First Pitch: The Trust the Pirates Have Earned For This Off-Season

I don’t know when it happened, but there was a point in time where I started trusting everything J.J. Abrams was associated with. LOST is one of my all-time favorite shows. Person of Interest is criminally underrated, and might be my favorite show, period. It’s basically how it would be if there was a real life version of Batman, which kind of makes sense, because the show was created by Jonathan Nolan, who was a writer for The Dark Knight. If you’re looking for something to watch on Netflix, give POI a shot. Let them get through the “case a week” format for the first half of the first season, and you’ll end up with the quality of show that you don’t usually get on network TV.

Back to the Abrams topic.

At this point, it’s easy to look back on his track record and see why I trust anything he does in the future. He revived the Mission: Impossible franchise with MI3 after Mission: Impossible II was a nightmare. The TV side of things have produced some hits, even including shows I haven’t seen, such as Alias or Fringe. The movie side had a few smaller success stories like Cloverfield and Super 8 (with both sticking to a monster/Sci-fi theme).

Then there was the big breakthrough, when Abrams rebooted the Star Trek franchise. I was never a Star Trek fan at all, but the new movies have been outstanding.

Finally, there was the new Star Wars movie, which was just as good as the original movies, and made you wish that Abrams was in charge of the prequel trilogy. After that, I reached the point where he could be attached to any project, and my response upon hearing about the project would be “Please, take my money.”

I bring all of this up in part to get you to watch Person of Interest, but also because this is somewhat similar to my approach with evaluating Neal Huntington’s moves. I don’t know when it happened, but at some point I just assumed that future moves would work out, based on a strong track record.

I didn’t have that feeling at first. I liked the direction the Pirates were going when Huntington and company first took over. I thought they were making the right types of moves that a small market team needed to make in order to rebuild and become a playoff team. But I wasn’t sure if it would work. In fact, after the 2012 season, I wrote that Huntington should have one more shot at turning the team into a contender, and that the Pirates needed to move on if it didn’t work out at that point.

Huntington went from having me cautiously optimistic about his moves and direction, to the point where I now go in with the expectation that a move will work for them, especially with pitchers. That’s not to ridiculous extremes. For example, Kyle Lobstein was acquired today and projects as early season rotation depth, and not much more than that. I wouldn’t expect him to become a key player on the team. But expecting Jon Niese to bounce back from his down 2015 season, and return to the 2.0+ WAR player that he was from 2011-14 is totally reasonable.

Looking back, it’s easy to see how I got to this point.

A.J. Burnett was the first big breakthrough in the pitching market, after a few success stories before him. We’ll call Burnett the “LOST” of this comparison.

Then there was Francisco Liriano, who would probably get a Star Trek comparison if we’re going on the quality of the pitcher. But I’m focusing on the added trust that the move brought. In this case, it would be Person of Interest level. It’s something that made me think the first big success wasn’t a fluke.

The smaller movies like Super 8 or Cloverfield would be the equivalent to the small moves like Jeanmar Gomez, Vin Mazzaro, and Vance Worley. They were minor in comparison, they were good at the time, but they’re not something you want to see over and over, year after year.

Edinson Volquez would be Star Trek in this example. That’s probably the point where things were on the verge of “I expect every pitching move to go right”. And if that was the Star Trek example, then J.A. Happ would be Star Wars, where after the move, I was left amazed, saying I would expect every pitching move Huntington made in the future to work out.

I can’t say I’m there yet with the position players. Sure, Russell Martin was a massive steal, and Francisco Cervelli was a great follow-up. Jung-ho Kang has also been a huge addition. Maybe if Jason Rogers turns out to be the next big steal, I’ll get there. For now, I’m in pre-Volquez territory, where they’ve had some success, and you let them prove that this wasn’t just luck, but you don’t expect anything big.

The reality about this is that not every move Huntington makes — pitching or hitting — will work out. It’s entirely possible that Niese won’t revert to that 2.0+ WAR pitcher. It’s possible that Ryan Vogelsong won’t be a good swingman, or fifth starter, or whatever his role is expected to be. It’s possible that the next Star Trek sequel won’t be good at all. But the track records trump the bad year that Niese is coming off of, the seemingly zero value that Vogelsong has, and a trailer heavily focused on a Beastie Boys song.

I’m not going to tell anyone how they should think. But I am going to tell you how I think. I’ve already written that I think the Pirates have earned trust to complete an off-season and let their plan play out. Because of that, I’m not going to be complaining on December 21st, and probably won’t be complaining on January 21st or February 21st. For one, I don’t see the point of complaining in advance. I also feel like it’s acceptable to let the Pirates complete their off-season, see how the moves play out, and then criticize the moves if that criticism is warranted.

I often see a common line from people criticizing the team, saying they will gladly go back and admit they were wrong if it turns out the Pirates made a good move. My though is, why can’t you do the opposite? Why can’t you let the off-season play out, assume the Pirates know what they’re doing, and then admit they had a bad off-season if that was the case? Based on their history, it makes a lot more sense to give them the benefit of the doubt at this point.

Regardless of which side of this debate you fall on (shoot first vs wait it out), we’re all just waiting for things to play out. Some of us are waiting, expecting more to come. Some are waiting, and fearing that the Pirates are done already. I personally don’t think they’re finished, and that’s backed by the approach they’ve taken in previous years. Only time will tell if I’m eventually looking back at this and saying they should have done a better job.

**Order Your 2016 Prospect Guide and Gift Subscriptions in Time For Christmas. We’re now offering priority express shipping, which allows you to get your Prospect Guide in time for Christmas. Order before December 23rd and add the express option to your cart. We also offer gift subscriptions through Christmas morning for any last-minute gifts.

**Making Sense of the Recent Moves by the Pirates. Today I looked at the moves from last week, trying to make sense of a situation that is largely unclear, due to the fact that there is still so much time left in the off-season.

**Pirates Acquire LHP Kyle Lobstein From Detroit. This was a glorified waiver claim, and adds emergency early season rotation depth to the system.

**Pirates Looking For a Left-Handed Bat at First Base. The Pirates clearly aren’t done at first base, although I wouldn’t expect any huge moves here.

**Breaking Down Jose Osuna’s Winter Ball Success. John Dreker broke down Osuna’s big off-season over the weekend.

**Winter Leagues: Ortiz Continues Hot Streak, Boscan Shutting Down for Winter

  • Good piece Tim. “Based on their history, it makes a lot more sense to give them the benefit of the doubt at this point.” One thing has become evident to me when reading much of the Pittsburgh media coverage of the Pirates. And that is the adage that there is nothing common about sense.

  • Han shot first, but I will not.

  • Tim – I like your perspective. Well communicated and I am hopping in the boat with you.

  • Wow tons of great stuff on here today. I think it is reasonable to take a “wait and see”approach. The Morton trade looks to be 100% a salary dump to free up money to make an impact signing, so let’s wait and see. I’ve been watching Niese for years, and he’s been a quality pitcher during that time. He had a down year in 2015, but he wasn’t horrible, so let’s wait and see. I think people tend to sometimes value HRs out of context. We don’t need to replace Pedro’s homers necessarily. Pretty much his only asset was the long ball. His D was terrible and he didn’t take a lot of walks. What if we replace him with a higher OBP and better defense? Will that even out? Let’s wait and see. S-Rod at 2.5 mil is a solid move. He’s not a star, but he gives you an MLB-caliber replacement at multiple positions. Finally, we can’t know for sure what the market for first basemen is like. The Pirates don’t want to have to commit several years and a chunk of cash at a position where they have the “player of the future” coming up this season.Is that a risk? Well, certainly, but that’s part of the game. Bell will surely have growing pains at the big league level, but the organization has invested plenty in him, and eventually he needs to be turned loose to figure it out. They know him really well, so maybe they do know what they’re doing with him. Maybe we will briefly take a hit having him as our first baseman, but maybe our stronger defense will help offset that (it’s too soon to write off his defense at the position). Let’s wait and see. One final thought: I’m a little concerned about Bell going forward as a switch hitter. His righty swing appears to be lacking. I wouldn’t want him to end up as a mandatory platoon guy. I’m wondering if there’s any chance the organization will push for him to hit lefty exclusively?

  • Love your point of view on this Tim!

  • This is obviously my opinion….I see nothing wrong whatsoever with NMR’s approach on here. He sees something he doesn’t like and he voices his displeasure. Seems that some on here have thin skin and are ultra sensitive and don’t like his straight forward debating. I subscribe to this site for Tim and Co’s stories, but to read NMR’s rebuttal to Tim’s glass half full take on every Pirate topic.

    Keep up the good work, fellas. This is well worth the price of admission!

    • I agree NMR adds to the value of my PP subscription. Do I agree with him? Not usually. NMR is very intelligent, but his intelligence is limited compared to NH.

      NH has a team of people smarter than NMR on the myriad of ways to scout, analyze and value talent.

      Add to that the fact the Pirates have been successful under NH, and it’s obvious to me NH is the steak and NMR is the sizzle.

    • I don’t have a problem with people voicing their displeasure. I’ve been watching NMR freaking out about the off-season in every comment thread we’ve posted lately. Haven’t said a thing about it. Still not saying anything about it. He’s not banned or anything. I’m just not going to waste my time arguing with someone who is attacking my objectivity and motives.

      • I gotta tell you this is easily my fav Pirate site. I peruse the other sites to read up on the Buccos….Well, I used to peruse pirates.com until the immature idiots ruined it. Go read the comments on that site and it will make you physically ill….The topic of conversation over there is rarely about baseball, just a bunch of vulgar kids playing in the playground.

        • I used to post there. Started this site right after getting sick of that same stuff.

          • It’s much, much worse today than it was in 2008-09….That’s when I started posting on that site and stopped entirely 2 years ago. Zero moderators and if you disagree with a poster on there, they not only verbally assault you with name calling, they physically threaten you.

    • It’s not so much WHAT nmr says, it’s how he says it that bothers me. And maybe it hits extra close to home because I feel like I act the same way a lot of times about certain topics and later regret it.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    December 22, 2015 2:36 pm

    Although I understand the general point of the article and I do want to trust that the Pirates FO has and will be making smart moves this off-season, past success doesn’t guarantee future success.
    If you need a recent example, Shero and the Penguins FO – in the beginning, they made some good moves, benefitted from very high draft picks (Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Fleury, etc.), plugged a few holes here and got the team to the Finals two years in a row, winning the Cup in the second Finals. Since then, Shero traded away nearly all of the team’s marketable young prospects and most of their first and second round picks over multiple years, in an attempt to get back to the Finals and win again. Although some aspect of that was admirable and appropriate, there needed to be more constraint and balance. Now, the current team is in shambles, up against the cap on an annual basis, and have very few prospects that you can point to and be positive about the team’s future – even in the near term. They mortgaged the team’s future, with one short-sighted trade after another for 3-4 years in a row – with little to show for it. Now, Shero and two coaches later, the team is a mess.
    So, just because NH (with Searage’s help) made some good recent moves in regards to reclamation pitcher projects – Liriano, Volquez, Happ, etc., they have not been successful with any significant position player FA signings or trades, with exception of Cervelli and Kang. Am I overlooking anyone else?
    Other than when the team was picking in the top 5-15, the recent drafts have been curious at best. The team is not aggressive in the International market – especially in Latin America including Cuban players.
    I have already expressed my frustration with this team’s reluctance to trust and use their own young players and prospects. We seem to be wasting what has been built and blowing a big opportunity.
    As I’ve said before, making the playoffs is nice and satisfied me the first year – but the last two years have been frustrating because the team should have won the division both years – and would have avoided the ridiculous one game playoff.
    Now, the Cubs are racing ahead – and we seem to be in park – hoping that we can catch lighning in a bottle again and be successful. Relying on unexpected reclamation projects success is not a good long-term strategy, but that seems to be the strategy now. I see no evidence that is contrary.

    • What about relying on Cutch, Marte, Polanco, Cervelli, Kang, Cole, Liriano, Melancon, Watson, Cameniero…..

      • BuccosFanStuckinMD
        December 22, 2015 9:13 pm

        The Cubs finished one game behind us last year…since then they’ve added a lot of quality. And those rookies from last year will likely be even better in year two. We can’t stand still and expect to win. In fact, as of right now, IMHO the Pirates are weaker than the team that ended last season.

    • If you are like me, at least you can watch Machado play in Baltimore.

  • Thanks for the tip, Tim! I will check out POI.

  • It is pretty annoying we are so hung up on this 90 win projection and here are reasons y:
    1. It’s a projection, morton is projected to be better then neise but somehow that projection is ignored when evaluating walker return, morton dump, and current rotation
    2. If they reach 90 it is a huge step back, understanding that 98 is a big win total, but still a big step back
    3. 90 wins won’t win you a wild card with all the other teams improvements and wouldn’t have got you to playoffs last year either.
    4. A bunch of that projection did not have vogelsong in your rotation lower war figure then morton had dropping below 90 and hanson as a high projection making opening day roster which won’t happen cause of super 2. Serpico is no where near projected at hanson figure so it even drops that further.
    5. It doesn’t take into account the external factors that effect other players performance. By saying that I mean that losing pedro and walker in lineup changes its dynamic and changes how other players will get pitched, where they hit, when players steal etc. I think it is a good assumption that players like cutch and marte will not be pitched as favorably knowing morse/Mercer is hitting behind them compared to walker/pedro. Thus possibly affecting their numbers as well.
    6. Last year’s figure represented a better figure it coming out later. This projection came out way earlier and as we can see it has already dropped below 90.
    7. Why are we excited about a figure that’s below 90 based on what has happened since which wont make playoffs when last year we had 98 and if we made a couple mid teir moves could have kept that pace. Why shouldn’t we expect to them to put that kind of product on the field. It is incredibly frustrating that people r ok not competing with those teams, money aside we still could have with some affordable pieces.
    Someone always seems to have something to say whine, prove with numbers. I would love to hear feedback on this!!!

    • I think it’s equally as annoying to be so hung up on the current roster like today is February 30th.

      • And ur assumption is that they are going to make this huge impact move being realistic?

        • My assumption is they have a plan and they’re going to stick to it. I also assume that NH wants to win.

          • They have stuck to it stay within self imposed budget. That isnt saying Huntington doesn’t want to win but a cervelli trade can’t be pulled off every season and it’s unfair and unrealistic to assume Huntington can.

      • And still no actual rebuttle on any point that I made. Just again whine, annoying etc.

        • 1.) I think that in the long run Niese >= Morton. Niese hasn’t spent any time w uncle Ray. Also more controllable. If he’s the same as Morton, then so be it. As far as I can tell they traded 1 year of Walker for 3 years of Niese. If you take into consideration what starting pitchers are getting paid these days, this could end up being a good deal.
          2.) Nobody is ever going to project a 98 win season. I think last year they were projected to win 91?
          3.) You can’t just expect that the Cubs or Cards are going to win 100 games next year. Just like I don’t expect the bucs to win 98. Anything can happen.
          4.) I have no clue if Vogel will even be on the 25 man on opening day. Also have no clue whats going to happen w Hanson etc. All speculation at this point.
          5.) It also doesn’t take into consideration how much the lack of defense on the right side negatively affects the defense and pitching staff. We may see a huge improvement there. We may see a huge drop off. Maybe nothing changes bc the two factors balance out.
          7.) Still have time. Also, look at the cubs opening day roster compared to mid season last year. Not exactly the same but we may be looking at a similar situation. They hung around .500 until the all star break, and then really caught on once the young guys started contributing. Maybe we’ll see a little but of the same.

          • All are fair points but we gave up walker for neise. If we can only hope he is better then morton that’s shows how lopsided trade was, not to mention you gave up morton for nothing.

            • Also more competition for wild card now so you can’t afford to be floating round .500 midseason.

            • Morton for nothing blew my mind. They must have completely lost faith in him.

              • I’m not upset they got rid of him or lost faith but for nothing is mindblowing

                • So if you think about it they really gave up morton and walker for a pitcher that could be same as morton or lil better. Could have used those players to trade for an impact player I just didn’t understand their logic

                  • I def don’t understand the Morton deal at all. Maybe someday they’ll tell us but I doubt it.

                    I actually thought that maybe Morton would have a bounce back year. I’ve always liked him so I was routing for him.

    • This is the best comment you’ve made on this post today. It says you think 90 wins is overly optimistic and you provide valid reasons why that might be true. It’s a good counter to the objective analysis. That’s the thing that’s been missing from most of the sky-is-falling commentary that’s been permeating the comments for weeks now.

    • 1. I’m not sure what your point here is. I didn’t like the Morton dump alone. They’re a better rotation with him in it, and Vogelsong doesn’t change that. But if this move leads to an upgrade over Morton with the saved salary, then it’s fine. One of those deals where there are still two months until Spring Training, and a lot can happen.
      2-3. Projections are never going to be in the 98 win range. They represent the 50 percentile. Teams can exceed those projections or dip below them. If I knew enough about the depth charts for the Cubs and Cardinals, I could do a projection for them, and it wouldn’t be 98 wins for either team. That’s just not how projections work. Last year they were projected for 90 and won 98. A few years ago they were projected for 83 and won 94. It all depends on how much goes right and how much goes wrong from the baseline.
      4. Morton wasn’t included in the projection. Vogelsong actually replaces Nicasio in the rotation, with Nicasio moving to the bullpen. Also, I don’t think Hanson is a threat for Super Two.
      5. I haven’t seen any studies that show lineup formation impacts the way a player performs. I think the biggest factor that the projections leave out in regards to Pedro and Walker would be the improved infield defense without them, which will boost the pitching staff.
      6. The early projection this year was 91, and it hasn’t dropped.
      7. Again, a projection isn’t going to show 98 wins for any team. The fact that the Pirates are projected for 91 is a big deal, especially when there are a lot of realistic ways where they could improve on that number (which were detailed in the writeup).

  • There isn’t a whole lot of difference between Jon Neise and Mike Leake beyond their batting averages and which arm they pitch with. The Pirates are winning the off-season in the division IMO.
    It’s not over either, but we’ve spent wisely so far, and I’m hoping we aren’t finished. Two 35 year olds in Chicago and 80 mil for Leake…. Uh…. no thank you. I’d rather spend on better and younger talent. Hopefully there is still a good signing coming that makes sense from NH.

    • Unbelieveable. Truly unbelievable. Please tell me what we have done that is better then lackey, zobrist, heyward, or even leake who I’m not even high on. I think you have started the Christmas egg nog early.

    • Mike Leake pitched awfully well in the Great American Bandbox. I’m still trying to understand how Niese gave up more HRs at home than on the road last year.

    • BuccosFanStuckinMD
      December 22, 2015 2:40 pm

      “The Pirates are winning the off-season in the division IMO.”
      You cannot be serious?

  • Undercovers…. it was terrible

  • Leake and KASMERE don’t do anything for me let’s move on. Get Taillion ready and let’s go. Cubs and Cards are good but who cares. Extend Cervelli and get a bullpen arm. In the words of the great General Anthony McAuliffe “NUTS” AND WE KNOW HOW THAT TURNED OUT. I am officially done stressing about this team. I like it and let’s go to war with it!

  • Well with Leake gone that really only leaves Kazmir as a possibility IMHO. It goes against the front office M.O. to give up a 1st round pick to obtain one of the others still on the board. I guess NH could surprise with a trade for someone we aren’t thinking about but in reality if we don’t grab up Kazmir then I don’t see a big pitching free agent pick up before the beginning of the season. Good news is that the Cards and A’s are out of the running for Kazmir so there is that…

  • Two questions for discussion:

    Are any of these presumptions wrong?:
    – There is a top of the FA market that the Pirates can’t/won’t participate in.
    – The bulk/middle of the FA market requires overpaying in $ and years.
    – The Pirates FO is actively trying to get the best return possible for expiring/overpriced assets.
    – Team-controlled years are the most valuable asset that exists in the market

    Is there a presumption that the Pirates seem to be operating under that I’m missing?

  • Just one question for Tim or others.

    1) Do you think Melancon is still on the trading block?

    Trying like Tim to stay positive.
    Merry Christmas to all..
    Dave

    • I think he is. I don’t know if that’s positive or not. I’m just aiming to be realistic.

      • Tim, you know in the past, I have not been the biggest
        Melancon fan, but at this point don’t you think that if
        they would trade him without it being a blockbuster
        return that it might cost the team some season ticket
        purchases and lead to a lot of skeptical fans?

    • If I had to guess, I would say yes…and no.

      I think he could easily be moved for what he’s worth…and the return would be beneficial. I also think the Pirates are holding out for and overbuy.

    • He is, but the price is currently more than a team is willing to pay. That could change the closer arbitration case date comes.

      • IMO there aren’t many teams willing to take on the anticipated salary that MM should get. Wonder if the Pirates are going to have to send some cash along with him if a trade develops.

        • I don’t know. Some of these teams pay Zach Duke and John Axford 5 million per. I just dont think they want what amounts to a one year rental. They aren’t parting with a top prospect for just a year of control.

    • I hope not, we need a good closer.
      MERRY CHRISTMAS!

  • The only thing I can’t see is how trading Walker has helped. Hear me out.

    It would have made more sense to make an agreement with Walker, use him as either the 1B or 2B until mid season, and trade him then for more value, to a team that needs the bat for the playoff push. We get a quality guy for half the season, then Josh Bell and Alen Hanson move up to replace him.

    That’s about it. He would be worth more to us in the first half of the season, and he would get more in value during the season when other teams are more aggressive in going after that last piece.

    • I dont think you trade Walker mid season. If the Pirates were in a pennant race, no way I would want NH to trade him. If they were out of contention by then (which I doubt), then sure, trade him. I dont know how much you get at that point honestly. 2 months for a good second baseman, but not a guy who has much profile or hype. We wouldnt be getting the return the Reds got for Cueto or even what the A’s got for Zobrist honestly. Its possible, but its not a sure thing.

      NH likely didnt see next year being a scenario where the Pirates would be sellers at the deadline, so its either trade Walker now and dont trade him at all and let him walk at the end of the season. I see merit on both sides of the argument. I wanted them to keep him just to give this group one more chance, but NH obviously didnt want to lose him for nothing, so he traded him. I understand the return. I would have preferred a bit better, but again, this may be an instance where we are overvaluing a player, just because he was our guy. Walker is good, but for getting only 1 year of his services, there’s limits to the interest level I’m sure teams had in acquiring him.

      Here’s a decent analogy, lets use Mitch Moreland as an example. NH was interested in trading for him. We dont know what the ask was, but it was for a guy who was coming off a good year, pretty comparable to Walker statistically actually. Moreland had better ops, but Walker had a slightly better WAR. Anyways, it seems based on rumors the ask by the Rangers was Morton and probably Elias Diaz. For 1 year of control of Moreland, NH would likely had to give up their #4 pitcher and their future young catcher with 5-6 years of control ahead. If NH made that trade, it would have been okay for me, but they possibly would have lost that deal over the long term. It would have been a short term move. So using that analogy with a similar level player, why would another team’s GM overpay for Walker, just to get 1 year. I would have liked to have seen a prospect thrown into the deal, but overall NH didnt get bad return in the trade.

  • 1st post ever. Fan of the site for a long time. Probably because I generally agree with the articles. Why? Because they are usually accurate and regardless of various opinions seem more objective to me than the cliff jumpers. I do love getting my daily chuckle from the mega pessimist but that might be my weird sense of humor.

    Anyhow, I find myself agreeing with this article too. There were too many past moves Huntington made that I questioned, but ended up being very strategic and smart. So I give him the benefit of the doubt. Is that being objective? Don’t know but seems like common sense to me.

    Love LOST and POI, but really love Fargo.

  • Hey Tim. Great call on POI , I made the mistake of watching the 1st episode at like 11:30pm and was up till 5am watching episode after episode about a week ago.

  • For years, I felt the same way about the Steelers. They always seemed to know exactly when to release a player.

  • One thing that struck me when NH was hired was that there was a plan. As time went on, I did not always agree with plan. I still think that NH should have put more emphasis on high upside everyday players like Manny Machado instead of young arms. But there was an actual plan, AND NH seems to have a tendency to actually learn from mistakes.

    NH reminds me of Joe L Brown. Joe was not a great trader. He made some really good trades like the one when he traded Frank Thomas, and made some clunkers too like the Dock Ellis, Ken Brett. and Willie Randolf for George Medich trade.

    Both Joe and NH both presided over innovative and goal oriented administrations that stressed organizational strength.

    I noticed that after NH arrived, much of the fan base criticized him like he was part of the old administration which seemed to have no plan and no real ability to learn from mistakes.

    I am not thrilled with all of these moves this offseason. But, a strong organization is being built and there is a plan.

    I have had the privilege of watching Manny Machado play for the Frederick Keys and the Baltimore Orioles. Every Oriole game that I go to, I can be reminded how we had the opportunity to draft him. But, even though the Orioles have more money to spend and out drafted us in the case of Manny Machado, the Pirates have surpassed the Orioles as an organization.

    Finally, for some perspective, all I have to do is watch the Orioles catcher to be reminded how far we have come. When we passed on Matt W, we drafted a pitcher with questionable upside. When we passed on Manny, we took a pitcher with terrific upside. I would much rather have the Plan, than the pathetic mess that we had before.

  • Twitter:

    Neal Huntington ‏@Neal Huntington

    So as to not get our fans hopes up too high, I can make it official: Our goal now is to finish 3rd in the NL Central.

  • Ken Rosenthal ‏@Ken_Rosenthal

    Source: #STLCards in agreement with Leake, pending a physical.

    And we sign Ryan Vogelsong.

    sigh…………………………..

    • But our rotation is projected 8th right lol

    • 4.21… That is Mike Leake’s career FIP
      5.6 Leake’s K/9 last season.
      I for one am glad the Cardinals are spending money on him. He drains a little bit of their war chest for a guy no better than Niese, IMO, a #4 starter.

      • Baseball is paying for reliability. When you lose a billion dollars to pitching injuries, it makes you change your priorities around a bit.

        *I* wouldn’t have paid Leake $80m, but baseball is quite obviously swimming in money and the Cards have just dealt with *major* injury issues in the past 12 months.

        Also, I think that qualifying offers are *helping* non-QO FA’s as much as their hurting those with draft pick compensation attached.

  • Great article, Tim. I agree completely. Also, it completely baffles me that so many people are clamoring for a big FA acquisition and use the argument that prospects are not guaranteed to pan out especially early on…like Kazmir or any other FA is a sure thing?? If recent history has proved anything, it has proven that there’s no such thing as a “guarantee” when it comes to how a player will perform. So we should spend $$ because we have it?? Because the FO owes the fans by spending?? I could care less what we spend as long as we see results (which we have). people just need to calm down and trust the process.

  • I don’t think it’s a matter of trusting the organization…I think most folks are just trying to figure out what the hell it’s doing.

    The Pirates had a first baseman, not a great one, but he had some pop. They let him go. There was someone who could’ve played first, they traded him. They signed a lefty with a shaky pedigree who’s plays first, they have a righty who’s not really very good who does the same. So then they trade a solid fourth outfield prospect and a round pick to acquire another righty with the same shaky pedigree as the lefty they signed.

    The sense in this is?

    That’s just one example…there are others…resigning a bench guy who didn’t play all that well last season when there are better options…and cheaper…is one that really jumps out.

    I’m all for understanding there are three-ish months left in the off season. But I’m curious when the actual upgrades are coming to the team. There’s, supposedly, $15-20M in money out there to improve the team…and it seems the $7-10M free agents are slowly being picked away while the Pirates import guys like Vogelsong.

    Count me as confused, but it seems as though…if the team is going to add talent…it’s most likely going to be through trades. And I thought this ran counter to what small market teams were supposed to do…i.e., the goal is to develop talent and use it until it becomes too expensive, not acquire it and ship it off.

      • That was good stuff and, I think, a data-backed way to restate my argument.

        I didn’t touch on the Morton trade, but that has me scratching my head. No, Charlie’s not a world-beater, but the Pirates entered this offseason with two holes to fill. They got Niese and I was okay with that trade…one of the two holes was filled…then, bam, trade Morton and tear down the little bit of stability just created? Huh?

        Huntington may have a master plan that is so ingenious that it will make perfect sense at some point this season…but, based on the moves thus far, it must be some damned Bobby Fischer level stuff.

  • Wainwright
    Wacha
    Martinez
    Leake
    Garcia

    Pack it in that plus cubs. You got no chance to win division, no matter what marginal at best move they have left.
    Wildcard one goes to cubs/cards
    Are we better then two of dbacks,giants,dodgers, and one of mets,nats

    Yikes sad realization!!!!

    • This very same comment could have been made each of the past two years with a different, rotating cast of characters. The Pirates have a 90ish win team on paper, maybe they underperform that, maybe they overperform that. Maybe it gets them in, maybe it doesn’t. The fact remains, the Pirates continue to be in that class of teams that has a very real shot at the playoffs.

      • Not anymore. They are not a better team then the one of last the others got better plus now you are dealing with dbacks and a nats team that will be much better then they performed.

        • If that’s your opinion, fine. I’m more interested in objective thought and analysis. This very site has shown us how to get to a projected 90 win team. Can you dispute that notion with something other than your feelings that this offseason isn’t meeting your expectations? Cause that won’t cut it.

          • And even if they hit 90 wins which as currently constructed will be a miracle that won’t b enough to make playoffs which is my point

            • Quit whining. The game is played on the field and it’s not even January yet.

              • Wow I’m not whining I’m being realistic and as a fan I don’t understand how you are ok with what they are doing.

                • I’m not but I don’t run the team and I don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes. Most of the Pirates core is still very young. They do a great job at getting the most out of players especially pitchers. Grant Brisbee wrote recently that he could easily see the Bucs turning Jon Niese into a 3.00 ERA pitcher. The Pirates never randomly grab guys. Every player they pick up is for a very specific reason and I’m not willing to judge a pick up based on past performance. I’m going to continue to be cautiously optimistic. I’m also very optimistic that the Bucs really reap the benefits of that farm system this year. I’m also optimistic that Andrew McCutchen has a McCutchen-like year but still ends the season as the 2nd or 3rd best OF on the Pirates and Gerrit Cole officially enters the best pitcher in baseball discussion.

            • On what basis do you consider 90 wins to be a miracle scenario? If you said, “I think this team will not come close to winning 90 games,” that would be an opinion, which is fine and is allowed and might be validated in the end. But there is a clear scenario that gets the team to 90 wins and that is if the players on this team as currently constructed reaches it’s Zips projections. And that’s not considering that the team might overperform or be improved between now and the end of the coming season. So that’s just a reasonable projection, not even a best case scenario. Is there any basis at all for what you believe?

          • Morton is also projected to be better then neise. So you have ur 3 starter projected to be worse then ur 4 last year. Not even getting into vogelsong. Keep drinking that Kool aid.
            http://www.bucsdugout.com/2015/12/21/10342900/the-pirates-disappointing-offseason

          • Hahahaha haha hahahaha.

        • And last year people weren’t making that comment they were saying bucs are right with them and can win division. Everyone got better we got worse

          • Yes, they were. We weren’t going to be able to replace Martin. Burnett had fallen apart in Philly. What were we going to do without Snider as our 4th outfielder. That was the conversation.

            • They solidified every hole at this point that wasn’t the convo at this point last season. And the others teams also did not significantly improve like they have now ad last year cubs were projected as .500 team. Completely different now.

    • Reality bites.
      The Cards need a piece, they get it.

      • Ah, but the Cards also place values on assets and try not to exceed those values. See: Pujols.

  • Jon Heyman ✔ @JonHeymanCBS
    mike leake and cardinals are getting close to a deal.

    Just dandy….the great Pirate ‘kiiler’ is probably staying within the division!!!! 🙁 🙁 🙁

  • I got this from a blog that I frequent:

    Using 2015 Pitching rotation numbers:

    Cole: 208 innings, 60 earned runs, 2.60 ERA
    Liriano: 186.2 innings, 70 earned runs, 3.38 ERA
    Niese: 176.2 innings, 81 earned runs, 4.13 ERA
    Vogelsong: 135 innings, 70 earned runs, 4.67 ERA
    Locke: 168.1 innings, 84 earned runs, 4.49 ERA

    Total: 874.2 innings, 365 earned runs, 3.76 ERA
    2015 MLB Average Starter ERA: 4.10
    This staff would’ve ranked 8th in starting rotation ERA last season (excluding the 2015 Pirates)

    Now I am not fond of the Niese/RV pickups, and these numbers will change, but I found that quite interesting.

    Of course, the BIG question is: What will the Cards’ and Cubs’ rotations do?

    • No, the big question is will the Pirates score enough runs in support.

      • JHay = Walker, imo.

        Polanco will get better.

        First base is the biggest question mark.

        • I dont know Foo. On paper I think they are worse than last year, and thats before anyone gets hurt.

          • Time will tell. 🙂

            I guess I am more optimistic about the offense than the pitching.

            • Does j hay/morse/Rogers combine for almost 50 hrs and 150 rbis. Don’t know how this offense is better

              • Last season Walker and Alvarez combined for 42 HR and 148 RBI.

                This season Walker and Alvarez are projected to combine for 38 HR and 118 RBI.

                This season Morse, Rogers and JHay are projected to combine for 29 HR and 138 RBI.

                *projections from Fangraphs.

                Ten less RBI doesn’t really seem like all that much especially when you are improving your defense.

                We are getting thirteen less HR (and chicks do dig the long ball), so there’s that. 😉

                Oh and by the way, I’ll take the 2016 projections from Morse Rogers and JHay over Alvarez and Walker.

                • That presumes Jhay was never going to bat for Pirates this year. he had almost a full season of AB’s for the Pirates, AB’s to be taken by Serpico.

                  So… add Jhay to Walker +Alvarez

                  • Realistically I don’t think that Srod is going to get the same number of at bats that JHay would have gotten in a super utility role.

                    Trading away Walker makes the current roster (as of Dec 22nd) not as deep. However someone like Alen Hanson may be a better fit to fill a super sub role than SRod (even if it’s by playing second to free up JHay to play wherever he is needed).

                  • ….and add Hanson to the other side.

        • Jhay+ walker is better then j hay +serpico.

    • Now if we can get the offense moving in the right direction I will be happy. Also I would rather see improved offense then the continual Scott Kacsmir talk.

    • Even If that’s the case they need rotation to be biggest strength like last year. They aren’t gonna score a ton. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that all the teams they have to compete with, will be ahead of them In rotation numbers. IE cards, cubs, dbacks, giants, mets, maybe dodgers. And at the end of day you need to beat them. To me when you actually put all their numbers together like that it actually made me feel even worse about the rotation.

      • Last year we had 3 starters you felt great bout going against anyone and hoped to grind out locke and mortons outings. Now you have to grind out three rotation spots

    • add Latos to the mix and I think I’d feel better. Niese isnt a #3, he’s a #4. Make Locke and Vogelsong battle for the last spot.

  • I often see a common line from people criticizing the team, saying they will gladly go back and admit they were wrong if it turns out the Pirates made a good move. ”

    HEY!!!! You talkin’ ’bout me?????!!!!!!

  • I agree that
    A – this manaagement team has done a very good job over the last 4 offseasons
    B – they should not be done yet, especially since Huntington came out and basically said we are raising the payroll.

    My main complaints at this point are:
    – I don’t mind trading Walker in theory. But the only people who like this trade, are the ones assuming Ray and our defense will work their magic and make him good again. It is one thing to sign a free agent like Neise for $9 million with the assumption you will ‘fix’ him. It is an altogether different thing to trade a “known” 2.5 WAR player for that ‘risky’ return. I mean did the Mets say that “we know Neise is no longer very good for us but he will be for you because you’ve got Ray Searage?”
    – For Morton, the opposite argument applies. Salary-wise I am ok with this dump. I am even ok with an assumption that Vogelsong will be as good as Morton at half the price. However, shouldn’t we have gotten a similar return to say a Neil Walker? If the Mets had Morton wouldn’t they have been able to trade him for at least an Adam Lind or Moreland type of player?
    I am not arguing that we won’t be good next year, just that we are losing the little battles on our way to next year

    • Rich great points read the article I pasted it supports your neise morton walker comments with numbers.

    • Well, I believe you’re exactly right with everything except the return you are looking for. Whether I believe it or not (and I didn’t until seeing the numbers) Leake is a very, very similar SP to Niese and looks to still be waiting for a 14 or 15 mil a year contract. To basically get him for 3/30 I think is what separated his contract from Charlies (assuming you want him that long). Charlie is basically 1 for 9mil unless you decide to pick up the option, which I imagine most weren’t looking to do.

  • stanley Wojtaszek
    December 22, 2015 9:44 am

    Loved the article!! Just thought I would throw in a small JJ story. Super 8 was filmed in Weirton W Va. The crew that did the filming, lighting, hauled all the equipment were all Pittsburghers. JJ was great to work with, and was awesome to everyone. Supposedly the idea for that story was his as a child and he always wanted to bring it to the big screen. The analogy works, he does see things other people don’t, and they always seem to work.

    • I thoroughly enjoyed Super 8! One of the better ‘small’ movies. Cloverfield?? Meh…I HATE shaky camera.

      • I almost threw up when watching Cloverfield in the theater, and had to leave and watch another movie. But once I saw it on the small screen, it was good.

        I remember when that movie came out, he said something about how they wouldn’t show people’s feet, which was the biggest issue for people getting sick in the Blair Witch project. Then five minutes into the movie, they show someone’s feet while running.

    • Best movie ever filmed in WEIRTON was RECKLESS. Daryl Hannah was a young soup chicken ten. Aidan Quinn was Johnny Rourke. Oh what a film-making mecca this town is.

      • Don’t forget DEER HUNTER. DeNiro bought a lot of beers for people in Moon bars while he worked on the accent. Walken and Streep were a little over the top on the accent. That Russian wedding still an all time classic.

  • If I’m reading anything into this (and past) offseasons is that the Pirates don’t view Free Agency as an effective way to build a team. And why would anyone disagree with that philosophy. Just look at last year’s free agent list. Arguably the best contract on there is the one the Pirates themselves signed. The cost just isn’t worth it, neither in dollars nor in the guaranteed years.
    http://espn.go.com/mlb/freeagents/_/year/2014/type/dollars

    • One thing I find ironic about free agency is that every off-season features two discussions:

      1. Here is the next best free agent to sign,
      2. Here are all of the teams trying to salary dump a free agent they signed two years ago.

      No one ever connects the two and says “you know, maybe it’s not going to be a good idea in the long-term to spend money on these guys over a lot of years, with most of them about to hit a steady decline.”

      • *slow clapping

      • All I’m saying is that they need to make a decision. If they’re going for it with Cutch and Cole, then GO FOR IT. You have a window of about 3 years with Cutch to make it happen. Be BOLD. If you wanna transition to the new wave of Pirate players, that’s fine too. Make boldand aggressive moves to strengthen this team for NOW and the next 5-10 years.

      • 3. Which half assed 1st baseman will the Pirates pursue this year?

        That discussion has been ongoing since Stargell hung it up.

    • I do NOT ythnk long term FA is a good way to build a team. But neither are bad trades. NH has made more bad trades ( wasting value and getting nothing back, and misjudging talent both ways) than he has made good trades.

      Absent Littlefield somehow lucking into Walker, Marte and Cutch, the Pirates are on years 25 of losing

  • Not always a huge fan of buc dugout site but I literally just read an article 3 minutes ago and it hit on alot of things everyone has been ping back and forth about its a great interesting read. Maybe after reading it you will start to see what I have been thinking about these trades
    http://www.bucsdugout.com/2015/12/21/10342900/the-pirates-disappointing-offseason

  • “I also feel like it’s acceptable to let the Pirates complete their off-season”
    To emphasize that point, a different administration in a different time, made a big deal right before the season opener. We all remember the Pena for VanSlyke, Lavallier, and Dunne deal. Of course that doesn’t mean anything near that good will happen between now and the end of March, but the point is, the off season shouldn’t get a preliminary judgement until April 3rd. Then a more complete judgement can be passed at the end of September. Final judgement, just like draft classes, may have to wait multiple years down the road.

    • But that team was coming off a 98 loss season, not a 98 win season.

      • The Cards are coming off a 100 win season and have lost Heyward and Lackey.

        Now about those Cubbies, tho……..

        • While they’re getting back a healthy Wainright, Holiday, Grichuk, and Matt Adams. They’ll get back a healthy Yadi Molina and they’re ion the verge of signing another Pirate PITA in Mike Leake.

          • Pssst, Adams really isnt that good.

          • I think Molina’s health and long-term viability is VERY much in doubt.

            Plus, all of the other aforementioned youngesters have to be counted on now to avoid a sophomore slump. IMO at least one of those guys is going to come back to Earth.

            I think the Bucs are ahead of the Cards, even now. And there are likely moves to come.

  • Please, no more of the BMTIB puff pieces. If i want to get angry with NH, let me do it, although i’m not there yet.

  • I’m personally a homeland and walking dead guy. I watched person of interest for a few seasons and it as good tho

  • I agree with Sawchik. Velocity is a big factor here. NH just brought in three pitch to contact guys (all of which were removed from rotations at the end of 2015, 4 if you count Locke). And while I see the renewed emphasis on defense, they absolutely lost a ton on offense.

    I just think this is such a bad idea, bringing in a bunch of pitchers who are going RELY on putting the ball in play, while your offense has taken some considerable steps back.

    Yes Burnett, Liriano, and Volquez could get a ground ball, but they also managed to get the big 2 on, 2 out K when needed. That should not be dismissed.

  • If Person Of Interest is your favorite show, you need to get on with Fargo and Daredevil. Fargo is the best show on TV. Also, JJ Abrams didn’t direct Cloverfield, Matt Reeves did. Abrams has a knack for creating memorable characters and starting a story. He’s not always good at the payoff. If you like Star Trek Into Darkness, please go back and watch Star Trek 2-4 and 6.

    • Fargo is great!

    • I haven’t seen Fargo yet, but I’ve absolutely seen Daredevil. If it’s a Marvel movie or show, I’ve seen it. I’ve been waiting for Civil War to come out for well over a year now.

      Abrams didn’t direct Cloverfield, but it was the producer. I was mostly focused on projects he’s been associated with.

      • You won’t regret watching Fargo.

        I signed up for Netflix just to watch Daredevil. I didn’t care for it, but I think after 50 years, I may be “comic-booked” out….lol.

        Although I AM enjoying the heck outta Gotham!

  • I guess, but I’m very confused what the goal is. If the goal is to field a competitive team, I agree they have likely met that goal although I think that’s the wrong goal with the window they have. If the goal is to try to make the playoffs, maybe. Again, though, with this team that is the wrong goal IMO. Does anyone want another WC berth and one game playoff? The goal should be to win the World Series now that they have a competitive core. Not sure the current “tread water” or “keep to the code” (yes, a Pirates of the Caribbean reference) strategy is sufficient.

    The source of frustration for me is that they have the financial resources to go out and get a strong 3 or infield bat. Especially now that the jettisoned so much salary. They just don’t seem to want to push those chips to the middle of the table and go for it. And, no, I’m not talking about going for a top tier starter, but a Kazmir should not be out of reach. I don’t like giving weeks of the season away, it probably cost us the division last year and who says Glasnow, Taillon, Bell, etc are going to be effective in their first years. Big risk. Basially everything has to break perfectly.

    • Spot on

    • Kazmir doesn’t do what you are suggesting. Fielding a competitive team IS fielding a World Series caliber team. Arguably the only thing that makes them more likely to win playoff games, as opposed to just playing in them, is an Ace, and they aren’t getting that in free agency.

      • Won’t even get there with Locke and Vogelsong in the 4 and 5. Have to win the division and get out of a one game playoff. Willing to take my chances with Cole and Liriano if/ when we get to the
        playoffs. KC just won without a true Ace. Dodgers had two and the
        biggest payroll in baseball and didn’t get to the WS.

        • That’s exactly what I’m saying. I even used the word “arguably” in my comment to emphasize how dubious that presumption even is. Locke has been part of a playoff-achieving rotation for two straight years now, what’s changed? If the cost of Kazmir is 4 guaranteed years, then he’s probably not worth it. The only thing that cost us the division last year was that a 100 win team was in the same division.

      • The goal is to get into the playoffs.

        After that, everything is random and every team has a shot.

        • #randomness

        • Completely agree. My use of “arguably” was meant as an obvious qualifier. My point is that signing Kazmir to a deal we’d likely regret a year from now does not get us more than marginally closer to the goal of making the tournament for the World Series and could very well hamstring us from that goal in future years. To answer’s Scott’s questions in his original comment, yes, I would take another Wild Card berth. I would take those every year forever.

        • The wildcard and the 1 game playoff is the crap shoot. I firmly believe had the Pirates been able to get past the wildcard game they had as good a chance or even better at a championship as any other team. They need to be aspiring to be NL central CHAMPS first and then further, of course.

    • “…. and who says Glasnow, Taillon, Bell, etc are going to be effective in their first years. Big risk. Basically everything has to break perfectly.”

      This.

    • Who says that Kazmir’s arm doesn’t fall off in the middle of a 4 year contract ? You ?

  • Trust?
    Did Neal Huntington know Webster was negotiating with Korea before he purchased him from Arizona?
    Did the Diamondbacks know and not disclose this to,Pirates?
    Maybe Diamondbacks or Webster owe Bucs refund.

  • A couple of questions:

    #1. how are the Pirates going to score runs to keep up with the Cubs and the Cards? We’re not going to out pitch them with the rotation as currently constructed. They just watched 43 home runs walk out the door with Alvarez and Walker. Where and how are those bats and runs going to be replaced? Josh Harrison?? Morse?? Rodgers??? Bell?? They replaced Burnett and Morton with Niese and Vogelsong and still don’t have a bona fide #3 starter or a league average 1b or 2b for that matter. Harrison is a utility guy. Hanson should be the everyday 2b and keep Harrison at 3rd until Kang comes back healthy. Harrison’s value comes as a super utility guy.

    #2. Even if they win 85-88 games, that more than likely is not nearly enough to get them into the wildcard no less a chance at the NL Central.

    #3. Given the financial constraints of the Pirates organization, you’re willing to hold onto a closer for $10 million/year on a team that has AT BEST a less than marginal chance of competing for a wildcard as of right now??

    The Pirates have to make a decision. Are they in or are they out for 2016-2018 If they’re in, then BE IN and stop playing around on the edges. If they’re out, BE OUT and make bold moves to strengthen the organization and the MLB team for the next 5 years and beyond i.e. start seriously considering trading Cutch with 3 years of control for maximum return.

    • Well said

      • I’ll second that.
        Two things to ponder: is Melancon in demand at a rate of return which is doable for a deal and where in the world is this LH hitting 1B coming from?

      • You all just bitched about ” crapping away assets ” for a lesser return, but now you want NH to give away Melancon ? Don’t you think if he gets a big offer for him he will make the deal ? And if he gets a lesser offer he won’t ” crap away ” a top reliever ? Just one example of garbage the contradictions in many of these arguments that are ridiculous if not out and out stupid.

        • It’s a good point either way they should have kept everyone and not a contradiction, his point is now based on them making crappy moves what is the point of keeping him now big difference.

        • An excellent point, and patience is a key attribute for any successful negotiator. We have the asset and there is no hurry to unload it. No reason to be anxious. There may be a team that will step up for Melancon, and then again, maybe not. In that case we will just have to be stuck with a Closer who has 84 Saves over the past 2 years!

          Somebody needing and willing stepped up to trade for Walker. NH stepped up in the Pedro decision. That is 2 of 3 and it is not even Christmas yet.

    • re-read what he wrote….he doesn’t believe that the Pirates are done adding to the team so lets see how it plays out and go from there. It’s December.

    • This very site that we are all paying to read now gave us an objective overview of how this is a team that can be projected to win 90 games (http://18.206.184.11/2015/12/first-pitch-you-might-be-surprised-how-good-the-current-pirates-project-to-be-in-2016.html). Even one of Baseball Prospectus’s best analysts has us in a loose projection to be a wild card: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=28086. And yet I keep seeing these emotional projections of how we’ll be lucky to get over .500. When did the Pirates Prospects comments section get taken over by The Fan callers?

    • yea more talent went out the door than came in the door, that’s the big difference this off season. srod .niese and vonglesong are all coming off bad years.As for a lefty firstbaseman ,where is this person that nh mention on national tv.

    • Hilarious.

    • So did you read the article? If the Pirates have the same team by the start of Spring Training, then you have every right to be angry. Last time I checked though Spring Training doesn’t start till March. Have a little patience. The organization was voted best of the year in 2015. Give NH and company some leeway.

  • Tim, please enough of the trust nonsense.

    • You know that time a few weeks ago where I defended Tim? Yeah, forget that. He deserves all the criticism he gets.

      • I remember….Now I feel bad, like I antagonized some heated debate, but that’s what these message boards are for.

    • What approach would you recommend?

      • Is objective analysis really so difficult?

        • You’re getting that here.

          They’ve made good moves in the past. Most didn’t like those moves at the time, yet they worked out. They’re probably not even done this off-season, so acting like this is a complete team is ridiculous.

          An objective view waits to see how these moves pan out before passing judgment, since this team’s track record has earned that. The objective view also waits for the off-season to end before considering the team final, because that’s just common sense.

          • No, we’re not.

            • So is “objectivity” only the stuff that you agree with?

              • No, “objectivity” is using unbiased analysis and not logical fallacies.

                Why do you think Fangraphs authors vehemently deny liking every Billy Beane or Andrew Friedman move? Because doing so wouldn’t be using objective analysis. You’ll never once read them write such a silly article as the one above. Because that’s not actual journalism.

                Use your knowledge and research to objectivity analyze a given move. Don’t fall back on appeal to authority arguments about “trusting” a guy who has only been marginally successful.

                • I’m still waiting to hear why this article isn’t objective.

                  • Because “objectivity” does not mean using past success to justify current and future activity.

                    • I think we can just draw a line here: you seem to think they got lucky with their previous value moves, and that kind of repeated success year after year isn’t realistic.

                      I think their value moves represent a skill and show that they’re a smart organization, while viewing their success as repeatable.

                      That doesn’t make me less objective. It just means we’re both looking at their success rate, and what that success means for the future, in much different ways.

                    • No no no no no. That *completely* misrepresents my position.

                      You have it completely backwards. I look at the process and logic that has produced moves that have worked and applied what we’ve learned to current moves. I do not look at the *result* of those moves and assume that all additional results will be equal.

                      I remember arguing with Dejan back around the initial Liriano signing because his logic against the move literally amounted to “Terry Ryan gave up on this guy, and if Terry Ryan doesn’t like him then he stinks.” This logic was obviously flawed, and you’re advocating for the same exact kind of thought process.

                      Look, whether you want to admit it or not, building baseball teams is really, really hard. Huntington, like *every single other General Manager in the history of the game*, will make mistakes. Past success in itself is no where close to ensuring current and future success.

                      I like you, personally, and I like this site, but your “analysis” will always be behind the big boys that do it correctly until you learn what makes them so successful in their writing.

                    • “I remember arguing with Dejan back around the initial Liriano signing because his logic against the move literally amounted to “Terry Ryan gave up on this guy, and if Terry Ryan doesn’t like him then he stinks.” This logic was obviously flawed, and you’re advocating for the same exact kind of thought process.”

                      This is where you’re misrepresenting my position.

                      I’m not just saying “Huntington likes this guy, so he’ll be good.”

                      I’m looking at what led to past success stories (scouting, finding the right player, Ray Searage), and if a move fits those factors, I trust that it will turn out the same.

                      For example, the Niese move you hate so much, I like it for the following reasons: he’s a guy with an extreme ground ball rate, and the team just improved their infield defense, going back to a key focus from the 2013-14 seasons. He has decent strikeout numbers in the past, and Searage tends to get the best out of pitchers and get them to their best form. The Pirates only add someone if their scouts have identified something that can be changed, which combined with the Searage factor, makes me more confident Niese will revert to that 2.0-2.7 WAR player he was pre-2015.

                      None of these factors are saying that Niese will work out just because Huntington added him. They’re saying Niese will work out because Huntington is following the same process he’s followed with other successful moves.

                      “your “analysis” will always be behind the big boys that do it correctly until you learn what makes them so successful in their writing.”

                      Who are these “big boys”?

                    • I hate the Niese *transaction*, not Niese the pitcher. I think the pitcher absolutely may turn out just like you described above, but what has made the Pirates so successful in the past was paying for *current* production and getting improved value out of that. They have never once given up the kind of current value to get a bounce back pitcher, and the vast majority of the pitchers they have reclaimed had much higher upside than Niese. You still haven’t done the $/WAR analysis you love so much on this move…

                      Niese doesn’t have the xFIP < ERA difference. Niese doesn't have the strikeouts. Niese doesn't have the velocity. Niese doesn't have the previous peak success.

                      You may believe arbitrary categories like "finding the right player" define what has made the Pirates process successful in the past, but I highly disagree with such weak positions. *Of course* you can say in every successful reclamation they've "found the right player" but that's a result, not a variable. What has made each pitcher the right player is what should be analyzed.

                      And the "big boys" I'm referring to are FanGraphs, Baseball Prospectus, Baseball America, etc. You will never, ever see them treat a Gm like you treat Huntington.

                      You may not be a fan of the Pirates, but you're shamelessly a fan of Neal Huntington.

                    • I’m sorry, but I’m done with this conversation. I probably shouldn’t have started it in the first place.

                      We disagree on topics, but I’m willing to show you respect. That respect doesn’t appear to be a two way street. This entire conversation has been filled with you calling my objectivity and motives into question, along with some very disrespectful comments along the way. And it doesn’t even seem like you’re listening or considering the actual arguments I’m making.

                      If you would like to discuss topics in the future, then show some respect for the other person. If you ultimately disagree, say you disagree and that’s it. Until that happens, then I’m not going to waste my time debating topics with you.

                    • You have got to be kidding me.

                    • LOL wait a second. This is baseball, all we do is “use past success to justify current and future activity.”

                      Look, there’s one guy in every corner of every internet comment section who behaves the way you do. Give it a rest already. We get it, you’re smarter than everybody else in the room – that’s why you have all this free time to comment six thousand times a day about how everybody else is so much dumber than you.

                      It’s truly a mystery how some pro team hasn’t nabbed you up already and made you their new star GM given all the amazing insight and know-how you demonstrate here on a daily basis.

              • This will be no more than a fan blog until you learn the difference.

                Very disappointed there has been so little progression in this regard.

                • And yet I’m not a fan.

                • I very rarely post in the comments, but I like reading them because some people who post have good opinions, but seriosuly NMR? I’m so tired of you beating a dead horse saying you hate the offseason so and criticize anyone who disagrees with you. You used to have some great points, but now your just acting like spoiled toddler not getting her way.

                  • ^Now *this* is what it looks like to disagree with someone because they don’t share your own opinion.

                    • I don’t feel that way. Your suppose to have your own opinion but you want to sit there and do be a d bag to anyone who will respond to you, that’s what I don’t care for. There isn’t one person who writes for this site or comments that share the same exact opinion. I’m just tired of you. All you do now is make fun of people for their opinions. Your a hypocrite

                    • And I’ll sleep better at night knowing the difference between “your” and “you’re”.

                      Look, nobody is forcing you or anyone else to respond to me or read a thing I say. Do yourself a favor and stop.

                    • So who are the “big boys” that you are referring to?

                    • Lol. I’m glad you’re worried about my grammar while I type on my phone in the comment sections. Your an internet tough guy. If this was in person you wouldn’t be puffing your chest to everyone. Do yourself a favor and go read another website if you don’t like these opinions. You’re a sorry old man.

                    • Thank you for revealing that you really aren’t here to do anything else but be a troll. It kind of seemed that way already but, it’s crystal clear now.

                    • -says the kid who has no idea what “troll” means.

                    • You don’t need to continue proving it.

                    • Baseball is a fricken game, dude. There is no need to disrespect Tim, whom is simply conveying a respectful opinion to you. The Pirates winning or losing shouldn’t upset anyone that much.

                    • I’m not the one butthurt here, and this has nothing to do with the Pirates winning or losing.

                      Tim is a grown man. He can handle himself just fine. He’s selling a product here, and a large part of that product is his analysis. I’m a consumer, one who has not only dropped other subscriptions in favor of his site but referred many others as well. I disagree with his method of analysis, and cite the leading publications in the game as my basis of opinion.

                      If you have a problem with any of that, there’s an extremely simple solution: don’t read! When you see NMR come up, move along!

                    • NMR, maybe tomorrow you should re-read the entire post and back and forth with you and Tim. I am new to this site and know neither of you, but you are not only not being objective, you are making it personal. And yes, i say that fully knowing you will now rant on me for how you are not being personal. Dude, take a deep breath.

                      PS – enough about all the people you referred to this site, dropped subscriptions, etc. If you don’t find it valuable, then go elsewhere.

          • I’m trying to figure out why this Hot Stove season feels different, aside from the usual impatience, pessimism and “The Cubs are running away with the division, here comes another race for the Wildcard.” I’ve come up with a few things:

            1. The absolutely fair criticism that NH’s process has’t worked at 1B since ever, and yet here we go again…passing on available, budget-friendly options such as Kim & Lind while the supply of options gradually dwindles. Feels a LOT like 2014 when the team wound up with the Ishikawa/Lambo/Ike Davis adventure.

            2. Paying Sean Rodriguez $2.5M seems like an odd allocation of scarce resources. Also feels like 2014 when the team quickly re-signed Barmes after a 53 wRC+ season.

            3. The unfortunate undoing of Allen Webster – a good acquisition that lots of the “In Neal We Trust” crowd actually supported

            4. Signing Ryan Vogelsong to a major league contract in December feels weird, as if his market were so hot that he (or someone just like him) wouldn’t be available closer to Spring Training. Even if he’s a depth signing, is he a better option than Vance Worley, whom the Pirates already had in the fold and chose to non-tender?, and

            5. None of the trades bear the mark of the shrewd deals NH has swung in the past – Wilson-for-Cervelli, Joely Rodriguez for Bastardo, Snider for Brault and Tarpley.

            It’s not the moves that haven’t been made yet – the LH 1B or mid-rotation SP; it’s the ones that HAVE been made and offer neither improvement nor upside.

            • Stephen that analysis is spot on. I think we have come to expect better and keep waiting for that ah hah moment where we all understand NH’s offseason direction.

  • 1. I have been in on Person of Interest since the beginning and it is awesome.. Season 2 into 3 is where it really becomes good.
    2. When it comes to the bullpen I don’t even worry anymore, NH has proven he can put together a top 10 bullpen every year on a shoestring budget and has earned my trust completely on that.
    3. Position players though this year have me a little nervous, there are just so many what if’s it is impossible not be concerned..Can Kang be healthy and continue what he was doing last year? Can J-Hay be a everyday 2nd baseman? 1st base is scary… again… How do you replace the power from Pedro and Neil? But if the past 3 years of taught me anything, just wait it out and have trust that the guys who do this for a living know more then us fan’s complaining about them… Lets Go Buc’s.

    • I mentioned the Batman feel, and season 2-3 is where it really kicks in. You start getting recurring bad guys who are all good characters and kind of fuel the show. Some of the episodes are also written and shot better than a lot of movies.

      As for the question marks at each position, there are definitely some that exist. Although I feel like an annual article I write every New Years involves over a dozen players who have some risk but some high upside. It seems they’re going down that path again this off-season.

  • They may do something more or not. My biggest concern are the trades that they already made did not get proper value in return. Huntington traded for neise based on value what he could do and not what he has done. And I can’t believe that morton who numbers r not that different then neise returned a bag of baseballs and has has a friendlier contract. Huntington has prior traded on current value and then if they improved truly won out ie cervelli. No matter they do rest of offseason they crapped away two assets who could have brought back more or been combined with prospects for an impact player

    • I am agreement with you about the Walker trade. First, I wasn’t in favor of trading him with Kang uncertainty, and then I was surprised he was traded for an even older player instead of a couple prospects.

      I don’t understand your point on Niese’s past performance though. He has been a very solid SP for a while now. His stats the last 5 years are very similar to Mike Leake and he’s been way better than Morton. Morton is also much less consistent and has been injured far more often, too.

      • The difference between neise and morton isn’t dramatic enough from the difference between walker and a bag of baseballs though

    • This assumes he didn’t shop for a better value… I believe he most likely got the best overall value (performance, potential, control, and need) that he could for an aging second baseman with back problems and one year from free agency.

  • Burn the witch!

  • I think “Night of the Living Dead” could describe a certain feeling of the moving and shaking going on this off-season. Then as we near spring training Billy Cardille will report that all is coming back to normal.

  • Good post, don’t watch a lot of TV these days but the movies are good comparison. The one thing I tell my friends about how the buccos operate is this, before Polanco came up they could of resigned Bryd but they went with a platoon in RF then primarily Polanco and Ttavis Synder. That off season, after Synder probably out played Polanco but Polanco had more up side they flipped Synder for 2 you do pitchers and gave the job to Polanco. Now this year Hanson and Bell are coming up, they have Jay Hay to play 2nd and Rogers and Morse to platoon at 1st until Bell gets here. They traded Walker for a veteran pitcher 3 years 30 mil. That’s a smart move since FL will most likely be gone and Taillon and Glasnow coming this year also. The Pirates just move ahead and bet on their young guys that they see everyday. Now we have the best outfield in baseball, and 6 good hitters on the club when Kang gets back. Let it play out, I agree with that 100%

    Also there TV deal is up after 2016, so that could be the year they add the missing piece or just extend who they already have.

    • The TV deal ends in 2019.

      • And by that time the Bucs could have missed the big local money deal.
        TV landscape becoming different with more people cutting the cable

        • Yes unless they can get PPV with a live streaming pricing system. But I agree by the time it expires it will be the biggest missed opportunity to hit this franchise.

    • Pirates did have a platoon of Travis Snider, but i am trying to figure out who si Ttavis Synder?

  • Dude, go watch Fringe. Come on Tim! One of the best.

    • Im not sure I have ever agreed more with a post on this site. Do it! Amazing show

    • agreed!!!! Amazing show

    • Lame final season though. Just like Lost, the payoff didn’t equal the buildup.

    • I started watching it, but didn’t have time.

      My off-season shows right now are House of Cards, The Man in the High Castle, and then I’m finally going to watch The West Wing, since that’s my girlfriend’s favorite show.

      Fringe is one of those shows where it’s always on Netflix, and they’re obviously not making new episodes, so it keeps getting put on the back burner for new shows.

      • Good Move! ALWAYS watch the GF’s shows. After all, they ‘snare’ you by watching yours.

        My wife hasn’t watched a PSU or Steeler game with me since we got married.

        Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

      • Glad to hear you got the Amazon Prine going…nothing like a little competition with Netflix to make everybody better.

        Additionally, I couldn’t agree more with your article. I think NH and crew have earned a little patience on our part as fans.

      • They’re currently filming the end of season 4 House of Cards in my office. Great show

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