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Where the Pirates Truly Went Off the Rails

Bye, guys.
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It’s almost impossible to have an honest conversation about the Pirates again. During the twenty years of losing, you could occasionally find some honest chatter in some dark alley or hidden corner of the city where fans objectively critiqued and praised the Pirates organization outside of the same stale, relatively uninsightful groupthink that only allowed for talk of ownership not keeping their players or the unfairness of the current economic realities of baseball. We’re right back where we started and Pirates fans interested in process have to live a solitary existence once more. Lack of a signature player acquisition and the Pirates unwillingness to spend the at most $20-$25 million a season the front office could have spent the last two years provided all the evidence for the “screw the Pirates” type arguments to take over.

In the end, the Pirates hedged on the philosophy that they could sustain winning beyond their first competitive window in two decades. They selected a conservative approach to both trading prospects and taking on contracts that could hinder financial flexibility down the road. That’s not to say that the philosophy couldn’t work, but a lot of pieces would have had to fall into place for it to succeed. In truth, as much went wrong as it went right.  In this case, they couldn’t keep the competitiveness going.

With the benefit of hindsight, it’s difficult to argue that they shouldn’t have gone all in for a run in 2016, but I don’t know how obvious it was that the window was closing back then. Certainly, there were some signs. However, if you consider where they actually were, I get why they didn’t.  If you win 94, 88, or 98 games in the a 162 game regular season sample size you have a good shot to win a play in, a best of five and two best of seven series. Those teams were already really good. Sure, each team had flaws, but every team has flaws. I hear the jeer that the Pirates failed to improve on a 98 win team, but winning 98 games suggests to me that you don’t need to make a lot of changes. They returned a lineup that had three players capable of a starlike 5 WAR season (Andrew McCutchen, Josh Harrison, Jung-Ho “What’s the Korean Uber Called” Kang) and one with perceived star upside in Gregory Polanco. You also have two players with an above average track record in Starling Marte and Francisco Cervelli. That along with a rotation that looked strong at the top with some questions at the third spot, it didn’t seem that outlandish to think the Pirates would find their way back to the postseason.

There are no guarantees in baseball and only one team ends their season with a parade. Plenty of teams that win the trade deadline or offseason fall short. Without question the Dodgers killed the trade deadline but came up short against the Astros. Washington won the offseason in 2015, missed the playoffs and hasn’t won a divisional series in their 2016 and 2017 post season appearances. With a ton of money tied into Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, the Nats likely won’t have the capacity to sign Bryce Harper after this season. While the philosophy of trying to extend a window failed for the Pirates this time around, it’s no more flawed an approach than going to the gust and falling short.

Back to the question at hand, what went wrong for the Pirates? It’s not as simple as they didn’t sign a star pitcher and the truth is they likely didn’t have the capacity to trade or spend their way out of the issues that developed.

I’ve been meaning to write a full article on player performance drop off being the primary cause of the Pirates struggles in 2016 and 2017, but I suppose I’ll include it here. My premise is pretty simple. Key players to the first window failed to maintain their performances from 2014 and 15 into 2016 and 17. See the chart below.

Two year fWAR Avg 2014 – 15 2016-17
Andrew McCutchen 6.1 2.2
Josh Harrison 3.1 2.0
Starling Marte 3.9 1.6
Gerrit Cole 3.9 2.8
Francisco Liriano* 2.8 0.7
Francisco Cervelli ** 2.5 1.3
* 2017 with Toronto
** 2014 with NYY

 

I took six key players with some tenure on the club and compared their two year fWAR average between competitive seasons and relatively non-competitive seasons.  These are some pretty significant drops with with four of the six being roughly half as productive. Assuming $8 million per WAR, the Pirates would have had to roughly double their payroll to overcome the loss of productivity.  That’s without considering Mr. Kang’s wild ride. A huge factor of the Pirates inability to keep their window open revolves around the players who opened it falling off before the next wave even had much of a shot to factor.

In theory, the second wave should have had a few transitional players who would have started their major league career at the tail end of the first window and carried it into the second. Polanco, Jameson Taillon and to a lesser extent Josh Bell were the keys and all have developed more slowly than desired. Polanco failed to live up to his star potential and Taillon has had to deal with major health issues two of the last three seasons that delayed his potential impact. Really, the Pirates should have had more time with Cole and Taillon in the rotation together. The second wave did get a chance to establish itself last year. Bell’s counting stats looked good in 2017, even if the advanced numbers left something to be desired. There are also some pleasant surprises like Trevor Williams and Chad Kuhl showing some middle of the rotation upside. Problem is, the two guys with potential star power that should have established themselves last year, Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows, took steps back. I see a lot of average players in the next core, including the recently acquired Colin Moran, but not anyone who can elevate them to the next level.

Some of the failure of players to develop into stars is just the luck of the draw or natural attrition, but a lot of it has to do with the Pirates shift toward low upside, “safe” picks in the draft as they began selecting in the back half of the first round of the draft. We’ve spent enough word count at TPOP on this subject that I don’t need to elaborate, but they nabbed a lot of average at best types before thankfully shifting back towards a more aggressive draft style last year.

Prospects fail, as Kevin and I routinely point out. For me, you can respond to this insight about attrition in two logical camps. First, prospects fail so you should use them as assets to acquire major league talent to supplement your roster. Kevin tends to fall in line with this approach. On the other hand, I tend to think that prospects fail so you ought to horde them. Most people would put the Pirates squarely on my side of the arguments but while they coveted their top prospects, they tended to recklessly dump C or low C+ level guys at will for AAAA garbage. I could rattle of ten trades that fit this bill and though most ended with little to no damage, none resulted in much value add at the major league level either. Off the top of my head I can think of four farmhands dumped for peanuts who reached the majors. A couple of them, Brock Holt and Keon Broxton, could have changed the way the Pirates approached other moves. If Holt puts up the same 2014 in Pittsburgh as he did in Boston, could the front office have moved Neil Walker a year earlier when his trade value was higher? If Broxton posts a 2.1 fWAR in limited duty with the Pirates, do they nab a greater haul for Cutch in fall of 2016? If you’re going to covet your prospects, covet all of them.

I’m also not sure if they Pirates were committed to buying and selling at the same time outside of their bullpen arms. I think they held on to some vets to too long and I’ve already mentioned two, Walker and McCutchen, though unfortunately there wasn’t an immediate replacement for either in place sooner. I also think they could have moved Jason Grilli and to a lesser extent Jeff Locke earlier for some value. In truth, I think they should consider trading anyone on the roster now with less than two years of team control. I’d even consider moving Felipe Rivero as he might be the only player capable of returning star power.

At the end of the day, “going for it” would have been a token gesture of commitment to a generally uncommitted fanbase. They had a good enough team during the peak run from 2013-15 where all they needed was to supplement the core or tweak some things. They didn’t need to make a splash move and making one may not have changed the course of a single season.  Veterans falling off and lower ceiling second wavers have taken longer to get to the majors and to get established. Bizarre trades of midlevel prospects cost the Pirates some major league decisions. In the end, it was a few factors beyond Nutting is cheap that have them heading towards a rebuild. It’s clear that Neal Huntington will get another crack at fixing the team. Will he follow the same conservative course to open the perpetual window if they return to competitiveness or will they try to make a bigger splash the next time? Only time will tell, but I’ll need to find the new fringes of Pittsburgh conversation to talk about it until it does.

Steve is a naturalized yinzer hailing originally from just north of Allentown, PA. He came to Pittsburgh to attend Duquesne University and decided to stick around after graduation. Steve is best known for his contributions to Duquesne hoops community as the owner of the Duquesne Dukes forum on Yuku and as the former editor of We Wear the Ring on the Fansided network. He is an avid Pirates fan, home cook and policy nerd. He is the co-founder of the Point of Pittsburgh. Easily irritated by people who misuse the word regress.

55 Comments on Where the Pirates Truly Went Off the Rails

  1. Good stuff!

  2. “Plenty of teams that win the trade deadline or offseason fall short.”

    Terrible argument….you don’t need to “win” the trade deadline or offseason, that is true. But you do need make significant improvements to your team. The Pirates not only did not win on these occasions, they didn’t really even try. You could easily argue that they “came in last place” in the offseason following the 2015 season. They wanted to cheap their way into the WS. It just doesn’t work that way. They were/are simply too tight with money and finances.

    “They didn’t need to make a splash move and making one may not have changed the course of a single season.”

    Tell that to Houston. And the year before, tell it to KC. We have no idea whether making a splash move would have changed the course of a single season, true. What we do know? The Pirates did not make any splash moves, and they also did not win a division title or playoff series during their window. So….you’re saying they didn’t need to make a splash move (and thus attempt to significantly improve the team) because the one and done wild card results and lack of playoff series wins impressed you so much?

    I could go on and on…this is too easy!

    • and…by the way, the lines I reference above are just two of the standard, boilerplate Neil Huntington talking points repeatedly used to justify their failures. Coincidence that you also use them, and many more in this article?

      However, these excuses simply do not absolve the organization from not making significant upgrades during the window of opportunity that you mention.

    • Steve DiMiceli // February 5, 2018 at 10:53 PM // Reply

      Jim,

      To your two points.

      1) You’re calling an argument where I could easily provide multiple examples to support every season terrible and offering one that I only need to find one counter example regarding your statement that teams DO need to make a major move (the 2014 Giants).

      2) I’m not saying that one and done is good enough. I’m saying that if you’re good enough to win 98 or 94 or 88 games you’re good enough to win a one, five or seven game series. The Pirates didn’t win a playoff series sure, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t capable as they were composed.

      • Wasting your breath (or typing fingers) with that one.

      • Steve, the teams that win it all have at least mid level mlb payrolls. The Pirates simply did not do enough to exploit their window of opportunity when they had both the prospects and the profits available to do so.

        Naming the Giants as an example of a team that could have raised payroll to take them to the next level in 2014 is completely missing the point. The Giants already had the talent and the payroll to win it all, and they did.

      • Just looked it up Steve. Giants payroll in 2014 was 7th in Major League Baseball. Pirates payroll in 2014 was 27th.

        • Steve DiMiceli // February 6, 2018 at 10:44 PM // Reply

          Just wanted to note that you changed the conversation from big acquisitions to payroll. Giants spent more, sure. In the end, the Royals, Cubs and Astros only started the season $25-30 million ahead of the Pirates. Is that a difference maker for the Bucs? In 2015, I don’t know.In 2016 and 2017, it was just over a quarter of what they needed to spend to make up for the production decline from their core. Again though, the Pirates were capable of winning with the money they spent. They didn’t win it all, but they were good enough to win in 2013-15. I would argue they had the talent even if they didn’t have the payroll. In the end, I think you’re using a consequence (the Pirates didn’t win) to affirm an antecedent (the Pirates didn’t spend enough to win / the Pirates didn’t make a big enough splash to win).

          • Steve…you don’t seem to understand what I’m saying. First, YES….$25-30 could very well have been the difference maker (you mention “at the start of the season”). Do even realize what an impact arm in the starting rotation can do for a team? If the Pirates had a Lester, or a Verlander, or a Greinke (just to name a few) signed to a 4 or 5 year contract, they would still be competing today! Are you serious??

            Yes, they were that close during their window to winning a division, to making it past the wild card game, etc…but they chose not to give up the prospects, not to pay out from their massive profits.

            Teams are now using the exact template to win it all that I am describing. KC is an example from 2 years ago. Last year, Houston simply does not even sniff the WS without Verlander.

            This offseason, after winning the WS, Houston is not standing pat, like the one and done Pirates did. Not content with you silly idea that good is good enough, Houston continues to make moves to get better. And you seem to think that there is a problem with getting better? The Pirates were so good in your opinion that they didn’t need to get better? You think they did not have the means to get better?

            Steve….what exactly is your point?

          • Bob Stover // February 7, 2018 at 11:25 AM //

            Exactly so. When you run a small market team, you have to draft and develop, or trade for other team’s prospects to develop, and then supplement the roster with inexpensive free agents who might need a one year deal because they’re coming off a down year or a year lost to injury, etc. At the trade deadline, if you’re in contention, or within reasonable striking distance of the playoffs, (usually plus or minus 3.5 games), then you can add an impact player by trading for a rental or two who will soon be a free agent(s). Just throwing money at a problem won’t solve the problem unless you have Yankees or Dodgers or Red Sox kind of money to do that with.

          • By the way…I didn’t change the conversation. Impact players and payroll are generally correlated. This is the exact reason the Pirates didn’t pick up impact player(s) during their window. Surprised you don’t know that!

          • OMG…caught in a Nutter sandwich between Steve and “butthole” Bob.

            You guys can just stay on the Jolly Roger and drink your kool-aid. Captain Nutter will take care of you. Never mind that the ship is nearly sunk.

            Glug, glug, glug…….

          • By the way, Steve….I am just having a bit of fun with this and I respect that you simply have a different view of things. As it pertains to you, just joshing with the “Nutter” stuff. (although, you do have Nutter tendencies….sorry, it’s true).

  3. I’ve been thinking some of the same things as you wrote. Not that the players didn’t try hard enough, just that Kang’s troubles, Marte’s PED’s, and Cole’s and McCutchen’s “less than hoped” potential were the main causes for falling short and were too much to overcome. I’m glad to see I’m not alone in my perspective. I also remember reports of the players telling management (paraphrasing) “we got this, we don’t need anyone else.” I also remember management trying to go after players they weren’t able to get. Why doesn’t mainstream reporting mention this?

  4. Kevin Schafer // February 5, 2018 at 7:38 PM // Reply

    Can’t wait to see what the excuse making will be at the end of next season.

  5. Jim k=uninsightful groupthink. Good trade additions at deadline
    Justin Morneau, j.a.happ, marlon Byrd, wandy Rodriquez, Ivan nova, Kyle Farnsworth, a.j. Burnett, Sean rodriguez….I could go on and on. Thank you for this sensible and intelligent article!

    • Josh G…none of those guys were high impact pickups that would require some pain on the part of the Pirates in terms of high prospects or monetary outlays. None of those guys helped us win a division. None of those guys helped us win a playoff series. Would a high impact player have helped us do so? Who knows. However, such high impact players have helped recent WS champs (Houston and KC). We tried to win on the cheap. We didn’t.

      No one wanted Morneau, or Happ. Happ, by the way, was picked up on the cheap to replace Burnett who went down with an injury that year. They lucked out with him and he did successfully replace Burnett (however, they needed an additional starter that year…and not just a replacement for Burnett!). Morneau was a BUST with the Pirates.

      Kyle Farnsworth? Seriously!

      Ivan Nova is a Nothingburger. He’s a 3rd starter type pitcher making 3rd starter type money. He hasn’t helped the Pirates to anything. Your point?

      Likewise, hot and cold Rodriguez…definitely low impact. Can we even get anyone to take him off our hands. Terrible player.

      I could go on and on. Bottom line…the Pirates deal with low impact players to supplement their core when they reach that once in every 10 year window of opportunity. However, a good organization takes the payroll up and even gives up key prospects to go “all-in” under such circumstances. The Pirates did not do so. And the players that you mentioned were simply not enough to take them over the top during their window. Now can we at least agree to those facts?

    • By the way, Josh….I like to offer the following link from a national publication for educational purposes. Hope this helps you.

      https://www.si.com/mlb/2018/01/16/pittsburgh-pirates-andrew-mccutchen-gerrit-cole-bob-nutting

      • I really don’t care what national publication that article appeared in, it’s nothing more than an op-ed piece. Opinions, like buttholes, all stink and we all have one.

    • One correction…Nova is more like a 4th starter, making 4th starter money. Would he even crack the top 5 on a good pitching staff?

      And you use him as evidence that the Pirates make good moves?

  6. I read that article. It should be from the national enquired. Nova was 5-2 3.06 era after the trade. Burnett was middle to top of rotation starter entire time here. Happ 7-2 1.85 era after trade. Blanton 5-2 1.85 era. Russell Martin…was he a free agent? You are not making a good case for yourself…I have evidence. You have uninformed talking points that are not backed by anything other than a crappy sports illustrated article.

    • Josh all the evidence you need to know is that the Pirates did not do enough to provide for those teams during their window of opportunity. None of those guys helped us win a division. None of those guys helped us win a playoff series. Meanwhile, payroll has always been in the lower third of Major League Baseball. Much more could and should have been done to exploit their window of opportunity. They had the means to do so both in terms of prospects and in terms of payroll. Teams that win the World Series always, and I mean always have at least mid-level payrolls. And as evidence suggests more and more, the teams that win it all go all in, strike while the iron is hot, and go for the big fish during the trade deadlines.

      That’s a clear cut open and close case my friend. You really have no argument at all.
      All you have is hot air.

  7. Jim Monteleone // February 6, 2018 at 12:12 PM // Reply

    Frank Coonelly, what is his role in this mess ?

    • Kevin Creagh // February 6, 2018 at 1:15 PM // Reply

      He has a small share, but it’s minimal. He’s not a President of Baseball Ops in the same manner as a Theo Epstein in Chicago. He’s an “old fashioned” president that courts corporate sponsorships, represents the Pirates for MLB at high-level meetings, negotiates things like the next TV deal and other media deals.

      He has nothing to do with selecting players and he doesn’t set payroll.

    • It is indeed a mess. And to answer your question, he quite simply is just the guy who spikes the Kool-Aid with booze.

    • Roger Odisio // February 11, 2018 at 6:53 PM // Reply

      Let’s take a longer view than just the window the Pirates had. What the Cutch and Cole trades tell us, above all, is that they will not pay for their own stars when the time comes. We knew that didn’t we? We knew all along they were going to trade them rather than resign them.

      And of course they never will sign elite FAs. Adding those two points together–no elite FAs, don’t pay for own stars once they cost something close to their worth–means they *never* will contend for a WS, absent a fluke or two, as long as the Nutter has control. That;s the problem.

      • The fallacy of your argument should be apparent. Cutch had signed a team friendly contract extension that already kept him here through his arbitration years and his first year of free agency. So, the Pirates did pay to keep their own with Cutch. Cutch was traded because his skills are in decline and he would be an overpay as a free agent.

        Cole on the other hand was traded because he was never interested in or committed to anything other than testing the free agent market. He was traded a year earlier than absolutely necessary, but let’s face it, his 2016 and 2017 seasons were huge disappointments. It’s not like he was a healthy, dependable #1 starter like Quintana. The comparisons of the Cole deal to the Q deal are nothing more than wishful thinking for the folks with Nutting on the Brain disease.

        • Signing Cutch thru *one* year of FA does not=paying to keep their own. Quite the opposite. In doing so, they reaped millions and millions in surplus value. Last year alone he was still a 3.7 win (.847 OPS) player–i.e., worth about $33 million–while making $14 million. He’ll be 31 this year.

          He was great. He’s still good. In this FA market he could easily produce enough value to be worth what he will be paid. But to Nutting it was time to cut him loose and look for the next young talent to exploit. That’s the heart of the problem.

          You’re confused. I never mentioned Quintana (I’d rather have Cole, btw)

          Nice that you can read Cole’s mind. It is probably true that Cole was not interested in staying in Pittsburgh. But I’m guessing the main reason was because he could see what I see. The Pirates aren’t interested in winning and in particular will not pay their players.

  8. Excellent article, Steve. I forget the year the Bucs we’re pursuing David Price at the deadline, but multiple sources said they had the best package on the table. Rays preferred MLB ready prospects over the youngsters the Pirates were offering, which was a theme of that deadline. Sometimes you just can’t win.

    Really pleased to read you think Huntington will get another crack at putting a Bucs team over the top because your opinions seem thoughtful

  9. It’s convenient that you ignored the mess created in the rotation after winning 98 games. Yes, Liriano fell off but expecting Niese, Vogelsong and Nicasio to be part of a playoff caliber rotation was simply asinine. That’s not really hindsight as it was probably the majority opinion at the time.

    Last year’s team was projected to finish around .500 at best and that was before any Marte/Kang issues. The last two seasons have had piss poor roster construction and the results speak for themselves. As they will this year…

    • Steve DiMiceli // February 6, 2018 at 11:25 PM // Reply

      I didn’t ignore it at all. I noted that there were issues at the third spot in the rotation. I did think Niese would end up a good 4 and I thought Locke was a decent five at the time based on their track records. I thought Vogelsong would be an acceptable place holder until Taillon and Glasnow passed their super 2 dates. In the end, I may have understated the issue with the back half oto start that season where they had a 4,5,6 in a very good rotation cast as a 3,4,5 in what I thought was a slightly better than average rotation that had a chance to get better with internal improvements. I didn’t think they’d win the division, but I thought it could at least carry them until the calvary arrived in June.

      If i have an issue with this years roster construction. it’s that there is a clear need to rebuild and there are a number of trade-able pieces still on the roster that should be jettisoned. If a player is not going to be around past 2019, get whatever you can for him, IMO.

      • Well if you thought that rotation would suffice and your plan was to lean on rookies then you really can’t complain about everyone else that thought your plan sucked. Losing AJ and Happ were big losses. We needed to replace them without giving up walker and we needed to lose Locke as well – not sign another one in Voglesong.

        Honestly I don’t think this is debatable. You were dead wrong and many said so at the time. And now you complain that Pirate fans really don’t have any reason to be upset at how the FO handled the last two seasons?

      • Not to be too negatory, but why are we still debating what happened in 2016? We can speculate endlessly about what the Pirates might have accomplished if only they had spent more money, but that’s all it is, speculation. Since we’ll never get to replay the 2016 season, it just gets tedious with people still complaining about it two seasons later.

    • JPksu….these guys only want to mention the trash heap pick ups that worked out, not the countless lame low budget moves that substantially hampered the team from progressing.

      The Pirates have indeed made a lot of moves (some worked out, many more failed to work out), but none involving the kind of impact players that they needed during their window of opportunity. They had the prospects and the profits to make such moves, but did not do so.

      There are so many articles out their now, both locally and nationally, in support of this. Please google and you will find them. The Nutters at this website are closed minded to these facts.

  10. Ron Leighton // February 6, 2018 at 10:15 PM // Reply

    I agree with JPKSU above about the rotation. Losing Burnett, Morton and Happ and not replacing any of them adequately was just as big if not bigger failure than the decline of Cutch and Cervelli. Also Marte’s had a better season in 2016 than in 2015 (although he played fewer games).

    • Kevin Creagh // February 7, 2018 at 7:54 AM // Reply

      There is not a single person that was upset that Charlie Morton was traded to the Phillies (he was there prior to signing with the Astros). That’s just revisionist history. His contract was a true, absolute salary dump on the Phillies.

      • Ron Leighton // February 7, 2018 at 7:58 AM // Reply

        My point was not that Morton was gone but that rotation was weakened. Issue is management choices had at least if not more impact on decline as player performance

    • Ron…losing key players and replacing them with low budget question marks is indeed not the template for success.

      These guys will simply skirt the issue by going off on tangents (no…this is far from just about Charlie Morton) and avoiding the uncomfortable truth of the matter.

      • Jim K…if the pirates traded their “prospects” every time you think they should have, they would be in a worse predicament than they are now. Taillon, Glasnow, Bell, Polanco, Frazier would all probably be gone, and a narrative following lemming like yourself would be screaming that the pirates are saddled with all of these past their prime, expensive players in their mid-late 30’s who stink. You cant have it both ways. Either you build your team with young talent and sustain your window…or you empty the farm and stink for the next 6 years. Your beloved royals are preparing to enter a dark time where they will pay the piper and lose 100 games for quite a while. I don’t blame the pirates for holding on to prospects. It is not cheap….it is smart. Those budget signings and reclamation projects are not cheap…they are smart. If you had any grasp of the economics of baseball, other than a shallow sports illustrated article you would understand that’s how the pirates have to conduct business. Astros, Yankees, Boston, LA, all of the big market powerhouses even horde prospects now. If you were a Yankees fan you would have bee squawking for them to trade aaron judge and would have called Jacoby Ellsbury a good signing and a good contract.

        • Josh are you kidding. the Royals make it to two world series, win one of them, and now enter into a rebuilding process. The way you want it to work.

          In contrast, the Pirates horde their prospects, most of whom have turned out to be busts, do not win a division title, do not win a playoff series, and are now entering into a rebuilding process.

          One team used successfully exploited their window of opportunity, and the results make it easy to see which team that is.

        • The Astros do not need to part with key prospects. They have the Pirates to swindle out of key assets (ahem…Cole) for very little in return.

          Precisely the kind of player/trade the Pirates needed to make when they had their window.

          Look…keeping key prospects is good (and a team like the Pirates must retain prospects that are close to being “can’t miss”). However, hoarding prospects is what we’re talking about.

          Hoarding prospects didn’t work for the Pirates. In fact, as as a further slap in the face of the fans, the cheapo’s dumped two of the top prospects they were hoarding in the Liriano salary dump. It appears that hoarding is simply an excuse for this organization to not increase payroll. But if they can actually get rid of prospects to GET RID of salary, well then, that’s ok with these guys.

          • You are totally misrepresenting what you are saying and what I am saying. Pirates would have had to trade the “key prospects” you speak of to get the David Price or Jose Quintana that would sufficiently hurt enough. J.A. Happ provided top of the rotation statistics…so did AJ Burnett…Edinson Volquez #2 or #3. But they don’t count because they were not established star pedigree. It helps in an argument when you don’t contradict yourself. You cant keep prospects and get rid of them. Actual performance of the dumpster dives actually matters more than how sexy the pickup is. Again it helps to not be emotional when you are looking at the Pirates. They were in the toughest division in the Majors in that time frame. Nobody could have beaten Bumgarner or Arrieta in that wildcard game. 98 wins is a pretty complete team. It was bad luck. I will agree that it would be amazing if the Pirates had a 150million payroll every year…but it is not our reality as pirate fans. Do you really think it is smart to pay Jake arietta 25 mil a year when he is 39? How has that worked out for the Yankees? They cannot sign a big ticket pitcher, just because they have so many bad contracts on their hands. I am sure the Royals are really optimistic about ian kennedy, Alex Gordon, and Jason Hammel’s contracts this year. You don’t pay for the decline years.

          • I am not misrepresenting…you just are unable to comprehend.

            I specified key “can’t miss” prospects. A can’t miss prospect is a Gerritt Cole type. The Pirates have only had a handful of such prospects in the last 10 years. I probably wouldn’t have traded Taillon as a minor leaguer (but, it depends on the return..see below). I might think long and hard about trading Mitch Keller if we were contenders. However, every trade must be assessed individually. If I was contending and Quintana was available I most likely would give up Keller. Certainly Meadows. Quintana is a proven commodity not eligible for free agency for a number of years. Meanwhile, you’re still pinning your hopes on Tyler Glasnow.

            Anyway….hoarding those prospects, the non can’t miss type (which includes the vast majority), is insane. I was saying this before it happened. You are seeing it now in real time. Now, the majority of those hoarded prospects they failed to give up in order to get better are consensus duds.

          • Finally, now that they are terrible again and rebuilding, OF COURSE you have to hold on to your prospects. I’m obviously referring to a team on the cusp of playoff glory. Such as they were at least up thru 2015.

            Just including this to help you with your comprehension.

    • Assume a world where the Pirates had re-signed Morton. He got hurt in Spring Training and didn’t pitch until August, and he wasn’t very effective in the last six weeks of the 2016 season. I wasn’t on this blog in 2016, but everybody on the blogs that I was on wanted no part of keeping Locke. I always liked him, but I was in a distinct minority. They got way more than there money’s worth out of both Morton and Locke. Morton’s drawback has always been his health, not his ability. The kind of numbers he put up for Houston last year were positively astounding.

  11. I do not think Rivero’s worth will ever be higher. We should trade him now.

    Honestly, this is not fantasy baseball, you have to have SOMETHING to draw the fans. So McCutchen had a terrible 2016.Yes, he was hurt, and his insistence on “toughing it out”, while noble , definitely hurt the team. But if you look at his 2017 offensive numbers, I do not see anyone besides him on the Pirate rosters of 2016, 2017, 2018 cable of putting up an 850 OPS , hitting 30 HR’s, and putting up a wRC+ over 120, beyond Kang, and even if he could get back in the US, I am not sure he could still do it

    • I think Bell has that potential, but whether or not he will reach it this year or next is hard to say. I do believe though that he will hit those marks by 2020 at the latest. One of the reasons that it will be difficult for him to do it is that with the way the Pirates are currently constructed, teams will pitch around Bell until someone else or several someones can prove that you can’t walk him or throw him low quality strikes in every at bat. It’s possible that Moran, Marte and Polanco, and a healthy Cervelli could all make that happen, but it’s not very likely. Teams that need everything to go right to win it all should seriously find a good sports book to lay off some of that action on. Very few teams ever have everything go right like it did in 2015 for the Pirates.

  12. Not once did I see anything about how the failure of Pedro Alvarez to be the player he was projected to be had an impact on their almost making it. To me it’s the single biggest reason, as he not only didn’t produce runs as he should have, but his fielding cost games over & over.

  13. I am a Cub fan but feel genuinely bad for the Pirates and their fans. They had a terrfic team that you knew had a short shelf life because of finances. That they never had success in the post-season was just bad luck. And now that team is history.

    • Kevin Creagh // February 12, 2018 at 7:38 AM // Reply

      The 2015 team was a World Series capable team that had the grave misfortune of winning 98 games in a year the division winner won 100. And their reward for getting home field in the Wild Card was facing your 97 win Cubs with a pitcher that was not going to be beaten that night in Arrieta. This is on the heels of a very good 2014 team facing the cyborg known as Madison Bumgarner in the 2014 WC on a night that no lineup, perhaps ever, would have beaten him on that night.

      • Let us not forget that even though we ran into two buzz saws in Mad-Bum and Arrietta in those wild card games, Cole pitched poorly in both. So much for an ace that so many thought should have been untouchable.

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