The Pirates ended up losing Juan Nicasio on waivers today, with the right-handed reliever going to the Phillies in a surprising move. Pirates’ General Manager Neal Huntington issued a statement following the claim, noting that the Pirates were blocked in their attempts to trade Nicasio. At that point, they could have kept him, or let him go for a savings of about $600,000.

I’m not going to be discussing the Nicasio move here. I think it’s meaningless, and I think the outrage over the move is misplaced anger from a larger issue of the team not contending. I also think it makes sense to let him walk and give time to younger players who could play a role on the 2018 roster. The Pirates have plenty of arms who are MLB-ready and who are blocked in Indianapolis right now. They will start to make their way up tomorrow when rosters expand.

What I do want to point out is an inconsistent approach the Pirates are taking with this move. It’s not a problem to let Nicasio go and give his innings to younger players in September. But this is an approach that needs to happen with every player who isn’t in the mix for the 2018 season, and that hasn’t universally been the case.

The Pirates started Chris Stewart behind the plate last night. It was his third start in a row, and fourth in the last five games since Francisco Cervelli went back on the disabled list. Cervelli has missed 15 of the last 16 games, and Stewart has received ten starts in that time.

John Jaso started in right field on Tuesday night. It wasn’t just an occasional start for a bench player. Jaso also started on Sunday, then on Friday, and has started five of the last 12 games.

Meanwhile, Elias Diaz has five starts while playing backup to Stewart since Cervelli has gone down. In the time that Jaso has five starts, Jose Osuna has two starts. The last time Max Moroff received a start was July 20th. Jordan Luplow was called up on August 28th and has received two plate appearances.

The Pirates aren’t contenders. This isn’t just my opinion. They admitted that themselves when they let Nicasio walk for free in order to play the younger players. But that message needs to be consistent.

John Jaso is a free agent at the end of the year. We don’t know if the Pirates tried to let him go elsewhere like they did with Nicasio. What we do know is that he’s on the team for the rest of the year, and won’t be part of the 2018 roster. There is no reason he should be starting over guys like Osuna, Moroff, or Luplow. I don’t care how well Jaso hits, and how much the young players struggle.

The same goes with Stewart and Diaz. The Pirates do have an option on Stewart for $1.5 M in 2018, which really isn’t much for a backup catcher. But they know what they have in Stewart. Even if they want to keep him around for 2018 as the backup, they don’t need to evaluate him in September 2017. This is the time to evaluate Diaz, and see what he can do. The Pirates have held off trading Diaz for years, placing a high value on him. There’s no point in doing that if you’re never going to give him a shot in the majors, and if they’re not giving him a starter role in September 2017, then I don’t see a time when he would get a chance.

I leave Sean Rodriguez separate from Stewart and Jaso. Rodriguez was acquired mostly for the 2018 season, and will be a key bench player for the Pirates next year. It makes sense to give him the proper playing time, just like it makes sense to keep starting the regular starters and keep playing other bench players like Adam Frazier.

But it makes no sense to give any playing time to John Jaso, and it makes no sense to have Chris Stewart as the starter over Elias Diaz. The Nicasio move showed that they are going with the younger players in 2017, giving up on the season, and preparing for 2018. That needs to be consistent, and if Jaso and Stewart are getting starts, the Pirates are not being consistent.

It’s a good thing that the Pirates are admitting they’re not contenders this year, and giving the young players the chance. It’s now time to rip off the bandage and go with the younger players over the final months at all positions.

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110 COMMENTS

  1. If anything, seeing young guys gives us a reason to watch. I can’t even bear to see Stew and Jaso play right now. The Jaso experiment didn’t turn out that well. They brought him here to bridge the gap to Bell and to get on base. Bell is here now and Jaso serves no purpose.

  2. This really should extend past just the players who won’t be here in 2018.

    I mean, is Jordy Mercer really going to use this last month to finally learn how to hit right-handed pitching after six years in the league? Is SeanRod really gonna use this month to learn how to do something other than ambush fastballs? Is David Freese gonna stop pounding the ball into the ground?

    I don’t know what the hell to do with Ivan Nova but it’s probably best for all involved if that knee “discomfort” flares up and he takes it easy for the next month.

  3. It bears mentioning that there are real people involved. Nicasio has to pick up his life here and play for a single month from an unfamiliar city on a dead last team. Being a pro baseball player is cool but still, that’s gotta suck. If he couldn’t go to a contender, surely he would have preferred to stay put. Did they even ask him? No one did him any favors. The remainder of the team has to feel let down. Those types of effects that result from a goofy move like this (sorry that’s what it was) can’t be just brushed over when evaluating the sense or logic of the move.

    • Kind of funny to me. I worked as a Construction Engineer, and was sent for 3 straight seasons to unfamiliar towns in unfamiliar areas to work and live out of cheaper motels than Nicasio will ever see. I was told it was just the conditions of the job, it just went along with it.

      • You may be right on the money with how Nicascio views it. It would be interesting to hear from him on whether the Bucs asked him if he wanted to roll the dice for a chance to be in the playoffs or if that storyline from the front office is a line of bull.

    • How many times have we heard such and such decision justified as being done to attract future free agents?

      Funny how all the sudden it’s all “who WOULDN’T save $600k?”.

        • Classic tell of bias, in all walks of life not just baseball analysis.

          2013: “Not a penny more or we’re shutting this government down!”
          2017: “lol nvrmd”

          • Correct but I’d expect more from this site and more than Tim crying how his “principled” stance on the Nicasio deal is hurting his career. I mean really.

  4. All valid points, Tim. This team missed the boat before the first trade deadline when it could have obtained useful pieces for pennies on the dollar. Imagine how much Bruce would have helped this team last month and perhaps how his performance could have snowballed and led the team to make more moves to improve the product. I guess we can dream – much like we do that Nutting will soon be in our rearview mirrors.

  5. Tim, what do you think is the reason that they continue playing Stewart over Diaz? I heard one of the talking heads on TV say that Diaz doesn’t call a good game and the pitching staff and coaches don’t like how he calls the game.

      • Elias Diaz was voted the best defensive catcher in every Minor League he played in. Along with that , he won the Captain’s Award after the 2015 season as the best Defensive catching prospect in all MiLB. I have watched the Curve play every season since 1999, and IMO, Diaz was by far the best catcher to ever come through the Pirate’s system. And that includes Reese McGuire, though he wasn’t here very long.

        • Help me out here, leo…

          I last saw Diaz in person when he was with the Curve in 2014, so it’s been three years and my mind could be failing me, but seeing him in Pittsburgh this summer I was surprised at how his body has, let’s say “matured”.

          Has he looked as quick behind the plate, as athletic, as when you saw him in Altoona? I thought I’d be much more impressed than I have been.

  6. What does Hurdle say when he’s asked a question regarding the younger players playing time? Does he just give some bs answer because I can’t imagine that he doesn’t get asked.

  7. Tim: I believe you wrote some time ago that the Pirates were in No Man’s Land. Calling them directionless is more of the same. If these things are true, the problem is with the management of the team, including Bob Nutting, not the players.

    I’ve had the feeling for some time that we might be watching a real-life version of “Moneyball” wherein the general manager is determined to impose his analytics-based strategy on a traditionalist manager who’s equally determined that he be able to defend who he has played in the lineup to his NEXT employer. If that’s the case, Clint Hurdle needs to go today, not tomorrow, and I say that as someone with the highest respect for Hurdle’s reputation as a player’s manager. Compounding that problem is The Pirates’ perennial budget problem. Pittsburgh is a small-market team. Bob Nutting does not have the resources of an owner in New York, Chicago or LA, and probably wouldn’t spend like them even if he could. Remember the scene in “Moneyball where the GM gets another owner to pay for his clubhouse soda.

    The Pirates were down so long that every change the BMTIB made looked like up to us. I’ve supported their draft and develop strategy. But now, it starts to look like maybe the organization was not as good in implementing that strategy as we’d hoped. There’s only one way to find out: Play the prospects. If they succeed, great! if not, it’s time for a new BMTIB or a new strategy. Whichever, Bob Nutting is not going anywhere anytime soon. Just my opinion. On a final note: IIRC the A’s remain mired in mediocrity years after the events depicted in the movie. Sorry, but that’s the reality.

    • Just so you know BN is one of the 10 wealthiest owners in the world. He ahs the resources he has just chosen not to use them which is his choice.

      • not true. (not chosen to use them) It’s not a choice he has due to the rest of the investors. this has been widely publicized

  8. John Jaso is our hope for the future. Super Ultra Statmatics say so. His statististics hide the fact that he is the best hitter since Ruth and the best right fielder since Clemente.

    In all seriousness, John Jaso is a good pinch hitter. Let him do what good pinch hitters do when they are not particularly good at anything else: PINCH HIT!!!

  9. Time to close the book on this years Pirate team. I agree it s time to give the young kids a shot. Time to pay attention to a winner in the organization. Michael Ryan won the title in Bradenton last year and now this year has Altoona in the playoffs.

    • I’d love to see a new manager in Pittsburgh. Hurdle is a good man, but he refuses to change to improve. He wants to be loved by his players more than he wants to be an effective manager.

  10. It’s time for the Big Boy Pants to go on. This team is set to be mired in mediocrity or less for years to come, It’s a given that Nutting is here and isn’t going soon and there will be a “budget” also there’s still 30,000 to watch fireworks or get a t-shirt so where should we go. …I actually think Nutting likes to win too. Youth. Blow it up. Huntington and Clint had a good situation as we were so bad and anything was an improvement. They go. Without significant leadership and some player change we are never going to compete even for a WC. No more of this 5-6 year minor league seasoning or waiting until after the Super day….At least we are moving instead of looking forward to 75 wins a year….nothing worse than mediocrity.

  11. Tim, you’re preaching to the choir. Doubtful if Clint reads this, or if he cares what anyone thinks as long as the GM and ownership backs him up. I’m concerned that either Prince or Cora will be so desirous of placating ownership that they will tow the line as well once CH is gone.
    We need a new manager from the outside, somewhere with a proven track record. Of course, that means the GM must go as well, and I certainly don’t have any problems with that.

    • Thats funny ! Joey Cora has been in the Pirate Orginization for less than 2 full years. I would hardly call him an ” insider “.

    • They better F’ing hire outside the organization. I don’t want fat azz prince coaching my girlfriend’s guinea pigs on how to poop

  12. Hurdle is trying to win games, which is his job. As a coach, he can’t afford to start looking at next year. This FO has tied his hands and now he is stuck in a no-win situation. I really hope the national press figures out what happened with this Nicasio situation and rips our organization. I am glad he went to the Phillies.

    • If he considers playing Jaso and Chris “Mendoza line” Stewart just about every other game as trying to win, then he’s completely incompetent and should be fired immediately. He’s just being stubborn and irascible.
      For NH and CH it’s all about “competing.” That’s the company line all the way down to at least AA from what I’ve heard.
      Say what you like about the Cubs manager, but going back to his early days, give him his due, he’s about “winning” and not just competing.

      • I loved what I read about Maddon having a practice to refresh his team about critical base running fundamentals to get them ready for September baseball. The Pirates have needed that sort of push for a long time.

    • What happened with “the Nicasio situation”? Pretty much nothing. We dropped a guy with a month left who was going to be a free agent at the end of the year. Big deal.

    • Steelers aren’t going to be worth much either. If they are lucky, the division will be really weak and they can squeak into the playoffs.

      • ” ..they can squeak into the playoffs.” And then immediately swallow the apple when looking at Brady and the Pats ?

  13. Let’s not be too hard on NH. He’s working with a budget set by BN. That’s the real problem. I look for NH to sale his services to another team next year.

  14. I get that it’s hard to admit the team is going to play “meaningless” games from now on. It’s not motivating. But how much difference does 70 or 75 win make? Both records are awful! If using rookies cost us few games, so be it. Why is this so hard for Hurdle?

    Since NH seemingly admit our current position, maybe he should force Hurdle to play Diaz, Luplow and Moroff. They’ll only learn if they’re given time to play.

  15. I agree it’s time to jettison Jaso also. Will this set a presitant though of instead of contenders trading for these players they will wait for them to be irrevocably waived.

  16. Clint had to sit when he came up, and that was instrumental in his sterling big league career. A lot of lessons learned down at the end of the bench. Or not.

      • No hate – just time for him to move on down the road. I have said this in every way possible for close to a year now, but I am amazed that this management team can sit back and wait even a day longer to take the action necessary to try to move this team forward.

        • t wasn’t Hurdle who traded for a player they could have had as a FA. Did the same with Bastinko. It wasn’t Hurdle who was left with only two real OFs for most of the season. I hate the way he uses Stewart and reading Tim not completely discount him returning is really troubling. This GM has had a really bad last couple of years. If he retains Stewart then I will be officially on the fire NH bandwagon. I still think all of the Pirates issues start and end at the top. Until this owner values winning above profits/losses we are going to see a mediocre product with an occasional upswing every now and then no matter who manages or who runs the team.

          • I completely agree with you, IC Bob. It also wasn’t Hurdle who failed to address the loss of Kang and Marte. It wasn’t Hurdle who on July 21st, when the Bucs were one game over .500 and 2.5 games out of first place, and on August 11th were right at .500 and 3 games out of first place, who chose to still stand pat and not make any trades (Sean-Rod not withstanding) to give this team a legitimate chance to a get to the post season. There were plenty of players out there on expiring contracts that could have been obtained at a reasonable cost. Most/many of them have been moved to other clubs, other clubs besides the Pirates. Go figure.

            • being .500, and being a team that is one or two pieces away from being a real contender are not always the same thing. I disagree 199%, there was zero chance, ever, this year, that we were going to win the division. The Pirates problem is they didn’t sell when they had some pieces performing well.

              • That is a good point. Why did NH not pull the trigger on McCutchen? If he had any cajones, he trades McCutchen for a couple of established players and a high prospect (or two) when he was on fire in July.

                What was he thinking? “Oh, the people of Pittsburgh will be easier on me if we trade McCutchen in the off-season”?

                The job of a general manager is not to be a teams number 1 cheerleader!!

                It is to realize when your team is good enough to compete for a world series title. Yes, they were there as recently as 2015.

                Clearly they haven’t been since though.

                NH’s ONLY job in July should have been shopping McCutchen and seeing what he could get back for him in return.

                Instead, he apparently spent the month trying to get Persico for another tour in Pittsburgh!!!

                Yippee!!

                • I don’t think there was a big need from the contenders for a “cutch” this year. More likely to trade him to someone that needs him, not just a contender, after the season is done. Who knows, but its a possibility.

              • There was a far greater chance than zero of winning the division….with the right moves, especially at the July 31 trade deadline, and even thereafter. With the exception of Sean-Rod and the pitcher from the Giants–both nice additions but not nearly enough–they did nothing. Nothing to replace Kang and nothing to replace Marte. As presently constituted, yes, I would agree with you that they had zero chance. That’s why deals needed to be made and they weren’t and now the season is over. If they would have gone out and been aggressive in obtaining, say, Brandon Phillips, or Granderson, or Jed Lowery, or Todd Frazier, as well as some mid-range pitching help, all of whom could have been obtained at a reasonable cost in terms of minor league prospects, then they would have had at least a legitimate shot. Instead, the front office chose to punt, which leaves me stupefied quite frankly, and even more angry.

                • There is no evidence that 1 or two “reasonable” moves would have made any difference. None of those players you mentioned are difference makers, and at best might have added 2 wins above the players we had. I’m sorry but that’s not going to work, even IF all other teams in our division continued to flounder, we’d still end up being the worst team in the playoffs if we did somehow manage to win the division. Doesn’t it make more sense to get this team ready for real contention in 2018 or 2019? Not saying that they are doing it……..but that should have been their goal, not bolstering this team for another phantom playoff run.

      • He has built a solid group of baseball assistants who continue to help him re-load the system with talent. That said, he needs to be a lot more aggressive in getting the point across to the Manager that we need to play the young prospects instead of ignoring them.

            • Cole Tucker, Mitch Keller, Austin Meadows (if he can stay healthy), Glasnow (if he doesn’t go insane trying to tweak his delivery), Santana, Never, Brentz (if his control is consistent), Hearn (Same deal as Brentz) are all the real deal. It is hard to tell with Gray and Martin and the young pitchers but, it feels like everyone else is overvalued. I will throw Newman and Kramer in there for good measure although I think Newman is just Jordy Mercer who can hit better but somehow plays worse defense.

          • The middling rating reflects the fact that Bell, Kuhl, & Taillon, were no longer prospects. Also a hint of questions about Tyler Glasnow, Kevin Newman, and Austin Meadows, but they could all be solid for the Pirates.

            Mitch Keller helped overcome that negativity, as did Cole Tucker. Taylor Hearn and Adrian Valerio could be reasonably strong prospects for consideration in 2018.

            A few of the HS pitchers drafted last year (Kranick, Ogle) and some of our younger hitters (Apostel, Martin, Castro, Sanchez, Mitchell, and Cruz) could push the Pirates up into the Top 10.

            • The problem is you’re right. The PIrates did graduate a lot of the very hyped talent (Bell, Taillon etc) and the MLB still stinks. None of those players have moved the needle at the MLB level. Meadows and Newman took steps back this year, Keller probably maintained an already lofty status.

              The other guys you mentioned are interesting but at best are probably 50 High to 50 extreme type players. This system is middle of the pack anymore and the MLB team is horrible. Not a good combination.

              • The problem with this organization is that it’s too cheap to supplement the homegrown talent with a stud FA bat or pitcher – or heaven forbid both. I am not talking $200M contracts, but a player(s) who are established so you do not have a question mark at that position(s) and then you can experience growing pains with the rookies/youngsters. IMO you cannot build almost an entire, competitive team on homegrown talent. If you do, it is entirely luck as not all players mature at the same time or even succeed for that matter. Spend a little bit more Nutting.

                • A good bit of what you say there is the truth. I would just have not included the word ” almost “. But you can not build a highly competitive team relying on strictly homegrown talent in the field or on the mound.

                • Excellent post, juniorkrz!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I could not agree more with your assertion. Don’t hold your breath waiting for Nutting to pony up the necessary $$ though.

              • “Horrible” is an extreme assessment. I think that it would have been a vastly better situation for this team had Kang and Marte not been lost to the team. While this team has issues, I would not describe the situation as horrible. What’s horrible is the budget that Bob Nutting gives N.H. to work with year in and year out.

                • Even with Kang and Marte this isn’t a 500 team. It’s not a good team with them and Kang probably isn’t coming back. The farm system is now middle of the pack at best. Hardly see how any of this is a glowing endorsement of NH.

                  • Well, while we can only speculate, I think that if they had Kang and Marte, that they would have had a far better season, I think even been a contender, at least to the point of the trade deadline, where they then might have made some moves to better their chances even more. We’ll never know of course.
                    While the farm system does not seem to be bursting at the seams with position players/hitters, there does seem to be reason for legitimate hope and optimism on the pitching front. Hopefully they can turn some of those arms into position players via the trade route.
                    As far as I am concerned, ownership has to be willing to increase the payroll at the mlb level or it really is not going to make a difference what they have in the farm system.

                  • Yes it is John, yes it is. (a .500 team) – You’d be effectively adding 5 wins and taking away 5 losses, and that’s conservative

              • how are they going to move the needle when 2 of your top 3 offensive players are out for between 80 to 160 games? I’d love to hear that.

            • Emjayn you could say that about every system in the league and bringing up players like Mitchell, Ogle, Castro Apostal, Martin and Cruz when none of those guys will see the majors for a minimum of three years is laughable.. You mention Kuhl. Tallion and Bell. Bell has had a decent year the other two are below average (I know Tallion had cancer). Its not like all this young talent is translating into wins at the major league level. other teams have had rough years like the Bucs, look at the Rockies one of there young studs has not played all year there top FA signee has played less than 1/2 the season and none of there pitchers are pitching good yet they are still winning and more than that they are trying to win. Hurdle needs to get past playing his favorites when they are finished (Stewart) but NH and BN could help by supplying Hurdle with a team 1/2 full of below replacement level players

  17. This organization is rudderless and an absolute mess. Probably anywhere between 77-79 true talent team next year. Probably best to go full rebuild but highly doubt that’s happening with NH around.

  18. As long as Hurdle is here young players will not get playing time, he believes they have to put there time in on the bench first. The game today has passed him by, this is how it was when he played.

    • Polanco, glasnow, taillon, Harrison, bell- all came up under hurdle, and played. Could it be that he just thinks these newer guys stink?

      • Hurdle plays players he thinks will help win. The “young talent” isn’t all that talented and in my opinion sits because bums like Jaso actually give the team a better chance. I agree with Tim that it makes no sense to play veterans at this point of the season, however I also think that the “young talent” – both pitchers and position players – won’t cut it long term. They need to add through free agents or trades if they want to compete next year.

          • Why? They will just roll the dice and pick a prep player that will take 8 years to develop…we need to waive bye bye to Cole and receive maximum return.

            • disagree. He didn’t have a good enough year to get maximum return. We’ll get more for him if he plays the first half with us and is good, then trade him at the deadline, than if we trade him now. I’ll take that gamble

          • Whatever you say. I wrote earlier that I think they should not lay the younger players. But lack of of team talent in my opinion is the main reason the team sucks right now. That seems pretty relevant to me.

      • It took a while and injury for Harrison to see any consistent playing time and, the others were top prospects that you have to play but, I do get your point. I think it is more accurate to infer that Hurdle is forced to play the young “top” guys while the still talented not “top” guys have to pay their dues. You saw how desperately he did not want to play Bell but was eventually forced to. If he had his way Polanco would still be splitting time with SRod or some other cheap veteran that was picked up (which ironically enough might have done him some good). You are right, Hurdle hates playing younger guys. There is no reason why Frazier (besides injury) should not play every day but, that is not the case because he was not a top prospect coming through the system. Hurdle uses the excuse to sit him against lefties even though he hits lefties better than righties. There are so many examples of more effective players seeing little playing time in favor of guys like David Freese or Jordy Mercer or Chris Stewart…..It just became obvious when we had young talent ready to play. Hurdle does suck and there is a reason he no longer manages the Rockies after making the World Series.

        • Hurdle is a terrible game manager, always has been. His value is in other areas. I personally don’t give a rats behind about those areas though, i want a good game manager.

      • no- young players with pedigrees start. the others don’t. That’s how it works. Harrison only played under emergency situations when he came up if you remember correctly. All others were top 2 prospects at the time they came up

        • Hurdle takes orders from NH, right?

          If NH wants to start somebody, they start, or Hurdle would already be out of a job!

          Isn’t that that he way it’s supposed to work, at least?

          • No…..Hurdle’s job is to run the team on the field. IE make lineups, decide playing time, in game decisions. Most teams have a policy that limits the GM’s ability to force the manager to do things a certain way. Typically though, if the manager fails to do things their way, and they struggle, they get fired.

    • It makes no sense to keep playing guys that will not be back next year! Osuna has given us RBI’s and extra base hits that warrant playing time compared to Jaso. He hits in the clutch as well, which these current players do not. Are roster is full of singles hitters and players that choke in the clutch. When we were streaking on that homestand when we beat the Brewers 4 straight, it was game winning hits from 4 rookies that got us some wins. Marte came back and the rookies got less and less playing time and we went into a hitting funk.

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