Williams: How Soon Could the Pirates Contend After a Rebuild?

With the way the offseason is going, it’s almost inevitable that the Pirates will trade Gerrit Cole. The rumors have said they’re motivated sellers who are discussing him with multiple teams. If he is traded, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them follow that move up by trading guys like Andrew McCutchen, Josh Harrison, and maybe even others like Francisco Cervelli.

I wrote the other day about prospects who the Pirates have in the system who can take over eventually for the traded players. The Pirates have options to eventually replace Cole, McCutchen, and Harrison. That doesn’t include players that could come back in a trade.

But how soon could the Pirates be competitive again? How long would a rebuild take? My feeling is that a Pirates rebuild won’t take long, considering what they have in the system right now.

I had some analysis putting them at 85 wins at the start of the winter meetings, using the ZiPS projections. I don’t think that level makes them strong contenders, but instead puts them where they’ve been the last few years, as a team stuck in No Man’s Land. The biggest problem is that this isn’t really a team you want to build around, since two of the biggest players on the team are Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen, and only under control for a year or two. If you could get a future team full of prospects to that 85-win range, then you might have a better shot at contending by adding to the team, especially since that team would be cheaper, with a lot of young, inexpensive prospects on the roster.

Here is a look at how the Pirates could replace the players they might trade in a rebuild, looking at how they can get the same production or better as that ZiPS analysis, getting them back in range of being a contender.

Replacing Cole

The Pirates have their replacement for Cole already in the upper levels. Mitch Keller should make the jump to the majors in the next year or two, and has top of the rotation upside. He is also polished enough that he should be able to make the jump to the majors with an easy transition, similar to Cole and Jameson Taillon.

I could see Keller replacing Cole over a full season by the 2020 season, arriving in the second half of 2019 at the latest. He would provide a nice boost to the rotation in the second half in 2019 if the Pirates are competitive. That would be similar to what happened with Cole in 2013. Otherwise, he would be a key piece toward leading the Pirates to contending in 2020 and beyond.

Replacing Harrison

I’m going to also include Jordy Mercer and the third base position here, since I’ll be talking about a group of infielders. The Pirates might be able to replace Harrison immediately at second base, depending on how well Max Moroff adjusts to the majors, and whether he can be a starter. Harrison has been around a league average second baseman at best, so it’s not that he’d be extremely difficult to replace. He had a 5 WAR season in 2014, had two seasons with a 1.3 WAR average and a lot of injuries, and rebounded with a 2.6 WAR this past year. I think that’s his talent level, and that would be the target to replace if the Pirates want to contend.

Mercer has been at best a 2 WAR player, but this past year was a 1.4 WAR player, ranking just below average. That’s the level the Pirates would need to match or beat to be competitive.

As for third base, the Pirates don’t really have a starting third baseman, and would need average production in order to be competitive.

Moroff could take over at second base right away. If he doesn’t work out, Kevin Kramer could arrive at some point in 2018, and should be ready for the full season in 2019. One of those two could replace Harrison at second, since they both have the potential for offense, and both provide good defense at the spot.

Kevin Newman should be able to replace Mercer at shortstop, providing average production. That should happen in the middle of the 2018 season, with Newman playing the full year in 2019. I could then see Cole Tucker taking over for Newman, possibly in mid-2019 or in 2020, which could push Newman over to the second base competition, or provide the Pirates with some trade depth if they already have a good second baseman.

The third base position really only has one option, and that is Ke’Bryan Hayes. He should start in Altoona in 2018, and wouldn’t arrive until mid-2019 at the earliest. A more conservative approach would have him arriving in mid-2020, taking over for the full season in 2021. His strong defense, plus the ability to hit for average and get on base, should give the Pirates at least an average starter. They might need one of the other infielders to step over to the position until he arrives, or find someone from the outside.

The Pirates could find league average production at the second base, shortstop, and third base positions from their prospects. The middle infield could be ready by the middle of the 2018 season. Third base would be the big issue in the short-term, with Hayes arriving in 2020 under a conservative path. That means the Pirates might need an extra middle infielder to work out and take over at third until Hayes arrives.

Replacing McCutchen

This is the most important area to find a replacement. It’s not that McCutchen is an impact player anymore. He was projected for around 3 WAR in the latest ZiPS projections, which seems right if you consider his inconsistent performance and declining skills in recent years.

I’m not going to say that the Pirates need to replace the MVP McCutchen in order to contend, although I think they need that replacement if they want to have a chance to contend for a division. But in order to contend for a Wild Card, they will need to replace at least that 3 WAR production, or more.

They have Austin Meadows in the minors, with the chance to arrive in the middle of the 2018 season. He comes with the disclaimer that he’s been injury prone, which could impact his arrival, his upside, and how often he can produce for the team. Keep in mind though, Meadows has impact upside, and putting him at a 3 WAR player is already downgrading his potential upside due to the injury concerns. Therefore, I wouldn’t further downgrade him, unless you are expecting extreme injury issues.

The Pirates have also discussed Clint Frazier with the Yankees in exchange for Cole. That could give them another option for the outfield, and another chance at a 3+ WAR player.

It’s not a bad thing for the Pirates to have average players at those infield spots. It just means they need impact in the outfield. That makes this position important to get an impact player, or at least a guy who can put up at least a 3 WAR. They could get that with either Meadows or Frazier, but could really use someone to be an impact guy.

Where to Spend and Add

The Pirates aren’t really projected to get much from Francisco Cervelli. They’d see a downgrade to Elias Diaz, but it wouldn’t be a significant blow to the team’s chances. They would need to find a starting catcher eventually. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to use the 2018 season to see if Diaz can adjust to the majors. After that, if the situation doesn’t go well, they would need to start looking at the outside for catching help.

They would also need to spend at third base if they wanted to contend before 2020 or 2021, unless Hayes is ready to arrive earlier, or unless they get good production from their middle infield group.

They have plenty of rotation depth in the minors, and have Taillon and Keller as top of the rotation guys to lead the group. But they project to be a team that is led by pitching and defense, and weak on hitting, which means they could afford to upgrade their strength. They had success in the past with reclamation projects, and could use another to give them a shot at another top of the rotation type pitcher.

The Pirates will have prospects to fill almost all of their spots in the future, with a chance to return to being competitive in 2020, and maybe 2019 if all goes well. They’ll need some upgrades to the team, but the upgrades would only be needed once they’re contenders.

One issue here is that if the Pirates aren’t competitive until 2020, then it might make sense to trade Starling Marte and/or Felipe Rivero in a rebuild. If they have a shot at being competitive in 2019, then it would make sense to keep both, as they’d both be under control for three more seasons, starting with 2019. That’s a topic I’ll go over in a future article.

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

Support Pirates Prospects

Related articles

join the discussion

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Michael Sanders

There hasn’t been any talks around Jordy, but do you think Jordy to the Royals makes sense? Also, Realmuto might be a nice fit for the Pirates and a name to build a club around.


If the Pirates get Miguel Andjujar, Chance Adams and Clint Frazier in a Cole trade, even if it includes Harrison wouldn’t that help them contend sooner.

Tim B

Forget the Yankees, lets trade for Brendan Rodgers, Rockies need Gerritt Cole more than the Yankees.


My dream list:
1. Load up a deal w/ Meadows, Glasnow, Kramer, and more for Yelich (w/ Bucs taking on all $ as well).
2. Cole and Harrison to NY for Frazier, Adams, and Andujar.
3. Cutch and Hinsz (or whomever) to CLE for Mejia.


I love Yelich, and he might yet take the step forward from very good player to superstar, but he hasn’t yet, and I don’t think he has enough years of control left to bother dealing three guys–one of whom could turn into a very Yelich-like player himself, perhaps with even more upside if he finds a way to stay healthy–doesn’t seem like a good move to me. Especially if we’re already bringing back the Major League-ready Frazier (who, incidentally, could also be a very similar player to Yelich, albeit right handed, in a couple years) in the Cole deal.

I’m all for the other two trades, though. Maybe try to get Sheffield added on to the Cole deal if we’re including Harrison, or some other lesser prospect or a bullpen asset or something.


Iagree, I also like the other two deals better.
But Yelich is signed thru 2021 w/ a 2022 team option in his age 31 season. 3.9 WAR and a Gold Glove & Silver Slugger.
I’d give up those 3 in a heart beat. He already is what we hope Meadows will be.
But those deals would set us at OF (w/ Frazier as insurance), 3b, catcher, and a #2 /3 SP all while not costing less than Cole or Cutch would be making.


I forgot about his extension. That’s right. Then if the Marlins agreed to that, go for it, but as NMR notes, they won’t.


Yeah, if Yelich is traded it will be for a hell of a lot more than the three Pirate prospects you list.

Kramer is a throw-in, meaningless. *Peak* Meadows plus *peak* Glasnow might get you there.

Paul Rutledge

I am so glad you are not the general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates.


Me too.
Feel free to let me know the pitfalls of my choices as I am always interested in other ideas. If you’re going to tell someone their idea sucks, at least follow it up with a solution of your own.

Paul Rutledge

I’ll take the ideas in turn.
1) I see absolutely no logic in unloading those assets on Yelich.
2) This is not quite so horrible, although I think a 4th and lower player needs added if Jay Hay goes too in the deal. Perhaps a high ceiling low floor guy in A ball.
3) I hate the idea of trading Cutch and anything for one guy. Cutch for a top 5 guy and a top 15 guy. No prospects leaving with Cutch.


Not to mention that the Pirates come out far, far ahead in your series of trades.


Do we have anything the Indians, Dodgers, or Rockies need? They all have very interesting catching prospects who have already broken into the Majors. If we could land one of those guys for Cutch or Cole (Harrison would be a heck of a reach, though the Indians were willing to deal Mejia, the best of them, for a declining Lucroy, so who knows), I think it would be worthwhile in terms of a rebuild.

If the Giants are still interested in Cutch, Christian Arroyo is very interesting, too, if we don’t land Andujar for Cole.


At the point in time where the Indians were willing to make that deal Mejia had yet to reach high-A and was in just his second year of full-season ball while Lucroy was on his way to a 5-win campaign.

Timing matters!

And yes, Cole to LA for catching always made the most sense to me.

Scott H

The Giants already traded Arroyo to the Rays in the deal for Longoria.


I missed that deal. Alas.


every team needs a Cole.

i could see all them being into Cutch too.

Blaine Huff

I think Cutch matches up if the Rockies are comfortable putting Desmond back at first.


i dont think we’ve had enough discussion about what they could do with the Cutch Harrison and Cole money. And i think that’s relevant because both Huntington and Nutting have talked about how they are probably gonna buy and sell at the same time.

Factoring in the decent replacements that they have ready and the 33 million that they could then throw at the team, i honestly feel like they could get back to a mid-80s win projection.

How would yinz spend that 33 million (or 65 million over the next 3 years if you prefer to look at the entire contracts)?

Todd Frazier? Moustakas, and just trade Hayes later? Pair a Wade Davis with Rivero? or just forget the money, forget competing in 2018, offer to pay the traded players’ contracts, and get better prospects in return?

IC Bob

The Pirate way would be to spend about 1/3 of those savings on a retread. My guess we would be told it was spent on Rod.. Additionally I really so no reason to go on a spending spree if you are in a true rebuild. You kind of want to lose so you get a high pick next year. It would be neat of they set some aside for when they really intend to compete but we have been told that is not how they do business


You mean how they spent the Walker, Alvarez, Melancon, Martin money….lmfao….in the Nuttings piggy bank is where it will be.

Paul Rutledge

The problem with this is losing will drive attendance and viewership down even further, which will negatively impact the TV deal negotiations. The rebuild is important, but the value of that TV deal is going to be much more important than we are letting on as a piece of this contention puzzle.
They really, really need a competitive TV deal.


i see what you mean with losing on purpose, but it is my opinion that dealing cutch cole and harrison only makes them like 3 wins worse. their replacements arent bad.

it would take a lot more tearing down in order to get into the super high picks


I don’t think you can take that amount of money and think of this in the $/WAR sense of making up the lost wins, plus more needed to actually get them into the mid-to-upper 80s.

I’d use it first and foremost to offset or take on salary in trades for those players in order to increase the talent level and quantity of prospects in return.

If that fell through, as it would require two to tango, I would’ve targeted the arms coming from the NPB, simply as upside/value plays.

Otherwise, the Wellington Castillo deal could’ve appreciably improved the 2018 club, as would Hector Rondon. The Pineda and Smyly deals would’ve bought legitimate upside for next year.


yeah, eating the salary should be on the table for sure. Cole for Torres, with the pirates paying Cole’s entire 2018 and 2019… is awfully close to being fair, for example.


Or if you got really creative, get a 3rd team involved and pay half of Ellsbury’s remaining salary.

Blaine Huff

Very interesting idea…I was wondering about some of the dead weight contracts out there and if the Pirates could capitalize on them to increase the prospect return in a trade.

Ellsbury is one that came to mind, but, you’re absolutely correct, the Pirates would have to split it…there’s no way they could take on the full amount.

My other thought was a Wei-Yin Chen/Cervelli swap with Pittsburgh also picking up Realmuto in the deal.

The Pirates would be taking on a total of $30M in the swap, plus Realmuto’s future salaries…which should total about $24. $54M is way too much to pay for him over three years, so Miami would have to kick in prospects to make it happen. Their system is pretty thin though…


i’m in favor of creativity.

we’ve gone back and forth on Frazier before. But since the Yanks seem intent on dealing Frazier for a good pitcher, and since i’m personally not a Frazier fan, i’d like to see something lined up where Frazier goes to the 3rd team, and the Pirates get something else.

If they’re getting really really crazy, Frazier and a few other things can go to the orioles for Machado 😛 . i’m only 80% kidding.


I’m still gonna push you to reconsider your take on Frazier.

One aspect of the discussion that doesn’t seem to be mentioned with *all* of these potential Yankee prospects is age.

Clint Frazier has dropped his K-rate 9.5% between Rookie Ball and AAA, almost doubled his BB-rate the second trip through, all while maintaining ISO’s around .200 and is:
-Two full years *younger* than Josh Bell
-One full year *younger* than Kevin Kramer

Miguel Andujar has already made his big league debut and is just 15 months older than Cole Tucker.

These guys are both still incredibly young, and especially in Frazier’s case have demonstrated a clear ability to adjust. Frazier just put up a 2:1 K/BB ratio in AAA as a 22 yo. In the Pirate’s system, he’d be headed back there for more seasoning and even a marginal increase in power turns him into a Top 10 hitting prospect in all of baseball.

Scott K

And you didn’t even go into intangibles, such as competing with his childhood rival for a spot in the Pirates OF. I’d like to think Meadows vs Frazier to replace Cutch would bring out the best in both of these guys.


More than anything, I just can’t get over reading everyone bitch and moan for two years about how much the Pirates lack power only to turn around and snub their noses at a dude who gives Carrot Top a run for being the most jacked ginger of all time.


yep. the age and the improving ks and bbs are what keep me interested at all.

im still plenty interested in them as prospects and id love if they were pirates. just… i am really going to split hairs on whatever return they get for cole. they both just seem like guys whose defense will keep their WARs below 3. but i could be totally wrong on the defense.

im honestly not 100 pct convinced that Luplow isnt already the generic store brand version of Frazier.


Ha! I’m gonna use that one.

Growing up poor, we considered generic to be just as good as name brand. One might see Luplow as being just as good as Frazier from scouting the stat line, but Frazier’s tools are simply louder across the board.

Maybe this doesn’t matter! Scouts have been wrong before, of course. But there is a significant, noticeable difference in prospect quality between these two.

As for defense, Frazier is clearly more advanced than Andujar so I’d be careful treating them as equivalents. For comparison, Jay Bruce posted a 118 wRC+ and was almost a 3 WAR player. Gregory Polanco’s defense has *carried* his WAR production to date and entered the league with the same 50 grade as Frazier.


This is kinda weird. I just looked at fangraphs midseason Katoh (totally stats based) rankings of prospects, and they had Frazier and Luplow ranked 42 and 44, respectively. Kinda crazy that at least that system agrees with my store brand analogy.

Obviously I agree with you that scouts probably don’t agree and I’m definitely not about to go on an anti scouting rant because I’m not anti scouting.

I do happen to think that it starts to be more okay to scout the statline when you get to guys in AAA, but that’s not the point I’m making.

My only point is that I’m not convinced that Luplow is *much* worse. Which is as much a compliment to Luplow as it is an insult to Frazier.


Agreed. I know I was pretty insistent they should land Torres, but looking through Frazier’s development more, I’m starting to sell myself on him as an impact talent himself. My old roommate was a Yankees fan, so I got to see him play while he was up, too, and even though the numbers weren’t there, he already looked like he belonged.

Add Andujar, who’s a top-10 prospect at a position of need and any other useful player, and I think pulling the trigger on that deal is the right move.

If the Dodgers, Indians, or Rockies want an outfielder, and Cutch could be that guy, then the Pirates could also get a top catching prospect in the upper levels. If these guys work out, that would be a pretty quick rebuild.


The Rockies have an extreme need for Cutch

Scott H

What do we think is Frazier’s role with this team moving forward? Super utility guy, essentially taking over Harrison’s old role (before he became a regular) for the next several years?

Paul Rutledge

ceiling of a bench guy.


The Pirates’ ownership under their current formula have increased the value of the franchise from $304 million in 2011 to $1.2 billion in 2017. They went from being ranked 30th in team value to 17nth. They ranked 26th in team payroll at the start of the 2017 season. They didn’t need to win a single division championship or playoff series (I’m not counting 1 wildcard victory) to reach this marvelous achievement. Nor did they need to invest a large amount on payroll, so a rebuild makes sense. They can lower or maintain the payroll and theoretically compete for a wild card, which is good enough (along with a few bobble heads and Journey concerts) to get fans to show up and watch on TV. This will allow ownership to achieve their primary goal: increase the value of the franchise. The real question here: when will Nutting cash-in? Meanwhile, we fans can continue to get excited about trades for prospects and the young talent that will hopefully bring a championship to Pittsburgh.


Tim: If the Pirates trade Cole/Harrison to the Yankees for Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield, and Miguel Andujar, they can compete in 2018, and be a serious playoff contender by 2019. Same-same even if the Yankees request Cole/Marte for the 3 prospects listed. If so maybe the Pirates could ask to add another lower rated prospect – Stephan at #30 or Guzman who is at least #31 or lower.

Scott K

Why is Marte included in this discussion? Pirates need him badly, and Yankees have too many OF as it is. They do however have a hole at 3B.

Scott H

I definitely wouldn’t trade Cole and Marte for those three Yankees prospects, but I would certainly take that trio for Cole and Harrison, though I may prefer Adams over Sheffield.

IC Bob

You must really love Frazier. Why would you give them Cole and Marte after one average year for both players. Why would you discount both players like that and ask for so little? You must feel there is zero chance that they get to near there career averages. I for one would think both are due for major improvements this year. If the Pirates cant get Torres and lottery picks or something equivalent for Cole, hold on to him and let the frenzy for his services in July commence. I think sometimes we have a college mentality here which is a guy is gone in four years no matter what and its time to move on to the next guy


Bob: The Pirates desperately need power and Frazier and Andujar can help provide some additional power through the lineup.

I like Cole – he is our best trade option and is just playing out the string until he is a FA. If the Pirates can get 3 prospects with 6+ years of control for all three, they need to do the deal.

Marte is talented, but I do not know where he should be in the lineup – he hits for average but strikes out about 4 times for every Walk. That does not play at the top of the order, and he has not shown the power to be a #4 , 5, or 6 batter. He is making $7.5 mil this year and that will increase to double figures next year. Give me Frazier, McCutchen, and Polanco in the OF to start 2018.

I cannot follow your 4 year college theory – it took me almost 7 (2.5 in Mech Eng, and then 4 in the School of Business – 2 at Robert Morris and 2 at West Liberty SC). Graduated just in time to be drafted into the Army and then on to graduate studies in Vietnam.


I forget what the odds are of even high level prospects succeeding in the majors but I do like the idea of pairing two guy for one position because I think it will take twice as many prospects to replace our starters:
– Frazier/Meadows for the current version of Cutch (not the mvp version)
– Moroff/Kramer for JHay
– Newman/Cole for Mercer
– Hayes/Andujar for Kang

Thomas H

I’m not sure I understand the article. You seem to be saying that the Pirates are an 85 win team in “no man’s land” but then you describe how they can “contend” by replacing the players currently on the roster with similarly talented players. In other words, aren’t you describing the path from “no man’s land” to “no man’s land?”

I’m not sure I think this is an 85 win team as it is, and I’m not hearing that there’s much improvement currently in the system anywhere. Isn’t the point of trading veterans to get younger players with more upside that what’s already in the system? They need to significantly upgrade 2-3 positions to go anywhere.

Douglas Byrd

I agree that the focus should not be on replacing players with younger, but less or similarly productive ones, but with better players! The team needs a lot of improvement.

Daryl Restly

Why is it that everyone assumes as though as soon as Newman / Kramer make their debuts, Mercer and Moroff are going to get pushed aside. I kind of get the Mercer thing, as I realize he will definitely be gone after this coming season, if not sooner. As far as Moroff, I realize it was a very small sample size but he put up a few good games at the end of this past season. He had a three RBI game and a 4 RBI game in the last two games of the season, which accounted for 1/3 of his RBI total on the MLB season. It seemed to me that with some regular playing time, he was getting used to hitting at the MLB level. Also why is it that everyone is assuming that when Tucker arrives, he’s going to push Newman off SS to 2B. And where does that leave Kramer and for that matter Moroff? OF? 3B?


Could Newman or Tucker end up at third if they’re both there and a middle infielder works out, at least until Hayes is ready?


Tucker can provide speed on the basepaths, and his offensive upside seems higher that Newman’s with about the same floor.


yep. as far as i’m concerned, Moroff is the only one of these guys who have put up anything close to a star-level performance in AAA. All the while appearing to be a really freaking good defender, as per fangraphs measurements and by my eyeballs. i bet he has a better MLB career than Newman at this point.

Kramer is very highly regarded on this site, but the AA performance that’s gotten him so much attention… .297/.380/.500 with a .362 babip… isn’t as good as Moroff’s .254/.390/.519 with just a .298 babip in AAA.


I’ll jump on the Moroff bandwagon with you. The game favors low avg, high OBP guys with power.


Tim … not really sure if I’m completely following.

I get losing Cole (3+), Cutch (3+), and Freese/Mercer/Harrison (5) would cost us about 11 WAR. And I get that Keller (3+), Frazier/Meadows (3+), and some combination of Moroff/Kramer, Newman/Tucker & Hayes could be about 11 WAR.

We would then be back at 85 WAR by 2020. Are you saying the trades would have to bring in an additional say 8WAR (above Frazier) to get us to a more realistically competitive 93 win estimate?

My concern is I don’t see us trading 8+ WAR (in Cole, Cutch & Harrison) for an equivalent future annual return as compared to a 6-year return.

Will P

Torres, Florial, Sheffield, Adams and Frazier for Cole, Rivero and JHay. Any chance that would be considered a fair deal or am I dreamining? Or maybe 4 of those 5?

joe s

You are suggesting trading proven major league players for hype and hope. Are you just giving up or are you serious?


Bro, you’re paying money to read a website called “Pirates PROSPECTS”.


Torres for Cole is a slight with for the Yanks.

Florial, Shef, Adams for Rivero sounds kinda Ken-Giles-trade-esque

Frazier for JHay is probably a win for the pirates.

My gut says that it’s a win for the Pirates but i dont think that is like… absurd


If we talk of scenarios with only the Yankees:
– Cole for Frazier and Adams – yes, I think this could be done now
– JHay for Sheffield – ok, helps NYY but not really us
– Rivero for Torres and Florial – if the Yankees anticipate Rivero returning about 3WAR/year, the value could be right but I don’t think their need would be great enough for this with Chapman in place.


Honestly I think there is a 20 to 40 pct chance that some combo of a Meadows/Luplow platoon plus Moroff at 2b can outperform Cutch and Harrison.

It’s where you getting to talking about Cole and his ready replacements where things get to being a clear 2 win droppoff.

That said, I’d be willing to listen to the argument that giving Coles money to a Jaime Garcia would have some 25 pct probability of being war-neutral.

Then you get into what fun you could have with Cutch and Harrisons money and then the team starts to look pretty good again despite the selloff.


replacing cutch with Luplow/Meadows (15 million savings)
replacing Harrison with Moroff/Frazier (10 million savings)
Replacing Cole with Jaime Garcia. ( basically money neutral. Fangraphs projects 2 yrs, 20 mil)

That’s $25 million to play with.

I see little downside to giving 3 years/14 mil per to Todd Frazier and giving Hayes 3 years to really marinate.

I see little downside to giving Jon Lucroy 1 yr/ 12 million to give him a chance to bounce back. i like the idea of going with double-barrelled decent catchers in Lucroy and Cervelli.

both of those contracts are what Fangraphs predicts for those guys.

(i could see an alternate plan of ignoring Todd Frazier and earmarking that money to bring in a badass catcher like Yasmani Grandal next offseason. or even just trading for him now!)

Gives you a watchable 80+ win team in 2018 that has talent for more, leaving a wildcard berth well within the error bars, which is important while they negotiate the new TV deal. Gives you the prospects gained from the Cutch/Harrison/Cole trades. The only real risk you’ve taken on is that Todd Frazier won’t be good when he’s 35 in 2020.

There’s no reason why a “rebuild” here has to be especially long or painful.


My problem with spending money on free agent in the rebuild is it takes time away from Glasnow or Diaz or Moroff or Clint Frazier or Meadows where those players may be capable and some won’t then in a year the banked money can be applied to the position that didn’t work out. But if the banked money won’t be used for the future I agree get the catcher now if you feel its the right buy. However I feel Pitt will never have the financial resources to do a rebuild the way the Cubs did they got really lucky with Arrietas boom they would have just wasted money on Lester otherwise the pirates can’t survive that.


Well, they’ve already hinted toward Glasnow being a weapon out of the ‘pen in 2018 with eyes on the rotation for 2019. but i also believe that if he looks better than Kuhl or WIlliams, then he should have their spot. so i’m not worried about that.

i dont think diaz is any good so i’m not worried about that.

i proposed Moroff being JHay’s replacement so i’m not worried about that.

I guess we’ll see what they get for Cole. Since we don’t know, i’m not worried about that yet. Personally, i dont think Frazier is who i’d target to centerpiece a Cole deal, but that’s just me.


I’m firmly in this camp for two reasons.

One, all manners of amateur talent acquisition are now capped and the Pirates have built out their Minor League facilities. Unless we see the first evidence of past profits supplementing future payrolls, the only logical assumption is that money saved on bare-bones payroll during rebuilding years now gets bled into the coffers never to be seen again. There’s zero benefit to the franchise from this use.

Two, sometimes contention arrives early! Those 2015 Cubs were lauded for their quick rebuild and young talent, yet they received more than 12 WAR from free agents Lester, Hammel, and Fowler. That drove the franchises early arrival to contention as much as all the young guys, and only Lester’s deal would be one the Pirates couldn’t stomach.

By waiting until all the young guys show they can win before supplementing them, you waste that first good opportunity. The difference between 2012 and 2013.

Brian Bernard

I’m on board here except for the Lester comment that the Pirates can’t stomach. I say why not and why not a pitcher like Garrett Cole he is the Lester for this team and can be one of the key components of contention.
Frazier yes, 2 year deal.
This is a base, A good one that was built internally and now need supplemented.
Sometimes we give up a little too quick on something that we’ve attempted to build this is a good group That struggled last year.
If things don’t work out you always have the trade deadline and players like Cutch, Cole and Rivero always have more value in the desperation of a playoff Chase.

John W

Tim you always seem to say the 85 wins you came up with isn’t a projection. I’m not sure why you keep using it. On an apples to apples basis to other MLB teams this team is not an 85 win team. It’s an 80-81 team and that is a VERY SIGNIFICANT difference. That (81)should be the starting point when adding and subtracting players from this current squad- not 85. And it goes to show the mess NH has created when you start subtracting Cutch and Cole from that 81.

IC Bob

Really it might be 78 since we haven’t hit that since 2015


You don’t need my advice, but I’ve gained an appreciation for the reason you do your analysis like this, even if it’s different from the actual way win projections are calculated. You do more of a talent projection than a win projection, and that’s interesting!

I think by applying a simple “loss factor” you could ground your “talent projection” closer to something like an actual prediction of wins. What’s a “loss factor”? Simply the inevitable amount of negative WAR generated from depth options. Your WAR analysis never addresses this, and that’s in part how you could come up with this 2018 bullpen being better than *any* bullpen Huntington has ever put together. Even the 2013 pen had about 2 negative wins.

The best clubs minimize avoidance of the awful, but no to team in baseball avoids it completely. Everyone experiences negative WAR performances. Adding something like a “-1 loss factor on offence, -2 on pitching/defense” would account for this inevitability and get something closer to an actual account of all the events from all potential players a team will field.

Just a thought to potentially save you from thirty seven explanations throughout the year!


So, league average at every infield position, plus Polanco, Marte, Meadows or Frazier; then below average at catcher, and Keller/Taillon/xxx/xxx/xxx in the rotation?

I don’t see that team contending.


I think league average gets you to 81-81.


Contending again starts as soon as Cole, McCutchen, Cervelli and Harrison are traded….The longer the indecision the longer it takes to move on.


Pirates have guys coming up who can be competent major leaguers. What they really need is upside in potential trades, not more competent bodies.

Blaine Huff

Absolutely agree. The phrase “No Man’s Land” applies here, as well.

Look at Moroff…let’s say he plays 2B and is respectable…heck, let’s say 2.2 WAR. Yippee!, that’s great, the Pirates are getting value! But the Pirates seem to be about value everywhere and just about everyone is a 2 WAR player.

You’re not going to have a winning team, with production like that…you need 3-5 4+ WAR guys in there…and there’s three ways to get that: develop it, trade for it, sign it off the free agent market. The Pirates have proven they really aren’t good at doing the first and, even if they were, it takes a long time. Trade for it, then? With what? Aside from a few guys, the Pirates farm system is filled with “competency”…not many teams are going to give up established producers to get a handful of Max Moroffs. So that leaves signing it…even if the Pirates were a better spender…even signing free agents is sticky. Sure, the Pirates can sign a 4 WAR second baseman, but, somehow, you have to justify how spending $15ish million/year is sound…after all, you’re paying someone thirty times more than Moroff makes for a WAR increase of about 1.8.

The Pirates are in No Man’s Land in many ways.

Paul Rutledge

Also, maybe I am alone in this and I will be THRILLED to eat a plate of crow, but I am less than optimistic about Max Moroff even making a 2 WAR ceiling. I think it is far more likely that he is a replacement level player.

Scott K

Is it his .900 OPS in AAA, or his success in September last season that has you concerned the most?

In all seriousness, he needs to be given an opportunity to prove you right or wrong this season. Since power is a major issue in this franchise, and he has this attribute, Pirates would be making a mistake by not giving him regular AB’s next season.


This is my new response every time someone cites September stats as evidence. 😉


The assets we have the could potentially bring back prospects capable of 4-5 WAR are very few. Cole and Rivero. Marte if he rebounds to his 20hr / 40 steals level.

IC Bob

Its funny when we say 3 years control or four years control what is really meant is two years before we jettison them out the door for the next new future shiny prospect. ITs funny we heard what a great deal Rivero was (and it was) and yet we can’t wait to trade him or we believe we can’t afford him after only one full season. Its my opinion we will not seriously contend unless we really commit to keeping guys around and competing for our own guys when they do become FAs. I am not saying spend 30 million on a Stanton like player but we need to have some veterans if we want to compete for anything more than a 500 record.

Brian Bernard

I agree in fact the first player I would go after is Gerrit Cole- unless you get TOP prospects for him.
Sign him to a Typical starting major-league pitcher contract. Estimate of 15 mill per year and he’ll sign it not that hard


A 2020 timeline for contention is simply unacceptable.

Huntington took over what was considered to be a debacle of a franchise with one of the worst farm systems in baseball, and produced his first contending team in Year 6.

If it takes him five years to produce his next contender following a 98-win club, what exactly does that say about the system he himself has built?

His last two years have *already* been an abject failure. Giving him three more years to just field a contender would represent a complete abdication of accountability and responsibility. If the 2019 club is not in the playoffs, there’s no logical argument in favor of him completing the last two years of his already-undeserved contract extension as long as winning is the metric in which to judge his ability.

Scott K

“They made a mistake in those years by not going hard in one direction or another.”

They had enough talent in both of those years to get into the postseason. NH should not be blamed for the failures of Cutch, Cole and Liriano in ’16, nor Kang, Marte, Polanco, and Taillon’s cancer in ’17.

With Cutch entering his last year under contract and Cole entering his trade window this winter, this is the first time Pirates are in a position where they SHOULD chart a new course.

Scott K

If memory serves me correctly, Pirates were 9 games over .500 about two months into 2016 season, and then Cole got hurt, Liriano forgot how to throw strikes, and Cutch’s bat speed nosedived all at the same time.

No GM could’ve made contingency plans that worked to compensate for this.


Strong take. I think that’s a great way to look at 2016/2017.

My concern with that timeline is concentration of talent, and the potential for timeline creep.

I’m more and more convinced that the only way small markets are going to succeed in this environment is by concentrating talent and taking advantage of cheap years of control. Spreading it out over time, even if that results in more consistency, dilutes the actual quality of any one team to the point of having little realistic chance of competing with the elite.

In 2020:
-Marte will be a year from free agency and making more than 10% of payroll
-Rivero will be in his walk year and also making roughly 10% of payroll
-Kuhl, Williams, Taillon, Frazier, and Bell will all be entering arbitration

And that’s the *first* year of the next window. Completely wasting extension of Cutch, Marte, and Harrison; all of Rivero’s team control; and pre-arb years from the current wave of talent.

This is massively, massively inefficient. An almost exact replica of what created the last short window of success. Completely opposite of what the Cubs and Astros have done.

I think there *has* to be more of a concerted effort to squeeze more out of the talent they have on hand. There *has* to be initiative shown to supplement these guys before they waste a 2012-type year where the young talent starts to perform yet isn’t backed by nearly enough to succeed. Targeting 2020 allows the timeline to creep into 2021 for that first 2013-type year of real contention, at which point your window is even smaller and you’re close to being right back where you started.

There’s enough talent on hand to push this timeline up. To take that risk and be speculative.


Couldn’t agree more. Thanks for the discussion!

Blaine Huff

I mostly agree, but I think a lot of the problem was just plain denialism.

It was my opinion then…and now…that the rebuild should have started after ’15.

Damn near everybody played over their heads that season and that 98 win total had a lot of luck rolled into it. Even, IF, the Pirates returned all their players, they were bound to have a drop off. After all, Cole was a near Cy Young winner, Cutch near the top of MVP voting, pitching staff was overly-healthy and phenomenal (a 3.21 team ERA and the largest FIP from a starter with multiple starts was Morton at 4.19…everyone else was under 4.00 and two pitchers were under 3.00).

This performance was unsustainable.

With the spending spree the Cubs went on in the ’15 off-season, it was obvious the Pirates would be fighting for a wild card spot, at best, for a few seasons.

I don’t think the Pirates should have done a total burn down at that point, but, after AJ’s retirement, Happ’s exit, and Walker’s trade…if the writing hadn’t been on the wall before, it surely was by this point. Cutch should have been traded. He was, arguably, the #2 player in baseball and had three years of control, and was so inexpensive that even the Pirates could afford him. Swapping him could have brought the Pirates back into contention in a year or two.

Instead, management seemed to decide to hold on to the past glory and try to patch the holes. After the ’16 season, it was too late to rebuild…Cutch and Cole declined, Cervelli was injured, and selling then would have been getting a minimal return.

So, ’17! Let’s hope they rebound! Oops…that didn’t happen…now many of the assets’ contracts are winding down and it’s time to do what should have been done a couple of seasons ago…’15 was a wonderful season, magical..but there’s a time to come out for an encore and a time to take a bow. The Pirates should have bowed then.

So, I agree that, after the ’15 season, there shouldn’t have been 4 years of non-competitiveness, but I’d also argue the weak seasons should been ’16 and maybe ’17.

Scott K

Isn’t hindsight great. I can guarantee that neither you, nor any other Pirates fan, was suggesting Cutch should be dealt 2 years ago.

Nobody expected Cutch to forget how to hit a baseball in 2016.

Blaine Huff

Actually, not true. I was a very strong advocate of trading Cutch after the ’15 season. I argued for it here…not that I was some baseball genius, but, in this case…meh, even a blind squirrel finds a nut.

My dream trade scenario at the time was Cutch to the Rangers for Profar (oops), DeShields Jr., and Mazara.

Scott K

I’m not sure what impresses me more, Blaine calling for trade of Cutch at absolutely the right time, when it appeared to be the furthest thing from the right time, or NMR remembering it two years later.

Cheers to you both!

Blaine Huff

For the record, I thing adding would have been great…but to make up for the loss of AJ/Happ and bridge the gap to catch up to what the Cubs were doing, the Pirates were going to have to jump payroll by, at least, $30M-$40M. As fun as that season was and as good as the team was, ownership just wasn’t going to spend that kind of money.

Absent a huge financial investment in payroll, the common sense thing to seemed to be to maximize on player value. Cutch seemed to be the most reasonable to go…after all, these were the days when folks were assuming it would take and AAV of $25Mish to extend him and there was hopeful thinking he would take a hometown discount of $20Mish/year


Blaine was prescient, I just don’t have friends. 😉


I mean, Blaine was absolutely saying this back then as well so that’s not actually the definition of hindsight.

However I do agree that the 2015 club absolutely should not have been torn down. While they certainly did play over their heads on their way to 98, it was a true-talent 90+ win club; one of the best in baseball. They should’ve *added* to that team, not subtracted. And if they did, and Cutch still forgot to hit and Liriano forgot to pitch, and so on they could’ve at least lost knowing they made their best effort.

Instead, we’ve gotten all that bad stuff PLUS two years of wandering aimlessly.


I maintain that those Wild Card teams were always a player away, especially that 98 win team. Ownership/FO failed to go all in when it had the opportunity and therefore all this franchise has to show for it is getting into the playoffs. My definition of going “all in” also does not constitute giving up the farm. It should have been done and here we are in No Man’s Land, as Tim likes to say.

Scott K

Blaine suggested Cutch should be dealt in December 2015? My question then is how did he type this while wearing a straight jacket?



I like you both, save “crazy” for BucsfaninMD. 😉

Scott K

Too funny!

IC Bob

So you are saying after winning 98 games it was time to rebuild? my idea would have been to expand on what they had. Get another pitcher without trading your 2nd baseman for a bag of baseballs. Find another AJ Burnett or go out an get that one big time pitcher we all new we needed. There is no way you tear down a 98 win team just because AJ retires. The Royals went out and got players they didn’t just give up. The Indians went out and got players. both those teams expanded there payroll. That’s what you do when you are close. I get the feeling we are all so use to going for the best valued team we have forgotten that the idea is to actually win more games then the other guys


Hopefully that was a huge mistake the ownership group will not repeat time will tell I guess.


comment image

Blaine Huff

There was a line in there about how I don’t think the Pirates should have done a total burn-down.

But, yes, a step back would have been wisest then.

AJ just didn’t retire, Happ left as well. The Pirates had two outstanding pitchers in ’15…Cole and AJ/Happ. Cole was at 208 innings, 2.60 ERA, and 202 Ks. AJ/Happ were at 227 1/3 innings, a 2.81 ERA, and 212 Ks.

If your argument is the Pirates should have signed “one big time pitcher”…who would it have been? There were five on the market that season…the Pirates were never going to get Greinke or Price…not when they signed for over $200M. That left Cueto, Samarzjia, and Zimmermann. Shark was good in ’16…not great, but solid…and would not have replaced the loss of AJ/Happ. Zimmermann imploded…and hasn’t stopped doing so.

So, if you had a crystal ball, you could have gotten Cueto. You toss out Cleveland and KC like that’s a road map…but neither went out and got a $130M pitcher to get over the top. Not even close.

But, let’s say the Pirates did get Cueto…that makes up for the loss of AJ/Happ, but it doesn’t do a thing to improve the rotation. The Cubs replaced an underperforming Haran with Lackey…then went out and added Zobrist and Heyward. The point is, the Pirates would have had to struggle to maintain production…the Cubs turned around and added assets to their already strong team.

If we’re going to get in the time machine, it would be good to remember that Cubs were dropping cash like crazy and it was already a foregone conclusion the Pirates weren’t going to win the division in ’16.

IC Bob

How bout resign Happ for 40 million

Blaine Huff

Was that the “one big time pitcher” you were referring to?

Okay, sign Happ…that almost makes up for the lost performance of AJ/Happ…now let’s find 9 more WAR to keep up with what the Cubs added…

IC Bob

First Happ only played 1/3 the season so resigning him would have been big. Second at that time Cutch was a star. Nobody could have foreseen he would lay an egg the next year. If the Pirates traded him they might as well have just moved the franchise and fire the GM. 3rd we talk about no mans land but trading Cutch would immediately put you there. The window was there the Pirates chose not to go all in while it was open. It backfired. heck even when they got Happ he was having a lousy year. With you logic we should trade Bell, Tallion and anyone lese that we think is already decent since they have a lot of value and a lot of years of control. Lets plan for 2024 and beyond.


I don’t think Blaine was saying tear down after the 98 win season. He was saying trade Cutch at peak value after that season. NMR made this case above. Trading a star player isn’t a tear down. It’s unfortunately what small market teams need to do to remain competitive. It would have made the team less competitive the next year, but it would have likely sped up the return to prominence instead of the long slow decline we’ve seen since. Now the only real option is to blow up and start again.

Scott K

Nobody with half a brain suggests trading away a generational star player under team control for a relatively cheap payroll figure when he has 3 more years of team control left!

Stop the insanity!


Yeah there’s quite a difference between trading a vet within a year or two of FA and trading a 6-win superstar with three years of cheap control.


Until NMR finishes the time machine all the FO can do is move forward and learn from mistakes. The rebuild will not reverse in a year unless all goes perfectly and it’s often not the case. Trades of 5-7 players won’t all happen by Thursday or January but they’ll happen. Newer players may all click next year but if Josh Bell is an indication the younger are going to take 2-3 years but shouldn’t be written off immediately.


Well said. The fact that we are (or should be) looking at another 2-3 years of non-competitiveness is a function of NH not being aggressively proactive in managing assets. It’s also Exhibit A of how difficult it is to run a small market team. No margin for error.


Or…it took him 5 years to build a team that made 3 post seasons (one of which was a 98 win season) starting from basically nothing, and starting now hopefully it will take him 3 years to build the next team that can hopefully go further than the last contender, due to the fact that he’s built a respectable farm system even after we’ve traded pieces away for the past 3-4 years.

This is the reality of small market teams. Look around MLB. The mindset of “this is not acceptable”… will only cause the front office NOT to do what is needed to build a team that can win a World Series.


What in the…


To clarify –

– I think we are looking at a 2020 timeline to be competitive.

– That is acceptable, because that is the reality for small market teams.

– NH has overall done a really good job. He should have blown this team up sooner, but he also built what his 2 predecessors couldn’t, so cut the guy a break.

– He deserved his contract extension, and based on his past success here I’d rather trust him with the next rebuild than try to find someone else.


Another side is that minus 2-4 war from Cutch&Cole the pirates are not a ton worse than last year and $50m better off. The projected Yankees trade if 2/3 are good or all marginally productive they’re back to where they were in 2013 or better. With the potential to add another productive prospect from trading Cutch and a huge return on Rivero they have a chance to be as good without even dipping into the $50m which they should hold on to for a catcher and whatever doesn’t work out which I estimate to be IF. All while they take a step forward with pitching granted this will take until 2020 to fully bake imo.


Still not buying the infield ,better get an above average 2b or SS or 3b back in a trade. like our future starting pitching if glasnow can get it together. trading Rivero is rebuilding 101 don’t need a stud closer on a rebuilding team. Cervelli could be an insurance right off if he goes on the DL after a foul tip to the noggin over and over again.


I really don’t understand why Tim keeps using the word “rebuild” when it’s clearly causing so much confusion.

I’ll say it again, trading veterans within a year or two of free agency is not a rebuild, by any logical definition. It just isn’t. Up until two years ago when everyone including Neal Huntington lost their damn minds, this was a practice that was considered *standard* for a small market team like the Pirates.

Drop the cliched titles and what you have is a couple veterans who’d be leaving anyways backed by a bunch of young talent not going anywhere. You don’t trade Rivero in that case, you build around him.


I don’t think there’s a word for this. Just standard operating procedure.

Your article is great. Logic sound. But I keep getting the impression that people hear “rebuild” and think Astros/Cubs-style, and that sort of skews the conversation.


Retool: The basic machine is good, just need to change out the (tool, blades…)
Rebuild: The machine is crap. Pitch it and head to Home Depot.


Heh, the joys of journalism. I can appreciate your point of view.

Michael Sanders

Salary dump is a good phrase as opposed to rebuild.


well I’m talking rebuilding, got it. because when you rebuild you stink for 3yrs and get at least top 3 draft picks and that’s where you turn things around.

Arik Florimonte

Agree completely on infield and Rivero.

Arik Florimonte

“It’s not a bad thing for the Pirates to have average players at those infield spots”

Except they don’t have that — they have infield prospects whose upside is average infielder, when prospects have a bust rate of at least 2/3.


I do not agree that the Pirares can contend with league average talent all over the infield – how does thar make them competitive with the Cubs who have star – superstar talent in Rizzo, Baez, Russell and Bryant?

IC Bob

I agree 100% to contend the Pirates have to hit with star talent all over the diamond. they can have league average a t a couple of spots but they need at least a wo to three stars and a number of really good players. Average players gets you to about the 20-25th best team in the league. Lets not forget right now we are downright bad at 2-3 positions and none of those players mentioned above are sure things to improve that


SS, 3b, possibly Catcher depending on Cervelli’s return and most likely RF because I have given up on Polanco.


I understand the premise of this article, but I don’t think this is the train of thought NH is (or should) use the guide a rebuild. If the front office makes the decision to do a rebuild, they should look at acquiring the best collection of talent irrespective of position. It’s no longer about filling holes created by veterans you traded, it’s all about maximizing the sum of potential major league talent in the minors. Which is why true rebuilds take 3 years. Rebuilding teams acquire talent that may not perfectly match up with major league gaps, requiring another round of trading veterans to create room for deserving prospects and bring in a new round of prospects.


*If* they choose to actually rebuild, which is most certainly *not* what Tim describes.


Huh? The article title says the word “rebuild”. Not sure I understand your point.


Article by NMR: “How I got In Shape in 2017”

Text: “I lost two pounds, but still couldn’t run a mile without walking and need to lose 20 more”.

Sometimes the text doesn’t match the lede.

John W

Ha!!!!!!!!!!! This post was Fing perfect.


Ha. Agreed.


I read somewhere that the Yankees may be talking Cole and Harrison for Frazier, Adams and Andujar. If that is true, I’m inclined to say I think the Pirates should pull the trigger. Maybe ask for one more high-upside lower level player. What do you think, Tim. Is that enough of a return to our two guys?


I like the return from the Yanks but given their desire to get below the tax threshold, Freese may be a stop gap option as they wait for Torres. If the Yanks take Freese, we could flip JHay for other prospects.
Tim never mentioned Andujar or (Tyler Wade) in his rebuild assessments. Wouldn’t he get here quicker than Hayes? Could he be a guy we could count on as a starting 3B?
Tim also never ventures into the abyss that is chemistry. Cutch and JHay seem to be clubhouse guys … glue guys … leaders. I kinda wonder what effect losing them would have on the younger/new guys. Afterall, how many times have we seen talented teams just never click??

Blaine Huff

Are Adams, Frazier, and Andujar a fair return for Cole and Harrison?

If they can get reasonably close to their ceilings, yes…and NH should be buying Cashman dinner and sending him flowers.

Raniel C

If the Yankees add 21 yr old C Donny Sands 6-2 190 R/R to that package, I would take it since they also save about $20M from Cole and Harrison’s salary.


If they are trading both Cole and Harrison to the Yankees then they better get a boatload more than what you are suggesting here. No way is the return for Cole and Harrison good enough with the names that you mention.


I’m not named Tim either but I think it’s a good package. Andujars fielding doesn’t rate with Hayes (Altoona will tell us a lot) but Andujars just destroyed AA&AAA at the plate. Andujar is reported to have a killer arm and some predict him to move to corner OF. Pitching is a war of attrition some of these starters will stick some will be stellar relievers pirates need both especially considering the length and cost of recent reliever contracts (imagine getting Hudson on a 3yr) can never get enough decently rated pitchers.


can’t trade cole for that ,need more of a sure thing with above average upside.


I also don’t love that package for Cole and Harrison. But I think that package actually does have a relatively high floor with above average upside. Those are fairly advanced prospects (AAA or MLB-ready) that have all shown production to deserve a shot in MLB. What I don’t see is a high enough ceiling to really excite me. The strength of our farm system is depth – we have a fair number of prospects in the talent range of Adams and Andujar. Those guys are valuable, but I would prefer more guys with Keller ceilings, even if that means getting fewer prospects in return. Personal preference on my part. Frazier is the high upside play in that package, and with his peripherals and how aggressively the Yanks are shopping him – I lack faith that he will reach that ceiling.


how about go shopping at another store. frazier is not that upside guy, more hype than actual productivity.


Yup. And if other teams don’t offer what we are looking for, hold him until the trade deadline when teams are more desperate


if they do that, then they have to pull the trigger at the deadline. Holding him to the off season you wont get a deal like he has in hand now.


It’s a calculated risk. But one worth taking if NH doesn’t feel like the market is offering difference makers for Cole. If he holds serve or improved slightly – he could bring back substantially more at the deadline. TOR starters are always in high demand.


The downside to holding Cole until the trading deadline is that he might be more of the 2017 Cole and not so much the 2015 Cole, in which case is value plummets.

Stephen Brooks

For all the criticism Huntington has received – some most deservedly so – he has filled the pipeline with current and future major leaguers who project to be at least average. That sets a decent floor for the team in 2019 whether they go through a rebuild or change tactics and add this offseason.

Assuming he does proceed with a re-tooling this offseason, then, it’s absolutely essential that NH accomplish two things:

1. fix the holes at C and 3B
2. trade for upside, even if it’s high risk.

If I can’t get Torres, then I would rather Frazier + Andujar + a high-upside A-ball arm like Perez or Abreu.


However, GM NH top prospects have traditionally not transitioned well into MLB.


Except everyone that has

Arik Florimonte

That is simply not true. I think you overestimate the MLB success rate.


The team needs to get power in these upcoming trades because the farm and Major League team is truly hurting in that all-important category.


The Pirates have a lot in the system, but seem to always find some old fart to come in and steal some PT from a kid in the system. I realize the Pirates were trying to win, but a second round of Sean Rodriguez?

My threesome was Frazier, Andujar, and Sheffield and I thought that Harrison would be needed with Cole to get those three. If we can get more, great, but pull the damn trigger on this trade with the Yankees. I doubt there is another AL team that has the prospects the Yankees have and Cole deserves the spotlight in the Big Apple – just not with an NL team.

McCutchen led the Pirates with 30 doubles, 28 HR, 60 EBH, 73 Walks, 94 Runs Scored and is the LEADER of this team on and off the field. When any of the group of Marte, Polanco, Meadows, and/or others can approach that level of play and leadership, then talk about a trade. Until then, find a way to keep that resource in Pittsburgh – just like the Steelers and Penguins find a way to keep their stars.

Bruce G

I feel the same way about McCutchen and the outfield. Marte is an elite defender, but he’s way too inconsistent offensively for my taste. He’s also killed the Pirates with bad baserunning decisions. I think the skills are there and he could be a perennial all-star, but how often have we seen him strikeout chasing a pitch a foot outside the strike zone. I would actually see what type of market there is for him in a trade. He has a team-friendly contract and could be a valuable asset for the right team.

I don’t see near the same competitive drive out of Marte or Polanco compared to McCutchen. I think this drive is what separates champions from also-rans. I would rather have a less talented player who has this type of drive than the one who lacks the same intensity.

Durability – McCutchen has proven he can stand up an entire season. The other two have struggled to stay healthy.

I think it is likely the season would be a near disaster without McCutchen in the middle of the lineup. There’s a chance Polanco and Marte would step up and produce to their capabilities, but they haven’t proven themselves to be the same type of hitter as McCutchen. If the Pirates move McCutchen, let’s hope the return nets someone like Yelich, not an unproven talent.


The more I read about the Yankees, the more the list of potential trade chips gets smaller. At first it was they cant trade Torres, then Florial and Sheffield were added. I’m starting to believe what started all of this was the Yankees needing to move Frazier before he loses value. They needed starting pitching and don’t have room for Frazier. So they start calling around asking about top pitchers available and a package around Frazier. Another thing Ive learned is that how the media ranks a teams prospects isn’t how the team does. Most sources have Adams #2 . I think he falls to at least #4 maybe further on the Yankees internal list.


Frazier was the BA #2 Prospect for the Yankees for 2017. Sheffield was #7 and Adams #8 . Frazier had 93 days in MLB in 2017 and 135 AB and is no longer given &#8 220;prospect&#8 221; status. The Yankee top 7 for 2018 according to BA are Torres, Florial, Sheffield, Adams, Andujar, Abreu, and Medina. MLB top 7 are Torres, Adams, Florial, Sheffield, Andujar, Acevedo, and Abreu. Not much difference.

Cole/Harrison for Frazier, and then 2 high prospects in positions needed by the Pirates &#8 211; Sheffield a LHSP, and Andujar an MLB-ready 3B with decent power and a decent glove. I am still waiting for the Yankees to say OK, but they want Marte instead of Harrison. Either way &#8 211; do it.

Jason K

Hey Tim – Do you have an update on the ETA for replacing the IOS app? It has been a few months since I have seen an update.

Blaine Huff

I’d agree with just about everything here…the main sticking points would be Marte and Rivero.

If the Pirates are going to do a tear-down, it doesn’t make sense to keep the biggest chip (Rivero) in their pocket. Relievers, generally, aren’t dominant for years…so selling high on him, especially when the rest of the assets are moving, is probably wisest. If, perchance, Rivero does somehow maintain his dominance over the next season or two, you’re looking at a guy who could be getting $12M-$14M (with another round of arbitration to follow!) in arbitration going into 2020. Maybe the Pirates will pay that or maybe they won’t…but trying to trade him with a salary that high is only going to diminish his value.

With Marte, as with Rivero, there’s no time frame listed for a possible trade…so I’m assuming it’s meant to be this off-season. I don’t see a reason to rush on him unless the Pirates believe his value is going to continue to drop and they want to sell on him before it his rock bottom. Meadows isn’t ready and, even if the Pirates get Clint Frazier, I don’t know that he’s absolutely ready to step in, as well. Hold on to Marte and let him rebuild his worth. If he’s a stud by mid season again, sell high and promote Meadows (provided he’s not on his 292nd DL stint.)


I feel like Rivero would be a great trade chip especially at the deadline.


He’s the missing link for the Astros. Can you imagine that team with a true shutdown closer.


I’m old enough to remember when Ken Giles was cool. 😉

Blaine Huff

He definitely could be…in fact, probably more than he is right now because, inevitably, some contender’s closer is going to go down prior to that and they’ll be scrambling and desperate to fill the void.

The flip side, of course, is that it might be the Pirates closer who gets injured and Rivero becomes worthless.

The other negative is that the Pirates could be sitting 4ish games outside of the second wild card slot in late July…not really in the race and definitely not on par with the division winners…but close enough that it would be much harder to justify giving up on the season.


Do you believe a deal will get done for Cole? If so, McCutchen, Harrison, and Cervelli should follow. Would you agree


Tim has suggested this, but frankly I don’t see that as absolutely necessary. Particularly if they sign that LHP who used to pitch for the Cards and “fix” him. This narrative that trading Cole means that the Bucs should give up because their hopes of making the playoffs are dashed is only one possible future; a future where Cole is our #1 with performance like 2015. In reality for the last two years Cole has performed like a #3 , and his actual performance can be replaced by a #3 . The Bucs pitching staff was MLB average last year. But It’s realistic to expect improvement from Taillon, Kuhl and Williams in 2018. Not dramatic improvement, but substantial improvement. If the Bucs sign a #3 FA pitcher, include in the return for Cole a MLB 3B man, and future pitching prospects then they can compete for a WC spot in 2018, if they see offensive improvements from Marte, Polanco, Bell, 3B and C. Why not go for it? I’d rather not see them “blow it up”.


I agree with this. Many are Overvaluing Coles importance to this team for this season. This is all based on the premise he would return to his 2015 stature. However, like you said the past two years he’s pitched like a 3 or 4. Pitching staff wasn’t this teams issues last year, it was offense. It was their inability to hit the ball out of the ballpark, like the rest of the league. If Pirates can get a 3B in a Cole trade, sign a SP like Garcia and keep Cutch & Harrison I believe the Pirates can be competitive this year. McCutchen I feel doesn’t have much of a market at the moment. Could change though.


Last year Cutch was by far the Bucs best offensive ball player. Meadows isn’t ready yet. Not withstanding what we might receive back from the Cole trade I think the best route with Cutch is to retain him through the playoffs and offer a QO, depending on how much Meadows improves.


Didn’t Tim just answer those questions in this column ? Recap : ” If he is traded, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them follow that move up by trading guys like Andrew McCutchen, Josh Harrison, and maybe even others like Francisco Cervelli.”

Share article

Pirates Prospects Daily

Latest articles

Pirates Prospects Weekly

MONDAY: First Pitch

TUESDAY: Article Drop


THURSDAY: Roundtable

FRIDAY: Discussion

SATURDAY: Pirates Winter Report

SUNDAY: Pirates Business

Latest comments