Three years ago at this time, Gregory Polanco was coming off a breakout season in West Virginia, with the hope being that one day in the future, he would factor in to the Pittsburgh outfield situation.
Starling Marte had just made the jump to the majors, and was coming off a rookie debut that wasn’t overly impressive, but showed promise for the future.
Austin Meadows was still in high school, a few months away from being drafted. Harold Ramirez was just coming off his first pro season in rookie ball, and far from being one of the top prospects in the system.
We could switch to the position player side and talk about how John Jaso was still a catcher and was a big piece in a three team deal which also involved Mike Morse, who was coming off a year with a .791 OPS. Jordy Mercer wasn’t a starter yet, and wasn’t even a guy who had a lock on a bench spot. I don’t know what Jung-ho Kang was doing over in Korea at the time. This was also right before the season when no one really knew the value of pitch framing, and Russell Martin was only valued for his .211 average.
On the pitcher side, there were questions about just how good Francisco Liriano could be, with no one expecting him to repeat the success of A.J. Burnett the year before. This was back in the time when Ray Searage wasn’t widely praised, and the Pirates could sign a free agent without the phrase being uttered “Ray Searage can fix him”. It was a time when people complained that the Pirates gave up a proven closer in Joel Hanrahan for a horrible reliever in Mark Melancon. Tony Watson hadn’t fixed his control yet, and wasn’t considered a setup man, or one of the top lefties in the game. Gerrit Cole hadn’t made his MLB debut, and Tyler Glasnow was just about to have his breakout season in West Virginia.
Outside of Pittsburgh, Cory Luebke was a promising left-handed starter with a 3.25 ERA and strong strikeout and walk ratios who just went down with Tommy John surgery. A year off and he’d be able to return mid-season in 2013 to get back on track in the Padres’ rotation. Eric O’Flaherty was one of the best relievers in baseball, and one of the best lefty relievers, but about to enter a season where he’d have Tommy John, setting off a chain that led to him being a minor league free agent this off-season. Jon Niese was coming off the best season of his career, and Ryan Vogelsong just showed his comeback season in 2011 wasn’t a fluke.
So why am I bringing up this history lesson about what happened in Pirates-related baseball three years ago? I’m sure you can probably guess, especially if you think about what significant event might take place three years into the future. Or if you read the title. That would have probably been easier.
Last week I was one of the first media members in camp, and talked to Andrew McCutchen the first day, with the results of the interview in this article. A week later, McCutchen showed up in camp again, only there were a lot more media members present. And as a result, there was a “first day of camp” interview with the MVP. I opted out of this, deciding to chase down a few minor leaguers like Tyler Glasnow and Elias Diaz, rather than listen to the already tired discussion about an extension three years into the future.
I’m neither for, nor against a McCutchen extension right now. There’s too much time remaining to honestly have a hard stance, and that’s why such a move doesn’t have to be done now. In fact, the last extension McCutchen signed is just really kicking in, as the 2016 season would have been his first free agent year without that deal.
It’s great that McCutchen wants to remain a Pirate for life, and it’s great that Bob Nutting is saying the right things about that. But once again, we’re three years away from this being a relevant topic.
As noted above, a lot can happen in three years. Three years from now, people might cringe at the thought of a McCutchen extension. Or maybe it just looks like a no brainer. Three years from now, Austin Meadows might have already made a successful pro debut, and the Pirates might be better off letting McCutchen walk and letting Meadows take over. In fact, three years from now is enough time for a 2015 college draft pick we’re not even thinking about to break out and make the majors.
So much can change in three years, which is why all of the talk of a McCutchen extension now is very premature. A lot of it is fueled by emotion, and worrying about a future where the Pirates are without McCutchen after the 2018 season. Then there’s the aspect that extension articles — especially about the best player on the team — bring in readers, even if they’re way early. To be honest, that’s why I went with that article the first time. But this extension talk needs a disclaimer that it’s all very early, and three years is a lot of time.
Maybe in three more years, the Pirates will have McCutchen under control for the long-term. Or maybe they’ll go the Meadows route. Or maybe something we can’t even think about this year. The more important thing now would be enjoying one of those three years of McCutchen. Because it seems foolish to wonder if you’ll get to see McCutchen in a Pirates uniform in three years, all while speeding past the point where he’s in a Pirates uniform right now.
Anyway, Bob Nutting will meet with the team this week, and usually meets with the media after. I’m sure this topic will come up in that discussion, and I will definitely have the recap for business purposes. But it’s still going to be really early for the topic.
**The Pirates Prospects App is Now Available on Android. Download the app to get notifications whenever we post an article, along with the best way to view the site on your mobile device. The iOS version for Apple devices will be out soon.
**Gerrit Cole Throws First Bullpen After Dealing With Right Rib Inflammation. A good step for Cole getting on the mound. Check out the video in this article.
**Trevor Williams Working to Develop His Slider Into a Strikeout Pitch. The Pirates acquired Williams as compensation for losing Jim Benedict, and it will be interesting to see how he develops in his first season in the organization.
**Working With Searage and Cervelli Were Big Draws For Eric O’Flaherty. O’Flaherty was one of the best lefty relievers in the game, and one of the best relievers. He liked the Pirates for their ability to get pitchers to bounce back from down years like he had in 2015. A lot of praise here for Ray Searage and Francisco Cervelli.
**Pirates Notes: Nicasio and Lobstein Will Be Stretched Out as Rotation Depth. Notes from the weekend, looking at the rotation depth and the lefty relief situation.
**How Many Pitchers Will Wear a Weird Looking Helmet For Extra Safety? A few pitchers tested out the new safety helmets, which look ridiculous.
**Watch Tyler Glasnow, Jameson Taillon, and Elias Diaz From Today’s Action. Prospect video from this weekend.
**Draft Preview: College Pitching Dominates the Top of the Class. John Dreker gives an early preview of the 2016 draft class.
**The Indianapolis Pitching Prospects Impacted the Pirates Off-Season Approach. A breakdown of how the Indianapolis starting pitchers impacted the off-season approach. Also includes video on Chad Kuhl, Steven Brault, and Trevor Williams.
**Matt Joyce Has a Shot to Be the Pirates’ Fourth Outfielder. The Pirates signed Matt Joyce last week, and he revealed that he was brought in with a shot to be the fourth outfielder.
**Pirates Notes: What Will the Pirates Do if Jung-ho Kang Isn’t Ready on Opening Day. A look at how the Pirates could handle Kang’s absence if his rehab holds him out for the start of the season.
**Pirates Focused On Cutting Down Strikeouts and Transitioning From Power to OBP. An interesting look at the transition this year, after switching from Pedro Alvarez to John Jaso at first base.