First Pitch: A Slow Pirates Off-Season…For Now

Things have been pretty quiet for the Pirates so far this off-season. They’ve made some moves, but so far those moves have been the expected ones. They added players to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 draft. They added a few cheap waiver wire guys, traded for Allen Webster, and signed a few minor free agents. They non-tendered Pedro Alvarez. But they haven’t really started adding the big pieces that they need for the 2016 season.

That really shouldn’t be a huge surprise. The Pirates have been aggressive early in some years, such as last year when they added Francisco Cervelli and A.J. Burnett in mid-November. They also struck early in 2013 when they got Russell Martin. But for the most part, moves all around baseball really pick up during the winter meetings.

Last year the Pirates did add some players early, but then they were quiet until the meetings came around. At that point, they were pretty busy, adding Francisco Liriano and Antonio Bastardo, and finalizing the Sean Rodriguez trade, which came a week before the meetings. Another move that took place right before the meetings was the addition of Clayton Richard. After the meetings, they continued making moves into January and February, with the addition of Jung-ho Kang, and the Travis Snider trade.

The Pirates have some expected moves to make this off-season. They will shop Mark Melancon, and I’d expect a trade. They’ll also shop Neil Walker, although I’d have to think it would be difficult to replace him, to the point where a trade wouldn’t make sense. If they did trade either player, they’d need to find replacements. They need a number three starter, and the early signs are that they’re looking at some reclamation projects. They’ll need bullpen and bench help, as every team does in the off-season. And they’ll need more options at first base, especially now that Alvarez is officially gone.

A lot of those moves should come next week, or at least will start to gain traction. It’s not always a guarantee that things get finished during the meetings. Back in 2013 they didn’t sign Liriano until after the meetings, and they didn’t trade Joel Hanrahan until after Christmas.

The off-season is long, and really doesn’t kick off until the winter meetings. Last year the Pirates made a few key moves during this time, but still had a few big moves reserved for later in the off-season. While this year has been a bit slow, I’d expect that to change next week.

**David Todd Podcast: The Alvarez Non-Tender, Happ, Pirates Pitching Depth. My radio interview with David Todd, discussing the Alvarez decision, and a few pitching related off-season moves.

**A Look Back at Pedro Alvarez’s Career With the Pirates and a Look Ahead at First Base. A long look at Alvarez’s history with the Pirates, and where they go from here.

**Starling Marte Named Best Left Fielder in the Majors. Marte seems to be very underrated, and surprisingly that’s true in Pittsburgh. It’s probably because he’s not traditional in any way. But the overall package gives you one of the better players in baseball.

**Winter Leagues: Polo Off to Strong Start in Colombia, Osuna Homers

**Pirates Non-Tender Pedro Alvarez and Jaff Decker

 

  • HartHighPirate
    December 5, 2015 1:28 am

    DBacks signed Zack Greinke 6 Yrs $ 205.6 million. Age 32 announced today.
    Annual value of contract will be $34.4 million the largest in MLB history

    http://m.mlb.com/news/article/158861948/zack-greinke-to-sign-with-d-backs

    • Burnett and Happ are gone and there is so much uncertainty about the 3-5 spots in the rotation both as to the quality of the men currently penciled in and the timing of the arrival of Taillon and Glasnow.
      Can anybody shed some light on why inexpensive starting candidate Liz was cut loose?

  • Grienke deal…another out of this world contract.
    Madness. Totally unrealistic.
    I had thought the Pirates had a rough road ahead this offseason but if they don’t hit on a trade or two or get a few good deals on non-tendered FAs, it might be a tough season ahead.
    Possibility that NH grabs his magic bag and pulls a few rabbits out?

  • Can someone answer this question. I believe Tony Sanchez is out of options.
    If so, why is he still on the 40 man roster. I understand we are going to lose
    him because that he would not clear waivers in the spring. Is this true?

    • There is always a possibility of a backup catcher being useful to another team by trade. ST allows the PBC to look at him again and in the event of an injury keep him.

      If he doesn’t clear waivers after ST, anyone claim him.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    December 4, 2015 4:23 pm

    With the money we will not be paying Burnett, Alvarez, Bastardo, Happ, Ramirez, and hopefully Morton, why can’t this team go out and sign a Kazmir as a stop gap measure? He’s older, but proven – not a three month fluke like Happ – and would be a solid #3 – then you could slot Glasnow and someone else as your backend. When healthy, Taillon and/or Kingham come into play.

    • Agreed. He’s 31 I think. Or Fister. He’s the same age. I’d offer either of them 3 years, in the range of 12-13 mil per. I’d trade Locke and pick up either Masterson or Cahill on a flyer (I’m leaning towards Cahill given his ability to pitch in the bullpen) and use him as a 5th starter until they bring up Glasnow.

      The rotation could be Cole, Liriano, Fister/Kazmir, Glasnow, Morton with Cahill as a spot starter/long reliever in bullpen.

      • I don’t see Fister taking a three year deal unless someone vastly overpays him. I think he wants to be vastly overpaid for one year, then vastly, vastly, vastly overpaid for three when his next contract is signed.

        Had you asked me a month ago, I’d say his value topped out $6-7M…now…who knows?

    • Probably because Kazmir isn’t signing for less than 3/$45m at this point. That’s way more than a stopgap by their standards.

      • That’s still pretty reasonable money and term, though. And it would be a moveable contract if younger, cheaper guys knock on the door to push him out, and we’d probably get alright value back in that deal. Like I said before, I would much sooner spend 3/45 on Kazmir than I would 3/36 on Happ, and I don’t think it’s outlandish to think the same of the Pirates’ front office.

      • Kazmir might get 50 now if somebody’s giving Lackey 2/32. Wow.

    • Be careful what you wish for with Morton…yes, he spent the second half in the toilet. Replacing him with a similar pitcher would probably cost just as much.

      And they’d still be left with two holes in the back of the rotation.

      • I really realllllyyy thought the day Mike f’ng Pelfrey signs for a higher AAV than Morton that we’d avoid some guy saying he’s overpaid. Lordy.

  • Henderson Alvarez was nontendered, and I’d be giving him a definite look if his shoulder’s healing up alright. He’s not even 26 yet, and he’s had two solid seasons under his belt. Throws hard, gets ground balls, could fit in nicely in the middle of our rotation. In fact, if we’re going the reclamation route, he’d be my top choice.

    • I like that idea and was thinking the same when he got cut loose. It’s definitely a Pirates type of pickup and imagine what Uncle Ray could do with him if he were healthy..

  • If the Pirates do not act his off season this could turn into a transition year. Transitioning guys like Glasnow and Taillon into the rotation. I am a bit worried about this rotation. Especially, with the Cubs looking to add Lackey and probably another SP (Lester,Arrieta,Lackey, free agent or trade,Hendricks ) and the Cardinals looking like they are on the verge of signing Samardzija who you know is going to get back to his usual performance. (Waino,Wacha,Samardzija,Martinez,Garcia). The Pirates rotation as is cannot compete with those rotations and I do not see them spending on somebody more expensive than Happ was…. All this and we are losing some pretty significant offensive pieces in Alvarez, and maybe Walker ,and most likely our league leader in saves in Melancon. I see no better time than the present for Neal Huntington to break his ways and spend some significant money or trade off some top prospects to even up the odds a little bit with the Cards and Cubs. I think it’s clear.things need to get done or we will be a 3rd place team trying to get scrape out another Wild Card… I am not trying to be pessimistic . I have never wanted them to spend big or trade away the future but I feel a sense of urgency right now..

  • I’m starting to like Lackey for a #3 starter. 2/$30M per fangraphs crowdsourcing project. Then a reclamation project like Cahill and/or Masterson would be fine. If they stick, try Locke in the ‘pen.

    • Lackey is likely going to the Cubs.

    • I wouldn’t like Lackey on this team, He doesn’t fit the club house personality at all he’s got an arrogance about him that I don’t think would fit well with the chemistry of the team.

      • Well, every time I’ve hung out with him*, he’s been polite and generous, almost deferential, and he never lets me pay the bill even though he made league minimum last season.

        *never

  • Guys the Pirates should be seriously considering at value prices:

    Cliff Lee SP
    Henderson Alvarez SP
    Juan Nicasio RP/SP
    Steve Pearce 4OF/1B
    Mike Minor SP
    Tim Lincecum SP/RP
    Josh Johnson RP
    Will Middlebrooks 1B/OF
    Oliver Perez LRP
    Derek Holland SP

    • Will Middlebrooks is bad at baseball. Not Pedro bad, but “why would anyone even have him in the majors for any amount” bad.

    • Nicasio is too platoon-prone to trust in leverage situations but could be a really good middle relief arm with command tightened up a bit.

      Modest improvement from Caminero plus a guy like Webster or Nicasio to pair with Jared Hughes gives the club a potentially good group of 7th inning types.

    • I’d like to see us bring in Alvarez on a couple-year deal. Nothing long-term, but more than our usual reclamation projects, I see him fitting in longer-term, being that he’s not even 26. Lee would be intriguing on a one-year tryout-type deal. Could be a huge-upside play with an obvious giant risk attached.

      Johnson, Nicasio, and Perez are all interesting bullpen options, too. If we don’t bring back Bastardo, Perez would be pretty good in that second lefty role. Johnson would slot in nicely as Watson’s setup man if Melancon is dealt. Nicasio is really intriguing as a 7th-inning option with upside beyond that.

  • Speaking of reclamation projects, do you take a flier on Cliff Lee? Perhaps he can become AJ Burnett part 2?

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    December 4, 2015 10:50 am

    Considering our starting rotation currently consists of Cole, Liriano, and hopes for 3 days of rain, what are the chances the Pirates actually try to sign a good starting pitcher for 2016? Not one of the big, high price guys (like Greinke, Cueto, etc.) or another reclamation dumpster dive signing, but a guy who could come in and be the #3 and be solid in that role?
    I hope the Pirates give Glasnow a sincere and legitimate shot at a spot, but Taillon and Kingham may still not be ready in the Spring. I assume the team will not pony up what it would take to bid on the Japanese pitcher (Maeda?), so who is left to consider? I’m not a big Leake fan, but a guy like Chen or Kazmir would be a great fit.
    In terms of a trade, what do you think it would take in prospects to get Shelby Miller?

    • Take a look at the my post above. See what you think?? I just think a big move should be made to get past the Cubs, Cards, and IMO the Giants especially if they land Greinke!

    • Polanco for Miller and an additional pitching prospect (Lord knows they’ve stockpiled enough). Then go resign Snider and have him platoon with Broxton in RF.

    • Be prepared to be underwhelmed. And then hopefully, pleasantly surprised at how well he has pitched on June 1st.

    • Maybe 5%?

      I’ve said it before, but 2016 as a retooling year is quite possible.

      You won’t find an actual mid rotation starter in this market sign for less years or AAV than JA Happ, and the Pirates never made a serious attempt to sign even him. I simply don’t see any logical way, based on precedent, to believe they will be a player in that level of free agency this year. They’re going to sign a reclamation arm on a one year deal and leave the table open for Glasnow and Taillon.

      I’ll also be surprised if Huntington doesn’t trade Melancon assuming there’s at least a half-reasonable return, and they’re clearly not adding any sort of potential impact first baseman in front of Josh Bell after their tepid chase of Byung-ho Park.

      Without making a trade bigger than any Huntington has done as a contender, I really don’t see much reasonable opportunity to do anything *but* marginal moves with the hope of outsized value. There are few positions to upgrade considerably that don’t have prospects filtering to them in the next two years, and it take changing course for Huntington to do anything but what I suggested above.

      • Agreed. At this point, it’s one year deal bounce backs, extensions and trades.

      • 3/36 for Happ — I don’t blame them for not going after that. 2/30 for Lackey is not gonna cripple the team even if his arm falls off.

        I don’t see this as a re-tooling year exactly. I see this as a bridge year… stay good with the old guard while the not-quite-there prospects get ready. Keep basically the same team this year, but next year Walker, Melancon, Morse, Morton, Locke, (maybe Watson too) will all be gone and they’ll be suddenly younger and cheaper.

        • Those two terms are synonymous for me, and I don’t necessarily blame them for passing on Happ either. But it is what it is.

  • Mike Pelfrey is off the table…

    …32 at start of 2016, a 4.00 FIP, and 4.7 K/9 just went for $8M.

    • Insane!

    • To be fair though, he doesn’t give up HRs, he pitches well enough to keep his team in the game, and he eats innings. He was worth 2.0 WAR according to Fangraphs and 1.5 by B-Ref. So when you think about that, although his peripherals aren’t the strongest, its not a totally out of proportion.

      • People would lose.their.minds if Jeff Locke was given that deal.

        And Pelfrey isnt all that different than Locke right now. Less walks, less Ks, slightly more innings, worse periphs.

        • People in Pittsburgh may, but other teams in need of a number 4 or 5 starter would definitely consider Locke at the same price. IMO he’s similar to what the Pirates saw when they traded for Wandy Rodriguez. An innings eater who keep you in ballgames. Expecting much more from a 4/5 is a little selfish I think.

          • Wandy Rodriguez came to the Pirates coming off four straight seasons of 3.50 ERA or less baseball.

          • You confuse Wandy from PGH-onward with Wandy prior to that.

            • *sad trombone*

              • I hate that move irrationally. Well not irrationally, but my level of hate is higher than it should be. 0 signs of dangerous injury history, perfectly capable mid rotation arm.

                Shows up and finds an injury that basically ends his productive ability for his career. Sigh

      • In one season in the last five he’s been rated at 1.4 WAR by BBR.

        He’s been injured for two (totaling 0.1) and healthy for two (totaling 0.1)…I get your point, but he’s been a 1.6 WAR pitcher over the past 5 seasons.

        Maybe he’s a bounce-back candidate…but we’re talking about going back to 2010 to find his last solid season.

        More power to him if he studs out…but, to me, this is more of an indication how high the floor is getting for pitchers with minimal success.

        Again, not arguing with what you’re saying…but, if you heard the Pirates snagged Pelfrey…would you think $9M was acceptable? Heck…even after Happ’s second half last season…folks were assuming he’d only be a little more expensive than nine…and that was after a 3.0 WAR season.

  • I don’t understand trading Melancon if you nontendered Pedro and eventually trade Walker. You should anticipate playing low scoring, one run games and equip your team to do so.

  • piraterican21
    December 4, 2015 8:39 am

    Melancon to the Dodgers for Kike Hernandez, he’ll become our 2b. Walker to the Angels for Hector Santiago and he will slide in as our #3 starter.

    • Saw the Walker/Santiago swap asked on MLBTR. Was it you? Ok deal if you come up with someone to play 2B.

    • Lol you think dodgers trading kike for one year of melancon at 10m?

      • Is it that crazy?

        They obviously don’t care about the $10m part, and a player like Hernandez will always be one a team like the Dodgers is trying to improve upon.

        • I don’t know. Hernandez is projected at 1.5 war, more than double melancon next year and has 5 years of control. He could be 3 war player IMO- great defense. I think he profiles as a better brock holt. And yes I realize war has it’s deficiencies for relievers but I think kike jphernandez has more value than most realize

          • Oh I don’t disagree with you at all, I’m just saying that a team like the Dodgers could easily replace a guy like Hernandez. He’s expendable. If they miss out on O’Day and don’t want to give up serious talent for someone like Chapman, giving up a utility guy for a shutdown 8th inning arm could be attractive.

            • I can’t be certain but I think the Dodgers may value him as more than a utilityman. I’m not deadset on trading Melancon but I think I would gladly take that return for him.

    • Still think Boston will be where Melancon ends up.

      Lot of teams want bullpen arms, but you have to both be a contender and fairly wealthy to want Melancon for one year at $10m. Do more than five or six clubs even fit that profile?

      Boston has a bunch of marginal young big league talent without a home, and that seems like exactly what Huntington would go for. Travis Shaw splitting time between 1B and 3B could help, add an arm that won’t be making their rotation and you’re probably talking about the best big league package you could reasonably expect to pull.

      • I want that to happen just to see the faces of fans of any other team in the AL East.

        • And don’t you think that’s the kind of thing a guy like Dombkowski would LOVE, especially after his laughable job trying to put together any semblance of a bullpen in Detroit?

          • I did, i really really wanted to see him get moved there. Not sure even Dombo is dumb enough to move enough talent to get Melancon and Kimbrel though.

            Even if its only 1 quality prospect and a mid level throw in, that’d be a sizable chunk of the depth for BOS to lose.

            Fuck it, Dombrowski is that type of idiot.

  • Just wondering, I ran into a discussion on MLB Sirius/XM radio about the futures of the Cubs v. White Sox and their different directions. From a Sox perspective, the prevailing thought was GO FOR IT now or rebuild and get the best deals you can for your players including Sale and Abreu. It got me thinking, and I know it’s a pipe dream, but what it would it take in prospects to pull off that kind of blockbuster. Could the Pirates afford it and would you do it. Because in my opinion it’s going to take that kind of thinking to get through the NL Central with the Cards and Cubs set to dominate the next few years. I exoect it would start with Glasnow, Taillon, Meadow, and Bell. 3 Top 50 prospects and Bell and then maybe add Harold Ramirez. The first 4 being just about ready for the big show and they could team them up with Carlos Rodon. Is that enough???
    Sale, Cole and Liriano best 1,2,3 in all of baseball hands down.
    Abreu could fix our 1st base albatross.
    Extend Polanco and Cole.
    Trade Melancon and Walker. Allow Harrison and Hanson to battle it out for the 2nd base gig.

    • 1B Abreu
      2B Hansen/Harrison
      SS Mercer
      3B Jung-HO
      LF Marté
      CF Cutch
      RF Polanco
      C Cervelli/Diaz
      Starting Rotation:
      Sale
      Cole
      Liriano
      Locke, Morton, Webster, Masterson
      Bullpen:
      Watson
      Hughes
      Caminero
      resign Bastardo
      NH magic
      Bench:
      ?
      ?
      ?

    • I agree that a major move similar to your suggestion may be necessary. I could see one of Marte, Polanco, or Bell moved along with a pitching prospect for a big move. I can’t see both of Taillon and Glasnow being moved.

      • No way Marte is moved. He’s on a team friendly contract and really has put it all together. I’m not convinced Polanco will be better than Marte. His defense and speed are too valuable, let alone the power he is developing. He and Cutch are obvious near untouchables.

    • It’s just not feasible with just prospects. I’d have to imagine Polanco or maybe even one of Cole or Marte would have to be in the deal to even get close to what it would take.

      I also disagree that a big move like that is really needed. This is a very good baseball team easily capable of winning the central.

      • To your last point, even healthy with Jung Ho we weren’t beating the Cubs. They’d throw Arrieta out there minimum 2X likely 3 if we made it to 7 and the other 2X our of 4 it would have been Lester. Another pitcher that pretty much shut us down most of the year. And lets not forget about their bats. That is the type of move its going to take. Strong pitching, solid lineup, solid infield defense, solid outfield defense to compete and get past the Cubs and Cards in our own division. And if that type of move is made, we are legit World Series contenders for the next 3-5 years.

        • So include Polanco and take out Taillon. Then we’d have to find ourselves a RF (Keon Broxton???). The deal would be Polanco, Glasnow, Bell and Ramirez for Sale and Abreu??? Is that enough??

        • CHC will be good. STL will be good.

          Beyond that, acting like they are both going to be unstoppable is a waste of time. It wont take an act of god or a flurry of moves to make PGH solid as well, and good teams can fail in any given season.

          No reason to act like we gotta make a huge move for big talent to be as good as CHC.

          • This boils down to two types of mentality; some would prefer to aggressively make the Pirates themselves a better baseball team, and some would prefer to sit back and hope for the best.

            • You cant actually believe thats a fair way to represent both sides of the argument. You arent dumb, and its dumb to suggest one side is actually going “well guys just hope for the best.”Its just silly.

              Hell, thats not even a fair way to pigeon hole the opposing side. Its so broad it encompasses all involved. I feel we should aggressively make the team better. Where the two sides actually differ is how to best be “aggressive” and in what areas. Aggressive is surely not a synonym for spending more.

              Some would prefer the team be aggressive and spend a certain amount in order to play bigger in the FA market. Others prefer not to wade too deep into the FA market to spend, feeling fine about low buy options supplementing what exists.

              • “…feeling fine about low buy options supplementing what exists.”

                And it’s merely coincidental that this side, to a man, seems to be the one that also says “playoffs are luck LOL”?

                Ok. You’re free to believe that.

                • Id argue saying “luck plays a larger factor in the playoffs than it does the regular season” is different enough than “its luck”.

                  Clearly talent plays a role, but idk why anyone would actually think luck isnt a large deal breaker in the playoffs. Or another way to phrase “luck” should be random variance. Random variance plays a higher role come playoff time, regardless of having Kershaw+Greinke in your rotation.

                  • “… but idk why anyone would actually think luck isnt a large deal breaker in the playoffs.”

                    Who said that? Certainly not me.

                    Of course luck plays a *huge* roll, but it’s very often how a team capitalizes on said luck that actually decides who wins and loses.

                    Some prefer to land Johnny Cueto at the deadline so that he’s on the mound in Game 5 of the ALDS. Some prefer to build a team good enough for the playoffs and hope for the best.

                    • A portion of those “some” that want Cueto….didnt want him a few years ago because he hadnt had a big playoff game.

                      That aint you, but its a portion of people arguing to go get an ace. There is no way of telling which ace will throw like an ace in the playoffs on any given day. It certainly wasnt Cueto until he did it.

                    • Many organizations don’t want Cueto even now due to the fact that he doesn’t like pitching on the road in those situations. When you have to schedule your playoff assassin for all home games and your younger, supposedly less trustworthy pitchers on the road, what do you really have ?

                    • And that’s exactly my point here, Luke. There *isn’t* a way of guaranteeing a guy like Cueto pitches like an ace when it matters, but there *is* a way of guaranteeing he doesn’t, and that’s not making the move in the first place.

                  • Also don’t blindly assume I’m saying that the aggressive path is always better; getting so defensive shows a lack of confidence.

                    Uber-aggressiveness can lead to some very bad decisions. But it can also land the player for the situation that decides a series, and that doesn’t show up in any metric.

              • FWIW, when I said “sit back” I didn’t mean literally do nothing. I meant it as waiting for the pieces to fall and try to find value in what is left.

              • San Francisco is another team to be concerned with especially if they land Greinke. MadBum and Grienke is more than a formidable top 2.
                Back to finances, they’ve non-tendered Pedro, the overwhelming presumption is that they’re moving Melancon and maybe even Walker. With those 3 moves alone it should be enough to clear enough money off the books to bring on a Sale and Abreu as mentioned in the earlier post and still stay within the projected payroll. Further, they could bring on a Justin Masterson on a 1 year reclamation project deal. That is a significantly improved rotation, better infield defense and a bonafied #4 hitter behing Cutch and in front of Jung-Ho and Marté.

            • Luis Heredia nods his head, and goes back to his nachos.

            • I’m just of the opinion that Cutch and Cole are gone in 3 years or so (I don’t know how many years each has left exactly). And I’d rather see them make a serious run at it now and not look back 4
              years from now and wonder.

            • Not exactly… the two mentalities suggested are “big move” or “no move”. They can make moves that aren’t big moves and still make the team better.

          • The Cubs aren’t going anywhere and they’re going to only get better over time + whatever other pieces they add to an already talented and YOUNG line-up and rotation.
            Yes , the Cardinals have temporarily lose Heyward, But maybe he returns. Wainright is coming back and if he’s healthy there’s another Pirate killer to go alongside Wacha and Martinez. Yadi is coming back healthy too.
            I’m just being realistic. The Pirates better improve drastically to weave through this highly competitive NL Central. And that doesn’t even begin to address the hurdles facing the Giants and Dodgers or Mets and Nats.

            • Why are the Cubs a sure thing to only get better over time? Why have we decided to defer to that as assured but we can hum and haw about young players on our team and regression?

              I see 0 reason why we just assume CHC and its young players all see little to no regression. Yes, thats a good team that wont get bad. But they all only get better? Young players with good seasons dont just always to a man get better and better. CHC is not immune to players having poor years and making things less than great.

              • This is the definition of a circular argument, Luke.

                • I just want to know why it is we have decided that CHC and its young talent is basically only going to improve. We dont ever assume that of PGH players, and its far from obvious guys like Schwarber are a sure bet to not hit regression.

                  It seems to totally place PGH at a disadvantage in an argument to assume another teams young players will only improve their stats while we wonder about if a few of ours guys will get better or stagnate/regress. CHC is prone to the same laws of poor years as everyone else.

                  • What?! Dude, take a step back.

                    We, as fans, *absolutely* assume(d) guys like Cole, Marte, Polanco – hell, even Jordy Mercer! – would get better. Look at how many guys this week even still hold out hope for Pedro freaking Alvarez for christ sake. And other than the Alvarez fan club led by yours truly, we were correct to do that. Good young players typically stay good young players, and an awful lot of them turn into better veteran players.

                    The Cubs simply find themselves at a point – relative to the Pirates – where many of their most valuable position players have yet to establish themselves to the same point of the McCutchens/Walkers/Mercers/Martes. Its completely logical to assume that the group, as a whole, will improve. They almost certainly will. Schwarber may regress, but Addison Russell and Jorge Soler may improve. Or Javy Baez could figure it out. Or Billy Mckinney could be better than Soler. They simply have a *ton* of good young players.

                    The Cubs won’t be so far and away better than the Pirates that random variation, your favorite friend, can’t leave the Pirates easily in position to best them but objectively speaking, yes, absolutely the Cubs are a better team moving forward.

        • If you think that Cubs rotation is strong, you have a much different out look on MLB pitching than most of the experts and scouts. After Lester, Maddon didn’t trust one guy to go more than 4 or 5.

        • Why do we talk about Arrieta like he’s God?

    • Pipe dream. No way does NH think this way. He’s all about gathering talent, developing it, using it to win at big league level, than trading it before it gets too expensive and/or has the most value for younger, less expensive talent. Rinse and repeat.

      Some fans may not like this approach, but this has proven to be the best way for small market clubs to stay competitive for the long haul.

      I personally think by the end of 2017 the Pirates could feasibly have the best rotation in MLB with Cole, Liriano, Glasnow and Taillon. Probably be damn good by September of this season, just in time for an extended playoff run!

      • “… than trading it before it gets too expensive and/or has the most value for younger, less expensive talent.”

        Not arguing with you, personally, but this simply is not true. It has never once happened.

        • I was thinking the same thing.

        • Jason Bay? Paging Jason Bay!

          • Wait are the Pirates rebuilding all the sudden?

            • The idea is to avoid rebuilding NMR. It’s about restocking on a continuos basis.

              You know better than that.

              BTW, others traded at their height of value by NH include, Jack Wilson, Freddie Sanchez, Hanrahan, Snider, and the blonde CF whose name escapes me now.

              • No no. I agree, but other than the teardown years, they *have not* gone to the extreme of trading guys at their peak. Hanrahan was widely discussed as having peak value the previous trade deadline, which makes sense give service time and cost. Martin, Liriano, and Burnett were straight up allowed to leave for free. Good call with Snider, though. He’s the only one truly at peak value to be traded.

                Point being that they implicitly have kept guys past peak while in contention, which means there’s something to *not* always focussing on the future but instead trying to balance that with the present.

      • you’re putting a lot of faith in Glasnow and Taillon because Cutch and Cole won’t be around the Pirates forever. Sale and Abreu are reasonably priced difference makers. Yes we would give away a lot, no doubt, but it would put us in prime position to make a serious run at the World Series for the next 3-4 years.

        • You are putting a he’ll of a lot of faith in a Cubs offense that strikes out a hell of a lot and goes into the tank against good pitching just like every other team with poor contact skills does. Not only that, their top pitching prospects are so far away they can’t see daylight. Sale is reasonably priced and that is one more reason that it will take a lot more to get him out of Chicago, and too high priced for anyone but the Dodgers and Yankees to acquire. Speculating on deals is one thing, but being irrational is another.

        • Ok, I’m not the GM and neither are you. We can debate the benefits of doing this trade all day, but the fact is there has never once been any evidence the Pirates under NH operate in the manner you suggest.

          They believe in stocking the farm and maximizing the odds of talent bubbling up to the top.

          • So you’re choosing to believe they lied to fans when then said they tried getting Price at the deadline two years ago? 😉

            • No, I also think they went after Stanton, too. The thing is we both know NH isn’t going to overpay.

    • Bell is a top 50 prospect. Some rankings have him top 30.

    • recent news about the top ten in their position will show that NH is doing the right thing. Left field…Marte #1 Center Field…McCutchen #2 Starting Pitchers…Cole #9. All home grown. Even big market teams are looking at keeping there farm system in tack and extending their elite talent. This monopoly money is going to be put on youth.

    • I have a better chance at becoming the President o the United States than the Pirates have of signing Cole to an extension with Scott Boras as his agent. He’s gone before 2020 starts

  • FA Pitchers have owned the market since the end of the WS, and sensible agents are sitting back and waiting. There will always be another LH hitting 1B available for the short term, but Josh Bell has to be in Pittsburgh by the earliest possible date. Even though his primary attention was on adapting defensively to a totally new position, he was a very strong hitter at AA and then an excellent hitter in his 120 AB’s in AAA with a slash of 347/441/504/945. And, only 3 errors in his 35 games at AAA.

    He is ready, but will probably benefit from at least a month at AAA – is that more than enough time to avoid a Super Two situation? I think Kris Bryant was held at AAA for two weeks last year and that was all that was needed.

    • Bryant was a different case though…it wasn’t that he was avoiding super two status, but that the cubs would be losing a year of control over him if he was up too early…I think…

      And I believe the super two threshold is usually around the beginning of June…correct me if I’m way off base 🙂

      • Thats usually pretty close to accurate in terms of Super 2 cutoff date.

        CHC indeed did hold Bryant down purely for an extra year of control….bummer.

        • Never understood them getting hell for that. Brilliant thing to do for a guy who will cost an arm and a leg one day.

          • If anyone had doubts about if fans will always get mad about that process, they are dead now.

            Its always a good move, and always makes some fans get oddly mad about not having a player for roughly 2 weeks.

          • And earn a minuscule fraction of what he’s worth.

            I’m sick of siding with owners raking in almost 60% of the pie on these Super 2 issues. Everyone cries poor, and yet everyone is swimming in money like scrooge mcduck.

    • I think (hope) the timing will be good for Bell. He’s not quite ready yet, but he’s close. Bryant was held for the years of service date, which is like 10 days, but they’ll hold Bell for the Super 2 date, which gets later and later into June each year. In his case, though, he’ll need every day of that.

      The question is, once that date passes, do the Bucs call him up then? Neal feels that despite our clamoring, they rushed Polanco. He definitely mentioned he feels he may have messed up Pedro by rushing him. I think/fear he’ll be conservative.

      I generally approve of that plan, but on the other hand, every player is different. Some respond to being pushed, others regress.

      I think a lot of it depends on who, if anyone, they bring in to play first for the first couple months, and if/when Morse gets hurt.

      • For some reason, I see Bell/Glasnow coming up later in the season (like September late). The FO always makes it a point to mention the risk of “rushing” a player. Heck, they still say they rushed Polanco. So, I think they leave Bell and Glasnow in AAA until later in the season. Especially since neither has had much time at the level. Obviously, I hope both Bell and Glasnow dominate and it forces the FO hand, but that’s my feeling right now.

      • I think you’re right about NH being conservative with him and other top prospects, and I think you’re wrong about performance of whomever is playing 1B in Pittsburgh.

        I believe NH thinks if you have a performance issue on the big league team and try to fix it by promoting a guy who isn’t ready, one problem will turn into two problems.

      • They did rush Polanco. 150ab’s inAA and 350 in AAA. Should have played a full season in AAA. He didn’t have the pedigree or age that Bryant has. Also, being a giraffe doesn’t help.

    • Bryant was held back to gain extra year of control. Super Two deadline passes sometime in June usually. Super Two is all about avoiding arbitration after two years. They are two different matters altogether.

  • One final word on Pedro. With all the fret about him turning into a 40 homer guy somewhere else, there is at least an equal chance that he is either out of baseball or signing a minor league contract in 2017. If he doesn’t perform this year he could be done.

    • Pretty impressive first round pick

      • Better than the Tony Sanchez pick.

      • 6 WAR is what it is. He may have underwhelmed, but even for a #2 pick he’s given enough value that he should certainly be remembered as worthy of where he was picked. Tough to foresee his defense being a reason he loses 1 WAR like value late in his years in PGH.

      • He was compared to the guy taken ahead of him.

    • Yes. Or playing in Japan.

      I wish him the best, but as others have suggested, he may be a head case. Get yourself a good shrink Toro, and maybe you can turn this around. And get rid of that leach Borass as your agent. He can’t be helping Pete’s development, although he’ll probably make him a rich man in the next few weeks.

      • He’s already a rich man, even before he set foot on any Pirate soil. But I think I’m in tune to what you’re saying…richer.

    • BuccosFanStuckinMD
      December 4, 2015 10:51 am

      If he goes to the AL as a DH, I fully expect him to hit 40 HRs – especially if he ends up in one of those small parks like in NY, Baltimore, etc. But, why fret about that? The NL doesn’t have a DH, and he kills the team in the field.

      • An awful lot would have to go right to get him to 40. Not sure there are enough plate appearances vs. RHP in a season for him to get there. Maybe if he played in a division with no LHP starters.

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