I watched Avengers: Endgame recently, so I’ve got alternate reality theories on the brain this weekend. And that’s kind of fitting, because you need to think about alternate realities to analyze the Pirates this offseason.

I’ve made a few comments during the playoffs about a team that the Pirates could have had right now. They could have had Gerrit Cole, Austin Meadows, Tyler Glasnow, and maybe even someone like Charlie Morton. Of course, as has been pointed out to me, that wouldn’t have happened in this reality.

Let’s start with Charlie Morton. When I’ve brought him up, two things have been pointed out. First is that he wasn’t this type of pitcher while in Pittsburgh, and didn’t really break out until the Astros helped him. Second is that the Pirates weren’t signing him as a free agent this year.

Those are both true. That’s what happened. But that’s not what I’m focusing on.

My focus is on the fact that the Astros fixed Morton, and not the Pirates. The Astros figured out the next big trend in pitching, and used that to make Gerrit Cole an ace, and Charlie Morton a mid-to-top of the rotation guy. The Pirates were behind on that one, and are still behind that trend.

My focus is on the fact that the Rays identified Morton as having more value than his free agent deal. The Pirates were once in that situation, “overpaying” for Russell Martin, only to find out that he’s exceeded his total contract value just one year later. Now they’re adding guys like Lonnie Chisenhall and Erik Gonzalez in an attempt to find value, while missing on the players who are actually providing value.

When I bring up Gerrit Cole, the argument is that he wasn’t doing well while he was here, or that he’d be gone by now because he’s a pending free agent. The first argument ties in with Morton’s argument. If the Pirates were ahead on the pitching trends, Cole would have been better with them. Ignore what actually happened and think about it in terms of “What would have happened with Cole if the Pirates were as forward thinking as the Astros?”

As for keeping him around, that wouldn’t have happened here, even if the Pirates got top of the rotation potential out of him. But that’s largely because of the Pirates’ current strategy of thinking they can compete every year, and trying to get value for future years. With a strategy that embraces windows, and focusing only on winning during that window, they’d keep Cole to maximize their chances while they were trying to contend.

Austin Meadows didn’t get a big chance in Pittsburgh, so we can’t say that he didn’t work out here. The argument against Tyler Glasnow is that he was given chances and didn’t work out here. Some of that might be related to the pitching issues, but not completely.

The biggest argument here is that Glasnow needed a change of scenery. I see that as a problem. Why didn’t Glasnow work out here? What can the Pirates do to improve to make sure the next Glasnow does work out here, and doesn’t need a change of scenery?

For all of these situations, there’s a clear answer as to why the Pirates don’t currently have the player. Morton wasn’t this type of pitcher when he was here. Cole wasn’t this type of pitcher when he was here. Glasnow wasn’t this type of pitcher when he was here and lost confidence here.

All of those are answers as to why the Pirates don’t have a contending team with those players right now. But they also raise questions of their own. They make you think of alternate realities, where the Pirates are ahead of the pitching trends, where they can develop their prospects and get upside, and where the Pirates are able to find value on the present day market.

And when you start thinking about it that way, your focus shifts to “What can the Pirates do to get back ahead of the pitching trends, to find value on the free agent market, and to maximize upside for their prospects?”

Those are the big problems with this team right now, and the answers to those problems will get the Pirates back to contending.

TODAY’S PICKS

Here are today’s picks. I got these in after noon, so I missed out on listing Tennessee +6. If you’ve got them as well, good luck!

11:00 – Arizona +6 (Also one unit on the ML +184)

3:30 – South Florida ML +163

3:30 – Michigan State +10

3:00 – New Mexico State +10.5

10:30 – Wyoming ML +144

7:30 – Iowa ML +140

SONG OF THE DAY

DAILY QUIZ


THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY

By John Dreker

Eight former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, including one who went on to the Hall of Fame and another who played for the first team in franchise history.

Joe Cronin had a Hall of Fame career for the Washington Senators and Boston Red Sox. It began with the 1926-27 Pirates, where he batted .257 with no homers over 50 games. The Pirates sold him to a minor league team, but he was back in the big leagues by mid-1928 and just two years away from the first of eight seasons with 100+ RBIs. He was a seven-time All-Star, despite the fact that the All-Star game didn’t start until his eighth season in the majors.

The original Charlie Morton was a member of the 1882 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. He batted .296 in 24 games before being released in July. Morton played three seasons in the majors and managed for three years, two as a player-manager.

Casey McGehee, first baseman for the 2012 Pirates. In 92 games, he hit .230 with eight homers, before being traded to the New York Yankees. He batted .258 with 67 homers over 850 games and eight big league seasons.

Joe Trimble, pitcher for the 1957 Pirates. He made four starts and a relief appearance during his one season in Pittsburgh, going 0-2, 8.24 in 19.2 innings. His only other big league experience was two shutout innings for the 1955 Boston Red Sox.

Erv Brame, pitcher for the 1928-32 Pirates. He had a five-year career with quite a peak and drop. Playing only for the Pirates during his time in the majors, he finished with a 52-37, 4.76 record in 791.2 innings. Brame’s peak was during the 1929-30 seasons, which is one of the best stretches for offense in baseball history. He went 33-19 during that time, averaging 232.2 innings per year. By 1932, his big league career was over and he finished up with three minor league seasons.

Jimmy Burke, infielder for the 1901-02 Pirates. When the Pirates were busy having their best season in franchise history in 1902, winning their second straight NL title, Burke split his time between five positions, hitting .296 in 60 games. That was well above his career marks in seven years in the majors, as he finished his career with a .295 OBP and .289 slugging percentage.

Charles “Pop” Smith, middle infielder for the Alleghenys from 1885 until 1889. He spent five seasons of his 12-year career in Pittsburgh, splitting his time fairly evenly between shortstop and second base, though second base was his normal position for most of his career. Smith was a .222 career hitter with a little power, a little speed and solid defense. He hit .220 for the Alleghenys and scored 316 runs in 557 games.

Frank Ringo, catcher for the 1885-86 Alleghenys. As a teammate with Pop Smith, Ringo hit .209 over 18 games in Pittsburgh. He played for five teams over four seasons in the majors and was known as a heavy drinker, whose life came to a tragic ending when he ingested a lethal dose of morphine shortly before Opening Day in 1889.

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