For years, the Pirates followed a pretty consistent strategy when it came to trading prospects and taking on payroll. That strategy was always to defer to taking on money, rather than giving up additional players.

They did this in 2011, when they were barely contenders, and traded for Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick, taking on salary and only giving up Aaron Baker in the process. Later that off-season, they traded two lower level wild card prospects for A.J. Burnett, while taking on half his salary, and refusing to part with better prospects for more salary relief.

The 2012 season saw them trading actual players, with Brad Lincoln going for Travis Snider, and Robbie Grossman, Colton Cain, and Rudy Owens going for Wandy Rodriguez. They also traded Gorkys Hernandez and a competitive balance pick for Gaby Sanchez. All of these moves were made not just to compete in 2012, but to help the team in future years.

Their 2013 season was the first one where they made a big splash by dealing prospects for rentals, sending out Dilson Herrera and Vic Black for Marlon Byrd and John Buck, and Alex Presley and Duke Welker for Justin Morneau.

They didn’t make any big moves, instead going for cheap depth additions in 2014. The approach in 2015 was more subtle. They once again took on salary by trading Yhonathan Barrios for Aramis Ramirez and his remaining contract. They purchased Joe Blanton from the Royals. They traded JaCoby Jones for Joakim Soria, and Adrian Sampson for J.A. Happ, which sent two mid-level prospects for two pitchers who were still owed a few million the remainder of the year.

But then we get to the 2016 season, and that’s where things took a turn. Most of the trades were normal, in a sense. They traded Mark Melancon for Felipe Rivero and Taylor Hearn, which was a good move to get something for Melancon, rather than seeing him walk this off-season. They also later traded Arquimedes Caminero to the Mariners for pitching prospects Jake Brentz and Pedro Vasquez. On the flip side, they traded Stephen Tarpley and Tito Polo for Ivan Nova, which was similar to the Happ deal, only with a bit more going out the door this time.

And then we’ve got the Francisco Liriano trade, which was the exact opposite of almost every deal they’ve made to date. This one saw Liriano’s remaining salary shed — about $18.4 M over the next one year and two months — along with Reese McGuire and Harold Ramirez traded, and Drew Hutchison coming back in return. Regardless of how you stack the deal, they had to include at least one of the prospects to get salary relief. And that process of trading prospects for salary relief is something they haven’t done.

It’s the exact opposite of that Burnett deal in the 2011-12 off-season. In that deal, the Yankees ate some salary for a struggling pitcher, and got two wild card prospects. A lot of the rumors at the time suggested they were trying to eat more salary to get better prospects, which would have essentially been the Pirates trading prospects for money. But they took on his salary instead — two years and $16 M — to lessen the prospect haul.

The Pirates now find themselves on the other side of that type of deal. They had a bad contract, with a pitcher who had a realistic shot at turning things around with another team. Make no mistake about it. This deal hasn’t changed since August, even with Liriano starting to pitch well again. That was expected at the time of the deal. Right after the trade, I wrote about how the Pirates were taking a huge risk with the Liriano trade, including this about his future performance.

The easy way to figure all of this out would be to get Liriano’s trade value. We’ll start with Dan Szymborski’s tweet from earlier, with Liriano’s projected 2017 WAR.

 Liriano has been replacement level or worse this year, so there are two ways we can do his trade value for 2016. We can either give him the 1.8 WAR projection from above, or make him replacement level. The lower the WAR, the lower the value, obviously. I say the 1.8 WAR, pro-rated, makes sense. Toronto is in a race for the division, and they’re not adding Liriano thinking he has no shot at being more than replacement level.

This still leaves us with -$1.2 M in trade value, with Toronto assuming all of Liriano’s deal. The replacement value in 2016 would make it -$5.3 M. So in some way, the Pirates were paying for Toronto to take Liriano off their hands, although I feel it’s minimal. But if that’s the case, it means they paid a lot in prospects for Drew Hutchison, which brings me to the final breakdown.

Fast forward to the end of the year, and Liriano finished with an 0.7 fWAR in his final two months with Toronto. That’s a 2.1 WAR season, which isn’t far off from that 1.8 total. So Liriano had zero trade value after Toronto took on his remaining salary. And the deal is still either an overpay for Hutchison, a payment of prospects to dump Liriano’s salary, or a bit of both.

I think it’s the last one. No one would complain that it was a lopsided deal if they traded Harold Ramirez straight up for Hutchison. But when you add in McGuire, that’s where things become a problem. And that’s really what my criticism of the trade came down to when it happened, that McGuire’s inclusion really put it over the top.

You could either look at this as them paying a lot more for Liriano, or a lot more for Hutchison. I look at the deal as salary dumping Liriano away for free, and paying a high price for Hutchison. Either way, I think they paid a lot, and the deal would sit a lot easier if it was Ramirez and 1-2 of certain Tier 3 or Tier 4 players, rather than McGuire.

From Toronto’s side of the trade, nothing has really changed based on the expectations at the time of the deal. McGuire and Ramirez were injured shortly after the deal, so their prospect status remains the same, and it’s hard to say what that status was, since it was mixed at the time of the deal (we were, by far, the highest on McGuire). Liriano has improved since leaving Pittsburgh, but that was seen as a likely possibility.

From the Pirates’ side, not much has changed either. They’ve signed David Freese to a three-year, $18 M deal, which coincidentally was the amount Liriano was owed. But I don’t think that’s where the saved money went, as I think they’ll continue to spend this off-season. There’s also Drew Hutchison, who didn’t have a good debut with the Pirates in 11.1 innings in the majors, or 36 innings in the minors. But the Pirates haven’t really started working with him on changes, as they’ve mostly been in the evaluation period with him.

So we’re waiting on both. We’re waiting to see what they spend this off-season, and we’re waiting to see how Hutchison performs next year, after the Pirates make the necessary changes with him. One thing I couldn’t help but notice with him was the decline in his slider’s production the last two years. Here were the stats for the slider in each of his four seasons in the majors.

2012: 34% strikeout, .608 OPS, .261 wOBA, 74 wRC+

2014: 39.7%, .482, .215, 46

2015: 28.8%, .726, .315, 111

2016: 27%, .736, .309, 101

The pitch looked like an out pitch up until that 2015 season. So if the Pirates are going to start somewhere, it should be looking at that slider, and rediscovering where the effective pitch that existed prior to 2015 went.

Overall, this is very similar to what I said after the trade:

The quick reaction is that they better be spending next year. It’s not a bad thing to dump Liriano if you don’t believe in him going forward. But if you do that just to go the cheap route the following off-season, then it wouldn’t be acceptable at all. And I’m not talking about spending just to spend. I’m talking about aggressively pursuing a good player who costs money, because most of the team is set, and most of the team is making the league minimum or very little in payroll.

As for the rest of the deal, it really all hinges on Hutchison, since he’s the only return. The Pirates are putting a lot of faith that he’s going to live up to their expectations. If he does, the consensus on this deal might be a lot different a year from now. If he doesn’t, then this trade could go down as a disaster, especially if Reese McGuire reaches his upside. And even if McGuire falls short, it would look bad that the Pirates wasted valuable trade chips if Hutchison doesn’t pan out.

I think the first part of that just became more real for a lot of Pirates fans. I still have no problem with trading Liriano, especially if they didn’t believe he’d bounce back. The fact that he did turn things around with Toronto over a short time span doesn’t mean he would have turned it around with the Pirates. Sometimes, guys just need a new change in scenery. So if the plan was to deal a guy who wouldn’t turn it around here, but could turn things around elsewhere, and then use that money on someone more likely to help, that’s fine. But now that Liriano has reclaimed some value with Toronto, the pressure is on for the Pirates to hold up their end of the deal this off-season.

I know that will be met with skepticism that they’ll spend, and if they don’t, that will be a problem. But looking at their approach until now, something was off about this trade. It didn’t match their history of taking on salary to save prospects, and was the exact opposite of that. I don’t think this means we’re seeing a new approach going forward (AKA, please save your lame, unoriginal “They’ll just trade this prospect to get rid of this other guy’s salary” jokes). I think this was case specific, and reflected on how they felt about Liriano going forward, and how it would be a waste of funds to keep him around. That’s fine, but it also means they need to spend those funds on another pitcher this off-season. Because personally, I’d rather have Liriano, McGuire, and Ramirez — even if Liriano has very little shot of rebounding in Pittsburgh — as opposed to Hutchison and money that didn’t get put to use on another pitcher.

**Pirates Acquire RHP Brady Dragmire From Toronto, DFA Phil Coke. The start of the minor off-season transactions, as the Pirates add a pitcher with a sinking 93-96 MPH fastball.

**Instructs Report: Max Kranick Showing Promise With His New Curveball. A breakdown of 11th round pick Max Kranick’s pro debut, and what he’s focusing on this off-season.

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  1. Dissecting the Liriano trade has become a cottage industry. I for one have had enough. I may be one of the few people who regularly reads this site that has no idea of what wOBA and wRC+ mean. I could look them up, but I don’t bother because they’re not going to tell me anything I can’t figure out on my own: that the trade was a blatant salary dump, the NH got fleeced, that Hutchinson stinks and that mismanagement will relegate the Pirates to mediocrity or worse until changes are made in ownership.

  2. I think we miss the intangibles that went along with this deal.
    1. many other mlb teams went to Manfred as they thought it was soo bad, players see that
    2. liriano was a leader in the Clubhouse especially for the Latino players. after deadline polancos season nosedived and management is upset with marte unwillingness to play Hurt. coincidence maybe, maybe injuries took hold, maybe not
    3. I also read elsewhere that players in the locker room were very upset with the trade and i saw a video of cervelli criticizing the move directly
    4. the team nosedived as a whole after the deadline and the playful happy clubhouse did not look the same in the dugout. one of the most enjoyable things about watching this team is watching how much they enjoy playing. that was gone after the deadline.

    This trade Imo had many more effects on this club then the obvious. Not to mention upcoming weak trade market. So they created financial flexibility to go sign a weak pitcher. Here’s hoping a trade actually brings in an impact player!

    • All of this comes from Dejan’s article, and there’s a lot of it that I think is overstated.

      As for #3, I watched that video, and all he said about Liriano was that the team continued to step up after people left, and mentioned Liriano among other players. There was no criticism. Just pointing out they lost a guy.

      For number 4, this is news to me, because all I heard the final two weeks were people complaining that they were still dancing in the dugout before games, even when they were losing.

      • Curious as to which part you found overstated. Did you think the part about an employee of another MLB team finding the trade so egregious that they complained to the League about it overstated or untrue?

        Do you have any idea that happens? It’s an honest question, I have no idea but it certainly sounds pretty bad.

        • A lot of it is sharing the opinions of a small amount of people, and presenting it like it’s a widely held belief. It’s similar to what happened with the Hoka Hey stuff. With a large enough group of people, you’re going to find one or two who have the belief you’re looking for.

          Expressing that belief is fine. But when you take the comments of a few people, and then present them as widely held beliefs simply because a few people made comments, it’s overstated and comes across as driving an agenda.

    • There cerrainly wasn’t a “nosedive” aftr the trade. The pirates actually got into contention later in the season, but crashed after injuries and having to start a lot of rookie pitchers. This is why I don’t read Kovacecic anymore. He really knows how to blow up a single incident.

  3. After the MM deal the Pirates dumped about 45 million in salary. They have 3 big free agents Joyce, Rodriguez, and Nova. They better sign at least 1 of these guys if not 2, my money would be on Nova and Rodriguez in that order. Those players would cost roughly 28 mil 15-18 for Nova and 10-13 for Rodriguez. If you think I’m crazy just wait and see what they get paid by either the Pirates or someone else. They need over haul the bullpen and find a closer. That will eat up the remaining 17 mil of the salary dump, and that is assuming they want to have 100 mil opening day salary.

    Hopefully w the new CBA and potential new deal w Root they actually spend money and get up to 130 mil for salaries and contend.

    The trade that absolutely no sense this year was trading Broxton to the Brewers for Rodgers.

  4. here’s my related predictions:
    1. Assuming the Pirates top 3 in rotation next season are Cole, Kuhl, and Taillon, I predict whoever the #4 SP is will have a higher WAR than Liriano for likely about 13M less unless they sign someone like Nova. So that includes Brault, Trevor Williiams, Kingham, and even Hutch.

    2. Reese McGuire’s career path will follow Tony Sanchez and will never amount to a legit MLB starter. Hasn’t hit a homer since April 18th. That’s a long time.

    3. Pirates will ultimately win this trade simply because it will be funny to mock the 88 articles written about it and that’s baseball.

  5. That’s fine though, to have Liriano discussion in a Liriano topic. This topic shouldn’t be off-limits for discussion. And it’s the end of the year, so a perfect time for a recap. But now if I post an article on Cole Tucker, and people start talking about Liriano, then people can point them to this article.

    • I liked Liriano and enjoyed watching him. Yes he was beaten pretty bad and IMO it seems they gave up on him. They did not want to see another year of a poor performing player making MLB standard money for a 2/3 SP. The damned penny pinching is getting boorish. I wish all players traded by PBC to have continued success. You more than anyone knew the value of lack of value of the prospects. I just really enjoyed Liriano. I hated to see him kicked out the door.

  6. I’m still grateful to have been born and raised in the Burgh. In my 35 years, even with the heartache the Buccos have given me, I’ve still witnessed 6 championships. Us Pittsburgh fans are a spoiled bunch.

  7. Is it me, or is there a possible pattern of Pirate management taking a “they’re dead to me” approach to some players when it seems they don’t buy into the Pirate Way. A good example of this is when Niese was shipped out after questioning his coaching, which I applaud. But is this a really bad example — amidst rumblings of Liriano pushing back against Searage adjustments — that they made a decision to get rid of FL at all costs? is this a management team with thin skin? I don’t know the answer but this trade was so painfully one-sided (would have been vetoed if this were Fantasy League!) it smacks of a decision made with emotion.

    • I was talking with Wilbur about this a while back. There are some guys they give up on right away, and other guys who they stick with for years (Locke is an example). I think the key difference is that the guys they trade away are the ones who didn’t accept coaching. The guys they keep are the ones who are open to changes.

      I think you can make an argument that Niese didn’t work out because he wasn’t open to making the necessary changes. And that can come across as “Everyone who listens to Searage has success, and only those who don’t listen struggle.” But Locke is an example of a guy who didn’t have success after making a change. I think the reason Niese was traded and Locke remained with the team was that Locke is very open to coaching and making changes, while Niese was just done with that process.

      That said, I don’t see Locke sticking around after this season.

    • Don’t forget trading Walker and Grilli after they did not toe the management line.
      I do think they are thin skinned and react by moving people out.
      Huntington was just quoted as saying the budget was going to be “tight.”
      Great…maybe if you hadn’t given up on the team at the break or traded Walker you wouldn”t be down 250,000 in attendance, and correspondingly $8M or so in revenue.

  8. Also no mention of being able to control Fryer for 5 yrs and no guarantee Reese will ever be able to match his level of hitting.

  9. I can’t believe we’re still talking about Bautista. The Pirates gave him every chance in the world. I rooted my rear end off for the guy to develop into a power hitter, but it didn’t happen in Pittsburgh.He was just a very late bloomer and the move to Toronto worked out for him. I remember John Wehner commenting about him when he first saw him several years later that his swing was completely different than when he was with the Pirates.

    • There’s no expiration date for complaining about bad deals. Even though Bautista wouldn’t even be on the team right now, and might have never moved beyond an average third baseman with the Pirates.

      • I was completely kidding last week but I brought up Robbie Grossman putting together a nice season and asked John if I could complain about that one. Sure he never would’ve had an opportunity to play in Pittsburgh long term and apparently is a poor fielder but the facts are the facts – he had a nice season years after the deal and the Pirates never won a World Series with Wandy Rodriguez. I’m going to do some more research at lunch and so who else I can come up with…….

          • I think Lee has an West Virginia Herrera jersey in his closet. He’s the one that seems to be have been the most upset.

            • I’ve seen Lee mention it the most on here, but I’ve seen a few other comments on Twitter (usually when Herrera is brought up by BA or someone else), and I don’t think I’ve interacted with Lee on Twitter.

              Basically, any player who was traded away who is still playing baseball will work. Alex Dickerson is another one who comes to mind.

          • I agree with the sentiment here — you can’t complain if trades work out for both teams. We knew we were getting Byrd for a short stint. No regrets on that trade, especially with so many middle infield prospects in the system.

    • Excellent points RobForsyth. Also, I if memory serves me correctly, Bautista also had stops with the Royal, Mets, and I think one other team, maybe the Phillies, before he ended up settling in with Toronto and the rest as they say is history. The point is that the Pirates were not the only team to give him a legitimate chance and things did not pan out until later for him. So be it. It happens.

  10. Hasn’t the FinFlex already been spent? Next season Freese was signed for $6M, Bastardo was added at $6M+ and Hutch was a $2.2M drain this year. (prorated). The boon in financial resources for the off season is about $5M. What’s that going to buy?

    Tim, nice article. Quite surprised to see it after I and others were admonished for our tirades concerning this deal. Very objective of you.

    • Bastardo’s contract was off-set by trading Niese. They got money back in the deal, and I have a feeling it was to help them out. Either way, I had the payroll at $86 M after the Freese deal, and they were at $101 M to start this year. So there’s at least $10-15 M to spend if they match last year’s payroll figure. I’ll have more on that today.

      As for the article and tirades, I’m just sick of seeing them take over every topic. I’ve said the Liriano trade was a bad one since day one. I haven’t changed that. But it’s not bad enough that it needs to be talked about every day, in every topic, even ones that have nothing to do with Liriano.

      This site is the only one posting reports from instructs. We’ve had three writers covering the event so far this year. And yet when we posted a dozen reports about GCL/DSL players that no one else has live reports on, the comments immediately shifted to Liriano. When I posted an article on Jameson Taillon’s great season — one of the few good things to discuss this year, and something good for the Pirates for the next six years — the conversation switched to Liriano. That’s where it gets excessive.

      • I for one am glad you wrote article. It helps with the frustration this fan base has. It still could linger if Liriano continues to pitch like he did two nights ago. If he goes out and gets lit up and blows it for Toronto, may be things will die down.

        • I doubt if he doesn’t do great in the playoffs this will die down. He outperformed his salary since he left and we have Hutchinson who did the exact opposite. This doesn’t even mention the loss in prospects… even if McGuire doesn’t pan out, does that reflect on a big miss of a first rounder? I remember chatter that we were targeting McGuire with the 9th pick until Meadows dropped… thank goodness he did drop. If Liriano flops next year… yeah you will probably see it drop down. If not then he would be a fantastic bargain at 13 mil a year… if stays a number 2.

          Reality is we talk about the good and bad. We trumpet both. When NH does well in a draft or trade we talk about how great he is. You can see these threads with this type of mantra over the past several years. With that goes the opposite. You have to take the good with the bad.

  11. Would anyone honestly argue that “nothing has changed” since the time of the Nova trade?

    I find that incredibly unlikely.

    Likewise, I think the end of Toronto’s deal for Liriano has *absolutely* changed, clearly for the better. I simply cannot equate “possibility” of regressing back to his previous form with the actual occurrence of that happening, which did. At the time of the trade, the Blue Jays essentially bought two quality prospects and a veteran reclamation project. Two months later, they still have said prospects but that reclamation has turned into a valuable asset. That’s a distinct difference, in my mind.

    • To be clear, I’m comparing the evaluations.

      Things have clearly changed with Liriano, and that’s noted in the article. But at the time of the trade, it was expected that Liriano had a chance to rebound with his new team.

      It’s the same as the Nova situation. I wrote that he could end up being this year’s J.A. Happ, and pointed out a lot of reasons why he could turn things around. There was obviously a change with Nova’s results, but the evaluation stays the same.

      • Thanks for the explanation. I suppose I fail to see the relevance of the article in that case.

        What would you consider a “change in evaluations” over a two-month span?

        • I think if Liriano continued to struggle, or if Hutchison pulled a Happ/Nova and immediately turned things around, that would be something, although it really wouldn’t have changed the reasoning for the deal.

          Likewise, if they signed Nova to an extension already, then that would be the financial flexibility put to use, and there wouldn’t be questions right now about whether they’d spend. Although, again, it wouldn’t really change the reason of the deal.

          The article is basically an end of the year review, looking at the expectations for the deal at the time, and seeing how it worked out. Things worked out about as expected for Toronto. Meanwhile, the Pirates’ side of the deal is more long-term, and we’re going to have to wait until the off-season and next year to see how their side turns out.

          • I think things worked out considerably better than Toronto expected so far. I doubt they were expecting Liriano to produce .7 fWAR in less than 50 innings with excellent peripherals. If they were, I think they would have jumped on just getting Liriano instead of insisting on 2 very good prospects for the privilege of tossing in Hutchison.

            • As I pointed out, when the trade was made, Liriano was projected to have a 1.8 WAR in Toronto. An 0.7 in two months is a 2.1 WAR on the season. So it’s not far off the expectations. They didn’t trade for him thinking he’d be a replacement level player owed $18 M.

              • That was rounded down from .8 not long ago and is rough math in a small sample of 49 innings. If he produces like he did this year(17% K-BB% , and WHIP under 1.2) he will easily do 2.5 WAR, probably closer to 3 in 165 innings.

                • It also went up from 0.2 for the month of August. If he kept up the August pace, that’s a 1.2 WAR on the season.

                  And if he kept up the April-July pace, he’s below replacement level.

                  A lot of small sample sizes and a lot of ranges for Liriano to end up with. If September is the pace he goes with moving forward, then he will be a 3.0 WAR pitcher. But picking out his best month isn’t a good approach. That would never fly on here if I made that argument about a Pirates player’s expected production going forward.

                  • I think if Liriano pitches well through the playoffs and Toronto wins the world series, he will have already paid for a substantial amount of his contract. Toronto winning a Series would give them and their players a free pass for quite awhile. I know this will get shot down by many people but I feel like the Pirates’ front office treated 2016 like a free pass year…and they have won nothing. As far as Nova goes, I am 50/50 on him. I think I’d rather go with some other option for less years, but then you could end up with another Neise. They got burned by not paying for Happ so sometimes you just have to take a chance. I am not trashing them for not getting Happ so I won’t no matter what happens with Nova. I do think they should have brought Blanton back though. That non-move was confusing.

          • I would also add in my estimation part of this deal on PIttsburgh’s end should be judged on how Liriano does next year vs not only Hutchison does but how the pitcher we add does(Nova?) relative to how much he costs.

            I think part of the deal should be judged by whether or not Frankie is toast. Because he has long history of amazing rebounds and NH apparently relied on analysis that concluded he would not rebound. So whether or not Frankie truly is washed up is a key component of how this trade should be judged.

            And if Frank puts up 3 WAR or 2.5 wAR next year in Toronto I don’t buy for a second that he couldn’t do same thing in National League.

            • But the question is, would he perform the same way in Pittsburgh? Would he have been able to turn it around with the same team, and no change of scenery?

              It’s the opposite of the situation with guys like Burnett, Happ, and Nova. Was Happ going to put up the same numbers in Seattle as he did after the trade? Was Nova going to put up the same numbers with New York, or in Texas if he went there? Would Burnett have the same numbers in New York that he had the next few years with the Pirates?

              If the answer is yes to each of those, then why did each of those players suddenly improve their production with the new teams?

              • If Liriano puts up 2.5-3 WAR next year I absolutely will believe he could have done it in Pittsburgh. Unlike the guys you mention, he has a history of losing himself and refinding himself.

                And if he does, NH will deserve every ounce of crap thrown his way should Hutchison not amount to much. And by much, I mean he needs to put at least one fWAR next year.

              • Regardless of hypothetical questions nobody can actually answer, it was the panicked speed at which they dealt Liriano that was the ultimate fault.

                There’s a dozen players every year who go through slumps like Liriano before regression toward expected production. If Liriano were truly toast, or if they truly got a good deal then the trade would be defensible.

                Unfortunately, neither are true.

                • I think “panicked speed” is only from our perspective on the outside. We don’t know what was going on behind closed doors that led to the decision to move on from him. Some players do just have limited slumps, while others maintain their slumps. In this case, I don’t think they believed the slump would rebound with them.

                  • 20 starts. They pulled the plug after 20 starts.

                    In my opinion, you better be damn sure you’re correct to give up on a guy with Liriano’s track record after just 20 starts. You alluded to it above, but this seems incredibly strange unless there were other influencing factors outside of just baseball.

                • They liked him enough to give him a long term deal and then suddenly he’s not in the long term plans. It’s definitely peculiar and dubious.

              • I just think Liriano would have brought more or should say cost less if we would have traded him in the off season. At that point a lot teams would have had interest in him and not just potential playoff teams.

  12. Tim, you are right: Nothing much has changed. Liriano’s team made the wild card play-in game last year; and his team made it again this year ; )

  13. “I’d rather have Liriano, McGuire, and Ramirez — even if Liriano has very little shot of rebounding in Pittsburgh — as opposed to Hutchison and money that didn’t get put to use on another pitcher.” – I couldn’t have said it better myself!

    • Does anyone out there do playoff metrics. I’d love to see a list of the top WAR guys in playoff history.

  14. Tim, when you say spend- which players would you target? Are you suggesting there are free agents they should be spending on? If not, which trades do you see playing out and the net to payroll? Thanks!

      • What do you think absolute cheapest in terms of years and average annual salary they could get Nova?

        3/33? 3/36? 4/40?

        They could try an opt out I suppose to make it more player friendly I’d be shocked if he didn’t cost at least 10M a year, I could see 12 to 13 as well.

          • IN a hypothetical world what do you think is better from a risk/rewad perspective.

            Paying Ivan Nova(he with the unsustainable sub 2% walk ratio and a FIP over 4.6 3 times since 2011 before he came here) a guaranteed 42M over 3 years or:

            paying Liriano 13M over 1 year

            • Nova. Higher reward if he works out, since they have him for three years. Plus, they’ve got him for ages 30-32. Liriano is in his age 33 season next year, and has inconsistency issues. No guarantees with him.

              • I couldn’t disagree more. If you think the risk/reward is better committing 14M a year to Nova for a total of 42M I believe you are probably seriously underestimating the risk with Nova. It’s not as if his resume is a model of consistency.

                  • Not sure what the actual reward is with Nova… none of his past performance other than a couple of months here bear anything more than a 3 or 4. Will he ever post numbers like Liriano did here in the burgh? Strong #2’s do not come for 13M a year even if you have to deal with some inconsistency. He had a terrible first half but he wasn’t the only one and if winning is contagious maybe losing is as well. The mood on this team out of the gate was down with how little the team did over the off season. Giving away Walker (locker room leader) for Niese. Signing Vogelsong to be your number 5. Keeping Locke in the lineup all while the Cubs go out and get stronger and stronger. Would have had more optimism for next year believing Frankie would turn it around next year vs. trying to find a couple of quality starters on a very limited budget. Frankie has done it.

              • Not to mention that Liriano’s AL success may have a ton to do with teams not seeing him enough and realizing that you just don’t have to swing at the slider much. I have no empirical data for this, but it seems to make sense to me :).

              • I agree with Tim’s answer to the hypothetical question but using 3-42 (while not impossible)is a bit unrealistic n still comes with some substantial risks.In past Nova has had some brief periods of very good success only to disappoint.I agree that Nova’s chances of remaining successful this time around have greatly improved with him pitching at PNC and using 2 seamer more often. As the hypothetical stated if Pirates can sign him for no more than 3-42 then absolutely they should take the gamble.Unfortunately I believe he’ll get closer to 4-50 n If that’s the case would rather taker my chances with Lirano.
                Hypothetical aside,1.Seeing how hard it is to find FO pitching at reasonable prices 2 While understanding why FO wanted to get rid of Liriano but should not have gone about it the way they did..For those reasons they should of held on to Liriano n STILL take the plunge and sign a mid rotation the 3-42 range.Lol another problem is there’s not many available this year but that’s for another topic.The scariest part for me is the the way they got rid of Liriano.Do they truly not have the money to spend the required amount to win 90+ games n compete for championships or jspend just enough to be competive.I guess will have the answer inthe next 6 months.

  15. Tim, rtofl in Australia after you admonished us not to complain anymore about the Liriano dump I mean deal! No criticism, seriously, I still think P2 has the best coverage of the Pirates’ and their system, by far. But the Liriano trade still stings, especially after he pulled the fat out of the fire for the Jays in the WC game! Crazy to see the Jays have so many ex-Pirates, with Liriano, Grilli, Happ, Russell Martin and of course Joey Bats (that may qualify as one of the worst trades in Pirates’ history, up there with the giveaway of Aram). I would be willing to bet that if the Pirates had re-signed Russ and Happ and had kept Joey Bats that they would have made the WC this year, and I bet that with the big bat of Joey B., they may actually have made it over the hump in 2013 – 2015 and gotten to the WS. What on earth was NH thinking with that (stupid) trade? After all the Pirates actually traded to rescue Joey B.from Rule 5 and then NH gave him away for zero, Have to try to forget about this horrid horrid trade of giving away Liriano and 2 prospects who had value. If nothing else if they didn’t want to keep Reese and Ramirez they could have gotten a better return for them. Package them with what else they gave up for nothing this year – Polo, Tarpley, Supak, Broxton and I bet that that package would have brought them back at least 1 reasonable No. 3 starter. So now, they have nothing to show for it all except a hole in the system. I doubt very much they’ll be using the FF to re-sign Nova. If they don’t upgrade the rotation next year they could wind up looking up not just at the Cubs and the Cards but also the Brewers and Reds. Keep up the great work, NH!!!

    • Wish you would do some research – the Joey Bats trade was NOT a disaster – the Pirates can and should be criticized for how they developed and used him – but when he was traded he was a 250 hitting, poor fielding 27 year old OF who had never shown any sign of being more. His breakout season was his age 29 year – very late for a player.

      And the Aramis deal was a league mandated move to get salaries down and cash flow up to keep the team in compliance with MLBs financial requirements – not a trade the Pirates wanted to make – and other teams knew the situation – and that the Bucs had little or no bargaining power.

      You and many others are constantly assuming that Huntington just takes what he is offered – that the Bucs could have gotten more for Walker – why not Matz? Harvey? heck Syndergard?

      Teams negotiate and you give to get and in todays world everyone knows a lot about every other teams prospects.

      • Once again Bruce is always right! How can you even defend that the Bautista trade was NOT a disaster. Robinzon Diaz came back not Robsinon Cano. NH did a very poor job this year.

        • NH wasn’t with the Pirates organization for the Bautista or Ramirez trades, so how do they have any relevance?

        • Go back and look at exactly what they traded – a player who was pretty bad defensively – never had a WAR of 2 and was hitting HRs. at a rate of 1 every 30 or so ABs. Heck his first year in Toronto he hit 13 HRs in 336 ABs – a nice but not awesome i every 25 ABs [RC is a very HR friendly park so an up tick like this was reasoable] he was 28 years old and had a nice .OPS – .756 – but you don’t get Robinson Cano for that kind of result.

          All of sudden at age 29 and 30 he hits 97 HRs and bats in 227 runs in1082 ABs – a HR ever 11 ABs. That kind of transformation might be due to reworking his swing – but others have suggested…..

          I am fine with being critical of the Pirates for not getting the 29/30 year Bautista when they had him – but that guy WAS NOT the player they traded.

          • I had no problem trading Joey Bats but we did trade a player who was a Major League player who would help any team for a kid who never was going to make it. I don’t think anyone would have imagined Joey bats going off the way he did. Once Joey went off the trade went from a bad deal into a horrendous deal.

            • I just repeated what you said 4 hours later in a more rambling way. Oh well. I threw a little extra salt and pepper on there.

        • It was either make that trade or DFA Joey Bats. I wish he broke out sooner, but the FO does not have a crystal ball. Just bad luck.

      • Agreed on Bautista. He was given three years to show something and the Bucs weren’t the only organization that gave up on him, and was, as stated above a .250 hitting 27 year old without a position. What’s next? Let’s gripe about the Brandon Moss deal, because at age 34 he’s now finally hitting 25 homers after the Bucs and two or three other organizations gave up on him, and he was given over a year to produce something, but was hitting about .190 when he was released?

      • The Pirates had no talent when they traded Bautista and He was ruined early on because of rule 5 and losing development…so he was a still developing guy entering his prime. I’m not saying in hindsight that they really screwed up but he was worth more than an average defensive catcher with no power. He would have soon priced himself out of Pittsburgh anyways…or they would have never developed him into the power hitting beast that he is anyways. As for his defense, its not great, but I’d take him at 3B over Pedro…now that’s hindsight!

        • I remember Wehner talking about Joey Bats out of game power a lot way back then. I think he liked his potential.

      • So why did you write this article if you’re tired hearing the complaints?? I’m tired hearing about it as well.

        • It’s not the complaints. It’s the complaints in articles that have nothing to do with Liriano. It’s taking over the site.

          Basically, it’s frustrating to watch an instructs game for three hours in the still blazing heat in Florida, do some interviews after the game, write up a report about players that no one else has even seen, much less has multiple updates on, and then see a discussion about Liriano, just because it’s a new article, which means a new place to post Liriano complaints.

      • The Liriano trade and the resulting talk reminds me of my other Quixotic sports obsession (the even longer suffering and more hopeless) Duquesne Basketball! On the message board, every single thread devolves down to “They should never have fired Ron Everhart….They should have fired Ron Everhart!” Jesus, give it a rest please

        • PIKE – Not even a Duquesne BBALL fan but they should not have gotten rid of him. Your AD thought Dino Gaudio was going to come and Dino said NO THANKS. Everhart was and is total class.

          • yeah the only coach who had the program even registering a pulse in forty years. Three post season bids and even and NIT bid, the only coach with a winning record since Red Manning. Yeah Greg Amodio screwed that up. And what really sucks is hearing all these people making excuses for current failure, Jim Ferry, acting like he is rebuilding a program. Ron Everhart was winning 15-19 games regularly and they act as if the program was still winning 3 games a year like under Ron’s predecessor.

        • It’s almost like how every article on usatoday devolves into a trump or Hilary jab at the end. The article could be about puppies, and someone will use it to get their shit in. It’s troll season!

    • The Aramis deal wasn’t even supposed to be Aramis, it was supposed to be Benson, but he got injured, so the Pirates were forced into trading Aramis. At the time, the deal didn’t look as bad as it turned out, Bobby Hill was a top 10 prospect in the Cubs system, and possibly a top 100 overall, I don’t remember for sure. That being said, it was a bad trade, but one forced from above the GM level.

      • yeah more bad karma that seemed to just plague this franchise over that 20 years in the wilderness period. Benson was a chronic underachiever and his sl*t of a crazy wife messed up his head (IMHO)

      • What got me about that “excrement” sandwich was Jose Hernandez, and just how clueless the Pirates managment was. It was bad enough we had to accept the 200 strikeouts a year hitting machine, but they kept resigning him for the next two years! Every time he walked onto the field the fans were reminded of how the Bucs got totally sodomized in that deal!

    • Lots of garbage gets spewed here every day about how great Neal Walker was/is, how the Melancon trade was the end of the world and how the FO makes deals that are awful.

      Frankly Tim I am sick and tired of folks who take ANY thread and turn it into whining about Walker, Melancon and/or Liriano

      Start doing us a favor and deleting/blocking all comments that are off topic – and giving folks who continue to try and talk about Liriano, Walker and Melancon warnings that they are at risk for losing their comment privileges – heck include off topic Joey Bats idiots also!

      Will make the the site a better place for all of us.

  16. Couldn’t agree more. The pressure is on the FO this offseason. Even the more privy to sabermetrics type fans are calling for a big spending period. There’s nowhere to hide. They need to do something big.

    • Disagree. The pressure should be on ownership to spend some money and complement the core with a solid No. 3 starter and some bullpen pieces.

      • junior, there is no core…the pirates will be lucky to finish .500 next year…..we have jameson taillon and ….nothing….cole is often injured and the rest is question marks…..

    • Why – the lemmings will continue to come to the best park in baseball during the summer months – heck – trade Cutch and J-Hay and you get the payroll under $70M…
      The cash cow is exists to be milked – distribute profit to the partners and pay down debt….

      Now if the fans would wake up and stop attending – and stop watching Root – Nutting might feel the need to do something – but even in a pretty crappy year the attendance was down only 250K

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