I don’t make many articles free. We have to pay the bills around here, and the cost to subscribe isn’t that high, especially for the quality work that we produce year-round. At this point you should be subscribing to us, simply because with the way the team is going with their recent rebuilding trades, Pirates Prospects might be the most relevant Pirates site in 2018. If you’d like to join us, here’s the subscription link. We also have a deal for students and teachers during the month of January. And don’t forget to buy the 2018 Prospect Guide, which will have all of the new players added to the top 50 later this week. I typically make an article free if it’s discussing a big topic where I want to get my thoughts out there to a wider audience. I can’t think of a bigger topic than an Andrew McCutchen trade. So, let’s get to the article.

I knew that one day I would have to write a column about an Andrew McCutchen trade. Everyone knew the trade was going to happen one day. But knowing doesn’t make it all easier when the time comes.

I’ve prepared for a McCutchen trade in the past with a series of articles, looking at the business decision of trading McCutchen, compared to the emotional decision. The debate between the two things is important to note, because it exists with so few players.

When Gerrit Cole was traded on Saturday, people were mostly outraged at a deal that was perceived to be a bad deal. I didn’t like the return, feeling that the Pirates got a little too much “high floor” and not enough “high upside” for their biggest trade chip.

But you’d have to search hard for a fan who said they were done with the organization simply because Gerrit Cole’s time as a Pirate was up. Cole was a good player, but he wasn’t the face of the franchise. So most of the discussion about that trade was solely about the value in the deal, and the business decision of dealing your best pitcher and committing to a rebuild, rather than going for it in 2018.

That’s not the case with McCutchen. People react to the value of the deal. People react to the concept of trading him. And people react to the emotional side of trading the face of the franchise. That last part is so big that it clouds everything else.

So when it comes to breaking down the trade, I can’t just discuss value. I have to discuss that big cloud of emotions over the rest of the deal. Because of that, I think the emotional factor is the best place to begin.

The Emotions of Trading the Face of the Franchise

If you’re tweeting or commenting to me tonight that you’re giving up your season tickets, I believe you.

If you tell me that you’re done with this team, I believe you.

If you say that you’re not going to be following the team, and you’re unsubscribing from the site, well then it sucks for me and our writers, but I believe you and welcome you back at any time.

A lot of people saying this kind of stuff are caught up in the emotions of the moment. They’ll return. Some of them a month from now when Spring Training begins. Some of them on Opening Day. Some of them much later when the Pirates return to winning.

But there are definitely some who are absolutely done with this team. I know, because I’ve been there. I grew up an Orioles fan. Cal Ripken was my favorite player. And when he retired, I had no interest in the Orioles going forward. I was upset at their management group, but I stuck around and followed them while Ripken was around. When Ripken retired, there was nothing keeping me around.

I quickly started taking an interest in other teams, specifically small market teams. The Pirates were an obvious starting point, since my dad was from Pittsburgh, I grew up watching the Pirates, and knew a bit about them. The Oakland Athletics got my interest. Then the Tampa Bay Rays. And basically any small market team that beat the odds and managed to win in MLB. But I didn’t really have a team anymore. From that point forward, I was just following individual players and interesting underdog stories. And even when the Orioles were successful after that point, I couldn’t even try to be a fan again. That part of me, the emotional attachment to a specific baseball team, was lost forever.

That’s going to happen with a lot of Pirates fans. Fans who remember the last World Series will be done with the team. Fans who saw the first winning Pirates seasons of their lives a few years ago. Young fans who are just getting into the game, and no longer have that MLB icon to follow in Pittsburgh.

It’s important to recognize this. It’s important to realize that almost everyone who is commenting on the move is factoring in some sort of emotional response, whether the response is entirely emotional, or just giving respect to a player they admired as a side note to the deal. It’s important to respect this emotional reaction.

But it’s also important to compartmentalize the emotions when breaking down the trade. Because the emotional side of the trade is biased, and doesn’t give an accurate read of the deal. No matter who the Pirates acquire, the reaction is the same:

“That’s all they got for Andrew McCutchen?”

“THAT is all they got for Andrew McCutchen?!”

“THAT IS THE BEST THEY COULD GET FOR ANDREW MCCUTCHEN, ONE OF THE BEST PLAYERS TO WEAR A PIRATES UNIFORM?”

And that reaction is fair from the emotional side. But the business side is much more nuanced, and requires you to look beyond McCutchen’s stature in this town, and look at the details of the trade.

The Business Side of Trading Andrew McCutchen

Here are some facts, with a few educated opinions mixed in.

**Andrew McCutchen had one year and $14.5 M remaining on his deal.

**The Pirates probably weren’t going to be extending him. Neal Huntington said tonight that they didn’t see a way to extend McCutchen and build around him going forward.

**Andrew McCutchen has seen his value declining the last few years. He went from an 8.4 WAR in his MVP season to a 6.8, then 5.6 in 2015, followed by 0.6 in 2016 and 3.7 this past year. The last two years saw some prolonged struggles, and some injury and durability concerns.

**The Pirates aren’t going to be winning the World Series in 2018, especially after trading Gerrit Cole. I’m not sure whether to file this under “fact” or “educated opinion” so I’ll let you decide.

The first question you should ask in any deal is whether it makes sense to trade the player. In this case, it’s simple. The Pirates aren’t contending in 2018, and McCutchen is gone after the 2018 season. The only argument for keeping him around is based on emotions, or the idea that he can somehow gain value by the trade deadline. As we saw from the last year, he can definitely lose value if you wait to deal him.

So yes, trading McCutchen was the right move.

The next thing you should figure out is what kind of value the player has. McCutchen had a 3.7 fWAR last year. He was projected for a 3.1 WAR by ZiPS this year, but I’m going to be generous and give him that 3.7 projection. At $9 M per WAR, that is a little over $33 M in value. Subtract McCutchen’s salary ($12 M in this case, since the Pirates sent $2.5 M in the deal), and his trade value is about $21 M.

That kind of trade value isn’t going to get you much. It’s barely one top 100 prospect, and if it is, you’d be getting a guy who barely made the list.

In this case, the Pirates received two prospects. One was Kyle Crick, a former top prospect who has seen his value fall in recent years due to control issues. He made the switch to the bullpen last year, and had continued struggles with his control, but good velocity. Huntington mentioned that his future would be as a reliever, so the best hope here is that he could figure out the control and become a late inning reliever. That worked with Felipe Rivero. After the Cole and McCutchen trades, the Pirates have two right-handers who fit this bill, with Michael Feliz and now Crick as potential late inning complements to Rivero if one of them figures things out.

I think the bigger part of this deal was outfield prospect Bryan Reynolds. After the Cole trade, I criticized the Pirates for getting higher floor, closer to the majors guys like Joe Musgrove and Michael Feliz. Those guys have some value, and could turn out to help the Pirates in the majors as soon as the 2018 season. But the upsides are low. They’re both players who have seen a decline in value, and who would need a big rebound in order to exceed their current projections.

My feeling is that the Pirates should be targeting lower level guys who haven’t figured it out yet. Get them early before they become top prospects, rather than waiting too late when they’re untouchable, or extremely difficult to acquire. They did a good job of that when they got Oneil Cruz as the main return for two months of Tony Watson. They did a good job of that when they got Taylor Hearn as the second piece in the Mark Melancon trade. They probably could have received a higher floor guy that was closer to the majors, rather than those two players. But they went for the upside of a player early in his development, and as a result, could end up getting a lot more from one of those guys than anything a high floor, close-to-the-majors guy could have given.

I like the addition of Reynolds in this trade because he fits that bill. He’s early in his development, and has shown positive signs, but has some questions impacting his value. The biggest question is whether he’ll add more power and reach his potential in that department. He’s already shown power, but Baseball America reported that evaluators questioned whether he’d be able to tap into his full power potential, which might restrict his upside at a corner outfield spot.

If Reynolds had that power right now, he’d be a top prospect and untouchable in a McCutchen trade. If the consensus was that he would add the power with few questions, then he’d be a top prospect and untouchable in a McCutchen trade. And that’s the risk with adding guys who aren’t top prospects yet. If Reynolds doesn’t add to his power, then the main part of this return might struggle to be more than a bench player in the majors. But prospects aren’t guaranteed, and that works both ways. Reynolds has power potential, and even if there’s a belief that he won’t reach that potential, it’s not guaranteed that this belief will be correct.

This is how you get breakout players. You find guys with skills who aren’t on the radar to be top prospects, and you hope that if you acquire enough of these players, one of them will realize the potential of his skills and become that top prospect that would otherwise be untouchable. Every year there are new breakout players who jump to the top of their organization’s prospect lists. The year before, no one would have traded for them as a key piece in a deal. After they break out, teams try unsuccessfully to trade for these players. So why not try to get one before he breaks out, especially if you think a certain guy has that chance?

It’s not an exciting approach at the time. It’s an approach that could very well look horrible in hindsight. Or, it could look genius in hindsight if the player breaks out.

I liked the return of Reynolds and Crick. I’m not as enthused about Crick, simply because I don’t think the Pirates should be focusing on close-to-the-majors guys. But I do see some upside there, and the Pirates have been more successful fixing the control problems of hard-throwing relievers than anything else. And honestly, when you look at how low McCutchen’s trade value probably was, you’re not really getting much beyond Reynolds.

Evaluating the Andrew McCutchen Trade

It’s probably going to be controversial to say, but I think the Pirates got a good return for McCutchen. They weren’t trading a guy with a lot of value, and ended up getting a hard-throwing relief prospect who could be a late-inning complement to Rivero. They also got a good hitting outfielder who has some tools on the bases and on defense in the outfield, and who has more power potential than he’s shown so far in games.

If you remove the fact that this is Andrew McCutchen — one of the best players in Pirates’ history and the face of the franchise — and you just look at the values, then this deal isn’t a bad one.

But those emotions cloud everything. So even with the logic in play, and the attempts to remove the feelings, it’s hard to shake that feeling that no return would have been good enough for Andrew McCutchen.

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260 COMMENTS

  1. Since Christian Yelich wants out of Miami, the Pirates should build a package of a one of their AAA starting pitchers and one or two of the plethora of young relievers. I’d throw in Jose Osuna and David Freese. That would make the OF a strength again.

      • No – I think the way Yelich’s agent handled the situation yesterday put the Marlins in a position of weakness. I wouldn’t be afraid to give up a couple prospects for him though. The Pirates need big help offensively. Not just this year, but for the foreseeable future. What if Polanco pulls a hamstring again? Yelich’s contract is pretty reasonable and would fit nicely the next couple years.

  2. I’m in the minority here but I really can’t argue with the decisions to trade Cole and Cutch. To me, the only decision regarding the issue was to trade them before the season or before the trade deadline. Waiting presented two problems. First, what if Cole and Cutch under perform during the first half of the season? If that happens the return for them could prove to be really small. Second, what if the Bucs are on the fringe of contention with both on the roster? That would make trading them incredibly difficult and then the Bucs see Cutch walk at the end of the year with no return.

    I struggle with the return that the Bucs got in the trades – but I will confess that I’m not an expert on the value of prospects, much less veterans. But, I can live with the decision to make the trades.

    All of that being said, these trades are designed to make us contenders in a few years. I will be furious if Management repeats the mistakes from a few years ago and fails to add some chips that will take the Bucs to the WS.

  3. Math is fun: Using the projection set forth by baseball-reference.com using their 40 man roster, minus Harrison who will certainly be dealt, and ignoring guys like Millbath who don’t have projections here is what you get.

    Overall record 78-84

    Batting:
    .257/.329/.406 triple slash with .735 OPS

    Now this projection shows the Pirates at 1061 at bats south of what they were at this season so that number could change with an addition or two. But it clearly shows an offense better than last year, again that is actual last year vs this years projections but still. Here are last years numbers

    .244/.318/.386 .704 OPS

    So the Pirates project to hit for more power better average and to get on base more.

    Pitching:

    Projections

    4.30 ERA 1.328 WHIP 3.2 BB/9 8.4 K/9

    Against last years

    4.22 ERA 1.371 WHIP 3.2 BB/9 7.9 K/9

    Shows the pitching staff similar enough, maybe I’ll try to calculate the FIP to see if there is a difference there as well.

    But the overall point is even after we lose Cole, Cutch and Harrison we are not a worse team we somehow project to be better than last year. Now will that happen, unlikely, but we will not know until the first pitch is thrown and the last ball is caught.

  4. Tim, Sadly it is your comments above as the pure reason why I will not be renewing my PP subscription…you really do not get it – for 10 years now, huntington/nutting/coonelly have been at the helm with 3 winning seasons – that is as “business” as you get. Absent of hope and success, you only have emotion to fall back on and that is where these clowns have gutted and left this once proud franchise to rot….this franchise under nutting will NEVER win a WS championship and will NEVER retire a player to the HOF – those are facts. Some will question, how can you possibly foretell now and the future in such a negative light and my response is all you need to do is look at the moves that was made after the 2015 – 98 win season (that included attendance/viewership/memorabilia sales records) – nutting simply cashed out (in lieu of increasing investment) – it is irrefutable….that offseason after 2015 tells you everything you need to know about the future of this franchise under that clown….

  5. Harrison wants out, and the Yankees are interested. What are the odds they’ll send Frazier (just Frazier) for J-Hay? They seemed pretty keen to include him in the Cole deal, but Cole’s a much better asset than Harrison.

  6. Tim can you project out the players on the team, the years their contracts expire or when they exhaust arbitration and project if or when when a window might occur? Project challenges to capitalizing on that window? Challenges meaning ownership getting cold feet approaching a time when a player’s value might be highest for trade (approaching end of K or arbitration) and how that might impact the team’s decision to add to the team to win vs. kick the can down the road again as it has done so many times? I just want to have some sense that I waiting for a legit window of success vs. another “retooling”.

  7. Are we all foolish for following this team? I’m not talking about the trades or what the return on the trades. I get that small market teams have challenges. But small market teams have extended themselves on occasion to win and have, in fact, won. I don’t see this ownership group doing that. They put themselves in a class of teams, perhaps on their own, who place add’l constraints on themselves. After 2015 and for no good reason other than self-imposed budgetary motives, they short-armed the team. Did it again in 2017. They could have gone for it this year and tried to compete but again allowed their own particular budgetary constraints to dictate their course — not the larger small market constraints. Why should anyone “root” for this team under this ownership group? Hope for prospects to develop for an undefined window only to have the owners undercut them?

  8. Shouldn’t we factor in the expected Comp pick at the end of the year? So his trade value is $21M of surplus PLUS a sandwich pick. Reynolds was picked with pick 59 in 2016, and had a decent minor league career so far while being old for a prospect at those levels. So I’d argue a sandwich pick is about = Reynolds. That means they got Crick for the $21M in surplus value.

    To me, they didn’t get enough.

  9. I hope this is not an indication of a completer team collapse and another 20 year run of losing. the glass can either be half full or half empty. You chose which it to be.

  10. Great article Tim. It is tough to let go of your favorite players, especially one that has been the face of organization for so many years. I love Cutch, but it was time to move on and still get something back from him. I wish nothing but the best, hope he does well in San Fran.

  11. REminds me a lot of when the 76ers traded Allen Iverson. Man, he was it. Philadelphia adored him.

    The city still hasn’t recuperated.

  12. So if Josh Harrison has 3 years left at $10M, $10.5M, and $11.5M and a current year WAR projection at 2.1, he has $24.7M of value? So around the same trade value as Cutch?

    • Likely less. Team’s aren’t going to value an equal amount of surplus value similarly when it’s spread over three years vs one.

  13. Problem I have with these trades is the whole quantity over quality aspect. As I see the Pirates currently, their problem isn’t that they don’t have enough good players. Their problem is they have no great players. Both Cole and Cutch had been great in the past and both were “worth the price of admission.“ It’s not out of the realm of possibility that they could be great this year. The guys the Pirates got for them are projected to be legitimate major leaguers but not special. I just don’t get it. Harrison is my favorite player. When he is gone, I’m not sure that there is anybody left on the team that I would pay to see. That’s coming from a 7 year season ticket holder.

    • Great as in MVP/Cy Young caliber, maybe Marte or Taillon can reach those lofty heights. But I see an opportunity for several young players (Bell, Williams, Rivero, et al) to show continued improvement, and for a couple of newly acquired players (Moran, Musgrove) to impress dedicated fans like you.

      Don’t fall into the trap of prejudging this team based on losing two of our favorite players.

      • I am prejudging this team based on the fact that the talent level is in the toilet and its only going to get worse in the next three weeks.

      • I’m not pre-judging the team at all. I’ve seen Marte, Taillion, Bell, Williams and Rivero play. The jury is out on Taillon, but other than him, my opinion they are all average to good players. None of them are great. You’re dreaming if you think Marte will ever be as good as Cutch. These new players? Nobody is saying they have the potential to be great. Why should I continue to care about this team what it seems pretty obvious that the ownership group doesn’t? Following the Pirates since I was a kid. Now, I think I’d rather be San Francisco or Houston fan

    • Cole may well have been great but not thinking Cutch would be great again based on his last 2 seasons of work. On his last 12 months of playing, he had 2 great months and 10 horrible months. He was horrible in 2016. His bounce back last year gave us 2 great months in the middle of the season and that was enough to offset his year total numbers for the ugly 4 months bookending the 2 great ones. Gave him decent yearly numbers but you can’t win when you have a guy in the heart of your order who has lost his consistency. That is why the Bucs got what they got for him because teams offer return based on the current player not the past glory days.

      • Cutch had a very good September/October last season as well. After his slow start, August was his only bad month. And his slow start also involved one average and one bad month. So you’re being pretty hyperbolic describing his last two years as 2 great months and 10 horrible months on last season alone.

        Incidentally, June and July were Cutch’s only horrible months in 2016, too. The rest of the season he was somewhere between above average and very good. He just also had a terrible defensive year to depress his WAR, but defensive value is always flighty.

      • Didn’t say it was likely that either would be great next year. I was all for rebuilding the team and trading both players for high upside sort of prospects. Just doesn’t look like that happened.

        I’ll say this, though, both Cole and Cutch are in much better environments and are far more likely to succeed where they’re going and they would be here. I would not be at all surprised both players had come back sort of years.

    • Gerrit Cole was great for one year, other than that, he has significantly underperformed. He was supposed to be special, instead he was just a legitimate major leaguer. I am not upset to see him go, and I feel like the Pirates got more value coming back than they sent out.

  14. Many thanks to Andrew McCutchen for igniting the dormant baseball fandom in Pittsburgh. But all good things must end sometime. His value is mostly current, and current value is not really essential to the Pirates right now.

    I like Reynolds; if I recall correctly he was expected to be a late first round pick in his draft class who fell over concerns about his power. The 10 HR last year can be taken with a grain of salt, since he played in part in the notorious California League. But he seems to be making progress, and should end up in Bradenton this year where a duplication of his stats from last year would be huge progress forward.

    Crick was a highly prized prospect when he was in the low minors, but his command hasn’t come around. Dr. Ray has a great track record of fixing command issues, and as you say between Crick and Feliz the Pirates have probably added another good late inning reliever.

    I’m not as down on the rest of the package from the Astros as you are, Musgrove is a Trevor Williams type and Moran is a useful LH bat. Jason Martin had better numbers than Reynolds at similar levels last year, in a much tougher hitting environment. Ceiling would have been great, but floor is useful, too, and Cole has been kind of spotty for us. The Cardinals have been thriving on high floor guys for at least a decade.

  15. Good article. Thanks for the balanced and balancing viewpoint. PS — I’m not particularly discouraged re the Cole trade, either.

  16. Frank Coonelly “No player was more disappointed than Andrew that we did not break through and win a World Series championship for the City of Pittsburgh.”
    Translation. We did a terrible job adding the correct players to help Andrew win a World Series because we would not spend the money. I’m blaming Andrew now that he’s not here for my failure so maybe you won’t realize the truth. That Krick can play. Lol. This is how I piss down your neck and tell you it’s raining. I’m so freakin smart I’m dangerous. Stay tuned as i give Harrison away later this week, I’m tired of signing that big check of his.

  17. I knew it was coming. I knew it would suck. It sucks worse than I thought it would. I wish the Pirates FO had just let him play out the season and then let him walk. Even better, trade him at the deadline so that he could go into free agency without the QO hanging over his head. He is the type of player currently, that the QO is going to destroy his market, especially with all the players hitting free agency next year.

    I wish he had shown up to the press conference, if for no other reason than to talk to NH and Nutting to find out why they chose not to keep him in Pittsburgh when that is all they had talked about for 4 years is how they wanted him to be a Pirate for life.

    I have though long and hard about giving up allegiances to the Pirates. There legitimately is no reason to have any to this organization, they have absolutely none to the fans. This is the type of front office that would screw you in the butt and not have the common courtesy to give you a reach around.

    Sorry for the graphic nature of that comment, I am sure it will get reported and deleted, but I just wanted everyone to know exactly how I feel about them.

  18. Tim if Huntingdon and his staff had shown how to develop players I would be okay but they have shown no ability to develop every day players. Reynolds may have developed in the Giants organization but the pirates will change his swing mechanics and we’ll never hear from him again.

  19. I’m also glad they dealt Cutch and Cole for Cutch and Cole. They weren’t going to win again in Pittsburgh, and there was no reason to mire either of them in losing any longer. Cole went to a definite contender where he’ll have a very real shot at a World Series right away, and Cutch went to a San Francisco team which is trying very hard to build an immediate contender. Good for both of them; they deserve it.

  20. I think the trade becomes actually good if that extra $500,000 in international money goes to signing one or two prospects with high ceilings. Then we get two or three pre-breakout prospects in the deal, instead of just Reynolds. But they have to spend that money, and they have to spend it on someone good.

  21. Great Article Tim!

    I think the reason why they go with the high floor guys is they see next year as a year they can compete. If Meadows figures it out and Keller continues to progress and Moran can get close to putting up good numbers in the MLB as he did in he PCL then why not. The issue is there are a lot of IF’s in that statement, management is gambling they roll a lot of winners this season if they all or most work out then they seem like geniuses, if not we sink back into the dark ages for a while. Personally I don’t love or really like the Cole return and emotionally despise the Cutch return but both make sense if management thinks they can compete next year. For me trade Harrison, Nova if they can, Cervelli if they can and get what you can for them. Then let the young team loose bring in a vet or two to help mold them and see what can happen. If the team we have left has the right attitude the retool might not last as long as most fans fear and we could see winning baseball before the end of the decade.

  22. Tim, I didn’t sleep well last night but this is an excellent summation and I really appreciate your hard work. I hope you can keep your head above water with this site. Losing Cutch and Cole just days apart hurts like hell and the Pirates may be difficult to watch this coming season. However, I’ve been a Pirates fan since Roberto’s rookie season and I’m not going anywhere. When they cremate my lifeless body I’ll still have been a Pirates fan.

  23. It appears the Pirates got value equal to the commodity; I just wish they had been more creative.

    Accepting dead money to increase the return would have been nice…or using the savings to snatch up more than bounce-back free agents. I guess there’s still time for the latter.

  24. Tim, I’ve followed a similar path of fandom as you (although ultimately remained a Pirates fan throughout). During the dark times of the drought, I sought put those same teams that you mentioned, notably the A’s. Honestly if it wasn’t for those Moneyball A’s i might have abandoned baseball altogether but they showed me (showed everyone) that there was another way to compete with the big boys.

    That’s what I loved about these pirates. They found every advantage they could to make it over the hump. There might be some dark times coming but I’ll stick with the game I love regardless.

  25. I don’t know Tim, maybe I am being emotional but it seems to me that Cutch should have been worth more than what the Pirates received. Same with Cole. In his case I would have taken less quantity and more quality. They certainly had the high ceiling guys and plenty of them. With SF’s depleted farm system, were they the best trade partner for Cutch?

    As you said, “prospects aren’t guaranteed”. The Pirates should know this better than anyone. Instead of dealing some prospects and adding to a playoff team after a 98 win season, the Pirates held onto theirs and did nothing.
    I have been a Pirate fan for nearly 50 years and we remain one. However, you have to agree that this ownership has made it extremely difficult for many to remain such.

  26. I like both of the trades. I was a huge fan of McCutchen, Cole, Walker, Melancon, Morton, etc., but we didn’t win a World Series with those guys. Unfortunately, we won’t win one with Harrison, Cervelli, and Mercer either. It’s really time to load up on good talent with multiple years of control and try to develop these younger guys into a winner. To think that our 2019 team could include a group like Diaz, Bell, Fraizier, Moroff, Newman, Tucker, Hayes, Moran, Luplow, Osuna, Marte, Meadows, Polanco, Marte, Reynolds,Tallion, Kuhl, Williams, Musgrove, Keller, Kingham, Glasnow, Rivero, Baz, etc. is pretty exciting. That’s why we all follow Pirates Prospects every day…..to watch these young guys progress through the Minors and make it to Bucco Land. We have a good GM and Manager that recently produced two near 100 win seasons after 20 years of losing. Let’s have some faith in their hard work. They will make a run at another championship. Let’s go Bucs!!

  27. Now the question is.. Are the Pirates going to dig deep and continue the dismantling i.e. Harrison, Cervelli and yes even Nova??

    Again for me this is why NH got a 4 year extension to do this as it was certainly not merit based..

    • No merit given for 3 straight postseasons and being ranked externally during that time as the premier org?

      • Seriously, in case you have not noticed 2016 and 2017 the Pirates are trending DOWN and even before what just happened their was no reason to be optimistic going forward for Pirates. I do not know you but If my performance at work was trending down I would be much more worried about keeping the job, then expecting an extension.

        • Really? The 2 years of trending down counters the previous 5 years of trending up? Using that logic the Steelers would have fired Noll, Cowher, Tomlin, and Colbert multiple times during their reign.

          • To be precise 8 losing seasons 3 winning seasons, and if Noll, Cowher, Tomlin or Colbert had that as their resume and had zero championships they also would’ve been sacked and not given a 4 year extension…..But that is comparing apples and oranges as WINNING CHAMPIONSHIPS buys time for any FO…

            • NH was given 4 years to tear down the team and to rebuild it and to rebuild his rep as well. If successful he will then move to a team who is willing to do what it takes to win. I think he is off to a lousy start.

              • Which was my initial posting…that he is the hatchet man

                I believe Oct 2018 will be a better time to expound on the merits of what NH has done.

      • In the 11 years the Pirates have been managed by this group they have had 8 losing seasons and 3 winning. They have a losing record in the playoffs and have 0 division titles. Do I give them credit for that… Sure. They get their due for their miraculous accomplishments.

  28. Tim: based on his past couple of years, plus his age and health, you wrote of Andrew MchCuchen the following —>

    “That kind of trade value isn’t going to get you much. It’s barely one top 100 prospect, and if it is, you’d be getting a guy who barely made the list.”

    How in the world did ‘Asylum inmates’ EXPECT a return of the Yankees top prospect (the SS), or Clint Frazier plus a couple of others?

    Why did we get so ‘ginned up’ in gross hyperbole??

    Are we really that delusional?

    • Yes NorCal, though this isn’t the Asylum site :)… I read what you did on potential return for Cutch, at this point. It seemed to me that the return was more than what was expected but the response was quite harsh on the return. I think the emotion has a lot to do with it, and hard to take that out of it for most.

  29. Tim, you wrote in a previous post that it doesn’t matter what we spend this year in payroll since we won’t contend. In 2009 Coonlley issused this quote – “The Pirates utilize every dollar we receive in our effort to build a winning club”. So one has to assume this is clearly no longer the case. 50-68 million of Bamco money, plus whatever we get from the luxury tax surplus, and one has to figure payroll is taken care of this year.
    I’m not suggesting we should go sign Darvish for the outlandish money he is expecting, but I am suggesting we pay all of Harrisons salary this year if we deal him to get a better prospect or two. Or go get a quality bridge to Meadows. Or do what the Yankees did when they signed Chapman and take a 1 year risk and hope to strike deadline gold. Payroll is the only obvious measurement the fans see to measure where the money we spend goes. How can anyone be expected to spend money on a ticket when they are giving us less than they have the ability to give?
    If they stay competitive, would that not make them 100’s of millions more in tv money? That is coming this year, is it not? I for one am tired of the small market blues. The fan base was told when it was the right time, they would spend to supplement and try to win. Did they fall asleep in our entire window? Who was their biggest singing over the last 4 years? Nova? Liriano? Please, give me a break. If you don’t want to pay the large free agents why not give up the prospect equity to get a Cueto, Price, ect. at the deadline? Nope, we got Happ and Byrd.
    I’m not done with the team, I love rooting for the players, I enjoy rooting for the underdog as well. I’m not even done giving you my money, TIm, because I enjoy your stories and some of the banter on this site. But I am damn sure done giving Bob and the rest of the Nuttings my money until I see them actually prioritize winning over lining their pockets. If the smaller markets were so poor, the Marlins don’t sell for 1.2 billion. I’m done with the lie that we can’t spend 150 million due to being a small market. We don’t spend 150 million because the Nuttings only care about lining their pockets, not winning.

  30. I think musgrove will be a surprise, if not as a starter than as back end reliever . reynolds has gap power already and is 6-3 205 so that could turn into hr power. Also maybe the harrison and nova trades will bring in those high ceiling type of prospects. how about signing carlos gomez to a 1 yr contract and flip him when meadows comes up.

    • I agree about Musgrove and Reynolds… The Cargo thingie doesn’t work for me as I think he will want two years and probably some ‘real’ money and I’m personally wanting a right handed batter veteran OF, but others get you on that, for sure mate… what do I know 🙂

  31. Well I realize, after Tim/John, that most of you are wondering what tedwins feels about the Cutch trade so I will not keep you on pins and needles any longer 🙂 🙂 :)… Took me awhile but instead of focussing completely on work today, I live in SEAsia, i thought through all the analysis that I read and digested. I’m cool with the trade, actually like it. Get all the sentiments about Cutch, and they are worthy from both a production and human being standpoint and he will be missed, greatly. To get to the point, the Reynolds kid seems like the type of compelling upside prospect that should come from such a trade (factoring in value for Cutch presently, agreed or not) and the Crick pitcher certainly seems like he has turned the corner into a young cost controlled potentially back end reliever that has real value, regardless if that is already a team strength. So for me, it is time to sign Bautista to go stumble around the OF as a platoon(mainly back-up) RH bat for Meadows/Polanco for one year and give us some fun (maybe) and then think through other scenarios with our potential trade candidates. I got over the shock and now having fun with this, thinking through what other moves we can do to make 2018 fun/hopeful with an eye on the future as nothing is ever certain, we know that don’t we 🙂 Have a good day mates. Tedwins

  32. I am heartbroken. Watching Cutch play baseball for the Pirates was a joyous time.

    I’ll spend some time in a funk, but I’ll bounce back. And so will the Pirates.

    As a fan, I take pride in staying true to my team through bad times. And I will never give up cheering for my Pirates and the players who wear the uniform.

    I hope you will, too. The 2018 Pirates need and deserve our support.

  33. Thank you Tim for putting everything into perspective. McCutchen was a man that visited one of my grandchild in Children’s Hospital and I credit him for helping him through a very difficult time. Most guys do the charity thing for the pub. Cutch was genuine humble human being.

  34. I watched a bunch of Bryan Reynolds video tonight. He’s got a little bit of swagger. Especially for a vandy kid. The thing that strikes me is his athleticism isn’t adding up to some of the results. Mainly speed numbers. He made some nice plays in the field but maybe it’s because he is fairly athletic as far as fluidity and body control but not fast and is high effort like a Jim Edmonds type. Anyways the hr power and in game speed aren’t there yet but he doesn’t lack confidence and is built a little like meadows. Maybe a little more wiry but they aren’t that different size-wise. Another thing is he was an impact freshman in the sec and then kind of stayed fairly static statistically other than gaining a little more power. Plus he hasn’t had great plate discipline but continues to hit .300 year after year. I think the pirates definitely got him at a time he is either going to break out or get exposed. I’m intrigued because I like the of they got from Houston too. No pressure guys! We will only be monitoring your every move in 2018.

    • I think the question for Reynolds is, what’s a player with five average tools?

      The consensus evaluation seems to be that he’s the type that lacks a “carrying tool”. A true plus tool that carries his profile. While he has no obvious weakness, there also seems to be little upside for anything more than league-average performances.

      That’s really not a bad return for Cutch, just uninspiring. I wouldn’t equate distance from the Majors with potential upside as Tim has in this case.

      • A unvarnished look at Cutch’s minor league record would say that it was uninspiring as well. Just looking at his results in Hi A wouldn’t have foreshadowed his three years of extreme MLB success. It’s just very hard to predict who will continue to improve and who will flame out as a AAAA.
        I have no idea if Reynolds will turn out to be an MLB star. I only know that if he does the fan base won’t forgive the loss of one year of Cutch for the five or six years of Reynolds. It was a bad business decision to trade Cutch from a sales and marketing perspective.
        Of course I hated the Bucs when they traded McLouth to make way for Cutch, so there is that.

  35. The first time I saw Cutch play was in Aberdeen, MD when Williamsport played Aberdeen in a NYPL game. Cutch was just a couple of months removed from HS – was 18-19 years old. I decided to attend the game, as soon as I heard he was promoted from the Pirates GCL team to Williamsport.

    He was impressive from the start – hit a triple in is first AB and also had a single. When he hit the single, it was a screaming line driver to center and the ball sounded differently off his bat. He had amazing bat speed and anyone could tell this kid was going to be something special. He was fun to watch flying around the bases on the triple.

    The Pirates are a disgrace for trading him – especially for all that they got in return. Krick will be nothing more than another Caminero 2.0 – throws hard, but is wild and frequently gets hit hard. Reynolds could turn into something useful, but he doesn’t sound like star in the making.

    The Pirates ownership and management are cheap and incompetent – and if they cared at all about the fans, they would have found a way to keep Cutch – at least until his contract ran out. The Pirates could have received a lot more for Cole and Cutch if they waited until the trade deadline – prices are sky high at the deadline. Now this team is going to be horrible for the foreseeable future – the team has pitching, but what position player prospects are going to strengthen the roster into a contender? Even Meadows is a major question mark, and there isn’t much behind him. PNC Park will be empty this Summer – great job Nutting and NH – you won’t do what is necessary to sign top international prospects and you won’t pay your top major league players either. Do us a favor, sell the team to someone who wants to win!

    • Well said. Cheap and incompetent. Remember that feeling when it wasn’t embarrassing to be a Pirate fan? People would always mention how good Cutch was. Well……that feeling is back. Not the good one, the old sad one. And Nutting will be laughing to the bank.

  36. The mistake we can make is to treat running a baseball team like a video game with robots as players and one person a 74 another a 73. The Pirates may well recover Cutch’s value measured via WAR or any other stat. And perhaps he is replaced by an equally liked player with similar great intangibles. But imagine seeing this and being a competitive free agent or a good coach. How about a fan considering rooting for the Pirates. The brand matters. When you lose for twenty years you lose a lot of people forever. It sucked going to games with my Grandfather and knowing we were watching a terrible team. For many, it was too much, too long. The long term cost of this kind of dramatic dumping is lengthy and often hard to gauge. But the cycle that looked broken is back. Losing further losing. And to stop that ain’t easy. I fear it might be impossible. At least with this owner. 1979 was the year I was born. A lifetime is too long to wait.

  37. I am in the middle on both trades. I like the Cole deal slightly more than most, but dont’ love it. My only thing with the McCutchen deal is this. Here we go again. Doug Frobel……Chad Hermensen and now Austin Meadows.

    • I’m the same way, I like the Cole deal. The Cutch deal, I’d rather have kept him and lost him for nothing than to get who we got. 1 more year was worth more than those guys, the emotional side matters.

    • I’m in this boat too. I actually like Moran. He may not be a star but if he even becomes a .280 hitter with 15 HRs then we at least have someone solid at 3B. I also really like Feliz, his ERA aside he has some good peripheral stats.

  38. maybe they were worried that cutch would actually take the qualifying
    offer…i wonder if team options actually hurt the team with players like
    Cutch.

    • But you would have the whole 2018 season to evaluate him first hand if he puts up 4war and he takes the QO it’s a good deal but at 4war he probably hits the market and gets more. If he flames out you get nothing.

      • I would have bet on Cutch this year. I think he has a good year and puts up 4 WAR. The time to trade him was last year anyway. And in the event he flames out I think I can live with passing on Reynolds and Kyle Crick. My goodness.

        I think Cutch is going to have a very good year this year.

        • This is a quixotic fantasy but imagine Nutting giving the savings plus the bamco money to NH for the bargain bin. The Pirates don’t have a GREAT farm but arguably it’s ok. NH isn’t great at dealing big names but he’s great at the under the radar deals. If they’re cutting bait to free money to go after the Sea of stranded FAs and they jump into a buying frenzy it could be exciting. If they can turn JHay soon I think they do more much more. It’s going to be huge and more exciting.

            • And arguably worthy of saying the heck with negotiating trades that look bleak. And being able to jump back into the market before a wave of buying begins. They’re just going to get hammered at the gate if they don’t try to do something with the money.

        • @John W, what makes you think Cutch puts up. 4.0 WAR when on a rebound year last year he only could muster 2.5? I think he would do well to replicate his 2.5 from last year agin.

      • No- you hope it’s better than Reynolds if you know how to draft. Take a look at some of the picks in 2016 in the compensatory round (or anywhere before Reynolds was drafted)

        Carter Kieboom, Taylor Trammel, etc

        Of course you have to be adept as far as drafting is concerned.

          • Don’t look at the 2016 draft in too much detail you might puke. I’m wondering if anyone out there still defends NH’s drafts over the last 10 years?

            • Connor Joe, Will Craig to name two recent bad picks – and I am still not thrilled with the Newman and Tucker picks either, although they are both great kids and gamers – I just don’t see them as difference makers or building blocks.

                • Delvin Perez was sitting there – he fell to us, and the stupid Pirates take a DH instead of a highly rated SS prospect. The Cardinals, being a competently run franchise, immediately grabbed Perez with the next pick….he is now among the top 100 prospects…Craig is Matt Hague 2.0

        • By that logic the Cardinals, Dodgers and Mets don’t know how to draft because the picks they made in that round are far behind Reynolds.

          The long-term average of a pick from 25-35 is a career 2-win player. For every Carter Kieboom there’s a Cody Sedlock. Or three.

      • Tim,
        I believe the analysis goes beyond emotion and the business side of it as you have defined it. Calculating his trade value at $21M and concluding he is worth the prospects received does not address an important part of the business equation. There is not doubt in my mind that attendance will sharply decline again this year, and that will have an adverse effect on business. Fans are increasingly knowledgeable about the valuations and profits in MLB, and Pirate fans and national observers have noted management’s decision to deconstruct a 98 win team. Pushing Cutch out before his final season was not worth the return, in my opinion.

        The ill will towards this management team and their awkward attempts to deceive the fans with their public statements has only been inflamed by the timing. I’ve heard several people opine that trading Cutch was pushed through today under cover of the Steeler playoff debacle, which dominated today’s news cycle.

        This management team and ownership has lost credibility with the fans and I believe the entire baseball community. That is bad business.

        • I didn’t address the attendance factor because I’ve covered that in previous articles, and it has been proven to be a non-factor based on last year’s results.

          Last year the argument was that trading McCutchen would lead to attendance sharply declining. They kept him and the attendance sharply declined because they had a losing season. Even when they were flirting with contending, the attendance was down.

          The only significant factor on attendance is the W/L record.

          As for the timing of the move, I wouldn’t read anything into it. They traded Cole on Saturday. McCutchen was traded two days later. That’s the only significant thing here. McCutchen’s trade wasn’t going to happen until after Cole was traded.

          • We can agree to disagree on this point I suppose. Walker Burnett, Cole, and McCutchen have star appeal that resonates with the fan base AND affects the W/L record.
            Ownership and management have a serious credibility problem with the fans and substantially all of the local media.

            It affects attendance as well because the fans and the media can point to bad moves, bad drafts, the failure to make additive moves at crucial junctures of the season, and worst of all completely deceptive public statements.

            As to timing, multiple media figures locally are painting it as part of the management credibility issue.

            • Attendance wasn’t notably better on games that Cole pitched. He may have some star appeal in the sense that he sells more jerseys than a Trevor Williams, but it doesn’t tend to impact attendance.

              • I’d suggest you take a look at the new stories posted by Olney and by SO today.
                They reinforce this aspect of the damage equation asked even characterize the Feliz signing as carefully staged.

    • Less. If Cutch signs for $50M or more, a sandwich pick in the low 30’s. Expected value of that pick is about 2 WAR, and you’d have to wait until 2022 before he’s ready to contribute, assuming he ever does. High risk. In Reynolds, you have lessened that risk somewhat, and you’re 2 years closer to knowing what he might be. Crick will also provide some nonzero value, starting this year.

      If Cutch signs for a dollar under $50M, it’s a pick in the 70’s. Expected value < 1WAR. Lottery ticket.

      • If Cutch regresses to 2016, who knows how low his next contract may be. Heck even a year like last year when he was horrible again to start the first 1/3, huge second 2/3 and faded the last 1/3, his FA value will be low compared to his 2015 year and prior. That is why the return for him in this trade in my mind. Teams want to offer return for the current Andrew McCutchen and not the superstar of the past. Stinks as a fan who watched him from the beginning of his career but it is what it is. Think about it would you give up one of our top 3 prospects plus at least one more quality prospects for a former MVP/5 time Allstar who is now performing at a much lower level for only a one year contract? If the Pirates had kept Cole and Cutch and traded Keller or Meadows for what we would consider a reclamation project for a 1year rental, the fans would have been screaming worse. Sad that Cutch is gone but he would have been gone for either nothing or less than the got in this trade anyway.

        • Are we talking for 1 year of Cutch, or multiple years? I am assuming you mean 1 year, so I guess it would depend on how bad those top 3 were.

        • What if Cutch has a player of the year season what do you think that would get us in June or July? What if the Yanks have massive injuries in their OF and they are one OFer away from a possible WS appearance, maybe all those guys who were untouchable are all of a sudden available. I for one think Cutch will have a big year and the Giants will certainly be the beneficiary

  39. It is impossible not to feel horrible that the Pirates traded Cutch. He has been an “icon”, a rare “generational player” who combined great skill and great character, a player and person who showed true love of the game and appreciation for Pittsburgh and its fans. The Pirates have had far too few of these types of players, probably Clemente and Stargell are the only others since 1960. The surrounding “atmospherics” don’t help either, as the recent history has included a rotten trade of another very popular player, Neil Walker, for a lousy return; the “bridge to nowhere” with Niese and Vogelsong; the surrender of prospects for nothing in return in the Liriano salary dump; the release of Nicasio to save a pittance; and the apparent lack of high-ceiling prospects in both the Cole trade and this one. Those moves look really bad in light of what other teams have gotten as returns, e.g. the Yanks getting Gleyber Torres for 2 months of Chapman. Maybe the sting of losing Cutch would be a wee bit less if they had gotten anyone with an apparent high ceiling for either Cole or Cutch. As it is, it just looks like they’re giving up completely, making moves for financial reasons alone (and stupid ones at that like actually paying the Giants to take Cutch in trade (how can that make sense?), drafting for mediocrity (Tony Sanchez), trading for quantity instead of quality, etc. The Pirates are not just an ordinary business, they are in some sense a community treasure, and they play in a stadium paid for with public money. This “management team” does not seem inclined to work to make this team competitive, even within the constraints of the inequality between small and large market teams. All very disheartening. Cutch is a fantastic person and has been a wonderful player, and I am very very sad ot see him go, especially under these circumstances. Teams need leadership, where will it come from now?

    • You nailed it Roberto…….a great deal of damage has been done to the image of the Pirates among their fan base and in the baseball community.
      The fans could better deal with a mid-summer trade if we were out of contention or a QO at the end of the season. This is not the right move for franchise after he posted 28 hrs last season. Even if he did not equal it this year, Reynolds simply is not enough to send him packing now.

    • Exactly. I feel betrayed. Honestly. They’re not just a team. My personal identity is connected to the team. My family. Myself. I don’t expect winning it all every year, but I expect an honest effort. This is not that.

    • It’s easy to pick every bad move & praise your favorite players plus side, but in reality you probably bashed the Melancon trade & others like it. Cutch did a lot but he wasn’t a saint by any stretch. He was the same guy who tried to get a guy fired for giving him an error (which it was). He was the same guy who sulked when moved from CF (which was the right move just a few years to late) he was the same guy who tanked when being moved to the 2 hole because he didn’t like it. Not to mention he was a dog in the playoffs. See how easy that is.
      Then you praise Stargell, this being the captain & unquestioned leader of the Bucco’s when they had drug dealers camping out in the clubhouse. Aw yes leaders are in the eye of the beholder

      • Winning covers up flaws. When you lose consistently and then you make moves that pretty much guarantees you will continue losing then the fan base has every right to feel betrayed. I would be happy if that had actually got some real talent for Cutch was glad they held on to him last year when Wash did not come to the plate with a lot of talent. That said I can’t believe we couldn’t have gotten more in July when Cutch was on fire. I can’t believe we couldn’t get more after Cutch rebounded from his lousy season showing he still had a lot in the tank. The irony here is that the one area NH has exceled was getting BP arms in FA or off the waiver wire. It looks to me like he has basically neutered himself here and will now have to mine nuggets with hitters which he has zero success at.

        • Perhaps Washington & others were a bit skeptical about Cutch’s 1 great month out of 8 below avg months. It’s not hindsight, I wish they would’ve dumped him on Washington when they had the chance. As soon as Kang seen flashing lights I knew they were done. Bucco’s no chance once they lost his 30+ hr’s & his clutch rbi hitting.
          Fan base felt betrayed when they traded Melancon, they were stupid then also. I’m a firm believer, better to trade someone a year to early then a year to late

  40. Tim. Well written and the numbers to explain the
    value of what they get in return is understandable.
    (And that is hard to do with such a complicated
    way these things are determined.)
    I think you forgot to mention one thing. The overall
    reputation of the organization (and baseball) in the region.
    I think in this case, the best thing for the Pirates to
    do “this late,” would have been to let him play
    out his contract. They could then make a feeble
    attempt to sign him and then move on. Even
    in a rebuilding year, he would bring some semblance
    of pride in the team and put a number of butts in
    seats. Fans would, “go see McCutchen play”
    even if the Pirates were not very good.
    In addition, in a year following the “Kang and
    Marte” season, the Pirates NEED that positive
    role model in the community.

    I remember the year or two following the
    “strike season”. It took a significant amount
    of time for MLB to recover. I could see
    something similar with Pittsburgh
    with McCutchen gone.
    (Sorry for the length.)

  41. The Point of Pittsburgh had a statement saying the Cole trade could have set this rebuild back 2-3 years because it was that damn bad. I don’t know if that’s the case but it was an underwhelming return at best. With the sort of returns they are getting so far they aren’t going to get out of no man’s land no matter how much they commit to the rebuilding process.

    • I don’t think the rebuild is going to be based on these moves. They could help complement the rebuild, but the Pirates already have the players in the system and the budget room in the future to add the pieces they need.

      These moves will help more with keeping the next window open longer.

      • What player are in the system offensively who will have a material impact. There all kinds of questions surrounding Meadows- his 2017 season and hamstrings are huge red flags. And after him we are talking about guys like Newman and Kramer- hell they will be lucky to be as good as Jhay and Mercer. Ke’Bryan Hayes has ALOT of questions yet to answer offensively. And besides Cole Tucker it’s a big air pocket after that as far as guys who can help offensively.

        I don’t buy what you say at all in regard to the Cole trade. The rebuild was VERY MUCH predicated upon them bringing in some high end talent in these trades. And they simply have not. Biertempfel interviewed a scout familiar with the Astros system who basically laughed at this return.

        I agree with TPOP that the Cole trade is a huge problem for the rebuild.

        • They’ll need to spend their way out to hasten the rebuild otherwise it’ll be awhile. However I do like NH in a bargain basement situation which is MLBs current FA climate. I have a little optimism for Meadows despite his season fangraphs didn’t drop him too far – still way higher than C Frazier – Luplow number are arguably better than C Fraziers O – I think the last OF can be filled adequately. Tucker can possibly beat Mercer by a whole WAR. Maybe btw Moroff Kramer Newman 2B gets figured out but I prefer Kipnis achieving his third 4-war season in Pitt. 3b will be tough. Catcher too. Bell needs to step up. Pitching still is promising.

          • It’s far more depressing reading these whiney comments than actually losing Cutch & Cole. Say thanks to both of them, and we move on . . . together. Whiners: Get over yourselves!

          • There is an enormous disparity between “ignoring” your answer and not finding the answer compelling. Sorry, but nothing you said has convinced me that the anemic return for Cole/Cutch won’t have a negative impact on this rebuild. I listened and read every word you said.

            • Here’s the thing. If you don’t find it compelling, then we can agree to disagree and not discuss it further.

              But the fact that you ask for my opinion over and over on the same questions shows that you’re just ignoring what I’m saying. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have to ask the question since you already know the answer, and already know you disagree.

        • It would seem, the value we placed on Cole differed from the real value he had. Now you can question whether a trade should have been made at all, but while this return fails to blow me away, it does have some pieces that have potential.

          Any rebuild is gonna be about drafting and developing their own guys. There are some promising bats coming but they are too far away to be sure things. They have a lot of arms coming, almost to the point of having a surplus. Maybe there aren’t many 2015 Cole’s there, but the recent version of Cole we have in spades.

          I think this team will fall short of terrible as long as they can pitch effectively and play good defense.

      • I just don’t see how it makes sense to hold on to one of your biggest assets (Rivero) in this situation. Relievers are so up and down; and if we aren’t contending in 2018, wouldn’t it make more sense to deal him for the top shelf prospects, and spend 2018 grooming the next Rivero?

  42. There’s an old quote I think from Branch Rickey- it’s better to trade a guy a year too early than a year too late”.

    If I took a time machine back to early 2016 and told people on this site that both Cutch and Cole would be traded going into 2018, that we would not get back a single 55 Fair value prospect in return and that the 2018 team would be positioned to win 77-78 games with a mediocre farm system people would have told me I was nuts. But that’s exactly where NH took this team.

  43. I will post this somewhere else, tomorrow. But

    You will never see a never Pirate get 1500 hits as a Pirate EVER again after McCutchen
    You will likely never see a never Pirate hit 200 Hr’s as Pirate again.
    You will likely never see a Pirate MVP, nor will you probably ever see a 5 time Pirate AS again
    You will never see a player enter Cooperstown wearing a Pirate hat

    And most definitely, you will never, ever see a classier player, or a Pirate give more to his city, than Andrew McCutchen did to the Pirates. Becoming the face of an organization, leading them out of 20 years of losing, all while keeping hope and faith alive

    Good luck Mr. McCutchen. It may well be time for me to start following the hometown Phillies. For my heart is broken

    • How about this never? Never use absolutes in sports, especially baseball. This sport is filled with unlikely outcomes commonly!

  44. I have a question- payroll is near 80M- if you prorate the 50M lumpsum from BAMtech they should easily still be able to afford 100-105M payroll- probably 110M. Are they actually going to spend some money- even if it is on vets for 1 year deals? And if not, why not. There is no evidence to suggest saving are reallocated to future years or international prospects, scouting etc.

  45. One of my concerns is that they are trading for a lot of bullpen reclamation projects. We have done a good job of finding these guys via the draft, free agents, or Rule V picks. Plus, we have a glut of AA/AAA pitchers that will need to shift to the pen.

    This was not an area I was concerned about – yet up to three of the six players we received might be best suited for the pen. But. No catcher, middle infielder with power, high ceiling pitcher to be found.

  46. I think we all agree that trading Cutch makes sense, and I agree that the return of Reynolds/Crick is pretty solid given the circumstances. But it remains to be seen where the Bucs will find their next Cutch.

    We know it won’t be through free agency.

    And we have seem them take a quantity over high-ceiling approach when it comes to both trading their most valuable assets and Latin American signings, two areas where they must have a high success rate.

    And that leaves the Rule 4 draft, where recent picks such as Newman and Craig have not been all that inspiring when it comes to potential superstars. They have gone over slot for some arms, but that is the biggest crapshoot there is.

    So what’s the plan? To develop as many “solid” major leaguers as possible and hope for a handful of breakouts, just based on standard variance? Do they think that the fanbase can’t handle a total rebuild and would prefer a limbo of 75-80 wins seasons? That’s underselling the intelligence of modern fans (even Yinzers, ha) who I think for the most part understand how modern MLB works, and accept that a total rebuild is sometimes the way to go.

    • It doesn’t seem like they can contend by 2019, so they might as well do a full blown rebiuld. That would mean trading Marte.

      • Basically agree, but I’d give him the first few months of the season to rebuild his value, which absolutely cratered in 2017.

  47. Thank you for breaking down the values because I was jumping off the Pirates plank. I just felt like they could have gotten more

  48. “it’s hard to shake that feeling that no return would have been good enough for Andrew McCutchen”

    This is so true. I understand everything but McCutchen is McCutchen. He means everything to this team. I know it’s wrong but no package is worth Cutch.

    I wasn’t against the trade. Then it happened and I can’t believe it’s happened.

      • Yes. The Bucs would have been smarter to handle Cutch the way St. Louis handled Pujols. Let him play out his contract and then make an offer to extend that wasn’t quite enough. The fans saw that Pujols left for the Angels money, which was his right. But then the onus was mostly on the player, not all on the club. I think the impact on ticket sales in 2018 will be greater than the Bucs expected. The club would have been better served to keep him for a year and make an”attempt” at an extension, as opposed to getting the “good deal” that Tim has described (and I agree with his baseball analysis as to value of the return, but not as to whether the Bucs could have contended for a WC with Cutch. I think they could have.)

    • basically 1 year of cutch plus a qualifying pick > the middling return that we got. Bar a miraculous Freak Show over performing team in an under performing division, we will be a team of AAA prospects and role player veterans that is doomed to 3 or 4th in the division. Neither strong enough to win the division nor bad enough to get a high draft pick.

      • They were afraid that Cutch would have taken the Q.O. That would have meant $10,000,000 this year
        $17,000,000 next year and either costly or unpopular choices beyond that, The 31st through 36th draft pick of 2019 or later would not be major league ready until 2023 if he doesn’t flame out. Instead they acquired 2 nearly ripe prospects who have not yet totally failed and may succeed.

  49. I think there will be several more pieces traded this winter, Harrison, Cervelli? Freese? Nova? Won’t be much left in June…perhaps Polanco or Marte will also be gone.
    I can dream on Taillon being healthy and of 2016 vintage, Glasnow finding his head, Kingham, Keller, Holmes becoming a staff of distinction.
    Will 2020 be the beginning of the next window?

    • No reason to expect polanco or marte to be gone. They are still long term pieces. Harrison, Cervelli and Nova would all be pretty likely though

      • Marte and Polanco easily could be trade fodder in July, depending on current record and development of outfielders that now include Luplow and Meadows, as well as Bostick, Reynolds and Martin and other strong outfielders deeper on the Farm. I rather would be surprised that at least one of them is NOT gone in a July trade with one of the AAAA starters

  50. Is there any reason to believe the payroll will get back to even $80M after the Harrison trade? Perhaps the Pirates won’t contend in 2018, I accept that as fairly obvious.
    But I’ll be pretty damn offended if Nutting just pocketed $30M that didn’t go back into the product that was underfunded before the trades.

  51. Great article, Tim.

    Cutch needed to be dealt and wasn’t going to fetch much. But seeing him leave still hurt.

    When my favorite brother was dying of cancer, we knew it was coming, but when he went, it hurt…………very much.

    I will still follow the Bucs, but it won’t be the same for a while….maybe a long while.

  52. Thanks, Tim. As always, appreciate the even-handed analysis and writing. Certainly a tough day, yet one that was ultimately mandatory for this team.

      • Exactly. They aren’t climbing out of mediocrity targeting guys with ceiling of average regulars. I don’t care how many years of control they have.

      • our budget makes it a rebuild that never ends…..trading for average h igh floor/low ceiling guys is fine as long as you don’t DRAFT that way….but unfortunately we have been. Oh well, wish for the best.

  53. A couple of things make losing Cutch a little easier for me to digest. One, I have know this was coming for a long time, which means I had some time to prepare emotionally for my favorite player leaving. Two, I have really grown to like Josh Bell for his skills on the field and the kind of person he seems to be off the field. He really comes across as friendly, personable, and smart in any interviews I have seen. I think he will be the new face of this franchise.

  54. Good article Tim. It’s true – it is hard to separate the emotional and business pieces. Part of me feels it would have been better letting Cutch walk after this year even if it were a worse baseball decision.

  55. This sucks, why can’t Huntington at least treat us like adults and say, “the reality is that we’re gonna suck for the next 4 years before we have another chance.” Instead he just said that he expects this team to compete.

          • It’s shocking how people after however many years expect leaders to apologize for strategic decisions. From a less cynical perspective admitting you made a bad trade is a slight to players who just joined your organization.

            • I agree but even by the boilerplate, nothing speak of GMs Huntington sounds horrible when he speaks. It is nails on the chalkboard bad.

                • I feel the same, NH doesn’t bother me but that is certainly a talking point for those who have issues with him, right or wrong…. I’m not a huge fan of Hurdle, but I’m never that compelled by his wording/statements, such is life…

              • Anytime someone ahs been shoveling the same BS for more than 5 years it gets old but NH is no different then any other GM in that regard.

      • Tim, what timeframe do you see as the strongest time to compete? I see it as 2019-2023 with Taillon, Keller, Marte, Meadows, Bell, Rivero, etc. as a pretty strong core. For that reason, adding AAA/young major leaguers for Cole kind of made sense. I didn’t see that as “no man’s land.”

        • No offwense Kproach but I see no reason to think this team should be remotely competitive in 2019- they have no hitters. It’s highly unlikely Colin Moran is moving the needle at all. The infield is a hot mess. Jordy is leaving and Newman will be lucky to replicate his output. Catcher is a fricking mess with no help in site. The real problem is even if they do finally get some hitters(by no means a guarantee) guys like Taillon, Bell are going to be into arb and Marte will be well past his prime and expensive.

          • just curious on Moran. I thought the write ups on him were that he has always been a good hitter for average or better and last year added some power with a change in his swing. Probably has the coverage of Pedro, however with a strong accurate arm. If he can make the plays he should at 3rd and a few more + continue to hit like last year then that would be something for sure.

          • How would they have a shot in 2019? What impact offensive players are on the way. Diaz isn’t much more than replacement level. Meadows is having all kinds of problems and apparently the Pirates jacked up his swing, Newman looks like Jordy lite. Kramer will be lucky to be an average regular. Unless NH is going on a FA spending spree I don’t see it. And I really don’t see what pushing it back to 2020 does either. Maybe Cole Tucker is ready by then. But aside from that, I don’t see any recent guys brought in the Cutch/Cole trades who will have a big impact.

            • Not saying is gonna happen, but to answer your question I’m gonna give you a whole lot of ifs; Polanco finally matures into what we had expected, Bell shows the hitting for average he showed in 2016 with the power he showed in 17, Tallion adds a third pitch and becomes what Cole was not, Keller does not disappoint, Tucker arrives and fires at all cylinders…..ok I’m actually deflated typing all this ifs.

              • I hope you’re right buddy but I fear there are way too many IFs. I think a lot of teams around baseballs have those same ifs. Maybe it happens and I hope it does… but I’m not betting on it.

                    • There’s zero chance of that, Bub…You’re the biggest cry baby I’ve ever seen on any site. It’s non-stop. The redundant arguments you have with Tim are fringe worthy. I’ve never seen anyone belabor a point the way you do….Everyone knows how you feel, you have an opinion, we get it. You might want to get a new drum, because the one you been banging on here is wore out.

                    • FFS, are you not the baby who threatened to take his ball and go home because of comments you don’t agree with?
                      Toughen the F up Milquetoast.

                    • Ah, No…Not me. Go argue with Tim about the same redundant BS you’ve been arguing about for the past 18 months. Like I said, you have an opinion, we get it.

            • I thought the Pirates “jacked up his swing” prior to Double A where he slugged .611 with a 976 OPS? It could be that his Triple A struggles are adjustment/injury related. Guy is still pretty young for the level.

          • Tim – Is the extra 500K from the “back” potentially as big a deal as I think it is? Essentially, you can add Nick Burdi to this return.

    • I don’t think a team with the young options for our rotation (Taillon, Kuhl, Williams, Glasnow, Musgrove, Keller, Brault) and a potentially very strong bullpen will suck. I don’t expect them to win the division, but they should be competitive.

  56. Good takes, Tim.

    I do wonder if we are underestimating the current Pirates team. This trade shifted their win total from 81 to 78 on fangraphs. And i imagine that’s with Frazier and not Meadows taking Cutch’s spot. There is a decent chance that Meadows could replicate Cutch right away. let’s say he could get them back to 80. 2 WAR for Meadows. ZiPs had him at 1.8 WAR in 400 PA.

    applying the freed money to the right spots on this team could get their projection to 83 or 84, putting a lucky 88 wins or so, and a wildcard, within the realm of possibility

    spend the damn savings. This team isn’t as bad as it seems.

    Dont throw this year away just to finish get a slightly higher draft pick.

    Dont throw this year away just to save 20 million dollars.

    All they have to do to make it interesting is spend the money that they’re allowed to spend. That’s it.

    • The only way I see that happening is if they start adding some reclamation projects. I just don’t see the upside that can take them from a .500 team to a contender. That’s not saying there’s no upside on the team. Just not enough.

      • if nothing else, i’d like to see them spend it, even if it’s just to deal the player(s) at the deadline.

        They’ve been allowed to spend 100 million every year. I just don’t see the upside of *not* spending it.

        cheap reclamations, expensive solid vets, i really dont care.

          • two reasons, and i laid them both out.

            1) because i dont think they’re *that* bad. why not try to catch lightning in a bottle by simply spending the money that they’re clearly allowed to spend. I laid out that spending that money well could bring their talent level to…say… 83 wins. Which brings win totals in the high 80s within the realm of possibility

            2) You can deal those guys at the deadline if you’re out of the race

            I’m not yinzering, clammoring for a 130 million dollar payroll. I’m simply asking for them to spend the same amount that they’re clearly allowed to spend.

            you say “why does it matter?” but i say “why not?”

            The Royals got into the playoffs in their first good year by being a team projected to win in the low 80’s, and by winning in the high 80s (if memory serves). Give yourself a chance.

            • I mean you’re absolutely right. Even if they signed a reliever who was lights out for half a season they might be able to trade him for a return not that much different than they received for Cutch. No downside to some one year deals.

            • They aren’t done dealing. Although trading Harrison and nova isn’t gonna matter in the standings that much…if at all. It could lead to some pleasant breakouts. I would like to see them make a deal where they got a full season High A or AA ball catcher back with some potential.

            • Right, and it seems that we have a very large number of unknowns this year: Is a full year of healthy Taillon a 3-4 WAR? Can Kuhl / Williams repeat their second halves of 2017, I still like Kingham, can Glasnow figure it out? Keller ETA? Bell is certain to improve avg., might Moroff hit 15 with good D? Moran 15-20? Can Polanco stay healthy? Luplow and Meadows? Could the bullpen be a strength? If half of those have a favorable outcome, it’s an 80-85 win team.

            • I’ve avoided being a NuttingIsCheap type fan, but this trade just strikes me as a salary dump. Without Cole, this team could’ve been a contender with a resurgent offense. But after trading Cutch (and likely Harrison it seems), they raised the white flag on 2018. I am barely clinging to the hope that they can pick up an outfielder on a 1 year deal who is desperate for work because of the glut of FA’s at that position.

          • I’m thinking the only real valid strategy NH may be following is stockpiling relievers to flip for high upside guys at the deadline.

            This isn’t like 2008-10. There’s not much in the pipeline that’s not pitching to build on. There’s no Cutch or Marte or even a Walker that’ll be rising to MLB in 2-3 years. Without selling more to get higher upside guys, this may be a long haul until the next competitive group.

        • I have to agree here. If we don’t get to apply the savings towards later years (as has been stated) then you spend the money- and deal the players for prospects to rebuild faster. Not spending the money in free agency does NOTHING, since you can’t spend it on draft picks anymore..

      • I’ve had a few friends mention that meadows could make team out of spring training. They’ll never learn! Although I if meadows wants to do a team deal and sell of his first year or two of free agency then it is possible.

    • Jay, I think the chance of Meadows being a 3 WAR player in 2018 are slim- extremely slim. This is a kid who couldn’t put up a 100 WRC+ in Triple A. And Longenhagen intimated he thought the Bucs might have Fed up his swing. He has a long way to go to being a 3 WAR player this year.

        • I see- I agree with you on spending the money. 20 or even 25M won’t buy you a whole lot but why not spend it and try to catch lightning in a bottle.

          • yep. i just figure that once you get your win projection above 81, you’re printing out your lottery ticket. you’re in the game.

            • The thing is I was ALL FOR a rebuild. The problem is the talent NH is bringing back is middling at best. And we’ve traded some of our best chips outside of Rivero.

              • As crazy as this sounds…after the garbage returns on particularly Cole I was a little disappointed on the Rivero signing because it probably means they won’t trade him and he was their last hope to generate some kind of return.

                • Yeah… it’s bad. I feared it would be bad when they brought back NH at the end of last summer but I’ll be honest- I had no clue it would be this bad.

                  • But honestly it’s scary how quickly the market seized up. Probably hard to expect them to clean house when their payroll plateaued at a hundred pre 2016 but maybe they should have considered. When they were trying to trade Cutch kangs legal problem should have pushed them over the edge.

                    • Yeah but you know there’s always an excuse for NH in either direction it seems. For years we were told how GREAT this farm system was. But when elite players were available at deadlines I heard so many different outlets saying “well the Pirates didn’t have the prospects to match that deal” WTF, I thought we had the best prospects in the game??? And I’m well aware of how years of control and salary impact a player’s value. But at end of the day NH is trading Cutch and Cole for pennies on the dollar relative to what their value was at one point in time. Meanwhile teams like the Sox are trading players like Eaton and Quintana for king’s ransom. But poor Neal, his he was just the victim of poor timing. I really fear we will be hearing this nonsense for another 5-10 years.

                    • I did hear a rumor that their package for Price was better than the Nick Franklin whatever they accepted. My whole rant about Nicasio wasn’t about Nicasio it was that if they didn’t add Nunez or Walker, jdm went for nothing and hit 29 hrs after they should have been selling Nicasio Cole Cutch as he was booming. The only player they could sit on was Rivero. It was insulting to witness the whole 40 yo dude I can’t remember his name fiasco.

                    • I completely agree with you. If you want something to make you sick- the Phillies got back a better prospect (2017 BA rankings) for a few weeks of Nicasio than we did for either Cole or Cutch. Elezier Alvarez was rated at 60 HIGH going into 2017- Reynolds was a 50 HIGH and no other guys were really on the map.

                      Yet we were told at the time “oh Nicasio had no trade value at the deadline that’s why Neal didn’t trade him”. Absolute nonsense

                    • Because you’re so soff and simple I’m going to break it down for you so even a dimwit such as yourself can grasp it my man,. Back in mid 2016 when many people (who are FANS of this team) were saying the Pirates window was closing and NH was making poor decisions they were told by people such as yourself and Tim… “no, that’s a bunch on nonsense. This team is in capable hands and has a lot of young talent on the way”. 2 years later, here we are. When people said NH was not the right man for the job and should not be entrusted for the job of rebuilding they were told “nah, he’s a very good GM and can do it again”. 2 of our best trade chips are gone and the Cole return has been lampooned by many in the industry.

                      I get it, you’re pissed because the half assed stuff you said looks really bad today. But it’s not my fault the the current GM has put this team in a bad predicament looking forward. Grow up and toughen up. If you want to refute something I said using logic or a well constructed argument I’ll listen.

                    • Why do I feel I’ve read this same BS from you hundreds of times? Because I have and so has everyone else. John W, the absolute king of belaboring a point. Man, you remind me of a bible thumper trying to slam your beliefs down people’s throats.

                    • Wanna know what really bothers me? You have baseball knowledge, lots of baseball knowledge. You’re one of the more intelligent posters on here, but instead of using your knowledge and actually talking baseball, you waste it. All your energy and focus is on Neal Huntington. I miss having legit baseball convo’s with you. You’re like NMR on the highest possible cycle of steroids. Is that your goal? Don’t get me wrong, NMR is easily one of my favorite posters, but he knows how to balance it. Where you’re just full blown NH hatred and arguing with Tim….and not much else, man. You’re better than this and you fucking know it.

                    • NMR on steroids! He’s one of my favorite posters here.

                      My man, I apologize for getting off message. You and me see things differently. I can tell you with utmost sincerity I never root against this team. When the game starts I’m rooting for the Bucs and I don’t spend time going to PNC as often as they do to root against them.

                      Obviously I get hung up on NH but I honestly believe it was a bad strategic decision to bring him back. But I hope I’m wrong, I hope these trades work out and things start trending in the right direction soon.

                    • I’ve never heard the Pirates didn’t have the prospects to make a deal….I’ve heard – Huntington won’t part with top end prospects to make a deal..Your schtick on here is flat out obnoxious.

                    • Cole return doesn’t look very good, but time will tell. But you can’t really compare the Quintana trade because he was just as good with 4 years of control.

                    • somebody on PG related a good way to look at the cole return was VS the sonny gray return and I think the A’s did far better….

                    • Where do you read that? Just said it was not a good comparison. There is a big difference in controllable years

                    • White Sox weren’t coming off 3 consecutive playoff appearances when they initiated their rebuild. So unless you’re suggesting Pirates screwed up by not dealing away Cutch with 3 years of control, and Cole with 4 years of control AFTER winning 98 games, the comparison to White Sox is utter nonsense!

                  • So in your mind it’s NH’s fault Cole and Cutch went from being top of the game young talented players in 2015, to average/slightly above average players now?

                    Every expert I’ve read has said Pirates were dealing from a weakened position due to these two having two consecutive poor seasons compared to their peak years. So unless your insinuating NH should’ve traded Cutch and Cole two years ago, you’re blaming NH for not knowing Cutch and Cole would both lose their Star status.

                    Sounds like you’re just being a hater to me, John.

                • He has a very friendly contract. If he replicates last years production up to the trade deadline and the pirates are no where in site and some of these new pickups look promising, then they may be able to bring in a haul for him. FWIW…

                • the fact that rivero in essence tweeted the WTF meme, doesnt give alot of confidence in his happiness with the club at this point – wonder if he could back out of the deal?

              • Yes if they sit on that money it will be absolutely disgusting. Because you know for damn sure it’s not being reinvested in the 2019-21 product.

      • John, this question is coming from a person that English is not the primary language, what does Fed up his swing means?

    • Thanks JayGray. I needed that encouraging
      viewpoint. If we could spend some money
      or use some of this depth we have in a trade,
      what position do you think we do need to
      address?

      • wouldnt mind a stab at rehabbing jon lucroy’s value, for example.

        granted, that subjects Diaz to waivers

        maybe a pitcher, even if it means putting a Michael Feliz in AAA or whatever

    • That’s the only problem. It’s not freed money. It’s money that won’t be spent. Maybe they shouldn’t spend it this year…but it’s not like next year or the year after the 20 mil they didn’t spend from deals this year will get spent if they are contending. Its ok. they will stick to the budget for that year. It is what it is. At least they aren’t the Marlins. Then again the Marlins have won a World Series in the last 39 years.

    • The problem with spending the money on one year deals is that the 40 man is full. If you sign a guy to a 1 year deal, you would need to drop someone from the 40 man roster. When a team is in a rebuild, they need to keep all of their young assets. So, yes, I would love to see the Pirates sign some guys to one year deals, but it could significantly hamper their rebuild to do so.

      • I actually commend Jaygrays optimism and I also see a better team, already in hand, than sure most do. I wouldn’t go too heavy in spending but if there is a thoughtful veteran that can round you out (improve a bit) then pull the trigger and the 40 man roster will take care of itself, I assume there is some filler (don’t have the current list to be sure) and other moves will be made so that is a moving/changing list, imho…

      • yeah that’s a good point.

        i guess that means that on the bright side, they have worthwhile young players at just about every position

    • Good Lord, does nobody in this comment thread understand the division we are in? If Cincy’s young pitching staff gets things figured out, we are in the cellar – thats not me, thats Vegas – those guys entire business is projections and putting their money where their mouth is….

  57. Tim, thanks for the insight. I appreciate your candor and humor. Keep up the great work and go Bucs (2018 and beyond).

      • I too liked the return. Reynolds has a strong background in the game and hits both lefties and righties (.896 OPS vs LHP/.806 OPS vs RHP) at A+ in his first full year.

        Don’t worry about what is leaving other than the emotion of it. The Pirates scored 2 runs or less in 59 games last year and their record in those games was 5 – 54. It would be hard to match or be worse than that in 2018.

      • Tim, why do you think “eventually they will”? I think this team has as much a chance repeating another 20+ years of losing baseball as “eventually they will”

          • Why is that so ridiculous, Tim? Only 18 more to go at this point. Were you evaluating the pirate talent back in the 90s…if so, what is so different? If you subscribe to the investors and those who dont invest as much notion (ie larger nielsen markets vs smaller), i would say that the chasm is even larger than it was in the 90s (especially with the international pools). I am sure pundits and others back in 1995 (when we had two consecutive losing seasons) never fathomed that it could continue for another 18…there is some similarities with the drop in record from 92-93 and 2015-16

    • Reynolds will be my bet between the two, he is a switch hitting 5-tool player with solid approach. More of a line drive hitter on the left side, and more of power hitter on the right side. What not to like?

      • Never more than 10 steals and lack of power in league that makes the Pac coast league look like a pitcher’s league.I see Frazier type player. Not excited here

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