Williams: The Pirates Aren’t as Bad as You Think, But Not as Good as They Think

If you talk to a lot of Pirates fans, the outlook for the team in 2018 and beyond is bleak. Every day I hear that this is a team that will be one of the worst teams in baseball. They’re not going to win again for 20 years. There are no prospects in the system, and no hope for the immediate future.

I know the definition of the word hyperbole, but these claims are actually believed, rather than a sarcastic exaggeration.

I’ve been down this road before. I defended the Pirates back in 2011 and 2012 when the same claims were made about how they’d never win, and how they didn’t actually have any prospects. I viewed the organization then as a team close to contending, and with a future on the rise. I received my unshakable “apologist” label at that point, and it didn’t matter that I was right about the team having a positive outlook, or that I’ve been critical of the team when warranted every step of the way (and that has been increasingly warranted the last year or two).

So I hate to defend the Pirates against the most exaggerated claims, but the feeling of doom and gloom is so widespread that I feel the need to point out that they’re not really a horrible team. FanGraphs has them projected for 77 wins, which is one less than the Brewers, despite Milwaukee having a flashier offseason. That win total isn’t something to celebrate for 2018, but it is a good starting point when you consider that they are rebuilding and have a group of prospects on the way, not to mention a very young roster that could see improvements.

You’ve got a team that’s not horrible in 2018, will probably be in third or fourth place in the NL Central, and has an outlook that trends up, and not down.

But…

On the flip side of this, you’ve got Neal Huntington saying the Pirates believe they can contend this year. You’ve got players on the roster believing that they can contend. You want that from the team. You don’t want players who will throw in the towel, in any scenario. But the General Manager has to be realistic.

This isn’t a team that can contend in 2018. Not with the current roster they have now. It could be a team that contends in 2018, but that would require some additions from the outside. That doesn’t mean Daniel Nava additions. It means a guy with top of the rotation potential and an outfielder that can provide an impact. The irony here is that they had that with Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen, and they were projected as fringe contenders with those two. Even with two additions, they’re still going to need help from the young guys and guys already on the roster.

The Pirates could add to the roster with all of the free agents available. They’d actually look really smart if they traded Cole and McCutchen for some immediate MLB help, and then signed replacements who can come close to matching their values at reduced prices. But I’m skeptical that this is their plan. That’s mostly because there are very few free agents who would be locks to be upgrades, and I don’t think the Pirates are signing those guys for their prices, even if they are still available in mid-February.

Instead, I believe they will be going into the season with mostly the roster they have right now, giving opportunities to the younger guys in the rotation and starting lineup, and having veterans on the bench. This means they’re giving the usual lip service about competing, while not actually doing anything significant toward that goal, outside of a hope and a prayer that everything clicks right this year.

The problem I see with this is that it leads to certain questions about the roster. Questions that conflict with the rebuilding process.

For example, why is Ivan Nova still on the team — under control through the 2019 season — when the Pirates are otherwise choosing between Joe Musgrove and Tyler Glasnow. Those are two pitchers who could help the team beyond 2019, when the Pirates are more likely to be contenders.

Why is the bench made up of David Freese, Sean Rodriguez, and probably Daniel Nava, when the Pirates will most likely be sending two of Jordan Luplow, Max Moroff, and Jose Osuna down to Triple-A? I can see Freese being on the team, as the Pirates had him under contract long before this offseason. I can even see Rodriguez, even though he was added last August to specifically play for this season. Maybe you can give them the benefit of the doubt that they believed they could contend at that point, then reassessed their chances in the offseason. But Nava was just added, and seems to have an inside track to the roster, blocking one of the younger players.

And why is George Kontos a lock for the bullpen? He’s not a bad reliever at all, but this is another situation where you’ve got a guy who is only under control through 2019. Meanwhile, you’ve got several young and talented relievers who will be left back in Triple-A. Again, you could take the same approach as Rodriguez, and assume that they had a different plan when they added Kontos. But what about the more recent addition of Michael Feliz, who was acquired in a trade, despite only having four years of control remaining?

The Pirates are showing conflicting signs here. They’re rebuilding by trading away their two best players, but saying that they plan to contend in 2018. They’re partially acting like they plan to contend in 2018 by adding short-term pieces like Nava and Rodriguez, and keeping short-term pieces around like Nova and Josh Harrison. And this is where I say that they seem to be stuck in No-Man’s Land.

But…

There’s also the thought I have that none of the above moves really matter.

It might not matter that Tyler Glasnow goes to the bullpen. It might help him ease his way into the majors, similar to how Carlos Martinez made his jump to the majors with the Cardinals.

It might not matter that two of Jordan Luplow, Jose Osuna, or Max Moroff get sent back down to Triple-A. In each case I see a chance to be an average starter, but a more likely scenario of being a bench player. And in each case, there’s a better player in the system behind those guys. So if they are starters, they’d be starters for a very short time.

It might not matter that George Kontos gets a bullpen spot, and someone like Edgar Santana or Kyle Crick goes down to Triple-A for a bit. The one thing I’ll say here is that I’d want to keep Jordan Milbrath around for as long as possible to give him a real shot. But there is no reliever from the remaining list who I feel definitely needs to be on the roster on Opening Day, and I think anyone who deserves to be on the roster in 2018 will make it up at some point this year.

The Pirates aren’t blocking any prospects who could play a big role in their future. They’re giving Colin Moran the third base job. They’re going with a mostly young rotation. When Kevin Newman and Austin Meadows are ready, you better believe a spot will be created for them to get playing time. It’s the same story for Mitch Keller, whenever he’s ready to arrive.

And that brings me to the larger point here. I don’t think anything the Pirates do with their Opening Day roster will really change their future outlook. They are an upper-70s win team with prospects on the way, and younger players on the roster. They’re a team that will be trending up. They will eventually need some outside additions like they did in 2012-13 with A.J. Burnett, Russell Martin, Francisco Liriano, and Mark Melancon. But those additions will be needed after the upper level prospects arrive, and that hasn’t happened yet.

The Pirates definitely aren’t contenders this year. They’re also definitely not as bad as Pirates fans make them out to be. But we’re in a holding pattern right now, waiting for the bigger prospects to arrive. That’s going to be when they start moving toward a team that really has a chance at contending. The only thing they could do wrong right now is making moves that would take a step back from their future chances of contending, which means blocking potential key contributors like Moran, Musgrove, or Meadows and Newman when they’re ready. I don’t see the Pirates doing any of that right now, which is good.

So this year will be mostly be about watching for hope for the future, and paying attention to the progress of the bigger prospects who can help the team get back to contending. If you’re hoping for the team to actually contend this year, then you’re probably going to be disappointed. If you think the Pirates aren’t even good enough to reach 77 wins, and that they’ll be one of the worst teams in baseball, then — well, you’ll probably still be disappointed if they reach 77 wins, because the only thing that will make people happy is winning.

I think any decision made this spring will be minor, and won’t really have an impact on the Pirates in the next few years when they’re ready to compete again. Unless the Pirates do something crazy in either direction, like blocking a key prospect, or making a big addition from the outside.

Columns

  • I guess that I’m not an apologist. I’m not watching much Pirate baseball this year or in the future. Maybe I’m wrong, but it feels like some fans are getting snowed by this ownership/management group. The issue is not that they are “rebuilding” and that they traded Cutch/Cole. It’s more about the fact that they had a chance to enhance a playoff caliber team and pretty much did nothing, resulting in those wildcard appearances and losses – nothing more. History will just repeat itself.

  • Tim, I am also considered an apologist, so please consider yourself in good company (Haha). All I ever hear is “Nutting’s cheap” “Nutting won’t spend”. Now we have, “Look what the Brewers did”. Had the Pirates spent $80M on a 32/33 year old center fielder who played a 155 games last year, batted .300 with 16hrs and 49 rbis, I would have blasted that as utter stupidity. But to a typical Pirate fan, that means Brewers owner is great and “aggressive”, and he “really cares”.

    I would say idiotic. Lorenzo Cain is a decent player, not disputing. I’m sure the defense is great, but how well does speed based defense age? And if defense is so important or valuable, why does everyone not-so-quietly mock the Cubs for signing Jason Heyward? Anybody want that beauty of an $184M deal? Or maybe he’ll opt out (insert sarcasm font)

    I realize Bob Nutting is not George Steinbrenner, but it looks like some of the other owner’s figured out, finally, that spending huge amounts for extended years for past performance isn’t the best business model. But our ownership and GM are constantly ripped over the coals for this very stance. It’s always sooooo easy to spend someone else’s money.

    And before we go down the “We paid for his stadium” path, look at just about every other market, across sports, including our beloved Steelers and Penguins, and they received similar stadium deals. They are competitive because of one thing, hard salary cap! No cap would mean no Crosby, no Malkin, no Antonio Brown, etc., in Pittsburgh. And No Green Bay Packers, Winnipeg Jets, Jacksonville Jaguars, Ottawa Senators, etc., etc., across the other leagues.

    Just had to get this off my chest, and Tim, thanks again. The ski isn’t falling and I will root for my Bucco’s again this year. May not be our year, but hope springs eternal. And this from someone who misses Cutch already!

  • Espn.com has a stock watch article this morning for every team. They plug the Pirates in a group of 3 teams that people think are in the bottom tier but are actually part of the middle class.

    Without the detail it mirrors what Tim has been saying about the Pirates for the past month or so.

    http://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/22457017/mlb-stock-watch-super-teams-enemies-boras-here-where-all-30-teams-stand

  • Tim … I would love for them to trade Ivan Nova for prospects while simultaneously signing Alex Cobb. And I would go as high as $18 million. That would be an increase of only $9 million. It would still be under budget and (not being sarcastic here) we could always trade him to make way for Keller.

  • I know the apologists will jump on me for saying this, but, the pirates are far closer to 100 losses than they are to 81 wins…with the roster how it is, an injury or two would easily nudge this team into triple digit loss category…think about the division we are in……

  • Seems that the standard deviation is very high with this team, with so many guys who we can only guess their perfornance. Moran, Moroff, Luplow, Musgrove, Taillon, Glasnow, Meadows and others. If Polanco stays healthy, could he do a full year like the 1st half of ’16 when he could have had the AS bid instead of Marte? Gonna be interesting.

  • If things work out with the young guys and they can add, I doubt they’ll find the AJs and Martins of the world again. Teams took note of that strategy and I think the Bucs would have to pony up real FA money to add. Hoping a new tv deal will give them that chance, but doubt in that too.

  • First of all, Tim, don’t tell me what I think.

    Okay, now that I’m done being smarmy (haha no I’m not), I have a quibble. I don’t think Feliz is a pointless addition. Four years of control is enough to be useful when they get their best prospects up to the Bigs and have a shot at contending. If he’s a back of the bullpen arm, he’ll be useful in 2019, 2020, and 2021.

    I also got the impression from Hurdle’s comments that Nava’s path to the opening day roster is a very *out*side track. He mentioned him like a throwaway.

  • rickmontgomery
    February 15, 2018 2:39 pm

    Tim, it seems we have somewhere in the neighborhood of $15-19 mil in salary money that is unspent at this point. Is it correct to imagine that they simply bank this money for 2018 and have it available in 2019 when adding a top player or two might be important to the rebuild? Have you heard any indication that this “save for tomorrow” plan is on the minds of the front office?

    • Even if they officially announced that as their plan, would you believe it?

      • rickmontgomery
        February 15, 2018 2:45 pm

        They don’t announce things at all other than “we plan to contend.” But sometimes one hears whispers and those might be believable.

        • Of course they don’t but my point is that even if they came right out and announced that, it wouldn’t be believable. They have zero credibility. So what value are whispers and innuendo? That’s what you get from Neal right now! One thing has become fairly clear about this ownership group — they must make a profit every year and if they can make a profit margin w/o spending, they’ll always choose whatever option gives them the greatest chance at that annual profit margin. If less spending is less risky and more aligned with making their nut, they’ll do exactly that. They won’t deficit spend in any year to win. Even if that means going into a deficit now for a bigger margin in a later year.

  • I agree with virtually everything in this article. I do think that the Fangraphs 77 win projection is unrealistic. They won 75 with Cole and Cutch and are now a weaker team without those two. The additions to the team don’t make it “even” in talent with last years team IMO. No Cutch and no regular left fielder. Moran is a rookie so have to temper expectations for him. Maybe 3B is slightly better overall than last year. Greatest potential for improvement is probably in the bullpen. Taking Cole away kind of flattens any improvement potential of the starting pitchers vs. last year — and last year went well healthwise for the starters. An anomaly. Kind of a push there. Just don’t see 77 wins here. Probably Nova gets traded as does Harrison and that’ll impact things. Defense won’t be any better this year either — and maybe worse. No real defensive upgrades in this lineup. Hurdle has never had a team that executed fundamentals all that well and I don’t expect this team to be an exception. Team wasn’t able to scratch out runs last year and with even less power, that weakness will only be accentuated.

    • I am guessing greatest improvement will be catchers because I don’t think they could be worse then they were last year. Not that it mattes because we are worse in the OF and on the mound this year and I am guessing This version of Mercer and Harrison do not perform as well as last years versions.

      • Not sure i agree here. Cole was not irreplaceable with how he performed last year and the year before. Projections for Musgrove are higher for 18 vs. what we received from Cole. Cutch was worth negatives runs in the outfield last year and year before. Marte to Center and even Frazier to left improve that defense. From an offensive perspective it will be hard to replace Cutch but he was extremely hot and cold… not good for a team trying to compete the entire year. If Polanco can stay healthy and Marte plays a full season we already are a step ahead. Key will be guys taking a step forward in year 2… and Marte getting back to what he was.

      • I agree catcher has only up to go

  • I see anywhere from 75-85 wins here…There’s certainly upside here. I have them ahead of Mil at this point in time. Milwaukee isn’t going to win with that rotation and regression from players like Thames, Shaw and Santana. I think they greatly overachieved last season and reality will get them this year.

  • So glad to hear some sane analysis rather than the Bucs will go 0-162 rhetoric from frauds like DK and his sycophants who hate the front office. Cutch was a great Bucco and will be missed but Cole was overrated and wasn’t a winner in my opinion.

  • No significant youngsters are being blocked, with the possible exception of Moroff. Luplow needs AAA ABs, they’ll find a place in the rotation for Glasnow if he earns it, Moran will be given every opportunity to play everyday at 3B, and there’s no urgency for any of the bullpen arms to be in MLB vs. Indy.

    • Phil, I the only reason I say Moroff is not being blocked is his current numbers. He was in the majors last year .200/.302/.325 and Indy .254/.390/.519 the 13 homers are nice in AAA but still seems he could use AAA time to get translate to the majors. I agree with Tim he is a fringe player most likely a bench player at this point. Potential is still there though.

  • Before I go any further with this article – You should be secure enough with yourself to not let the “apologist” label bother you. It’s a silly narrative and you really seem like you’re trying to prove to the world that you’re not an “apologist”

    Just silly. I’m one of your biggest supporters, but when I read that, I literally cringe.

    • I was actually putting it in there to show how silly it was. How if you don’t say that things are doom and gloom, you’re an apologist. It’s still the same way. And I think that’s why there’s so many doom and gloom predictions, because no one wants to be in the dreaded middle ground created by nuanced analysis.

      • Plenty of us share the apologist label. It seems that it is only okay to support the team if they win 90+ games and spend $130 million in payroll.

        • I am not even sure we could go out and find 90+ wins with a 130 million payroll this year. And I am not doom and gloom at all I am with Tim. Just making a point. With Cutch and Cole we are probably at about 100 Million right now. Not sure there was 30 million out there that would get us exactly what we needed. The growth is coming though. I believe mid 70’s is achievable with this team.

          • I don’t know that anyone could have guessed it coming into this offseason, but it looks like $30M may have been enough to snag: Todd Frazier plus two from the group of Bruce, Cobb, and Lynn.

            • That is true. There are some free agents signing for lower #’s then what everyone projected. But going by projections at the time they made the moves. it wasn’t enough.

          • I dont know if I agree on the prediction of 90 wins with Cutch, Cole + $30 million in spending. Having said that, your analysis as of now is probably accurate for 2018 and they probably have the same internal forecast. It seems to me ith the low 2017 attendance that $100 million would be a stretch based on their level of comfort. If we spend $ to get there and still cant reasonably expect 90 wins, why waste the $ in 2018?

            • I agree with that. I wish the reality of life was different (AKA a salary cap) but that being said. I think there is potential they are making the right moves.

  • spot on assessment. Mid 70s win team. If lots of things go right (GP, Marte, Bell, Moran, Cervelli killing it along with advancement from the youngster pitching) then they could bump up into wildcard territory. Conversely if everything goes wrong (missed time from key players, and sophomore slumps from the youngsters) then could approach 90 losses. Most likely it’ll be in between and in the mid 70s win range.
    All that said, I just can’t wait to see it happen one way or the other. I bought an electric smoker, TV mount for the 55″ to go next to the pool and I got all summer to drink beer, eat meat and get fat while watching the boys of summer.

    • Where you live?

    • amazingribs.com is a site I frequent for ideas for my electric smoker.

      • I still use the old fashioned Coleman that looks like a bullett standing on it’s end. Lot’s of work keeping the fire consistent for 4 hours or more (depending on what you are cooking) but, love the flavor and the excuse to sit in the yard and have a few cold ones.

        • My first electric smoker was a bullet smoker. I switched a few years ago to one that looks like a fridge where you can set the temperature and time, then add wood chips from the side. That one is good for holding a lot of stuff. But I kind of liked the bullet one better for the flavor.

      • Awesome thanks.. Doing ribs this weekend for my first time. I got a Masterbuilt like you describe below with the wood chips inserted in the side.

        • That’s what I have.

          3-2-1 method is pretty flawless if you’re just starting. 3 hours uncovered, adding chips and basting periodically. Then 2 hours wrapped in foil, with a splash of apple juice, beer, or whatever flavor you want inside. Then one hour uncovered to let them crisp up. All at 275.

  • Great article. Exactly how I feel on every point.

  • I’d argue against the notion Pirates are in “No Man’s Land.” Whatever that is in MLB.

    The Pirates don’t necessarily have to tear it all down, or bust the budget to be a contender. Seems to me they’ve chosen a course to build a deep and talented bullpen as the foundation for the team. Nobody got the 2013-15 Pirates confused with the ’27 Yankees, but they won more games than just about every team in MLB because they were nearly perfect when protecting a 7th inning lead.

    Tim, and others, may not agree with the Pirates brain trust on how to make the team a strong competitor again, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a strong foundation to the team similar in design to the one from a few years back.

    • The 2013 – 2015 Pirates had more than just a good bullpen. McCutchen was an MVP candidate in his prime and both the starting rotation and the every day line up for all three of those teams was much better than this team’s. I don’t see a parallel at all.

      Last year’s Pirates were a 75 win team. You can say they were unlucky but they were fortunate in some ways too. They had freakishly few injuries to the starting rotation, for example. Looking at this off-season, the best two players from last year’s team as calculated by WAR were removed from the team. What was added was a full year of Marte, Moran and one of three potential starters, Glasnow, Brault or Musgrove. I just don’t see how the additions will outweigh the subtractions and lead to 10-15 more wins they would need to “contend.” I think it’s perfectly reasonable to call that “no man’s land.”

  • I believe the Pirates view Musgrove > Trevor Williams. If Tyler Glasnow somehow forces himself into the rotation, Trevor goes to the pen at least until the deadline when they possibly trade Nova.

    • Agree, if Glasnow earns a spot in the rotation, they will find a place for him relatively early in the season, either because of injury or under performance by Musgrove, Williams, or Kuhl.

  • NH thinks everybody will have a career year and we will win. I truly believe he thinks we buy into his optimistic garble. I’m sure Daniel Nava is a great guy but he is a late bench piece on a contender if he has his best year ever. He is not a platoon asset stabilizing 3 young outfielders as Huntington portrays. Enough of the BS, although this team has some young talent it’s as close to the bottom of the division you can get with unproven players everywhere. The pitching is anchored by 2 starters who are number 3s and the rest are number 5s or long relievers. Aside from Riveros 1 great year the bullpen is full of rejected or never were players that fit the paltry budget. Hurdle is a very likable guy and a baseball man but he can not manage young talent. Hes at his best with veterans and squeezing them for what they have left In the tank. If he’d been offered elsewhere he’d of left. Absolutely positively this is the Pirate team.

    • I know I might get a thumbs down for this, but I believe NH. I believe he thinks he can build a Yankee type organization without paying or trading the farm for 1 or 2 pieces. It will not be one or 2 seasons away, but he is doing exactly what he has always said he wants to do. If things did not blow up last season, I’ll bet we could have won 10 more games. He wants to build a 40 man roster with dept that he can use as needed and that includes trades for big pieces when needed. I am looking forward to this season…I was looking forward to last season but didn’t work out and NH needed to take a step back. Hopefully he can take 2 steps forward this season. I want a winning franchise and that is what NH wants also.

      • I believe NH gets off on the notion of building up a small market team with limited funds….I believe much like Beane, NH would turn down a huge raise with a Big Market team.

        This is just what I *believe*

  • justinblain1996
    February 15, 2018 11:36 am

    I like the idea of Glasnow in the bullpen. Not to say that his future is in the bullpen but watching his struggles in the rotation last year, and majority of his starts he didn’t make past the 5th inning. Meaning as a starter he was given us long reliever type performances( 3-4 innings) so it makes sense to see if he can figure his stuff out in the bullpen and then see if he can translate it back into starting appearances

    • I like that he can be in the pen not knowing if he is going in so he doesn’t have to think about anything and put added pressure on himself…hopefully. Maybe a couple of months of that and he can get some MLB traction.

  • Good article. Again, one major reason I subscribe is your objective viewpoint, Tim. Hold fast!

  • As of right now they are not a “young team” referring to the regulars. Vets at 2b, SS, 3b platoon, CF. All of these positions are filled by 29 and up ages.

    • Yeah that’s my one quibble with Tim’s extremely well-written piece.

      This *isn’t* a young team, by rebuilding standards. A projected 2020 lineup for them would really only reasonably project for two starters on either side of the ball below age 26, Mitch Keller and Cole Tucker. The latter of which is far from given.

      Their biggest struggle to truly gain ground as contenders will be a convergence of young talent and replacing average players with stars.

    • I don’t think they have a 3B platoon. Moran will be the guy.

      When I say young team, I’m thinking that the prospects will soon be taking over for Harrison and Mercer.

      • Do evaluators actually think that Moran won’t be a heavy platoon split guy long term?

  • Unrelated question for a P2 staffer–if one purchases the paperback version of the Prospect Guide, does that provide access to the e-book too? Or do they need to be purchased separately?

  • Fangraphs has them at 77 wins.

    They have 0.5 WAR coming out of left field in the projection. i personally think Frazier/Rodriguez platoon, with Meadows coming up when he’s *ready* can out-WAR that by 2 pretty easily.

    brings you to 79.

    They have Moran and Freese combining for 1.2 WAR. i’d be a little surprised if they didnt combine for something more like 3.2 WAR in a platoon. Freese has gone from overrated to underrated faster than basically any player i can remember haha

    brings you to 81. Once you get to 81 projected, anything can happen. that brings 88 wins within a standard deviation.

    (we can also get into talking about the elusive Gregory Polanco breakout, or the pros/cons of having a catching tandem of Cervelli and Lucroy instead of Cervelli and Diaz, if anybody would like…. those two things could bring that 81 to an 84)

    • This is my thinking too, though I did just look at their individual projections and they’re a little more bullish on our rotation than I expected.

      • true. i guess i didnt really think about looking for guys who the projections seem too *high* on.

        it’s intellectually dishonest for me to not have done so.

    • Neal, is that you? 😉

      • dude, i’m going to be so mad when I’m *right* about frazier/rodriguez and Moran/Freese, but they miss the playoffs by two games

        • Well, they underachieved horribly for a few years now from where the early season projections are so you could say they are due…but being due is no reason for optimism.

    • I agree, I wouldn’t be shocked to see this team surprise everybody. Also wouldn’t shock me to see another 75 win season.

      • yeah. the standard deviation could play up to mid 80s. it could play down to low 70s. we’ll see

    • Is 7 wins really a SD? Is that what the protection sites say?

    • The flip side of this is that players can fall short of their projections, as we’ve seen the last two years. So any gains from those players might just be making up for losses from other players.

  • It is easy to figure out the roster. The Pirate’s want to win the Governors’ Cup.

  • “Definitely aren’t contenders” is a little too strong unless you’re questioning the 77 win projection (btw, BP also projects 77 wins via a projection system that is independent of the one used by Fangraphs, so that 77 seems pretty reasonable). If 77 is a reasonable projection and things go right with our young rotation and, say, Luplow, Moran, and Polanco, then we could be in the mid-80’s which is a win total that was enough to contend last year (Twins, Rockies, Brewers).

    I expect them to be right around .500 and therefore not win quite enough to contend, but I see a small but realistic chance that they do contend.

    • It might be semantics but to me winning 80 games does not make you a contender. I could be wrong but I don’t think there has ever been a wild card with less than 87 wins. Has there been? Is “being in it for the second wildcard” really contending anyway?

      On paper this is a team that will win between 70 and 75 games. Is that awful? No , but you have to be a pretty big baseball fan to care about a team like that. There’s a lot of talk in this thread about all the “young talent” but, the most frustrating part of this team is that none of the “young talent and quote is positioned to be a star like mccutchen was or Burnet was or even Kang. They have a bunch of mediocre players and that’s it. Nothing to get excited about

      • Note that I did say mid-80’s could make us a contender, not 80. Last year the Twins were a wildcard with 85 wins (no reason to think that a different standard would apply in the AL than the NL).

  • That is a very reasonable view of things and gives perspective to the current state of affairs. The Bucs will probably be average this year and I can live with that as long as they are on a path towards contending. Trading Cutch and Cole was the right thing to do – but was the return for them enough to keep them on the path of contending soon? My worry is that it wasn’t enough and that if Harrison or Nova get traded we will get a similar return.

  • If a few things click they could be .500 but I think the best approach is to not have expectations for 2018. I looked at FG the other day and it said 70 wins but i noticed it’s back to 77 now.

    • one of MLB.Com’s writers is projecting them last in the central with 68 wins…

      • who?

      • I think that’s about right. We lack power, defense, speed and top of the rotation pitching but other than that I think we at pretty good.

        • Also I think the Reds are doing some good things

        • I will try to be optimistic at the beginning of the season. I have always felt Taillon would be better than Cole overall and can be that strong leader at the top. Maybe with Cole gone, the other four really strive to be better and pitch over their heads lol…Hears to hoping Moran who was highly thought of earlier in his career really did fix his swing and he replaces what Kang took away when he got booted…Marte is back for a whole season, Polanco is supposedly in very good shape according to Marte. Bell should get better with the bat and Freese is trying to change his swing to add power. Marte is top end speed, Polanco can get from 1st to 2nd in four steps haha, Harrison is a good runner. Obviously a whole lot has to go right this season for the team to be a legit contender but they haven’t taken the field yet so I will be optimistic until they show they will be cellar dwellers this season.

    • i noticed that too! i asked sawchik about it in his chat, but he had no idea what to make of it.

      it’d also had the Brewers up to like 84, but has them back to 78 now

  • I don’t understand why people hate this team so much. We have seen awful baseball teams, and anybody knowledgeable knows this is a decent baseball team. Everything that could have gone wrong went wrong last year. There’s young talent on the team now, and more is on the way. It still is an exciting time for pirates fans idc what anyone says I’m pumped for this season.

    • Couldn’t agree more. This is a young team with lots of potential. Much different from the teams from the 2000’s and even the 2011/2012 teams. If guys take steps forward this year and Moran and Glasnow click we could easily be above 500 and contending.

    • Something I find ironic–Tim is sometimes accused of being a fan of the team because he’s written articles supporting certain moves made by the front office. However, the typical Pirates fan seems to be much more inclined towards negativity. So by this, someone who writes/posts anything positive about the team isn’t really a fan, right?

    • I think a lot of people are still bitter that more wasn’t done to upgrade the team either during or after the 2015 season.

      If we weren’t coming off that 2013-2015 stretch I think people would look at this current team more objectively.

    • I have to differ with you about everything going wrong last year. No one really expected Kang to play. Marte was a surprise I’ll give you. But all their starters made it w/o injury. Injuries are normal I’ll remind you. I assume someone tracks these states but I’d be willing to bet that the Pirates’ loss of man days last years was about average. Usually the Pirates’ chances of success are based upon almost everything going right — which almost never happens. I don’t see any young stud prospects on this team right now other than maybe Bell. Glasnow maybe but so far not so good. Frankly Polanco is middling right now and has a lot to prove. I don’t hate the team — I just see it pretty much as so-so w/o a whole lot of upside.

      • At what point did no one expect Kang to play. They were still trying to get his VISA squared away going into Spring Training. Plus they had already budgeted his Salary for this season too. Granted they are not having to pay it since he is not able to make it back but I think it is a stretch to say he was not part of the plan for 2017. Obviously they had time to correct that for 2018 which they did with Moran.

        • After the Bucs found out Kang was not coming (end of march) they chose not to spend the excess cash on any players last year. When the Braves lost Freeman for 2 months they were able to swing a trade in less than 48 hours for a bonified 1B while not giving up any of their prospects of which they have many. Yes things do and will go wrong throughout the year as Atty Mike stated that’s pretty normal. Whats not normal is the Bucs response to those things which is to do nothing. That’s why I look at this team and this management group/ownership and I really have a hard time thinking we win more than 70 games

          • “That’s why I look at this team and this management group/ownership and I really have a hard time thinking we win more than 70 games.”

            Because they have not accomplished that ever. Makes sense……..

        • Me, I said on the day he got his DUI that he would never play in America again.

        • Even Huntington admitted he knew and should have done something to shore up 3B

    • I’ve been saying this exact same thing to people! I just don’t understand why people don’t see the potential this team + top prospects has. I’m not saying they will be 2019 WS Champs but I really do see the potential for some serious growth.

      Like you said literally EVERYTHING that could have gone wrong last year did. Hell if things go half as well as last year and we see the normal expected growth from young guys we are looking at around .500 ball.

  • I don’t think this team will lose 100 games. I don’t think they’ll be a top 5 draft pick team. But I don’t know about third or fourth place; in my opinion, it’s more of fourth or fifth place. Reds lineup has been very good, pitching was the issue but they have a good farm and promising young pitchers. (And FYI Pirates were 6-13 (31.6%) against the Reds last year lol)

    I understand bullpen might be easier for Glasnow to start from, but I still hope Nova’s traded at deadline at least. Glasnow’s one of the most important keys to this team’s future success.

    • Part of the reds problem was Cole. Was literally a minor leaguer against them for his career. And I agree no reason to hold on to nova except for eating innings. No chance he’s still around when Keller arrives

      • Doesn’t help that out of 4 HRs Billy Hamilton has hit, 2 of them came from Taillon… Felt like Hamilton was hitting .4/.5/.6 against us with 100 SBs

        • Yeah Hamilton plays likes he’s a triple crown contender against us. One of the all time pirate killers

        • I had to go look it up:

          Billy Hamilton in 60 career games against the Pirates:

          60 G, 260 PA… batting .302 with 46 R and 50 SB

          He’s actually “only” a .302/.349/.387 guy against the Pirates. But 50 SB in 60 games is just a ridiculous performance.

      • I like having one veteran around the young guys. We had some talented pitchers come through during the streak but they had no role models. Our pitching really improved when we got AJ. A lot had to do with talent, but the leadership was a critical component.

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