Williams: Tanking

The Pirates don’t have a good team right now.

It’s been described as “A hodgepodge of nothingness.”

It’s very clear that the Pirates are tanking right now for anyone who has paid attention.

They’ve shown no effort the last few offseasons to upgrade the team short-term, and have focused on trading away their best short-term players. They’ve poured their focus into the draft and acquiring lower level players for their rebuild. They’ve spent very little on the MLB team in the process.

I wrote yesterday about how the Pirates need to get aggressive in free agency to start filling team needs. Right now, they’re relying on prospects to fill the gaps on the roster, and they don’t have their best prospects in the majors. The ones they do have in the majors are struggling to adjust, as is normal for prospects making their debut.

In yesterday’s article, I mentioned how the Baltimore Orioles are looking to significantly increase their payroll this year. Their plan is to be aggressive in free agency, and to target expensive contracts.

The Pirates took a similar approach under Neal Huntington in 2012 and 2013, the last time they entered into a contending run. They added the “expensive” A.J. Burnett from the Yankees, and got more aggressive in free agency with the additions of Russell Martin and Francisco Liriano.

Their free agent additions under Cherington haven’t been bad, but they’ve been mostly geared toward cheap value. The upside there is a Jose Quintana or Tyler Anderson starter who can complement a rotation. That clearly hasn’t been enough to get the Pirates out of the basement.

Granted, the Orioles are ahead of the Pirates in their current rebuild. The Orioles added their General Manager one year prior to the Pirates adding Ben Cherington. The change for Baltimore came after a 115 loss season although their following three years produced 108 and 110 loss seasons. They’ve clearly been tanking.

That hasn’t been the case this year.

The Orioles currently have a winning record, while thus far successfully transitioning 2019 first overall pick Adley Rutschman to the big leagues. They have a young roster that is producing a positive run differential, and it only makes sense to add in that situation.

The Pirates might be in for another tanking year, based on how things look right now.

As “hodgepodge of nothingness” as their roster seems, they do have talent. The problem is that the Pirates haven’t seen a Rutschman type debut. In fact, Rutschman would be the MVP on this Pirates team by fWAR, which is a sad comment for a roster sporting former top 100 prospects like Ke’Bryan Hayes, Oneil Cruz, Mitch Keller, and more.

This team has talent, but it’s still in the form of “potential talent” and not “current talent.”

The Pirates are mostly waiting for Cruz, Roansy Contreras, Jack Suwinski, and other prospects to fill important holes on this roster, while relying on Hayes and Keller type young veterans to step up and be the star players the Pirates need them to be.

There are a lot of “ifs” involved with the Pirates having a winning season next year. It’s disconcerting to see this team seemingly not care, with a total lack of hope coming from the resulting record. Especially when every bump or bruise to one of those above players seemingly puts this entire process at risk.

Unfortunately, this is what is to be expected when a team is clearly tanking.

Even more unfortunately, we’re going to have to wait to see if this tanking process will be worth it.

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ksogan

The Pirates should sell a number 43 tshirt with the name Peckersley on the back.

joesolo6181

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over an over again while expecting a different result. The Pirates are what they are, losers. they do little to improve their stock at the major league level. the Pirates keep tanking hoping they can get lucky in the draft, which prior experience shows they will not succeed in that area (see definition of insanity above). why do people go to the games? I wouldn’t go to watch them lose time and time again, year after year.
So the players like Shelton, is that reason to keep him. He like them are failures.

1979andCounting

The frustration around here is running high, which is great to see a lot of commenters venting! But I will remind all that this is what we signed up for. BC’s first trade was Sterling Marte for Peggy and Malone and $250K in IFA money. Both were 19 year olds. P2 authors (mostly) praised the trade. I was one who wanted something closer to MLB ready. But here we are when you load up on teen-agers, this is a buy and hold play. And you’re going to have to hold long-term, at least thru 2024 to see if BC and John Baker’s team can really grow any MLBers. We’re still only 2.5 years into this build.

The other part of the equation is F.A’s. It’s going to be an interesting winter……I’m bracing for not much, similar to this past winter. Keeping the bar low on expectations. I think BC and BN had an agreement coming in to give him 6 years.

adicesa14

I can’t recall whether it was Tim or one of the commenters that said only Bryan Reynolds is producing and even he is way off his former production. Moreover, it isn’t that the prospects are struggling. It’s that all the prospects are struggling. Nobody seems to be catching on. The hitters have no plate disciple or pitch recognition, and the pitchers lack command, some of them unable to throw a strike of any kind. As Yogi Berra said, “Don’t nobody here know how to play this game?
 
I’ve read on this site of the development problems of the prior administration. Well, it seems to me it hasn’t changed. How could most of the hitting prospects be left-handed? Didn’t anyone think that might be a problem? Against the Pirate’s, opponents pitch every left hander on their staffs so that these poor guys are overwhelmed before they get a chance to settle-in. Suwinski, Mitchell, and Cruz each degenerated given this circumstance. Currently, only Cruz remains in the majors, and he’s so overmatched he’s become a platoon player. What’s the sense of leaving him in the majors when you can’t play him every day. That’s not development.
 
I will say that of late Mitch Keller has looked quite good, and Roansy Contreras has been good when given an opportunity. So, it was disconcerting to see them pitch back-to-back poor games, probably because of my general funk regarding the team’s lack of progress.
 
Yes, it’s time to sign a good (at least decent) free agent this off-season. How about a right-handed first baseman? It would alleviate two current issues. Permanent solutions could wait a year or two.
 
I’m a loyal Pirate fan even though I haven’t lived in Pittsburgh for 30 years, but sometimes it’s hard not to turn away.

NMR

They’ve by no means demonstrated some elite level of player development, but I’m also not sure we can say development is actually failing because of the abhorrently terrible strategy they’ve decided to take.

Promoting prospects early in order to “finish” developing in the Show is the absolutely most retarded idea to come out of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 30 years I’ve been following this club.

This outcome was completely predictable. I’m just some jag on the internet and called it from the start.

Save for Cruz and Contreras, the prospects that’ve been promoted weren’t good to begin with.

They were willing to let another club take Cal Mitchell for free, and it shows why. Tucu, Castillo, Park, Castro, Suwinski….all carried upsides of bench bats.

Double down on that by promoting them with little upper level experience, and you end up with the club getting their teeth kicked in most nights.

I don’t know what other dev group could’ve done better under the circumstances.

emjayinTN

I can fully agree with what you are saying. However, watching AAAA guys between the ages of 25-35 playing sub 400 ball year after year is even harder for me to stomach. I’ll take Reynolds, Hayes, Delay and 6 Rookies in the lineup every night and be more satisfied, because those kids are mostly only 23 and need to learn.

We do not have “big brother” types who can take these kids under their wing and show them the path. Neither our AAAA’s or our Manager are much help, so these kids are pretty much on their own. That could be a benefit – minimize the number of AAAA’s down to 1 or 2 and turn the team over to the kids full time.

And, unload the present Manager and let the hometown kid who had to fight his way up to and into the majors show these kids how to handle themselves at this level.

skliesen

Here’s what irks me the most about this franchise: they repeat the same mistakes over and over again.

For example, the Pirates let Connelly, Huntington, and Hurdle go and said it was being done because players like Cole, Glasnow, Meadows and others play better after leaving Pirates organization. Yet, here we still are watching guys like Holmes, Marte, Musgrove, Bell, and many others perform better after being traded.

Instead of hiring, err, stealing bright young minds who are blazing the path of the modern game, they bring in guys who have failed in other organizations, like BC & Haines to name a couple. Is it any wonder guys who have failed in better organizations are languishing in a poorly run organization?

And lastly, they don’t hold management accountable for results. No way any Owner who cared about putting out a viable product would stand for the cumulative MLB record they’ve had the last 3 years, the abject failure of scoring runs the last 3 years, the inability of coaching up young players to succeed in MLB the last 3 years, and the inability to actually make contact when swinging the bat the last 3 years.

It’s disrespectful to players, other employees, corporate partners, other MLB teams, and most of all us fans, to allow for this type of performance to persist year after year, with no end in sight.

And this from a guy who default setting is pro-management.

Bucs'N'Pucks (Jeff Reed)

Issue I see in the Pirates mimicking the Orioles is the Pirates need more outside influence than the Orioles needed. Going into 2023 the Pirates will have as a rostered “core” of Reynolds, Hayes, Cruz, Roansy, then to a degree Brubaker and Keller.

The Orioles added Adley this season to an existing core that included Mullins, Hays, Mountcastle, and Santander. There was Mancini before being traded at deadline. They’re pitching was largely “hodge podge” especially after John Means went down for year.

Then with updated rankings and BA’s org ranking update today, the Orioles got a plethora of more high-end talent in upper levels just waiting to come through. Pirates have Burrows and Priester, but will mostly be waiting on A ball kids (who could be in upper minors by 2024 season and atop rankings) if they can’t get Nicky G, Tank, and Peggy to reverse course on recent struggles. There’s Endy too. Which itself could be a blessing as he just about already has as much upper level experience as Tank. So then BOOM, we got our future 1B.

NMR

This practice is so inarguably awful for the game of baseball, awful for fans, that I truly hope when it fails they’ll reconsider next steps.

What possible result short of multiple world series appearances would make this worth it?

Intentionally sucking for five years at a time…how many do we have left to see while we’re on this earth?

clemo83

Its so awful. Two years max, with one being Covid year, was enough. I don’t even think our prospect list is that great. Cherington’s been downright bad, save for 2021 draft. Really not much to show for this, just more pain for us fans. Here’s our new team flag…

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Last edited 1 month ago by clemo83
skliesen

5 years? When did you become an optimist?

ArkyWags

It’s soul sucking. The recent sacking of Avila in Detroit and Daniels in Texas makes me think that a regime is really only in danger when it is coming out of a rebuild, spends big, and falls flat. Which makes me even more depressed, because Pgh ain’t ever gonna spend even half of that. So BC is here for at least another half decade.

Also, and maybe I’m splitting hairs here, but I find some of the rebuilds (Detroit/Baltimore/Texas/Philly) are coming from a different place. All four of those teams spent large and traded futures for nows to keep their windows open. The further we get from 2015, the more I think that was just lightning in a bottle. It was just dumb effing luck.

NMR

Time and place…the entire MLB landscape in 2008 was unrecognizable to now.

Huntington was an early adopter of even now what’s considered “dumb” analytics/team building practices and the opportunities for undervalued assets were enormous.

The rest of the league caught up, and it’s been nearly impossible to find the same kind of leverage since.

Like you’re pointing out, far more tank/rebuilds fail at this point than succeed. Chgerington is playing the hits from 10 years ago.

It’s time to find a new path.

AttyMike

Its not tanking. Its not caring. At all. Like no organizational expectations for success on the ball field. Its a money laundering scheme plain an simple. The look on Nutting’s face when he took that picture with the kid in the sell the team t-shirt says everything about the organization – clueless buffoonery. “Their free agent additions under Cherington haven’t been bad . . ” They have been bad. Anderson and Quintana were wastes of money. They got nothing of value in return for either of them. More jabrones. Beyond that its a bunch of worse than usual dumpster finds. Frankly I wonder why they even bother to sign anyone. Its not like PR or even self-respect matters to them. Why in the world they ever hired Shelton is beyond me. Why not just hire me? I’d cost half as much and get you the same results. Seriously. I wouldn’t be embarrassed nor would they with that decision. I could do a fantasy baseball style draft and probably do just as well as Cherington. His results thus far stink. He’d have a tough time beating “dumb luck” as a benchmark for performance. I’m sure they’ve convinced themselves that they’re doing a great job – just like Huntingdon surely did. They are no in touch with reality. Or their fans for whom they only have disdain.

piratemike

I don’t read articles about minor league players anymore, I only read discussion type articles now like this one.
Don’t get me wrong I understand why others are interested in reading and following those players and teams because I did for years myself.
Now, I’m only interested when a player reaches the majors.
I know a little about most of the players because of the headlines of the articles about them but I’m no longer interested if a guy gets a hit in an “A” ball game.
It’s probably due to my age but this never- ending awfulness also has a lot to do with it.

hoptown

I truly don’t understand what the front office is doing. To me, “tanking” implies losing on purpose for draft position or while they tear down the MLB roster. But I don’t think they’re doing that. That was the last 2 years while trading Bell, Taillon, Frazier, etc.

This year should be about playing YOUNG PROSPECTS, win or lose. The amount of ABs, IPs, and roster time they’ve given to Tsutsugo, Chang, Van0fer, Allen, Marisnick, and the bullpen waiver wire fodder are unexplainable.

We should have seen more of Mitchell, Swaggerty, Castro, Marcano, Park. We have yet to see Bolton. Contreras was held down for absolutely silly reasons. Super 2 is not a major factor for him. He’s not Ronald Acuna.

The catchers have been an absolute mess. Any competent GM could have done better than this. And even if you’re tanking putting non-laughingstock players on the field can happen.

Lastly, nearly every move has alienated their fans. Their fan base is tenuous. And you don’t make moves “for the fans”. But you DO make moves that are sensible where fans will say, “I understand that”. And give them some reason to tune in or come to games. Simply trading a nothing prospect for someone’s backup catcher would be a start.

The team they are fielding is disrespectful and unexplainable to anyone who supports the team.

ArkyWags

All those prospects are guys who hadn’t come close to lighting up levels that warranted playing time. Aside from Ro, they’re fringe prospects, not yet ready, or both.

Catch_22

It’s honestly to the point of not wanting to be in these rooms. It’s the same topic everyday, with the same 15 posters. They’re not living in reality.

Cal Mitchell -0.8 fWAR
Bligh Madris -0.6
Park -0.4
Swaggerty -0.2
Castillo -0.2
Castro 0.0
Marcano 0.5 (propped up by unsustainable defense. 24% below league average bat)

Do you really want to see more of this sh*t? Eck was 100% right and it needed to be said. This is a joke. These dudes are a hodge podge of nothingness.

Last edited 1 month ago by Catch_22
roberto

Fair enough. Just remember that Roberto Clemente posted a negative fWAR in his rookie season. The challenge is to ID the players with potential. Few players have Al Oliver careers: good followed by better.

ArkyWags

I’m not sure the right lesson of Catch’s comment is to invoke Clemente. As I’ve said repeatedly all of those guys are fringe players. The only way they stick is if they hit immediately and try not to go under when the league adjusts.

NMR

This is precisely what we’re asking.

NOT to promote the entire f*cking AAA club.

Last edited 1 month ago by NMR
endofline

This year has been frustrating because it’s starting to look like this rebuild is in jeopardy. There are no clear future all star caliber players that will lead this team back to the post season.

Hays , Cruz, Keller were supposed to develop into those leaders but they are starting to look like they pretty average overall players. Some talent there but some significant flaws the will keep them in mediocrity.

None of the lottery ticket pickups have come through and the 2nd layer of prospects like Suwinski, Brubaker, etc looks like they will be of little use on a contender. Even our one sure thing in Reynolds has taken a bit of a step back.

I have been becoming less confident by the day with our prospects in the minor leagues.

It looks like another lost decade of Pirates baseball is quickly approaching us

buccobrach2

This article should not be called “Tanking” it should be called “Sucking”. This organization as a whole has failed miserably at winning. They might be succeeding in something like making the community a better place to live with charity, but seriously, that is wonderful, but if they won, and put a good product on the field there charity monies would increase 10 fold. I’m not giving them the any benefit of the doubt and masking the truly what’s going on, tanking is giving them a pass and justifying losing. They just SUCK!!! THE ONLY OTHER JOB YOU CAN BE WRONG IN AND FAIL THIS MUCH AND NOT BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR LONG PERIODS OF TIME LIKE THIS IS BEING A WEATHER PERSON LOL.

SufferinBuccotash

Should we start calling the Pirates dugout the Hodge Podge Lodge????

James_Robert5

“ In fact, Rutschman would be the MVP on this Pirates team by fWAR, which is a sad comment for a roster sporting former top 100 prospects like Ke’Bryan Hayes, Oneil Cruz, Mitch Keller, and more.”

Is that the same Rutschman who might be the best player in MLB?

leefieux

We knew they were going to be terrible this year. What we didn’t know was that most of our top prospects would take a step back. Only Endy and Quinn offer some hope for mid or late 2023. And we KNOW that Nutting ain’t gonna spend on some expensive vets just to get us to .500. Cherington has been awful to date.

ArkyWags

Keep in mind that just because some prospects took steps back this year doesn’t mean they’ll continue to do so in 2023. They may break out in a good way. Prospect development isn’t linear.

AttyMike

When your development results are crappy, you say “development isn’t linear.”

leefieux

And they may not. Glass half full or empty?

ArkyWags

No, they may not. Prospects fail more than they succeed. But you’re acting as if a rough season negates any improvements they can make after this season. That’s not how it works.

leefieux

No, I am acting as if this happens all the time, historically for the Bucs. If our prospects were ‘hitting’ historically, we’d have more than 11 winning seasons in the last 40+ years.

piratemike

11? WOW that many, they’re on a roll.

Cobra

Maybe No-Man’s Land wasn’t such a bad destination after all

MB21

I always did like Dennis Eckersley. After he conquered his alcohol problems, he was some kind of pitcher. I appreciate someone who can tell the truth about this Pirate team – even if it is from the booth of one of the richest organizations in baseball.

b mcferren

me too – he seems as high of caliber as Bob Walk in the booth

Cape Cod Sean

That took playing the lowly pirates just to get to .500 and who are dead last in their own division.

Anthony

… while also spending $207M to do so lol

ArkyWags

I always laugh when Bucs fans engage in what-about-ism with other franchises in an effort to feel better.

clemo83

If a Pirate fan finds anything that makes him feel better, I’m all for it. Poor guy has suffered enough…

docdon385

Tanking implies they are doing this intentionally to get a better draft pick. Perhaps that’s the case even though with the lottery nothing is guaranteed anymore. It might at least explain why Cherington has kept a group of clearly inferior veteran players on the roster even after the trading deadline.

Could there be other reasons he’s allowed guys who not just hit below the Mendoza line but under half of that line to remain in Pittsburgh? Does he just want to keep Indy and Altoona competitive? Does he really believe you can ruin a prospect by letting him see what playing in the majors is like?

I agree with those who say this season has been especially disappointing not only because there has been very little progress at the major league level but because they haven’t even seriously tried to make any. It’s just more of the same night after night and when Cherington does appear all he does is spout more of the same tired platitudes and talk about all of the prospects he’s brought in. His bosses, Nutting and Williams, never show their faces at all, which is understandable given neither of them know anything about baseball except that it rakes in money for doing nothing.

I think my question is are they really tanking or do they just not care? Tanking might be defensible but not caring is inexcusable. The more I watch this organization the more I fear it’s the latter.

AttyMike

What long term financial planning? If you think they’re saving up to spend at some point in the “it never gets here” future, you’re smoking something. They’d like you to believe that but its totally false.

ArkyWags

If by long term financial planning you mean “I’m gonna slash payroll like hell, and if the team gets talented, I’ll fork over some money to make it look good, but nowhere near enough to extend the competitive window beyond 3 seasons max,” then yeah. That’s right.

TNBucs

I wish I believed that Nutting is saving up to spend in the next few years. I hope that’s the case, but I won’t believe it until it happens.

roberto

BC didn’t need a job. He wouldn’t have taken this one absent a promise to spend.

ArkyWags

Cause owners NEVER change their mind on spending for talent.

NMR

I’ve got some beachfront property in Allegheny County to sell you.

AdministrativeSky236

My gut tells me this is true, even if spend is just 100mil or so. My brain says dont set yourself up for disappointment with expectations lol

TNBucs

It is all relative. Nutting can say he did spend in 2013-2015, though he then quickly cut costs after that to close the window. And even when he spent, it was primarily taking on contracts at the deadline without long-term commitments. Even then our big FA signings were players like Liriano, who worked out remarkably well but was not exactly the kind of “big signing” that some think is implied by Cherington’s comment that he’s been assured the money will be there. So yes, I think payroll will go up. But will it go up to the range of what teams like the Brewers are spending to become and remain competitive? I’ll believe it when I see it.

TNBucs

Yeah, I don’t like when people write things off as tanking because it allows Cherington and Shelton to avoid accountability. What if Cherington brought in guys like Chavis, VanMeter, and Gamel, and Shelton plays them, not because they’re trying to get a better draft position but because they really believe these guys are starting-caliber players?

If they are tanking, though, then something is wrong if we can have a top 3 farm system (i.e., talent is there) and this management team thinks it’s appropriate to tank in year three of their terms.

Tanking would show they really don’t care about the fans; not tanking but playing as bad as we’ve been playing would show they’re just not good at their jobs.

AttyMike

I might be mistaken but every team passed on VanMeter this year. Other than the Pirates of course. Same with Arsenic.

emjayinTN

Chavis, VanMeter, Allen, Gamel, ‘Sugo, Marisnick, and even Newman are supplemental ballplayers at best, but the Pirates get them cheap and play them as if they were the very building blocks of the future. None of the other 29 teams even wanted any of them at the trade deadline.

We knew 2022 was a loss from day one, but many of us thought that after the trading deadline passed, we would see many of the pretenders DFA’d and more of the prospects getting frontline PT at the MLB level.

roberto

I repeat, which prospects are ready?

James_Robert5

Endy?

clemo83

Just go get the #1 pick. Currently in 4th. I don’t want to pick 4th again. 7.5 games back, its unlikely but possible. 3.5 games from the #2 pick.

Last edited 1 month ago by clemo83
AdministrativeSky236

It’s a lottery this year, so cant just have the worst record and guarantee we get the pick

ArkyWags

Does anyone know when the lottery drawing is? End of season? During the hot stove league?

zebug

Is there really much of a difference between pick #1 and pick #5 in the MLB Draft? They are all a crap shoot. I guess the biggest difference is just in the overall draft capital they are allotted.

clemo83

Well, we gotta at least get to #3 to maximize our chances

Last edited 1 month ago by clemo83
SBRO

This season has been frustrating at a level I don’t think I remember.

RAS TN

It would take a huge outlay of monies this offseason for the Pirates to even smell a winning season in 2023…see you all in 2025 maybe by then the prospects have paid their dues and are showing they belong in the major leagues…

SBRO

And it would be worth every penny spent to not have to look up at the Cubs and Reds in the standings. You know, putting an interesting product on the field still counts for something. Creating a culture of accountability and intention. If they spend $50M to upgrade the roster and wind up 79-83, that’s a hell of a lot better than pocketing the money and watching another 65-97 season on top of the last 4.

mpg43952

You take it on faith, you take it to heart, the waiting is the hardest part. Damn the torpedoes!

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