when they came to Pittsburgh. The Pirates got them up to speed.

                      Years back Nate Silver showed that an average team wins about 81-85 games. The wage budget for that team would be within reach of most organizations. To acquire the kind of players able to push the win total above 90 or more wins requires spending more per win above the 85 win threshold than it does for each win below the threshold. This point applies to players acquired in a relatively unencumbered market — namely, FA signings and players acquired in trades. Those players are exceptionally expensive, which is to say that the price per win increases more than the win totals themselves.

                      To beat this system, which penalizes low revenue teams, a team has to be smart — or, exceptionally rich. The Pirates are smart. Smart means building through the draft and IFA signings. Smart means knowing where and on what to spend the organization’s money.

                      I’m not intrinsically opposed to trading prospects and other players for players. I did not care for the loss of Herrera to the Mets. But… I did not criticize the Pirates for the players they traded this summer for rentals. But trading a Taillon, Bell, etc. better yield an All Star who leads the team to championships.

                    • But what if that is the case? I do not really subscribe to the line of thought that one player can make or break a team, but what if it did in this case? What if you can package Bell and Locke and a couple lower prospects for Freddy Freeman (again just a name) and Freeman pushes the lineup over the top and we win the division and finally make a long run that we haven’t been able to make with one-and-done?

                      I guess my point is that, just like prospects, you have no clue at all who will be the “All Star who leads the team to championships”….

                    • Except that it’s a complete, utter myth that the Pirates to date have succeeded due to “Coonington” drafting and developing prospects. They haven’t.

                      They themselves have proven that drafting and development is not the only way to succeed. It’s not.

                    • THIS!

  • The team has averaged 93.3 wins/season for last 3 years. To suggest they haven’t been successful because hey didn’t win a division title the last 3 years ignores the fact a WC team could just as easily win a title as a division champ.

    I just don’t see any reason to deviate from the formula that has produced successful results time and time again. Spending money on splashy moves means they won’t have financial flexibility to make moves in season to replace injured/poor performing players. And as Tim pointed out, it guarantees nothing.

    Stay. The. Course.

    • Preach it Scott!

    • I don’t think we have to worry much about them changing their philosophy Scott. I am pretty sure they will do exactly what your last line recommends.

    • If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. True. But as the farm system matures it will be fascinating to see how Huntington uses it. It appears we will have more talent than openings which will permit upgrades in quality at positions of need by exchanging quantity for quality. This will be a more cost effective way to go than signing high priced FA. But it will likely be unpopular until it works out.

      • I doubt very much NH will trade away his top prospects for a one-year rental, but if the A’s had approached him about Donaldson for prospects, then I’m inclined to believe NH would listen since Donaldson had multiple years of control for a somewhat reasonable $ amount. Who knows maybe they did talk and NH was unwilling because of the year JHay had in ’14.

        • I agree. But I was thinking more along the lines of combining several ranked prospects to obtain a highly rated SS in AAA that has MLB caliber but is blocked at his present team.

        • I think this is right. I think if someone approaches you with an option to acquire someone like Donaldson at a low financial cost, even if at a high prospect cost, you have to at least consider the possibility.

          Sometimes it is better if other people love/desire your prospects even more than you do (and that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be “down” on them).

    • The playoff are a crap shoot. Look at the NFL in the playoffs. How many time did the Steelers win the super bowl when being a wild card? I remember them losing twice with the best record and home field advantage. In baseball you have the same thing. If a team get hot (Mets) they could go to the WS. The 2nd best team in BB the whole season was Kansas City, and they won it all. That may happen 3-4 times out of ten. ( i don’t look things up, just throw things out for your edification.)

  • Excellent points Tim, there’s no reason to get nuts after a 98 win season & almost all will be back for 2016. Happ could make this a solid off season. Let the others kick the tires on Pedro, MM, and Neil.

  • Sometimes the right moves don’t make a splash, but sometimes they do.

    The Pirates have a good team and they could bring almost everyone back if they wanted to. But let’s say they decide to move on from Walker, Alvarez, & Melancon, to go along with Burnett and a few bullpen slots. If they use Morse at 1B, backfill the bullpen starting with Watson as closer, and get some sort of 2B solution in trading the first 3 guys, then they don’t have a lot of holes to fill. And if you don’t have a lot of holes to fill you might as well spend what’s left on the best guy you can get. If it makes a splash, so be it.

    • The point is: the Pirates “value” is different than dollars. I’m sure at some point the actual market equals the pirates value system- but usually not. NH is finding value where others are not.

    • I dont totally disagree, but “you might as well spend whats left on the best guy” isnt always true. You can A) save that money with the idea of spending it on certain in house guys later in extensions orrr B) extend a few guys that year if sides agree to a deal.

      They dont really “have” to use all the money they have just to do so, if they already get an AJ replacement they feel is quality. An offseason where they extend Polanco and find mid tier level FA replacements wouldnt be loved, but it’d be just as productive as signing David Price to a 7 year max deal.

      • That’s only correct in theory, Luke.

        If that actually happened in practice, the club should’ve been running annual deficits the last few years that would’ve been covered by the minuscule amount spent during the first four rebuilding years. I don’t see any actual evidence that money saved is somehow kept in a cookie jar for the occasions you cite.

        • I dont see it as being pocketed either, though. You’ll never really see that either way. If we dont spend what we assume we could have (which is a complicated discussion itself) and 2 years later we extend someone, its not a sure thing the money saved/put on hold went to that. but its not a sure thing we just kept that money and did nothing with it.

          Early on, i was plenty unsure of the organizations practices in that regard. At this point, i give them enough credit that they arent just not using money to be cheap. I think every FA decision is made/not made with longterm plans in mind. Like extensions to Polanco and potentially Cole. Money may not be put away for a later date, but they will plan for needing that for a player or two on a later date.

      • Luke, I agree they don’t *have* to spend the money just to spend the money regardless of the value… I meant to suggest if they have the money and they have the need they should spend the money to fill it.

        E.g. if they have $20M in the budget and need a 1B, don’t go looking for a $5M stopgap — go and get Chris Davis.

        • I think thats void of longterm aspects of team building. Davis is good but flawed, and 3-4 years at 15+ million a year isnt good spending habits. It makes retaining quality younger guys tougher.

          Attack SS, 1B is overpriced.

  • Yeah, who needs “splash” moves. Me, I’m glad my baseball team spent the entire Obama administration trotting out the odd Jeff Clement, Gaby Sanchez and several other players who barely played at a replacement level. Remember, the Pirates are smart because McCutchens agent is dumb, and they snookered Brian Cashman out of 3 catchers, all the while Geritt Cole makes 531k. #2016NLWC

    • JoseGuillensArm
      November 4, 2015 3:44 am

      “Sale the Team!” these guys don’t want to win, no doubt about it! They could’ve had Stanton, Price, and Tulowitzki if we just would have made a “splash.” It’s all Nutting’s fault, if he would just spend more money we’d have more NL Central Pennants than we could hang. Oh no, the three rivers are on fire, what are we going to do after that “miserable” season we just had?!

    • Ok, let’s play a game of name the player. You name a player who under performed expectations for Pirates the last 5 years, and I’ll name one who out performed expectations. The last one to name a player wins.

      You had two, so I’ll respond with Liriano and Burnett.

      Your turn Arthur.

    • Are you serious, Arthur?

    • Is Jeff Clement really your go to example? As a person who disagree with the ridiculous premise of this post, you can do better than Clement as the example. Hell, even Gaby is a dumb example if we care to realize he was good at what we got him for and Hurdle playing him too much against RHP was the clear issue.

      We trotted out Jeff Clement for 22 at bats in 2012, how dare they.

      • You must of missed the “several other players”. Thats okay, im used to you cherrypicking comments to fit your narrative.

        Cant wait to see you explain the Cole trade in a few years, apologist.

        • Hey hey hey, pleeeeaaassseee don’t bring back the “apologist” stuff!

          If you weren’t around during the “pro” vs “anti” years of Pirate interwebz you don’t know just how petty it can get.

          We all like each other here, or at least united in not liking me. 😉

          • I do not understand your boys trepidation to deal prospects and spend money.

            • Me neither, but trust me, it’ll get ugly if conversation breaks down to name calling.

            • In a nutshell, it’s like this; The Pirates will never, acquire an ace or superstar through free agency, unless he needs fixed. You should accept that now. The odds of trading for the same type of player is difficult at best without scraping the top layer of prospects off.

              The realistic chance the Pirates have at those type of players is to develop them yourself.

              For example, Chris Sale would be a desirable commodity for me. That trade would cost Glasnow, Bell, and Meadows and possibly more. Not sure I would pull the trigger for that.

            • The trepidation is that there’s mountains of evidence to suggest “dealing prospects and spending money” isn’t even remotely a guarantee of postseason success. Sure, the Pirates could dish out spex like they’re candy and hang a few future albatross contracts around their neck, but the only thing that will almost assuredly guarantee is that in 3-4 years, the Major League club will devolve into a 2000s-level mess as the core players decline, the Pirates are stuck with their millstone contracts, and the farm system is now barren. Maybe another cycle of total haplessness is worth it to you for maybe a ~5% greater chance of winning the World Series over the next few seasons. Me, I’d much rather the team continue to do things as it has been doing them, trying to keep things set up so that there’s a team with a realistic shot of winning the World Series on the field every year for the foreseeable future.

              • Again, extremes. I’m not asking for them to trade every prospect. Nor am I asking for a top ten payroll year in year out. But one significant arm or bat?

                All 4 of this years LCS teams made some kind of external move in either the off season or at the deadline that this franchise has never come close to doing.

                None of you can quantify it. And what’s worse is the Cubs and Mets have done all the things the lectures here are advocating, but will also continue to pursue the moves I would like to see. So does the sleeping giant in Houston.

                • If you arent “order bat or top of the rotation starter”, how did PGH not do what you want in signing Kang and bringing back Liriano.

                  Surely, they might not do that every year but how did PGH not make an eternal move in the offseason like others? We re signed a solid #2 arm to more than ho hum money, and found an impact bat. You are close to arguing that you must pay market value and have the media impact for the move or its not the same.

                  PGH doesnt do that move enough is fair, but if you arent demanding a TOR arm or huge bat, what are you ranting about?

                • Don’t forget that they TRIED to trade prospects for an ace in 2014. Prospects weren’t what it took.

                  • That’s fair Arik. Truth be told, as much as I would like to see a significant move, I’m also eager to see the fruits of the system. As much as people are arguing in favor of a tight grip on them, none of them have proven one thing or the other. All come with risk/reward. This conversation could be very different in a year. Fwiw, I hope I’m wrong and they all turn into stars or at least better than replacement level players.

                    Wonder why Tampa didn’t want any of them? 🙂

              • What William said! Getting in the playoffs 15 out of 20 years will yield more championships than a boom bust cycle of getting in with a 110-win team 3 out of 20 years.

                • Again, more fear mongering.

                  Those choices are not binary. They just aren’t.

                • Well, I think if you ask the Royals fans if they prefer to make the playoffs for the next 15 years out of 20 or win 1 championship and make one other championship in 20 years…I think they’ll take the latter. But how are these mutually exclusive? How does spending money or prospects create the above situation as you pose it?

                  • Basically, I’m arguing what many others have argued… that making the playoffs is good enough. If you are good enough to make the playoffs, you don’t need to overpay to add a player to marginally improve your odds in the postseason.

                    So, if the playoffs are a coin flip, or nearly so, the goal should be to have a competitive team every year, or nearly every year. To do that you need a steady flow of cheap players providing value (farm system) and solid ROI on your free agent and long-term spending.

                    So, the answer to your question: “How does spending money or prospects create the above situation as you pose it?”

                    I don’t think spending money is bad, nor do I think trading prospects is bad. Hell, I’m the guy that wants them to sign David Price! I also wanted them to unload the farm system for him last year (when they would get 1.5 years of him).

                    As someone wrote, it’s about risk and reward. If you don’t have unlimited top prospects, and you trade them for a two month rental, you break the pipeline of cheap value coming from the minors. If you commit too much money to players who don’t produce, you don’t have money to gamble on reclamation projects or to build a strong bench or a strong bullpen.

                    So, as william said, “The trepidation is that there’s mountains of evidence to suggest ‘dealing prospects and spending money’ isn’t even remotely a guarantee of postseason success.”

                    That is where my trepidation comes from as well. These moves marginally improve postseason odds, but significantly impact the odds of even making the playoffs down the road.

                    Having said all that, I *do* want them to spend $140/5 years for David Price. Because I think that is a good investment. I *don’t* want them to trade Glasnow, Kuhl, and Brault for 2 months of anyone next July, because I think giving up 6 years of control of 3 guys for 2 months of control for one guy is dumb.

          • I very much enjoy your posts, NMR.

          • I agree.

            About the apologist stuff. I like you NMR.

        • Seriously, step back if you are this troll like with it. Its not needed and we can, and have, argued without all that crap. “fit your narrative” “apologist” and all that are 2010 troll level stuff. We are beyond it, arguing similar things in far different contexts.

        • Oh I saw “apologist.”

          I think we’re all supposed to drink.

      • And you nailed it… Hurdle is the problem. He stepped in to the perfect situation of when this team was ready to take off and got all the credit… But I argue the team would not have collapsed those two years and been much better these last three with a better manager in the clubhouse… Unfortunately we are stuck with him now because you don’t fire a manager after 98 wins… even though I would argue they would have had more without him…

        • “better manager in the clubhouse”. I’ve litreally seen it all when someone calls Hurdle not a good enough players manager.

          Sorry, thats dumb. Its the 1 area Hurdle excels at most. Yup, the team fell into 98 wins despite the skipper. He has faults, like 95% of managers, but its insane to say he fails at clubhouse management. Unreal thing to complain about.