Despite taking two of three from the Washington Nationals this week, the Pirates find themselves in last place in the NL Central, and sitting five games under .500. The losing record, and the upcoming trade rumor mill season, has led to a lot of speculation trade rumor articles. I’ve written before about how this time of year can lead to trade rumors that aren’t really rumors, but instead just filling the void of articles until there are actual rumors and trades to discuss.

The current version of those events involves polling executives around the league to see who they think will be buyers and sellers. In this process, you get cases where an executive might think the Pirates will trade or at least shop someone like Gerrit Cole, for example. It’s not really a rumor, because it’s just someone inside the game taking a guess at what might happen. It doesn’t mean the Pirates have shopped Cole, or that they will shop him. It just means the thought is that they could do it.

That’s not really an original thought. It follows a cookie-cutter approach that takes place every year. If a team is losing, every player who is not under a long-term contract gets discussed as a trade option. The team is losing, and thus they have no choice but to blow it all up and start over. It’s the opposite approach for buyers. They have to trade every prospect they can to upgrade in every possible way to make a run for it that year. These extreme approaches lead to easy black and white discussions about teams and their futures.

The reality is that teams generally operate in shades of gray. There will be teams that go all-in one year, and there will be teams that blow it all up. Most articles suggesting either approach are only focusing on the current season. Teams have to focus not only on the current season, but their chances in future years. The teams who take the extreme approach do so because they are considering both, and came to a conclusion that this is their last shot to win (all-in), or that they really don’t have a strong chance to win in the next few years (rebuild).

The rumor mill is starting up with speculation about which teams could be buyers and sellers, and with the position the Pirates are in, they’re starting to get the “blow it all up and rebuild” treatment. That doesn’t mean they will do it. And I’m not here to say whether they will or won’t take that approach. I do think we should ask whether they should take that approach.

The Pirates have faced a lot of unfortunate circumstances this year. They lost two of their top hitters to a DUI/visa issues and a PED suspension. They have seen most of their other hitters under-performing, or injuries to the productive hitters. Their top young MLB starter was shut down with testicular cancer. It makes you wonder where they’d be right now if a few of those things went in their direction. And that makes you wonder whether they are a team that has no shot going forward, or a team that can contend outside of a season where everything goes wrong.

To get an answer for that, we need to take a look at each position now, and in the future. With all of these positions, keep in mind that I’ll be discussing prospects who can eventually come up and help. The unwritten truth about prospects is that they aren’t guaranteed (not that MLB players provide a guarantee either, as we’ve seen from the difference in projections on Andrew McCutchen from three years ago and now). That said, teams need a plan at each position, and ideally a few backup plans. Get enough options in place, and you’ve got a good shot of things working out for you. And if it doesn’t, it’s something to address at the time, either by trade or free agency (like when Tony Sanchez didn’t work out and the Pirates added Francisco Cervelli to replace Russell Martin).

Here is the rundown of each position, only considering the starting options for each spot.

Catcher

Cervelli is under team control through the 2019 season. The Pirates have Elias Diaz in Triple-A as a potential starter in the same mold as Cervelli, with strong defense and the offense being a bonus. Depending on the injury situation, Diaz could take over at times before 2019, and he’s the best bet right now to be the long-term starter. The Pirates do have catching prospects below Diaz, most notably Jin-De Jhang in Altoona, and Christian Kelley in Bradenton. I’m not sure I would project either guy as more than future backups at this point, although if Kelley’s hitting this year is a sign that he’s figured it out, then he could emerge as a starter option as well.

I would say the catcher position is locked up for the short-term and the long-term. I think Diaz’s defense will transition well over to the big leagues, and I don’t think the Pirates will be looking for a ton of offense from him beyond that, with any offense he does provide being a bonus.

First Base

The Pirates have Josh Bell under team control through the 2022 season. He’s showing a lot of positive signs this year, finally seeing his power translate into games at the MLB level, and seeing improvements with his defense. It’s a small sample size with both, although it provides reason right now to pencil him in as the long-term first base option.

The Pirates also have Will Craig in the minors, along with Connor Joe in Altoona. Joe can play other positions. They can take their time with Craig, eventually using him as either a trade chip, or a guy who could take over for Bell.

Second Base

If you haven’t read Travis Barnett’s latest article about Josh Harrison, you should check it out. While I don’t believe Harrison is going to continue putting up his current numbers going forward (matching or exceeding his 2014 production), I also think there could be reason to expect him to do better than 2015/16. The Pirates have some middle infield prospects in the minors, along with some help that is big league ready. Harrison has two option years for $10 M and $10.5 M. With his defense, the 2018 option could be picked up if he continues this hitting, providing a bridge until someone is ready.

Adam Frazier isn’t a prospect, but could be an option to take over for Harrison. His defense would be a big downgrade, and I think the team is stronger with him as a super utility player. Max Moroff is showing some power in Triple-A this year, but I’m not convinced yet that he will hit enough in the big leagues to be more than a utility infielder.

The best prospect option emerging might be Kevin Kramer, who Sean McCool wrote about today. I had him pegged for a breakout season last year, and while he was making hard contact throughout the year, his numbers didn’t reflect what he showed in the games. He’s now seeing his production translate over to the stat line, and after seeing him make consistent hard contact for the last two years, I don’t think the performance we’re seeing is a fluke. I could see Kramer emerging as a starting option, possibly by the middle of next year. The Pirates have some backup plans for him, which I’ll get to in the shortstop section.

I don’t know what to expect from Harrison next year, or the rest of this year. I could see the Pirates either holding on to him for another year, or going with Frazier as a stop-gap until a prospect is ready. The long-term here is reliant on prospects working out, but I think there’s good depth at this position.

Shortstop

Jordy Mercer is under team control for one more season, and I think at some point in the next year he will be replaced by Kevin Newman. If Newman doesn’t work out in the long-term (I see him being a better version of Mercer on offense, with the chance to have the same defense), then Cole Tucker is another option in the system. Tucker’s offense is doing better this year in Bradenton, and is becoming a legit stolen base threat. If the Pirates are fortunate enough for both Newman and Tucker to work out, then one of them could move over to second base if Kramer doesn’t work out. I don’t think Tucker would arrive until 2019, so that’s not a short-term solution.

Stephen Alemais and Adrian Valerio are two other interesting middle infield options who are primarily shortstops. Alemais is one of the best defenders in the system, and has been working on his hitting. He’s shown flashes of his ability to hit, but nothing consistent yet. His defense will get him to the majors, but he’ll have to improve at the plate to be a starter. Valerio is raw on both sides of the ball, showing good tools, but lacking consistency on both sides, sometimes even in the same game.

The Pirates aren’t getting great production from this position right now, and will probably have average production going forward, at best.

Third Base

At this point, I’m not expecting Jung Ho Kang to be back with the team at all in future years. If he is back with the team, that would be a nice bonus. They do have David Freese under team control through the 2019 season, and while he continues to hit well, his age is a concern. Eric Wood is the only prospect close to the big leagues who has a shot at starting, but right now I’d pencil him in as a utility guy on the corners, or an average starter at best if everything clicks. The latter hasn’t been the case so far, but the Pirates have plenty of time with him.

Ke’Bryan Hayes is the best third base prospect in the system, with the defense at third to get him to the majors. His offense hasn’t been consistent, with a decent average and a good on-base percentage this year, but a lack of power. He did lose a lot of weight over the off-season, and not all of that was intentional, but was a side effect of a cracked rib last year. He should eventually add some muscle back to his frame, and could increase the power production. If he’s only a guy who hits for average and gets on base, then I think he could have the defense to justify being a starter in the big leagues. But he will have to add some power to get close to the overall value that Kang, or Freese, provide.

There’s not much beyond Hayes at this point, although that can change in a few years. We’re talking about a replacement needed for three years from now. Three years ago, Kang and Freese weren’t in the picture, and Hayes was a year away from being drafted out of high school. This is an area to focus on, but there’s some time to find an eventual replacement.

Outfield

I’m not going to break the group up by positions here. The Pirates have Starling Marte under control through 2021, and Gregory Polanco under control through 2023. Andrew McCutchen is under control for one more season, and I can’t see him with the team in 2018. Austin Meadows is the eventual replacement, and could be ready by the middle of this season, at the earliest.

Beyond Meadows, the Pirates do have some outfield options. Barrett Barnes is still an interesting prospect, although injury issues hold him back. Jordan Luplow is showing some power in Altoona, and can handle left field without taking much value away from his offense. Logan Hill is showing some nice power, and has a good frame, although I’d want to see him do this at a higher level before fully buying in. Casey Hughston is a very toolsy player, but I question if he’ll ever get over his strikeout issues. With all of these options, you’re looking at average starters, or maybe above-average production in some cases if all goes well.

The hope is that Meadows works out. Otherwise, our expectations of having three outfielders with impact upside won’t be met.

Starting Rotation

The rotation is tricky. When it comes to first base, you just need one guy to step up and be a starter. In the outfield, you don’t necessarily need three impact guys. But the rotation has five spots to fill, and there’s a constant moving of the goal posts when it comes to the quality of the starting staff.

It wasn’t long ago that the Pirates had zero top of the rotation options, and that was a big reason they could never win. They slowly started adding players — A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano, Edinson Volquez, Gerrit Cole — but never really had more than two guys performing as top of the rotation options until the 2015 season. That’s when Cole, Burnett, and Liriano all stepped up to be three of the top pitchers that year (ranking 13, 14, and 26 in xFIP).

The Pirates don’t need three guys performing like top of the rotation options to win. But when you have that production one year, it starts to be viewed as the norm, and something to build upon, especially when you’ve got pitchers with top of the rotation upside lined up in the system going forward.

They currently have Cole and Ivan Nova under team control through the 2019 season, with Jameson Taillon under control through the 2022 season. That’s a pretty strong top three, and that leaves Tyler Glasnow as a bonus if he can figure everything out.

I would think that you’d want at least two top of the rotation starters, as long as the rest of the rotation has some quality options. Glasnow is under control through the 2022 season along with Taillon. Mitch Keller is the top prospect in the system, and I view him in the same way I viewed Cole when he was in High-A. The expectation is that he will spend half a year in Bradenton, half a year in Altoona, half a year in Indianapolis, and arrive in the majors a little over a year from now, if all goes well.

Obviously a lot can happen at each stop, but I view Keller in the same way I’d view a college pitcher taken at the top of the first round last year. If you go with that view, then a quick future path doesn’t sound extreme.

The key here is that the Pirates will need two replacement starters by 2019-2020, depending on whether they hold on to Cole/Nova throughout their contracts. I think Keller will be ready by then, and it’s possible that Glasnow could figure it out by then. If the Pirates have one of those two guys work out to join Taillon, they’ll continue with a solid top of the rotation. From there, they have a ton of pitching depth throughout the minors, with a few guys who project as middle of the rotation options. The two guys closest to the majors are Nick Kingham and Clay Holmes. Then they’ve got some higher upside guys in the lower levels, with Gage Hinsz, Taylor Hearn, and Luis Escobar leading the way.

The future of the rotation is heavily relying on prospects, but the good news is that the Pirates have a lot of options for when most of those options inevitably fall short of their upsides, or fail to make it at all. One good thing here is that they’ve shown the tendency to add talented starters from the outside for very little. So they may not actually have to rely entirely on prospects, and could go with a trade or a reclamation project to boost the rotation. I think there are some good reasons to be optimistic about the strength of the rotation continuing going forward.

The One Argument in Favor of Blowing it Up

I look at the Pirates and see a team in good position to contend moving forward. Assuming they don’t continue having the worst luck in future years, I think they’ve got enough pitching, enough potential impact bats, and enough players who fill in value on defense and other areas to be a contender. That is the way they are seen outside of Pittsburgh, both by opposing teams and by national media.

But the Pirates aren’t held to a “contender” standard in Pittsburgh. Being a contender is relative to the rest of the league. The only thing Pirates fans focus on is their chances against the Cubs, aka the best team in baseball. It’s a very real problem to play in the same division as the best team in the league, since it alters perception on how good a team is, and how good a team needs to be to win a division or get beyond the top team in the playoffs.

That would be the one argument to blow everything up right now. I could see the Pirates trading Andrew McCutchen, Tony Watson, Juan Nicasio, and other players who are only under control through the 2017 or 2018 seasons. But the argument for trading guys like Cole or Nova (side note: funny that you never hear the same arguments about trading Nova, even though they both have the same years of control remaining) is that you’re not contending while they are here. I think the Pirates still can contend in 2018 and 2019.

But if your standard is to beat the Cubs and try to become the best team in baseball, rather than one of the best teams, then blowing it up might be the best path. The team is still relying on prospects for a lot of positions moving forward, and the current MLB landscape — with more teams in contention due to the second Wild Card, and thus more buyers and fewer sellers — leads to a year-over-year seller’s market that the Pirates could take serious advantage of (which they did last year with the Mark Melancon for Felipe Rivero and Taylor Hearn trade).

If you’re looking for a way to be the Cubs, then making the hard choice of punting on 2018 and maybe even 2019 to aim for 2020 and beyond is the way to go. That would involve trading guys who are under team control beyond the 2018 season, maximizing the potential return, and loading up for the next core group that will be arriving in the next 2-3 years.

That said, I think the Pirates could do both. I think they can try to contend in 2018, and then if they have a replacement already, trade Cole prior to the 2019 season and still get a pretty big return. The downside to this approach is that Cole isn’t guaranteed to continue his production going forward (SEE: MLB players, like prospects, aren’t guarantees either), and you run the risk of losing a lot of value that you could get now.

Overall, the issue comes down to a matter of personal preference. Would you go for a team that has a shot at contending for years, with the chance that some bad luck or poor performances would put them out of contention in any given year? Or would you blow it all up, punt for a year or two, and have a non-guaranteed but appealing sounding shot at being one of the best teams in baseball?

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78 COMMENTS

  1. 1. Trade Cervelli 2. Trade Watson 3. Trade vet bench players 4. Trade Cutch. This is what you do, nothing more. None of these players will be missed long term because they can all be replaced by internal options. Let the kids take over and use what you can get to rebuild

  2. really cole would be only player that you would get a haul in return, cutch, watson, freese stewart and jaso would not fetch much in return, but because of the age and or contract situation they have to go this year. To trade cole the pirates would have to be wowed.ps But in any trade ,take the best value, none of this major league ready stuff on less it really is the best offer.

  3. I dont look at Cubs as some juggernaut organization. Their pitching is trending down and no reason to expect it will improve.

    They have a very good lineup, but I wouldn’t say it’s in top 3 of MLB. I’d take Houston, Washington, and Dodgers over their’s.

    If I were NH, I wouldn’t predicate my decision to trade away top talent based on Cubs roster. I’d be more inclined to agree with Tim if Astros were still in NL Central.

  4. I’m not even ready to punt on *this* year. Not yet, anyway. The Giants were slow out of the gate, the Mets are broken, and there’s still not enough evidence to be sure the Rockies are for real. The race for that second wild card will be absolutely wide open. And in baseball, all you have to do is get there.

    We won’t have Marte for the playoffs, but we’ll have him for most of the second half of the regular season. Our lineup right now could get a couple guys hot and produce enough. Glasnow is showing gradual improvements, and Cole and Nova have been studs. Williams and Kuhl will be competitive often enough to give us a chance in most of their starts, and our bullpen will be pretty darned good if Hudson figures himself out again (toward which he took a big step yesterday), especially with some good looking options in AAA to supplement it.

    If Kang and/or Taillon come back at some point this season, it would be a huge boost as well.

    A lot has to break right, but everything has already broken wrong, so a little good luck doesn’t seem to be too much to ask.

    But 2018 could be a legitimately excellent year with one or two acquisitions. A shutdown bullpen arm and either a second or third baseman will do the trick. The Cubs are the only team in the division clearly better than the Bucs. If they have a year like we’re having right now next year, the division will be wide open. It would be foolish to give up on that, in my opinion.

    • Addendum: I think Cutch is looking much better at the plate this year, and especially lately. I expect him to ultimately end up being a ~3.5 WAR player this year. That will help at least a little.

    • Wish I could share your optimism for 2017. Too much needs to break right after so much breaking wrong.
      In 2018 the pitching could be awesome though. For starters choose among Cole, Nova, Taillon, Glasnow, Kingham, Kuhl, Holmes, Williams. And Rivero, Santana, Neverauskas, Hudson to form basis of a bullpen. What’s not to like?

  5. Now would be a good time to trade Watson. Like right now! We can cover the closer position with Rivero and fleece someone like the Nationals (again) for Tony. And the Boras agent stuff just confirms he will be traded, so why not now?

  6. For whatever reason, when I saw the article I was SURE I was going to like it, but be enraged after reading it. Obviously, I wasn’t. Great stuff.

  7. Go for it in 18. Bucs will have the pitching to do it, which is the most important part.

    Sign Cosart for SS as a FA this offseason – an overpay (wthin reason) would be a wise one, IMO. He’s maybe the only FA worth looking at. Keep Gift around for a backup. Say goodbye to Jordy.

    Trade whichever of Kramer/Tucker you don’t think is going to play at SS in a package that also unloads Jaso and/or Bastardo or something similar and nets a fringe offensive prospect.

    Do not blow it up. With a lineup of:
    C Cervelli
    1b Bell
    2b Frazier
    SS Cosart
    3b Harrison
    OF Marte/Cutch/Polanco
    Bench Freese/Ngoepe/Meadows/Bostick/Diaz
    SP Cole/Nova/Taillon/Kingham/Glasnow
    RP Rivero/LeBlanc//Hudson/Kuhl/Nicasio/Neverauskas/Santana

    That team can compete.

    Just my opinion. Teams with excellent pitching can make up for a lot of offensive woes, provided they have some defense, so in my scenario, Frazier and Cervelli may be the weak links.

    I’m also not opposed to trading Polanco and signing someone like Bruce depending on how other things shake out. Kinda sick of watching Greg’s glacier-like progress.

    • I agree with you in theory, just think you need to tweak a few details.

      1. If Cervelli has any trade value, deal him and go with Diaz. Or trade Diaz and keep Cervelli. In my mind they’re interchangeable except Diaz is much cheaper. Re-sign Stewart, who’s a perfectly serviceable backup.

      2. Trade Cutch and whatever (reasonable) package of prospects and veterans it takes to bring in a quality third baseman. I’m not opposed to JayHay playing there short term, but if I’m rebuilding the roster I want someone there with legitimate corner infield power.

      3. Don’t let Meadows spend a day letting his skills atrophy on the bench. When he gets here, he starts in Marte’s place until the trade deadline, after which he shifts into Cutch’s spot.

      4. Move JayHay back to second unless he’s part of a package to acquire a real third baseman. With the right guy at third and Bell’s blossoming power, I’m OK keeping Jordy’s glove at short until Newman arrives. Likewise, I’ll sacrifice a little offense for solid defense at second if Harrison goes.

      5. Keep Frazier in his supersub role. It’s a thankless but necessary job, and moving around doesn’t seem to affect his hitting at all.

      6. Repeat: Third base is the key, mostly because the Pirates have absolutely no one close to the majors who fits the profile. Find someone who can hold down that position and everything else falls into place.

  8. There are too many young, cost controlled players on the team as is to do something drastic like a blow up. Cole is the piece that would bring the best return, but Cole is going to bring a huge return if they trade him next year, or the year after. I think trading Cole is the “blow up” move, so I pass on that. Retooling can and should be done though. I think Watson, Freese, Harrison and McCutchen (if someone will even take him) are the expendable pieces.

    The continued decline of McCutchen combined with Polanco’s no show and the Marte/Kang debacles has turned 2017 into another retooling year. You spend 2017 letting the young pitchers mature, If even one of Glasnow, Kuhl, Brault, Williams or Kingham emerge as legit workhorse starter, then the 2018 rotation will be one of the best in the league. NH will have to try and leverage his moveable assets to acquire a solid lineup piece for next year, that will of course be difficult, but there’s also the chance that Meadows takes a step forward if he stays healthy all year and is ready establish himself in the lineup like Bell is doing now.

  9. I would move Jhay to job share with Freese at 3B for two years while also spending significant time at second while a cast of many (Moroff, Bostick, Hanson) audition for full time action there.

    I like Frazier in LF, leading off, for a few years until Meadows is ready. I don’t understand why Frazier’s OBP ability doesn’t get more recognition and praise on this site.

    • I’m with you on Frazier, and I can’t for the life of me, figure out why he is being benched for tonight’s game.

      I guess he is tired after driving in four runs last night.

      • Frazier has to feel like what do I have to do to stay in the lineup. Hurdle is a big dumb ass and has got to go.

      • I think it’s more about him recently coming off the DL. I’m fine with them being cautious with his and Freese and Cervelli’s playing time to make sure they don’t go down again.

    • When I read the article, I too noticed that Frazier’s name seems to have been mentioned almost in passing. I think he’s the real deal offensively. The only question for me is whether he can field. I want to see him in LF 5-6 games a week at least and leading off whether it is a RH or LH starting pitcher, until Marte gets back, and then let’s see what things look like. If Frazier proves himself, then possibly we could then trade Marte or Polanco along with prospects o get us a legitimate shortstop. Is this within the realm of reason I wonder? I’m not counting on Newman at this point. Not ruling him out either, I’ve been kind of waiting for him to start tearing up Double A. Every time I look at the box score it’s the same middling stuff.

      2018 (the year I’d focus on if I was GM) Starters would be:
      Frazier, Bell, Meadows, Harrison/Freese at 3B, Cervelli, Polanco or Marte, Kramer or Newman at 2B, and the acquired shortstop.

      My whole point is Frazier can hit. He’s the kind of player if you’re a Cards or Cubs (opposing club) fan you would find entirely annoying because he gets on base all the time! When is the last time we had somebody who can get on base like he can? Freddy Sanchez? There’s not many names in the list.

      • Who’s going to trade a stud SS for a recent PED user and lottery ticket(s)?

        Pirates are stuck w Marte and Polanco is too young, talented and cheap to trade yet.

      • Yeah, that’s what I see about Frazier. Wish he could play INF better. But if you think of him as a CF playing left (offensively) he is okay.
        SS is the position most in need of upgrade, but I am more sanguine that Tucker will work out by 2019.

    • If it takes Meadows a “few years” of AAA play to be “ready,” then I doubt he’ll ever be ready.

      • Cutch spent quite a bit of time in AAA. He worked out okay.Mid 2018 might be a good arrival time for Meadows. He didn’t spend all that much time in AA.

        • I’m an advocate for bringing up Meadows sooner than later based on current Pirates OF quandary. However, I realize Pirates are an organization which values fully preparing prospects in minor leagues. Thus, I wouldn’t be surprised if your timeline is correct.

        • Not sure if the call ups rule was changed in the most recent cba if not you’re guaranteed to see him in August

    • Gosh, I so love these one sided trade scenarios. I can’t get enough of them on various chats around the web.

      (insert sarcasm font)

      I’m sure that the Nationals will trade their #1 prospect AND another Taylor Hearn-like pitcher for an OF’er on a steep decline, a 7th inning reliever and a quasi-closer who is outperforming his peripheals.

      • You ignore that they have no bullpen, the CF they traded for instead of Cutch is out for the year, and they have all the ingredients to go all in this year given their offense and starting pitching. Cutch isn’t as bad as his average, BABIP isn’t doing him any favors right now. The also have proven (the Melancon trade) that they are willing to do desperate things. So your sarcasm is a bit misplaced.

        • And with “Hearn like” I was referring not to his present demonstrated ability but to the fact that at the time of the trade he was pretty much of an unknown, recovering from injury, who surprised to the upside after joining t he Pirates’ system.

    • not gonna happen, cutch is not playing like a guy who is going to earn his option for 2018, watson whip is a red flag and you don’t get robles for a juan nicasio.

    • You might have to tack on Cole to get the nats to move on Robles but I like your idea of getting something for Cutch as part of a package deal. How about this: Cole Cervelli Watson for Gary Sanchez Betances Justus Sheffield – not honestly sure if Cervelli can really be offered tho

  10. jmo………Cole will be gone this offseason or by the trade deadline next year, UNLESS we are in contention.

    As for third base, I see JHay moving back there as much as possible.

    • Props to him for being the vet who is not letting the team down this year but I think now is the sell high moment for JHay. If Cutch heats up by the deadline same with him.

  11. If everyone was healthy AND we had an owner that would, you know, spend some cash every now and then, we could hang on to everyone whose contract doesn’t expire after this year and FILL HOLES WITH FREE AGENTS.

    But, since we can’t do that, except for guys “on the cheap”, like Nova, Hudson, etc, we are pretty much relegated to getting what we can for Cole, et al, whose contracts expire in one or two years vice getting Comp Picks.

    As for not hearing Nova’s name, I HAVE seen it come up in a couple of articles. However, Cole’s comes up more because he has more value.

    • Even if the pirates free up $40m next year btw Cutch Harrison BP there’s no one in the class who would make a dent. Basically no one to replicate Kang, Cozart at SS?, Walker with the horrible start he’s had?, no one at catcher IF or OF is definitively an upgrade over who the pirates have (when healthy). The strongest part of the market is 7th 8th leverage type relievers. So I’m ok with the cheapness in ’18 but not sure what kind of team can be put around Cole.

  12. It would be great if the Bucs had a couple of “non-prospect” prospects be late bloomers. Kinda like a Jeff Kent or Brian Giles or Matt Holliday. Guys who were never on any lists and suddenly became all stars as pros. I wonder if Bell keeps up this power surge. People were talking about him hopefully hitting 15-20 homers and right now he’s on pace to hit 30+ in his rookie season.

  13. If Taillon didn’t have cancer, this is a no brainer. Cole, Nova, Taillon for at least two year. And then two of Glasnow, Kingham, Brault, et al filling in the back.
    Imagine Glasown reaching his potential with those guys. That’s something you build around, not blow up.

    But Taillon does have cancer. And Glasnow is not where we all think he should be.

    Makes you think.

    Fraizer and Bell are still young. Meadows coming up, Diaz coming up.

    I’d still add a piece or two and go for it next year.

    • Taillon will be fine, this isn’t the kind of cancer that kills you when caught early. It’ll be a footnote, even moreso than Cole’s arm troubles last year…….by September.

  14. I expect a balanced approach with the assumption that we can compete for a playoff spot in 2018 and 2019. McCutchen (if he regains more value) and anyone in the bullpen not named Rivero are the most likely trade candidates. I don’t expect them to pull the trigger on Cole this year. BTW…is Rivero maybe one of the most dominant relievers in all of baseball right now? He’s really feeling it!

  15. Tim’s article addresses what a lot of fans have been wondering about. Its what we do. Thanks, Tim, for the good read.

    • I second this comment, fantastic read, Tim. As always, you are approaching the issue with a cool and level head which we fans rarely do. I am looking forward to seeing Huntington be a seller in today’s seller market. Even if he only uses some of the trade chips available to him and not all of them, we could get a nice little haul to help reload for the future.

  16. The Pirates as such will always need to replace 2 year contracts with 6 year contracts. At some point this dynamic is no longer a matter of blowing up the program but pruning as necessary.

    • And hopefully they get a few extra 6 year guys than they need, because when they return to contending a couple years later they will be on the other end of that deadline deal.

  17. Does Bostick have some sort of serious defect that excludes him from consideration? Is his defense an issue?

    • This ^. Also, what is Hanson doing sitting on the bench when Bostik might be someone that Hurdle wants to play? Are we keeping Hanson around to be a throw in on a trade?

      • I mean more from a long term standpoint where he’d be a #4 and a solid hedge for the other three gents who are all different varieties of wildcards.

            • You were only talking starters but you mentioned Connor Joe, Jin De Jhang, max moroff, and Barret Barnes?

              Might be a bit snarky but I was disappointed that you didn’t apply the tiering system you guys wisely moved to a few years ago when evaluating the positional depth. If the premise was to identify how many potential future starters we have at each position, to inform whether we should or should not blow up the current team, why bring up Logan Hill (among others)? He’s not in the top 30! Seems very haphazard.

              • In each of those cases, I wrote that they don’t project as starters now, but have a path toward being a starter.

                I don’t see a path for Bostick to be a starter.

        • The article only focused on position player starters.
          I don’t know why Bostick didn’t get mentioned for 2B, or 3B but he’s not viewed as a potential OF starter.

  18. They have the shot to draft fairly high this year and next. Possibly selectively trade veterans this year if they get strong returns and they’d possibly be one if strongest teams without blowing things up. Remember things could go wrong for Cubs at any given time too, it’s baseball! They may not have Lester or Arieta forever and Hendriks is not a stuff pitcher! Things gave gone very badly wrong this year with Kang, Marte and Taillon. It will get better!

  19. …did I delete my comment? Anyways, I wrote how I think all NL Central teams are going to be contending in few years and we really have maybe one or two years left till then.

    Why not just have Cole next season and see if we can compete or not? If it doesn’t work out, we can trade him at deadline and we’ll still get good return.

    • Trying to prepare to beat the Cubs in 2020 is ridiculous, because they may totally suck by then. Their entire pitching staff with be using a cane to go up stairs at that point.

    • Biggest problem for Cutch is his drop in bat speed, which has caused the problem of lower exit velocity on Batted Balls in Play. If he can regain a couple mph between now and July 31, then he’ll be worth a decent return for some contender.

    • I doubt it. Pretty clear that he is slowing down. My suspicion is the Pirates won’t pickup Cutch’s option for next year. Let him finish the year here. Give him a video sendoff at the end of the year. No reason to unnecessarily anger the fan base by trading him for an unimpressive return.

    • Like our pitching depth overall, but worry that holes in the lineup will turn this team into the 1984 Pirates – great pitching and pathetic offense turned team into cellar dwellers. I have no problem trading Cole for the right price, especially to plug perceived holes – such as OF depth and stud SS or 3B. Rockies look like a great trade partner for Cole. Give me Brendan Rogers, Raimel Tapia and a wild card for Cole.

      • What possible need do we have for a shortstop. Have you forgotten that we have 2 players in our top 10 prospects that project to be above average shortstops within the next 2-3 years.

          • so what? It isn’t a position of need. It makes more sense to get an impact player at a place where we are organizationally weak. ie. 3rd base for example.

              • You don’t pay the premium to acquire a shortstop to move him to third base…..you just go get a third baseman.

                • Funny how the Yankees are playing Gleyber Torres at third base right now in AAA. You should let them know that it is silly to play the top shortstop prospect at a position of need. Go get’em!

                  • We aren’t the Yankees…..and it isn’t silly to PLAY a top shortstop prospect at third base, but it is silly to PAY for a shortstop via trade with the idea of then moving him to a less valuable position when it’s cheaper to simply get a top prospect that is actually a third baseman. If you can’t understand this concept then please don’t respond, I don’t have time for financial sterility. I’m a financial advisor for a living, sorry….

                    • What do finances have to do with getting the best return back in a trade? Good for you, you can balance a checkbook. Machado was a shortstop as well, but was moved to third because of need. Just saying you want a natural third baseman in a trade does not make it so. I’ll take talent over need any day and let the best player win the starting job. And who’s to say our top shortstop in AA pans out. He certainly has started off slowly this season.

                    • you either can’t read or you are dense. You don’t TRADE for a player to move him to a position of less value intentionally. This is like paying John Smoltz trade value to the Braves in his prime as a #1 pitcher and moving him to the closer role because you need a closer……….rather than just going and getting the best closer in the league at half the price in terms of trade cost. Do you get me, or do we need to go to 8th grade accounting?

                    • Very poor example, as any asshat knows closers are interchangeable. I get your argument; I just do not agree with it
                      – Branch Rickey.

                    • Well if you don’t agree with it, you don’t understand finance. It’s like not agreeing that the earth is round because you can’t see it round walking outside. Now…….if you could get X player that is a shortstop now, but projects as a third baseman and thus Team A is only requesting value for a top prospect 3rd baseman, well then okay………but that is not what you are presenting in this example. You assume he would be just as valuable at third as at short, and he wouldn’t be. Since we can’t afford to give away money, we can’t afford to give away value either (unlike the yankees). So rather than calling into question my logic, which is airtight in this instance, just say……..”I like him and would gladly overpay even though I know the pirates can’t” and then the conversation is over

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