First Pitch: What Would the Pirates Do?

Last night I wrote about how the Tampa Bay Rays were the model franchise in baseball. In the comments, a few people talked about how the Pirates should strive to be the model franchise. This is definitely true. I mention the Rays so often because they’ve been the most successful small market team. They’ve done this by using small market strategies, such as valuing young players and prospects, trading players at the right time for a big return, and avoiding the temptation to spend too much on big names.

When it comes to small markets contending, there is often talk about a “window of opportunity”. The idea is that a team can only contend for a 3-4 year “window” until they have to blow everything up and rebuild for a few years.

I talk about the Rays so much because they have accomplished what every small market team should strive for. I don’t agree with every single one of their moves. I would never pay relievers the way they have paid some relievers. I would be fine trading some prospects, although still not any elite prospects. I’d go for a big free agent if it made sense (and the difference here is that the Rays probably can’t afford to do so, while the Pirates could). But those are just methods to the end result. The end result is what every team should strive for. That end result is being a competitive team with no windows.

The Rays are competitive. They have been competitive for the last six years, winning the second most regular season games in that span. They will remain competitive in the future. They have shown that you don’t need to limit yourself to “windows”. You can remain a contender by continuing the methods that got you there in the first place, rather than abandoning those methods until it’s time to rebuild again.

That’s the key for the Pirates. There are some methods I’d take from the Rays, and some methods I wouldn’t. The big thing I’d take is the Rays ability to stick to their core philosophies, thus extending their ability to be competitive. The Pirates can do this, and all it takes is sticking to the methods that got them here. So what are some of those methods? Or, another way of asking…

What Would the Pirates Do?

The Pirates have shown the ability to get talent past the first round (such as fifth rounder Tyler Glasnow, pictured). This will be key now that they're picking lower in the first.
The Pirates have shown the ability to get talent past the first round (such as fifth rounder Tyler Glasnow, pictured). This will be key now that they’re picking lower in the first.

The Draft

The Pirates are going to be picking lower in the draft if they intend on remaining contenders. They won’t have the ability to pick guys like Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, or even Austin Meadows and Reese McGuire. That doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t be able to land top talent.

Some of the top prospects in the system came after the first round. Tyler Glasnow was a fifth round pick, and a relative unknown. Nick Kingham was a fourth round pick. The Pirates had middle round guys in the majors this year, such as 2008 third round pick Jordy Mercer, 2008 5th round pick Justin Wilson, and they got a rotation boost from 2010 9th round pick Brandon Cumpton.

The Pirates can still land talent through the draft, even with a low first round pick. They just need to focus on drafting for upside, which is something they’ve been doing every year. They’ve already got a loaded farm system, so they can go without the high first round picks and still maintain a strong system. They just need to keep landing talent in the middle rounds.

International Spending

The spending at the international level will also be limited in the future. The spending is currently tied to your standings, with a better record equaling fewer dollars to spend. The Pirates have never been big spenders when it comes to individual players. They signed Luis Heredia and Harold Ramirez to seven-figure deals, but for the most part they have had a lot of success with smaller bonuses. Gregory Polanco cost $150,000. Alen Hanson was only $90,000. Emerging left-handed pitcher Joely Rodriguez was $55,000. Even some of the bigger bonuses, like the recently traded Dilson Herrera ($220,000), or the emerging Michael de la Cruz ($750,000) can still be had with a smaller budget.

It would be tempting to sign free agents for first base and right field, but the Pirates need to find a spot for Andrew Lambo. (Photo Credit: David Hague)
It would be tempting to sign free agents for first base and right field, but the Pirates need to find a spot for Andrew Lambo. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Playing the Prospects

The Pirates will always have to rely on prospects. This year they have the money to get good short-term options at first base and right field. But the smart move would be using one of those two spots to give Andrew Lambo a shot. Lambo revived his career with 33 home runs this year between Double-A, Triple-A, and the majors. He was only 24-years-old. The Pirates could go with a 1-2 year option at first base and another short-term option in right field. Those options might both bring more comfort than Lambo. But the smart move would be giving Lambo a shot. If he works out, then the Pirates potentially have a player who would be better than the free agent options, and they’d have him for six years.

It’s the same for other positions. When Gregory Polanco is ready, he needs to be starting in the outfield. When Jameson Taillon is ready, he needs to be in the rotation. The Pirates have done a good job of this when it comes to their impact prospects. For other guys, like Jordy Mercer, it has taken a bit longer to make the switch, but they have made the switch. This was all easy when the Pirates were losing, since they could afford the uncertainty surrounding prospects. There might be more pressure to go for established players now that they’re contenders. To stay contenders, they need to keep relying on the young players.

Protecting the Prospects

On that same note, there will be pressure to go for established players, and part of that will be the pressure to trade prospects for established players. I point to the Rays with this, and they are the extreme. They don’t trade any prospects. What they do is trade guys with 1-2 years left until free agency, and get new prospects. The Pirates don’t necessarily have to go to those extremes. They can make moves like trading Dilson Herrera and Vic Black for Marlon Byrd. They just can’t make those moves too often, and they can’t trade players who might be important to their future. Herrera wasn’t one of the top two middle infield options. Black was projected to be the future closer, but the Pirates have a strong track record of landing talented relievers for nothing. The trade of Herrera and Black sent away a lot of talent for a two month rental, but it didn’t change the long-term outlook at second base or the bullpen.

Avoiding the temptation to deal prospects is harder in the middle of the season. When you’re a contender at the deadline, there’s a misconception that you need to make a move in order to remain a contender. You just need to look at this year’s trade deadline to know that’s false. The Texas Rangers traded for Matt Garza and Alex Rios. That’s the top pitcher and the top hitter on the market. Yet, Texas missed the playoffs. The idea that adding the biggest names on the market can make a significant impact over a two month period is false. It’s fine taking the chance for an improvement when you’re not sacrificing the future. But if you’ve got to give up prospects like Gregory Polanco or Jameson Taillon, that’s not worth it.

And yes, this means that the Pirates can’t make moves like trading multiple top prospects for a few high priced years of Giancarlo Stanton or David Price. That’s how teams get themselves into “window” situations, and it’s why the Milwaukee Brewers are going to be at the bottom of the NL Central for the next few years.

The Pirates have been a smart team with their relievers. (Photo Credit: David Hague)
The Pirates have been a smart team with their relievers. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Value Relievers Properly

As I wrote earlier today, the Pirates should become a relief pitching factory. They have done a good job trading relievers and replacing them in the bullpen with low-cost, talented relievers. The end result is that they’re basically getting prospects for free by not losing any production at the major league level. So many teams over-value relievers. Teams pay a lot for closers, they trade a lot for pitchers with a good track record, and yet every year a new wave of talented pitchers will emerge as strong bullpen options. The Pirates have done a good job of avoiding the “proven closer” mentality. As long as there are teams who place too much value on relievers, the Pirates can capitalize and find a great way to add talent, with no final loss to the major league team.

Don’t Go By the Book

One of the big reasons the Pirates were successful this year was due to their usage of defensive shifts in the infield. That wasn’t unique to the Pirates, but it was very unconventional, and allowed them to win using pitching and defense. The Pirates also got a huge boost from Russell Martin behind the plate, as they valued his defense and his skill at framing pitches. Defensive shifts and pitch framing was something that was laughed at prior to the season, but we saw this year that they both provided an edge. The edge isn’t massive, but the Pirates need every advantage they can get.

They need to continue this line of thinking. Once again, it’s easy to do these things when you’re losing and trying to propel yourself to a winner. It’s different when you’re a winner and you’re not playing the same game as all of the other winners.

Fans want to see Neil Walker extended, but that's not the smart move. (Photo Credit: David Hague)
Fans want to see Neil Walker extended, but that’s not the smart move. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Make Moves For the Team, Not the Fans

One of the most common rebuttals I get to any post involving trading a name player for prospects is “they can’t do this because of fan loyalty”. A team can focus on fan reactions, but that usually prevents them from making good decisions, and it doesn’t necessarily lead to the fans being happy. The fans didn’t like the Nate McLouth trade for Charlie Morton, Jeff Locke, and Gorkys Hernandez. The fans didn’t like the Joel Hanrahan trade for Mark Melancon. The fans didn’t like trading Brad Lincoln for Travis Snider (.652 OPS after the deadline), rather than sending Starling Marte for Shane Victorino (.667 OPS) or Hunter Pence (.671 OPS).

The Pirates can eventually trade hometown player Neil Walker. They can trade popular relievers like Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli. They could even trade Francisco Liriano for a huge return, then replace him with the next Liriano. The fans wouldn’t like any of those moves. But if the team eventually wins, the fans won’t even care.

Just look at what the Steelers did for years. They constantly traded or cut ties with players at the right times. They went from fan favorites to unknowns. The moves weren’t popular when they were announced, but no one cared when the Steelers were winning.

What the fans think about a move is irrelevant. I know I’m not supposed to take that stance, and I’m supposed to say that what the fans think is important, and it’s all about the fans, and so on. But it’s not true. The only way teams should be trying to appease the fans is by building a winner. If that takes a few moves that the fans don’t like, then that’s fine. They’ll hate it in the short-term, then forget they hated it when the team wins, then hate the next move while forgetting that the last similar move led to a winner.

Fortunately the Pirates haven’t been afraid to make unpopular moves. It will be harder going forward since there will be more pressure to win, but they still need to make unpopular moves if they’re the right moves.

Winning Shouldn’t Change Anything

As I’ve mentioned many times throughout this article, there will be pressure on the Pirates to change their ways now that they’re winners. The Pirates followed a certain method to become winners. Once a team becomes a winner, there’s a misconception that the team has to operate in a different manner as a contender. That’s just not true. The Pirates can stay a winner in the same manner that they became a winner. If they focus on moves that will make the team better in the short-term and the long-term, then they can continue putting a winner on the field, with no worries about any “windows”.

Links and Notes

**Pittsburgh Pirates 2013 Season Recap Index

**Pittsburgh Pirates 2014 40-Man Payroll Projection

**Pittsburgh Pirates 2013 Season Recap: The Bullpen

**The Pirates Should Become the Relief Pitching Factory

Winter Leagues

**Winter Leagues: Gregory Polanco Does It Again

**AFL: Alen Hanson Homers In Loss, Phil Irwin Struggles

First Pitch

  • Just my 2 cents (and I have posted this before), I look at the big picture when it comes to the pirates. I look next year and many years after . That is why I’m on board with trading him. My ideal situation would be Burnett coming back one year, pirates signing josh Johnson, and trading liriano for a SS. I’d love to see liriano and a prospect or 2 go to Texas for profar. Very very unlikely. Almost no chance at all. But it’s what is like to see.

    I’m also fan of loney for first. If not available, I’d like morneau and Sanchez. One thing that bothered me was when we got morneau, he continued to hit against lefties and Sanchez stopped playing. Sanchez batted .300 something against them . Let him play.

    I’d also love to see us get a lead off hitter and see marte drop down to 2 hitter.


  • The key to pulling the trigger on trading a guy, is to sell high. With Liriano, he’s likely going to out perform his contract, even if he has a step back in production. Also, given his past inability to post back-to-back seasons, I think other teams won’t over-pay enoguh to make it worthwhile. With Walker, while fans are head-over-heels in love with him, I doubt opposing GM’s are. So I can’t see anyone surrendering tons of talent for him.
    I also like the idea of plugging Lambo into 1B much more than RF. I don’t know if Byrd is going to be signable, but he seems like a perfect placeholder for RF until Polanco arrives. Even if Polanco gets here quicker than most think, Byrd can play all 3 OF slots, and/or will always have some market value if you do have to deal him. Tabata is scary when he’s the only egg in your basket, but is nice to have as a back up plan.

  • Buster09….Morneau has been going downhill. I didn’t want him for our stretch run and, outside of that great relay throw, what id he do for us? He is no longer the .800plus OPS guy he once was. He is now.750 or below.

    As for Cole, when he came up, he was a #4 starter. He pitched like that for us until he developed that curve (I’m going by stories I read). I never liked Cole as the number one he was hyped to be and if not for the development of that curve, he wouldn’t have become the ace he seems to be now (imho)

    As always, these are nothing more than my opinions. And as the guys on the PBC Asylum blog (ex Post Gazette Plussers), know, I am often wrong….lol. Heck, I wanted no part of AJ OR Frankie L…

    And, if we DO sign Morneau, I hope he proves me wrong to the tune of an .800plus OPS!

    Wrong Way Foo

    • ” if not for the development of that curve, he wouldn’t have become the ace he seems to be now (imho) ” Without wanting to drag this out,how many other successful pitchers in MLB could you say this about ? I watched Cole more than once whie he was in AA and then last Spring in Florida,and iut was pretty apparent that as soon as he got his changeup down,he was going to be as good as any prospective pitcher in the Minors. That is all I am going to say about that suject. As far as Morneau is concerned,of course he isn’tr what he was 7 years ago. Not many players are. But,till ythey come up with another to fill that slot,a 1 or 2 year deal for him would be the answer till they come up with and internal answer.

      • Buster/foo: We are all interested in putting the best D on the field and if the Pirates had another option at 1B, I might not be so strong on re-signing Justin Morneau. One of you likes the idea, the other does not, but nowhere in a conversation about 1B does anyone talk about who would be someone we should pursue for 1B. Pitching and Defense wins games and Morneau had the best fielding %age and the best Range Factor/game in the majors in 2013. A former AL MVP, & 2nd once, 5 time All Star, 2 time Silver Slugger. The Pirates need time to convert one of their many OF or Catchers to 1B, and Morneau and Sanchez would be the best defensive option and both put the ball in play. Is there anybody out there on the market with the Defense this kid can provide? He’s a great community guy, and has the reputation of being a solid clubhouse influence.

        He was on his way to a second MVP in 2010 when injured and lost the rest of the season and most of 2011. He is just starting to feel more comfortable at the plate and I think he would be good for this team because he goes the other way with the outside pitch and that might be a solid influence for other lefties who try to pull everything.

        • emjay : I was and am very much aware of Morneau’s defense,and is one part of the reason I am in favor of a 2 year deal for him till a Dickerson,or a Bell might be in that spot. I even think that perhaps a crash course for Lambo in instructs might be a another option. I don’t care if Morneau isn’t what he was in ‘ 06,all I know is that they played better defensively with him there rather than Jones.

    • Buster…I watched Cole fours times in the minors and he pitched poorly each time.

      Like I said above, I am happy I was wrong about him.

      As for Morneau, Like Tim, I’d rather have Loney. if they want to go internal, then move Lambo to 1b.

      • ‘Four times’

      • Look Leefoo,I watched Cole 4 times in AA,once in a ST game and once throwing a bull pen,and every time I saw him I saw a guy throwing 98-99 like he was having a catch with his pal out in the back yard ! He didn’t dominate an entire game any one time I saw him either,but,and that is a large BUT,I could see what was coming. Once he got his command of his fastball down,and once he had that change up,he was going to be a number 1 horse. I saw Verlander,Strasberg ,Joba Chamberlin,Bucholz,Drabek’s son,Kyle Gibson,most of the Orole’s prospects,you name them,and this kid was on his way to that top territory. It is exactly like Polanco. He came to Altoona,and ” only ” hit .260. But if a person paid attention to some of the details,you could easily see what was going to happen in the very near future. If you didn’t see that when you saw Cole,I am sorry,you aren’t sure what you are looking at.

  • Please trade Liriano now if a big package is available. Not doing so would be short sighted and irresponsible.

    Also, Just read an article that Billy Butler is on the trade blocks… 1b in Pit may fit him.

    No long term deal yet for Marte and certainly not for Sanchez. They are in a pipeline right now and have not shown at all that they are franchise pieces (aka McCutchen). They are also under control for a good period of time. Some people need to go back and read the pieces on HOW the Rays and now the Pirates have gotten to where they are. Its not by making knee jerk reactions based on emotions rather than numbers.

    It could be coming quickly that we see both Liriano AND Walker gone via trade. Could be the best thing long term for the pirates who are absoulutely stacked now in the system. Keep the pipeline rolling, this is an awesome time in Pirates history.

    • And how exactly do the Pirates compete in 2014 if you trade Liriano in the offseason and AJ retires?

      • I think they’ll only consider trading Liriano if AJ’s back for at least one more year. No way they take that much talent out of the top of the rotation when Taillon (and possibly Kingham) won’t be here until June at the earliest.

        So you’re on board with trading Frankie if they resign AJ?

      • As has been written about over and over again on this site and others like it…. The pirates MUST think beyond just 2014. I know its not easy for die hard fans that just want to win NOW so much that they overlook the VALUE in their pieces. However, my hope is that the Pirates FO doesn’t do that (which they certainly have not to this point).
        If Garza and others could fetch such a handsome return then certainly Liriano could get even more.. especially with his attractive salary. If you look at his history it is unlikely that he is the same pitcher next season or is anywhere near the value he would fetch in a return.
        What do you have in 2014 if Liriano is injured or reverts to his previous forms (prior to 2013)? You would have nothing and a player leaving… trade him and have control over the players that you get in return. Keep the pipeline rolling. Get greatest value from each piece. Liriano has greater value as a trade than a player if the pirates can get a nice return on him. Just like Hanrahan the year before or the way the Rays unloaded shields.

        • So in your opinion the object of baseball is to keep the pipeline moving and actually winning a championship is not an issue. That fans will keep showing up when you consistently have the 4th or 6th best record in the league and never get past a WC?

          C’mon, be serious.

          • My opinion is to use each piece to their maximum. That means that Liriano will fetch more value in a trade than he will as a one year player for the pirates. The value of the players that they would likely acquire from such a trade would be greater than the value of Liriano for one season. The Pirates would also have control of the players acquired for a longer period of time, which is extremely valuable.
            I know that is so very hard for some ppl to understand but it is totally logical.
            The opposite of this, or what you are saying, is that you think that the pirates should NOT take the most value and just “go for it” in one year… the problem with this illogical stance is that, for example, you say “fans will keep showing up for 4th or 6th best record in the league”… but what if you don’t win it all by keeping Liriano for one season. And in fact, could have had very talented players on your team and had control of them for a long time if you would have traded Liriano? Then you don’t have EITHER Liriano OR the players that he would have been traded for.. .now instead of “4th or 6th” (or getting some great returns and making it to the WS with those players) you have NOTHING.

            I am very, very glad that you are not making the decisions and that the front office doesn’t think so short sited either. Otherwise we would be in for another 20 years of losing. Think Zane Smith. The Pirates freaking gave up MOISES ALOU for a little over a year of Zane Smith. With the type of Thinking exactly like you are now. What did they get? They got nothing more by having Zane Smith. They didn’t win the world series. They did, however, lose the rights and control of Moises Alou and his illustrious career. That was stupid and so would be passing up that type of prospect to keep Liriano for one season. Think just a little long term here. If you are a small market team then you cant afford to “go for it” every year. You must be thinking years ahead at all times.

            • And where have I ever suggested dealing prospects for anything?

              I don’t know what your charming Smith/Alou story has to do with anything I’ve ever posted.

  • The Rays have done a great job in staying competitive but it has also hurt them.
    By being a competitive small market team in the same division as the Yankees and Red Sox, two financial giants in the baseball world , it is very near impossible to win that division.
    Even though the Yankees had a down year they still won around 90 games and the Sox having a bad year last year bought their way back to the series this year along with some smart moves by the GM.
    What hurts teams like the Rays and Pirates is by being competitive

    • Sorry, the above was posted by mistake before I was done.
      What I wanted to say was that if MLB wanted a fairer game more like the NFL they would allow small market teams to always have high draft picks no matter where they finished.
      On the surface it may seem unfair but if you think about it when a large market team wins they don’t lose their big advantage -money- but when a small market team becomes good they lose the one advantage they had- top draft picks.
      How much better would the Rays be if they drafted maybe 15th or lower every year ? Yes they do a great job but they can never overcome the money factor and will always be runner-ups and the Pirates fans will soon learn that same lesson soon when the Cubs finally take advantage of their big market status with a smart front office and large check book.

  • CalipariFan506
    October 25, 2013 10:56 am

    IMO Tony Sanchez is a safe guy at a tough position to find. You could get him at a rate below the average starting catcher in case McGuire or somebody eventually overtakes him. Just one less position to worry about.

  • CalipariFan506
    October 25, 2013 9:33 am

    I think we should sign Marte to a long affordable extension and try the same with Tony Sanchez.

    • Cato the Elder
      October 25, 2013 9:54 am

      Marte: sure. I’d much prefer signing Marte to an extension than signing Byrd or Morneau for 10 million a season as others are suggesting.

      And don’t get me wrong, I like Sanchez, but there is no reason to sign him long term. 1) he is under team control for the foreseeable future 2) We have three above average catching prospects in the pipeline-Mathisen, De Jhang, and McGuire. Catching prospects are eggs, not chickens, so we would be advised not to count on them, but let’s give everybody a few years of development and revisit the idea of an extension in 2016 or so. That would be my advice anyway.

      • I’m not interested in signing Marte long term. Maybe Bell pans out better at 1b, but with Polanco and Bell due to arrive before Marte hits arbitration, why an extension? Personally I think Marte still has a ton to prove.

        If the Bucs could get a some power out of 1b, an interesting potential buy low for RF is Bourjos, coming off a wrist injury, who could take over leadoff so Marte could move down where his inability to take a walk is less a factor. And you’d have the “3 CFs at PNC” situation before Polanco even arrives.

        • CalipariFan506
          October 25, 2013 12:33 pm

          Martes defense and base running make him guaranteed minimum 3 WAR for the next 10 years. He doesn’t have to hit at all to be worth $50-60 million in that time.

        • Bourjos has a .306 OBP vs. Marte’s .332 and has as many stolen bases in 2+ years as Marte had last year. I don’t think Marte’s the long term leadoff solution, but Bourjos isn’t automatically better be default. Yes Marte has more to prove as just about every 25 year old in the majors does, even Cutch. Amazingly, both were 5.4 WAR players their age 24 season. But Bourjos and Bell have way, way, way more to prove than Marte.

  • Tim…I gotta admit…I disagree with nary a note in your article.

    You speak the truth.

    With Liriano ‘gone’ after this year, I guess we should be trading him? Either that, keep him, hope he does well in back to back seasons for the first time in his life and then extend a QO so we get a draft pick?

  • Tim: My recollection is that Polanco was paid a bonus of $75K, and Hanson was paid a bonus of $150K, both in 2009. BTW, it is nice to get the almost daily updates from John Dreker on our guys in the Winter Leagues, and Polanco is tearing up the Dominican League, and Hanson is doing very well in the AFL even though he is probably one of the youngest kids in that league.

  • Liriano should be the first chip we cash in.

    Trading for prospects in the offseason is now the best way we can stuff the pipeline

    His playoff performance should be more than enough to net us a young shortstop or first baseman.

    While at the same time, we go back to the bargain (reclamation) basement and let Searage do his magic

    • Couldn’t disagree more Benjamin. First, Pirates are competing with Cardinals, not Rays. Pirates need to construct team as such. That means having effective SP to compete with Wainwright, Wacha, Kelly, et al. Liriano is the best option to start vs one of Cards aces.

      Next, Liriano is a LH w/swing and miss stuff who get a lot of ground balls, too, because of his devastating slider. This plays perfectly to Pirates strength and park.

      Lastly, Liriano is a big game pitcher. He was the big reason why Pirates had no sustained losing streaks. He was huge in the playoffs. And in my opinion, he’ll be huge in the Pirates efforts to overtake the Cards next season.

      • We all like Liriano, but if you are comparing the Pirates to them, What did the Cardinals do with their best pitcher in the 2011/2012 seasons Kyle Lohse when he became a FA? 30-11 with an ERA less than 3.00 and they let him go in order to pave the way for Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly and Michael Wacha. Truth be told, the Cards were probably doing a rebuilding effort in 2013. Liriano is gone now or during 2014, and whenever we can get the best deal we should take it. I doubt he could get us a young 1B to build with because there are not many available. That is why I try to sign Justin Morneau for 3 years/$30 mil, and keep Gaby Sanchez who will get about $3 mil in Arbitration this year. I think a lot of what happens with Liriano will depend on whether AJ Burnett wants to return and the Pirates ability to sign him.

        • Just say ‘neau’ to Morneau.

          I wouldn’t want him for ONE year, let alone 3.

          • Cato the Elder
            October 25, 2013 9:42 am


          • leefoo : would you tell us why you wouldn’t want Morneau ? And not to question you ability to judge talent at that level,but you are the same person who was extremely skeptical of Gerrit Cole’s possibility of being successful in MLB,right ?

        • Lohse was a better SP for Cards than Wainwright and Carpenter?

          Lohse was a FA who Cards chose not to re-sign. They let him play out his contract, as should Pirates with Liriano.

    • I’m assuming Wandy is done and Locke is not going to be all that useful. Trade Liriano and there are no LH starters. You’ll retort that “the Cards did OK w/o a LH starter,” and they did – they’re also better at a number of positions AND most importantly, the Cards don’t have to play the Cards – a team very susceptible to LHP.

      You’re also assuming Searage does this alone. He doesn’t. He’s got Jim Benedict, whom Melancon and Morton both credit heavily with changing their mechanics. If Benedict goes to the Phils, does the magic still happen?

      While it’s technically accurate for Tim to suggest there shouldn’t be a window, there always is a window. Baltimore had one – both RedSox and Yanks in decline last year. They failed to make the playoffs. Toronto loaded up this year to take advantage of theirs and failed miserably in contrast to what the RedSox did.

      In the NL, other than the Nats, I don’t see a single team capable of challenging for a WC other than the same ones from this year. Maybe the Giants if their pitching comes back together. Maybe add another challenger in 2015, but after that all bets are off. Several teams will have pitching staffs the equal of the Bucs or Cards by then, e.g. the Mets with Harvey, Wheeler, Sindegaard, etc.

      Thus, the Pirates should add, not subtract, to the ML team this year. And add not by trading prospects for a big name, but simply by spending more (and doing it wisely) to get 1-2 year solutions better than Jones/Tabata/Snider,