“The Pirates are just a Triple-A team for the Yankees!”

Here is a question from Dejan’s Q&A yesterday:

Q: Dejan, with all of the dumping of players over the past two seasons, would it be safe to say that the Pirates are not a Major League Baseball team but a developmental team for the rest of the majors?

This is a typical question from the general fan base these days. “The Pirates are a minor league team posing as a major leag…blah blah blah.” I won’t get into how bored I am with the worn-out jokes about the Pirates being a minor league team. Instead, I want to focus on the notion that the Pirates continuously dump good players. It simply isn’t true.

Tim Williams at BuccoFans.com broke things down pretty well this morning, using Wins Above Replacement (WAR) from FanGraphs. Let’s focus on the players we gave up, sorted by each player’s WAR since leaving the Pirates.


Player WAR
Morgan 3
Bay 2.5
LaRoche 1.2
Paulino 1.1
Nady 0.7
McLouth 0.7
Torres 0.4
Sanchez 0.3
Gorzelanny 0.3
Marte 0.2
Bautista 0.2
Hinske 0.2
Wilson 0.2
Grabow 0
Burnett -0.1
Snell -0.4


Let’s go through the list.

Nyjer Morgan has been playing out of his mind this year. There is no arguing that. But I question whether this will continue as he enters his thirties. Virtually his entire game is based on speed, which is likely to slip as he ages. This trade was the definition of selling high.

Jason Bay has been solid since leaving the team, but not nearly as good as some seem to think. His poor defense drags down his value considerably, essentially making him an average player. He has been a middle-of-the-pack outfielder this year. In addition, he is aging and is a free agent after the season.

Adam LaRoche is heating up in the second half, just as he always does. However, he has fully established himself as an average-ish first baseman over the past few years. The Pirates were not going to resign him this offseason, so there is no reason to keep him.

Ronny Paulino has quietly been kind of decent this year. That trade for Jason Jaramillo is probably a wash. One back-up catcher for another. Little significance.

And just like that, we have gone over every player that has made any somewhat significant contribution to his new team. Nady has done nothing with the Yankees after a short hot streak last summer. McLouth has struggled since joining the Braves. Torres gave the Brewers a solid year of relief before retiring. Marte and Bautista have not been factors. It is too soon to judge most of the other players based on their performances with new teams.

Here’s my point, and it’s not exactly an original line of thinking. Why are we so concerned with giving up players who, when joined together during their peak years, could not even sniff .500 baseball? Why do we continue to complain about breaking up the “best outfield in baseball?” Bay is the 38th most valuable outfielder in the game, Nady has a grand total of 29 plate appearances this year, and McLouth has a .762 OPS since leaving the team.

Dejan mentioned today that the Pirates are pace to match their 2008 record of 67-95. In 2007, they were 68-94. In 2006 and 2005, they were 67-95. The major league team is no worse than it has been for the last several years and the minor league system is greatly improved. That is how you rebuild a franchise that was in complete disarray, from top to bottom, just two or three years ago.




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I recently countered the notion that the players traded away were a core to “build around” on the PG PBC blog.
I broke down how valuable our ex players actually are to the clubs they were traded to.
Jason Bay, for example, is the 9th or 10th most valuable player on the Red Sox. Nate McLouth is the 6th or 7th most valuable on the Braves. Freddy Sanchez would be the 4th most valuable on the Giants.
Point is, none of the players we traded away are one of the top most valuable players on good teams. They are auxiliary pieces used to augment the core players that made that team good in the first place.
As far as Morgan is concerned, I don’t agree that he was sold high. I would say he was sold on the way up.
Considering he has an OBP of over .400 since the trade, it’s hard to dispute that right now. The question of course, is what will happen next year and the year after.
Nyjer Morgan has somehow developed into an Ichiro Suzuki type player, and if you look at players like that, they hold their value and tools pretty well over time. It would be hard to say that Ichiro has slowed down much now that he’s in his mid 30s. Omar Vizquel is still very productive at 40.
It’s also not really correct to say Nyjer relies solely on speed. AMac is faster, but Nyjer is still way ahead on UZR.
I understand the reasoning with Nyjer. We’ve got Tabata coming up next year, who probably is going to be high average and 8 HRs. It would be nice to get some more HRs from the other corner outfield position.
It will be interesting to see how it shakes down. If Morgan tails off substantially, then I’ll be proven wrong, but I just don’t see him going into the tank.

Eric Wadowsky

I always agree with you on the Buccos Bandi…No one likes to look at the possibilities of what is to come…they just like to look at what is being “given away”. Trading the best guy on the second or third worst team on the league isn’t like trading Sidney Crosby away.
There are quite a few promising minor league guys in the system right now..and if they are willing to go after the best guy available in the draft and sign him each year..they can only get better. The Penguins wouldn’t be where they are right now without going for the best guys available to them in the drafts (Malkin then Crosby). If it were the Pirates drafting for them during those years, with the Pirates management they would have passed on that kind of talent.
You’re definitely going to see the Pirates start to improve as years go by. Maybe a little at a time or maybe like the Rays did it and surprise everyone.
Good post sir.


I agree completely. The idea that we some how took the best team ever and dismantled it is beyond words. How did we draft this year and what are the major areas that are we still need to build on? Final question where does Cedeno fall in the big picture. He seems solid on defense and offensively is starting to produce. Watching the game the other night it was exciting to see that all starters were born within the same three years (81-83) except for the man who can’t jog McCutchen (86). Good blog today.

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