First Pitch: Why Has This Been a Quiet Off-Season For the Pirates?

In baseball, a slow off-season is the norm. The off-season is called the hot stove season because it resembles water heating up. You turn on the burners, then you wait. And you wait. Then you see a few bubbles. Then suddenly, the water is boiling and you’re ready to go.

It feels like the Pirates have had a slow off-season thus far. No, it hasn’t been slow in the sense that they haven’t made any moves. Aside from all of the usual waiver claims and minor league free agent deals, they’ve signed A.J. Burnett and traded for Francisco Cervelli. That’s pretty active, considering we haven’t even reached the month of December yet.

What feels slow is the lack of rumors. There’s nothing saying who the Pirates are looking at, with the exception of trying to retain their own players. That doesn’t mean they aren’t looking at anyone. We heard nothing about Burnett until he signed. There was nothing on Cervelli until the trade was completed. It’s like you walk into the kitchen one day to find a boiling pot of water on the stove.

That’s kind a trend for the Pirates. When they signed Edinson Volquez last year, it just happened. There were no rumors connecting them to Volquez. It was the same thing for Francisco Liriano the year before. The Russell Martin signing had some advanced notice, but only by about a day. The original A.J. Burnett deal was the rare exception, where it seemed like we got a new update everyday for a month until the deal finally happened.

The Pirates are good at keeping things under wraps until they’re just about to be official. But I think this situation goes beyond the Pirates and their preferences. They are in on starting pitching, and I think it’s safe to say that they won’t be going after Jon Lester, Max Scherzer, or James Shields. That puts them in the market for one of the second tier arms like Francisco Liriano, Brandon McCarthy, or Ervin Santana. It seems that all of those guys are waiting for the top three guys to set the market. That’s just based on rumors earlier in the off-season about McCarthy, saying just that, and the lack of rumors for that group.

There hasn’t been much movement for the top tier of free agents, although that could be changing soon. There were rumors today that the Chicago Cubs were looking at Jon Lester with a six-year, $135 M deal. Usually the market starts to heat up around or before the winter meetings, which take place in about two weeks. I’m guessing by the end of the winter meetings, we’ll start hearing about the market for the second tier of pitchers, and maybe even see some of them signed.

Until then, we may be stuck in this slow period for the Pirates, with a lack of rumors, and maybe a few more deals that come out of nowhere.

Links and Notes

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First Pitch

  • This site is by far my favorite for following the Pirates ever since it began. The one thing that is disappointing is that the comments section has slowly deteriorated as the popularity has increased with the crowd of people that only care about how much money is spent on the team, and not about trying to win consistently for year after year. The small market issues this team faces are fact. You can try to spin it any way that you want, but until the rules of MLB change, we have to face that fact. I also know that Tim has been right more often than not about the direction of the club and that if you follow closely you can see how this team has operated since Huntington became the GM.

    Now I know there is nothing that can be done about the people who only want to put this team down, as they have since the time I started following baseball around 1990. What I would LIKE to see is that people that call the team cheap, and think that every missed acquisition is some conspiracy by the front office to lie to the fans, at least throw out what they would do as a solution to the issues they present.

    • I think some of that has to do with the success at the major league level. When they were dismal the only hope was the future. Now that they are winning the focus is shifting to here and now.

      • You are right about that. As I was saying above, the front office is almost predictable with their patterns. I would bet that by opening day, we have our SP needs addressed, and in a way that does not handcuff the team from trying to compete 3 years from now because we are holding on to 3 or 4 $18 M/yr veterans.

        • I just don’t want to be counting on Brett Anderson for 120 quality innings when he hasn’t topped 100 innings since 2010.

    • Nice post, I’ve been around since the DK/Smizik days and the narrative never changes. “The Plan” won’t work. Fire FC and NH. Well, the plan’s working. The real shame is that the haters probably haven’t even enjoyed the last two seasons of playoff Bucco baseball.

      • Actually, it’s not even a shame. Let them have their misery and let the good baseball we’re enjoying pass them by.

        Edit: typo fix.

    • +++++ xhoratiox ! Though I don’t think that all the whiners go to BD. They all seem to still congregate at the sites you mention. BD has a lot of very knowledgable commenters all the time. Charlie just doesn’t cover the organization with the same detail as Tim, that is not their purpose.

      • Yes, and I didn’t mean to say that BucsDugout does not have knowledgeable commenters because they do. I did a poor job of pointing that out. I stopped following that site because of the back and forth between the PG+ crew and the gray beards because it started to dominate every post.

  • The Pirates have no shot at a World Championship until 1 of two things happen. 1st They go make a splash in the FA market and spend on a #1 starter to go against the MadBum’s . It doesn’t have to be from the top tier of pitchers. Francisco Liriano. is fully capable of of being that guy. we’ve seen when he’s on and what he can do. That 94 mph fastball that has more movement than any left handed fastball in baseball and the ability to get swing and misses on pitches that no one could hit. We need a rotation full of studs to get past the Cards. Liriano,Cole,Taillon,Burnett could be one of the better rotations in baseball. Gotta spend though

    • Cole can still be that #1. He has the arm, he has the competitive fire. He simply needs to learn to pitch more, throw less. And I think he’s getting there.

      • People need to realize how young Cole still is. Last year was his first full year in the bigs, so its not exactly fair to assume he should be the ace by now. Most guys arent at that point, guys like Price and MadBum had their struggles in the first few years while still having good stuff. Odd feeling that Cole is what he is by now, when most pitchers tend to take 1-2 years to hit that form.

    • Gotta spend to get a Liriano like pitcher, like we did with Liriano….crap well with AJ we had to break out the wallet…well okay with the other two guys we spent….wait no we drafted and developed them. Gotta spend to succeed, just like we didnt to acquire “one of the better rotations in baseball”. Pirates can spend on Liriano, a middle type contract, but this insane notion that you have to spend to win is why the Yanks and Red Sox laugh at small market teams. They set the market price at insane levels and watch Pirate fans say “YOU GOTTA SPEND”.

      • I know you’re at least somewhat conversant in advanced metrics. So I’m surprised at how you balk at the idea of spending anything.

        Here’s a simple reason why fans like me want the payroll to increase: because Martin had a 5+ WAR that’s no longer on the team. Burnett and Cervelli don’t replace that.

        You have to spend something to get that replacement WAR. And if Pedro is set at 1b and Polanco/Snider in RF and Cervelli/Stewart at C, then the only place left is pitching.

        So the Bucs need a couple WAR from pitching acquisitions. Liriano can/should get them very, very close to that. Maybe McCarthy can too, but IMO, he’s even a bigger gamble than Frankie. The list of other “reclamation projects” this year is a bit different than the Liriano/Volquez/Burnett/Worley guys – the list this year is chock full of guys who’ve spend more time in rehab than on the mound recently. Hardly comforting.

        If one follows Fangraphs and the Steamer projections, Bucs pitching looks pretty scary. Only Cole is projected at 1+ WAR, and that’s only 1.7. If the rotation is Cole (1.7), Burnett (0.7), Worley (0.7), Locke (0.4), Morton (0.4), Kingham/Taillon (0.0) and Cumpton (-0.3), then the Bucs would need an insane offense and bullpen to offset that – yet Fangraphs projects Cutch to have an off year, Josh to be down and nobody really picking up the slack (and apparently Polanco is gonna suck).

        There’s a strong argument to be made the Bucs not only need Liriano, but also someone else capable of adding 1+ WAR.

        Naturally these projections don’t always hold true, but we like flinging them around and they are useful as a comparative tool.

        And no, the answer is not, “The Pirates aren’t ready to win this season, they need to wait for the minor league pitchers to come up.” They have to address this problem, and do it before ST.

        • Agreed about the minor league pitchers at least. Taillon will not be much at all this season even if healthy as he will be started too soon and shut down early. I wish teams would postpone their throwing in situations like these so that guys like Taillon can actually contribute at the end of the year instead of hitting an inning limit prior to the postseason. Kingham will be likely be learning MLB hitters for 4 months as well. We have depth due to this, but they cannot be counted on.

        • You omitted the chance that a chunk of WAR lost can be made up from Polanco starting all year and giving more WAR. I agree we have to acquire pitching, and anyone who thinks on November 25th we are in trouble of not doing that needs to relax. We will go get a SP, and Polanco will provide more WAR. We likely only lose a few WAR at most unless a good deal of guys regress from last year.

          Also, you either misread the projections on Cole or are lying. Cole is slotted at 2.4 WAR by Streamer. AJ projects at 1.7 from Streamer. 1.4 for Worley. Im not sure where any of your Streamer projections came from, but Fangraphs has the Streamer projections as all higher than what you posted. Totaled, Streamer has a rotation of Cole-AJ-Worley-Locke-Cumpton as giving about 6.5 WAR total. I think a can safely assume we will not being relying on Cumpton but adding a better SP from FA, so the rotation will likely be projected roughly 7-8 WAR.

          • Interesting you immediately assume I misread or lied, given I got my info from the exact same source you’re looking at, only 18 hours earlier. The combined pitching WAR was 6.2 or 6.3 and neither Liz nor Roe was included. Taillon and Kingham were a wash as one was 0.1 and one was -0.1. Both are now positive.

            I have zero reason to make that up. In fact I cited some other figures from the same chart in a reply to NMR a couple of days ago. I have the page bookmarked.

            Worth noting that at the time I posted that, the Red Sox were nowhere near 2nd place in team WAR. There were also a couple of Bucs position guys with negative WAR (Tabata and one or two others I don’t recall). So seems to me there was an update.

            • Well apologies but im not sure how one can think something other than those 2 when you predicated you post on those stats and they were a lot different. I was not aware that 1 day can cause Streamer to change its projections by nearly 1 WAR for many players in the middle of the offseason, particularly for guys who arent changing teams. I did not intend to say you made stuff up, but that you may have simply erred for reasons not inherently your fault.

  • I don’t think the Pirates need to do a lot. They can figure out what they need in-season in 2015 and make a deal if they have to. Pedro just getting somewhere between his career avgs and 2012-2013, Polanco doing what he is capable of, and 1 of Sampson, Kingham, and Taillon taking a big step forward will make the Pirates as good or better than in 2014 so no reason to go crazy. I wouldn’t rule out a big deal like trading Pedro but the lineup is pretty good where it is. One more proven starter would make me feel better though.

  • mike you are sooo right.

  • Look at how many big name/big dollar free agents become over the hill anchors quickly to the teams that sign them. It is a good thing that the Pirates have done “nothing”. Every player in the top 10 salary for last year (as of march 2014; Forbes) saw a regression to the point he wasn’t worth near what he was paid. The Yankees whole team and the Dodgers outfield are jokes.

  • I guess this is the internet. I should be foolish to think substance would be rewarded over gossip.

    The Pirates had three primary needs this winter – catcher, starting pitching, relief pitching – and have made Major League deals for one of each…before Thanksgiving.

    I don’t understand the “slow” narrative at all.

    • To be fair, Tim does say this very thing in paragraphs 2 and 3.

      And it is a quiet offseason as far as rumors. even the moves that did happen… we had no idea they were coming except for Radhames Liz.

      Not even just for the Pirates. MLB in general is kinda boring right now. Okay there was the Hanley-Panda saga for like 24 hours before they signed. Some Lester talk. Other than that, there hasn’t been much.

      • Gio Stanton, Russell Martin, Yoan Moncada, Yasmany Thomas, Hamels/Price/Kennedy vs. Scherzer/Lester/Shields, Heyward for Miller.

        All. Before. Thanksgiving.

        Anyways, wasn’t meant to be a comment on Tm’s article, but on the need he felt to write the article. Not meant to really say anything about him, specifically.

        • I’ve noticed for the last week or two that a lot of people have been calling this a slow off-season. Pretty much every time they make a waiver claim or sign a minor league FA. It was even being said a few days after they signed Burnett. I think it’s due to the lack of rumors, which is what I was addressing here, and not the lack of moves.

          • Figured as much. I remember being surprised seeing the “slow” chirps come up recently in comments.

            I saw this as you writing to address something that’s come up with your readers, on a day when there is little to talk about in the baseball world. Nothing wrong with that at all.

    • And none of those players are as good or better than the ones they replaced. And one of those players asked them if he could play here, not the other way around.

    • exactly. The Pirates do need a good starting pitcher and I see no evidence they are not in that mode, making offer to Liriano and targeting that ‘next tier’ of starter. Beyond that, and maybe another bullpen piece, this is your 2015 Pirates. And the key to the Pirates 2015 fortunes will be with their core that is already signed. Cutch/JHay/Neil/Marte/Polanco/Pedro/Cole/Melancon/Watson. Marte seems on the cusp of putting it all together. And we know Gregory is capable of much more. A vibrant Polanco will serve the Bucs more than ‘finding another 1b-man so we can bash Pedro out of town’.

      • And it further shows how clueless people are when they talk about how the 2014 team was worse than the 2013 team.

        I guarantee these same guys were the ones who suddenly knew what a Pythag record was in 2013 when the Pirates were “playing over their heads”. Why then, doesn’t anyone talk about the Pirates Pythag record last year, when it was three games BETTER than their actual record and SEVEN games better than St Louis?

  • at least we’re *starting* to hear the Lester rumors. Braves, Giants, Sox, Cubs. With a few offers.

    Hopefully when he goes off the board, things will start moving.

    At minimum, they need 1 more pitcher (perhaps 2, especially if pitcher 1 is a bounceback type.), a bullpen arm, and a utility man.

    Liriano OR McCarthy OR Santana (3x40ish) OR 2 of the documented bouncebacks (each at 1×10 ish) OR hell, i’ll even throw in Edinson to this group.

    ronald belisario (1 x 4.5)

    Kelly Johnson (1 x 5).

    Getting Kelly Johnson would go a long way toward making me feel better about having Josh Harrison nailed down at 3b as opposed to being the SUPER UTIL.

  • Tim: The term “Hot Stove” refers to baseball fans gathering around a hot stove during the Winter to discuss their favorite team. As you can tell, that was a long time ago when folks would gather around a hot stove either in their homes or at the local general store or pub. I have never heard the boiling water reference.

    That said, the Pirates management team goes about their business in a very secretive manner, and I think that small market teams have to take that “sneak up on someone” tactic – I would say that NH is a helluva card player. Also, having a very young and talented MLB Roster and the best or one of the Top 3 minor league systems, gives the Pirates the ability to sit back and wait for people to come to them. Yes, any team can always find a slot for another #1 or #2 type SP, but the add of AJ Burnett gives the Pirates the ability to be patient. I would like to see Lester or Hamels in a Pirate uni, but I would much rather have Andrew McCutchen signed through age 35 with a vesting option for age 36.

    • I dunno about that “good card player” stuff. Seems to me that before the deadline, Neal was bluffing while trying to pull an inside straight. When he got called, Neal wouldn’t put in the Polanco chip. No WSOP bracelet.

      I like to delude myself from time to time to thinking that what Nutting, Frank and Neal have really created is a sustainable MLB organization capable of fielding sustainable MLB teams. But the organization itself is the priority moreso than any given year’s team. The org chart, the systems, the culture, the people and succession plans for other people, the statistical modeling, the far-reaching scouting department, etc. etc.

      And that that’s where the “missing” $8 million went.

      Because to think otherwise would be depressing.

      On that note, I’d rather see Cole signed through age 31 than Cutch through age 36.

      • I agree on the last part. Cutch will be toast by 36, especially when the Angels or some other stupid team will offer him 75 million a year by then. I think the Pirates have him for the right amount of time.

      • I dunno about that “good card player” stuff. Seems to me that before the deadline, Neal was bluffing while trying to pull an inside straight. When he got called, Neal wouldn’t put in the Polanco chip. No WSOP bracelet.

        _______________________________________________

        It seemed to Peter Gammons that the Pirates made a better offer (in terms of talent) to Tampa to get David Price. The Rays– like everyone else this trade deadline, it seems– wanted MLB-level players in return. So the trade didn’t get done. It happens.

        http://18.206.184.11/2014/08/the-pirates-made-a-better-offer-for-david-price.html

        • I am always amazed when people ” conveniently ” forget about the details around that Price trade Steve. Or maybe it just doesn’t fit the narrative they want to spin around the Pirates and N.H.

          • To be fair, I guess bucsws2104 could be referring to another trade or something.

            • Nah. General principle. One thing I think we know about Neal at this point is that he will not deal anyone on the MLB roster unless he’s extremely confident that guy’s successor is even better (see: McLouth, N./McCutchen, A.).

              Thus, until the Bucs have solid AAA/MLB-ready depth at several positions, Neal shouldn’t be sitting at the poker table with the whales. Neal’s time may come in the next couple of years when he has a more respectable pile of chips.

          • I have complete recall on Price. The cost for Price would’ve been Marte plus.

        • lonleylibertarian
          November 26, 2014 9:31 am

          I dont think Gammons was lying – but I do think he was expressing an OPINION – not a FACT – big difference based on POTENTIAL not proven TALENT. Again a big difference. Josh Bell will be in Pittsburgh 2016 at the earliest – by then the streak I care about will be at 37 I believe and counting.

          The biggest disappointment I have had in the last two years is in seeing the Division title there for the taking and the Bucs letting it slip away, In 2013 they led the Cards by 2 on September 3 and could not close the deal.

          In 2014 they could not land Price – who not only would have upgraded the rotation for the rest of that season – but given them a true #1 starter to pair with Burnettt and Cole for this year.

          The Pirates are in danger of being priced out of relevance. Yes the Martin, Sandoval and LaRouche contracts are silly – stupid – and yes $135M for a Lester is mind boggling. But those are the prices the market is setting for each. If you can’t – or won’t pay those prices then you had better start trying to turn guys like Marte, Walker, Polanco – and yes even Cutch into quality players and prospects – and soon.

          • LaRoches contract wasn’t stupid. That’s the price of doing business. IMO he was the perfect bridge to Bell. and he wasn’t expensive in baseball terms. and while he isn’t an elite offensive player, he’s better than what we had and wouldn’t have been paid like an elite offensive player either. I don’t like the absurd amount that players make either. But it is the going price and you either play by the same rules as everyone else or use band aids.

            • One could absolutely say it’s stupid to give a $25m guaranteed contract to a 35 yo hitter who doesn’t project to be any better than one a team already has making $6m.

              • And considering the inexperience of “said player” at the position and the ability to trade him and the others playing the position one could say your not looking at the entire picture. You like HR’s, I get it. But that doesn’t make up for other shortcomings.

                • You have absolutely no idea what “your” talking about. Waste of my time.

                  • Then quit posting to me. Your obviously best at criticizing others post without offering an opinion.

                • Its real easy to trade a late 30s hitter who isnt above average at his position, that’ll work out well….

                  • I was talking about Pedro. try and keep up.

                    • So you want Lambo as our only in house option at 1B, and you want to win the division i assume? 1B market is now really “meh” but sure, lets trade the only high upside option we have on the team. No way Lambo would hit .240 with 15 HRs and an average OBP for us and make us think “Jones wasnt so bad”.

          • Lonley Libertarian, it is getting downright scary where these salaries are heading. Pretty soon the Pirates will only be able to afford 3 years of a player because the arb raises will be through the roof (I know I am exaggerating, but only a bit here). Baseball needs to overhaul its financial house before its the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, Dodgers, Phillies and a few others competing for titles and the rest are left to scrounge around for the leftovers (Thanksgiving reference).

          • The ridiculous prices being paid in the market today reinforce the idea that the Pirates road to building great teams has to be through the draft and international signings and patient player development. They are on the right track, but realistically still a few years away from having a really robust franchise.

          • Peter Gammons didnt make a career being a respected baseball writer and reporter by reporting his opinions as facts. That is you not actually wanting to believe him but not wanting to go against a very respected baseball reporter. Gammons was not expressing fact, he was expressing that the overall package the Pirates offered was better but TB wasnt interested in the mostly prospects laden deal PIT gave. At some point, people should trust that the guy who works around and talks to FO’s a ton has more insight that we do.

            • As long as it’s not the award-winning Dejan Kovacevic, right?

              • I dont distrust DK, though with some beat writer types i do always question some bias. We can certainly agree some writers in PIT have pretty clear axes to grind and sadly let that impact their usually great writing skills. In many instances, i like having non-beat/local writers give the scoop on trade rumors. DK is a solid writer.

    • We country folk still gather around a hot stove, great to hear a shot and wonder who got what not who got shot. Other than that I pretty much agree with your sentiments.

    • I’ve heard both descriptions. I don’t know where I originally heard the boiling water comparison, but that one made the most sense to me, because it describes how the hot stove season works.

    • Wikipedia entry goes with emjayinTN version but does include a statement about cooking. Tim’s article is first I have heard about boiling water (which would probably is what the english soccer league fans think about) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hot_stove_league

  • How do you want them to plug them Mike? Which holes and with WHOM? What exactly is the move(s) that you think they should make?
    I for one SERIOUSLY do NOT want the pirates throwing around a big contract. What if the Pirates signed Lester and the biggest catcher on the market and Laroche? sound good to you? It shouldn’t. This only works if those 3 produce and produce for their ENTIRE contract. What if one or two or all 3 get hurt, slump or are just ineffective? (verlander, Arod, Fielder….etc) What resources would the pirates have to overcome that? How could they pay anyone to replace them? PLUS they would be stuck with the contract for the duration unless they could somehow get a team take them for free (aramis Ramirez style). I believe you DO want the pirates to win… and they have been! allow them to compete each year. I don’t want a run of bad contracts to ruin the franchise for a few decades because they “went for it” and broke the bank for a short period of time. The pirates CAN win it all doing things the way they are… and actually have a better chance over the long haul to do just that if they DONT go on spending just to spend.

    • What do you care how they spend the money as long they get the big players? It’s not your money so why do Pirates fans care so much about the money?

      I’m of course playing devil’s advocate here.

      Fans of course want the Pirates to win and of course we’d love if the payroll was over 100 mil, but cheap owner, small market whatever the excuse/reason may be, we know it’ll never happen. Just a sad but true reality.
      So as fans we want to see the limited funds invested smartly cause we know a bad 80 mil contract means 80 mil which won’t get smartly used to help us win.
      Now and for the long term.

      • many years of conditioning.

      • The ONLY determinant of what the Pirates spend on their baseball operations is REVENUE generated. Not ‘cheap owner’ or ‘other excuse/reason’. Revenues determine expenses and that goes for ALL teams across MLB, including Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, etc.

      • What do you care how much they spend as long as they win? Who do some Pirates fans care so much about signing a big name guy to a market level contract? Fans want the team to win, why does the payroll being over 90, or 100, or 110, make that more of a reality? Why is the owner cheap if he puts a winning team on the field for 75-80 million? Sad reality is, it goes both ways.

        Fans want to see funds invested smartly huh, so you obviously agree that the least intelligent way to spend funds is market value deals to FA that are nearly always overpaid per the value they bring. 5 years ago the argument from fans on your side was “70 million is easily doable” and 3 years ago it was “this team need to spend 80 million in order to win”. Now its “90-100 million must be spent if they want to seriously win”. It doesnt end, even if they win divisions because, for this team, fans equate more money=more chance of a WS. We can spend 20 million per year on David Price and still not win a WS. You gain 2-3 wins per year with Price, and no guarantees come playoff time.

      • I, for one, don’t care about payroll. I care about rooting for a team that is putting a competitive, enjoyable product on the field year after year. If they can do it for less or more matters not to me.

    • It could be by trade they improve. However 3yr 12 million is rumored to be what Lirianio wants is a start

      • TheSharkTankisNasty
        November 26, 2014 1:18 pm

        I agree with signing Liriano. He’s looking for $12 million a year for 3 years. 3/36 is still a steal for Liriano.

        • Liriano’s ,or that of any other any other FA pitcher at this time, is not going to advise their client to sign anything till Lester and Scherzer are signed and set the market.

    • SO the fear of not doing well 3 or 4 years from now trumps doing well right now ? At that rate you’ll be waiting for that WS for a long time. If they run the team the way you appear to want them to they shouldn’t have signed Cutch for fear he might get hurt. Same with Marte. Your going WAYYYYYYYY over the top with your “ruin the team for decades” If this team is ruined for decades it’s the fault of the people running it. Not the fault of a couple bad contracts that expire in a few years. Your taking the “big contracts are bad” mantra a little too far. And maybe I missed it, but I didn’t see anyone mention any player you did.

      • A couple of bad contract ruin teams for years, decades may be overreaching. But to so easily ho hum the notion that a few bad contracts dont ruin a team is the epitome of fan armchair GMing. If PIT signs Price and he tanks from overuse halfway through the deal, we see Cole walk and Cutch ask for a truckload while we didnt get better, but worse. PIT can afford a high price contract, but 6+ year deals are nearly always a terrible value to the team. You are paying for 3 years of great and 3 years of “oh god please dont be useless”.

        • No one is talking about an 8 or 10 year deal here. and if that 6 year deal is the difference between almost getting there and being a serious contender than I say you do it. I fully understand that the Pirates can’t absorb the kinds of non productive contracts that other teams can. that isn’t the question. But in their situation at some point you have to roll the dice and take that chance. If you don’t then all the rest of the millions your spending are being wasted. Not to mention the very reasonably priced high end talent you do have. Your only going to have Cutch, Marte, Walker et al for so long. If your not willing to take a chance on being great you never will be.

          • We are a serious contender, not sure how the theory is we arent a serious contender but STL is a perennial one. We finished less than a season series behind STL last year, and the year before went 5 games with them. So apparently the difference between seriously contending and what we do is 1-2 games. Which a guy like Price may well get us, but also may not. 20 million doesnt guarantee any team any more success in the playoffs, which is basically what we are talking about.

            No, you do not have to “roll the dice” just because fans think that is how you win. You make moves that make the team better overall and are quality values. You use tired old assumptions that once Cutch is gone we wont be good. Which is true if you operate under that assumption. “Well since we may not sign Cutch again we HAVE to win by then” which leads a team to make risky moves to acquire talent that makes them better now (0 guarantee/minimal improvement of chances to win WS during that time) and very bad longterm.

            This team has 2 OFers that will be under contract beyond Cutch that make it still tops with Meadows very much a top option by then. The only way this team isnt quality for 15 more years is if they make trades that sacrifice longterm health for “going for it, rolling the dice and pushing the chips to the middle”. I’d rather be PIT than OAK. because Oakland did exactly what you want and didnt get a ring. Aces make a team better, but dont always translate to success. Liriano or McCarthy gives this team a TOR arm without giving out 6 and dumb value money for Lester or Price.

            • Right now, today, they are not a serious contender. They lost a top of the rotation starter, a guy that pitched like a TOR starter in the 2nd half, and a premier catcher. To counter those losses they signed a guy that called them for a job and a catcher that cant stay healthy. If that somehow made them better I’m not seeing it. “we might not win” is a very poor excuse for not trying. I never once said that the team wont continue to win without Cutch. I said that a team with a limited budget has to pick it’s spots as far as when to take some bigger risks and that if the current group doesn’t fit that description none will.
              Your implying that a team can’t make ONE MOVE, EVER, that has risk associated with it. It just isn’t true no matter how many times you write it.
              The A’s, took a chance, it didn’t work out. Know why the A’s took that chance ? Because they tried what the Pirates are trying for years and it didn’t get them there either.
              The Pirates have been very good at building this team. But their method only gets you so far. To do more you have to risk more.

              • Not sure how you read that i said never make a risky move, but what you are saying is that risky moves=high priced moves. AJ was risky, Liriano was super risky, RUSSELL MARTIN was a risk. Its just not true that they dont take risks. The A’s took a chance, and in 1 year when Samarjdaa walks they have an ok rotation and an ok offense and basically start over. And to this point, they have achieved the same succes as PIT.

                This team, with the addition of a Liriano type that they clearly are going after, is better than MIL, CHC (unless they sign 2 SP that are top arms), and arguably CIN. Placing them in 2nd, and for me not that far off from a STL team we were a few games off from last year. We lost a quality SP, and all signs point to signing a quality SP. With moderate health, this team can win 85+ games and contend for a playoff spot. But of course, just like last year, we’ll go into the year with some saying “this team is far worse than any of the previous two and cant contend”.

                • I am SOOO glad keithconto and the like are not really the pirates GM. This would be a train wreck with no vision of the future. My word.

  • Tim I think your site is great. It’s my favorite Pirates website by far. However I see things completely different than you..
    Have you ever wondered why the Pirates are linked to Giancarlo Stanton, Price, Pence, etc… at the trade deadlines and not in Free agency? I think it’s because you can pretend to be interested then and make the fan base excited. Then say the price was to high.
    However in the off season it’s tougher to BS your fan base. Those guys are out there to the highest bidder but all of a sudden those guys are out of the price range of this organization.
    Maybe I’m wrong but I care about this team and have for 40 years and I see a team right now that could compete for a serious run in the playoffs if the organization wanted to plug some holes. It won’t happen though.
    The gap between the Pirates and Cardinals is getting bigger not smaller.

    • One notable difference between the trade deadline and free agency is prospects. You cannot trade prospects for free agents so it is a very different type of market. This does not prevent the Pirates from making off season trades, just makes it harder to sign free agents whose primary motivator for signing is money.

    • Ok, time for a recent history lesson. When Nutting acquired controlling interest of this team, the franchise was in the midst of the longest losing streak in professional sports. The minor league system was ranked as one of the worst, and they were a joke in Latin America despite having the best opportunity to succeed because of Clemente.

      Nutting put together his management team of Connelly, Huntington, Fox, etc. to develop and implement a plan to bring long-term success within the confines of a restrictive budget. Simultaneously, he invested a ton of money into a Dominican Academy, built a state of the art complex in FL, and invested more than any team in the amateur draft.

      As a result, we are in the beginning stages of what promises to be a run of sustained success by the Pirates. The organization has been to the playoffs for two consecutive seasons. The minor league talent is universally ranked as one of the best in all of baseball, and the team is reaping the rewards of their investment in Latin America by having some of the best young Latin players in professional baseball/.

      Now I’m a big fan of Cardinals organization. They are the organization the Pirates should attempt to model themselves after. I believe if the Pirates have sustained success they can bridge income gap which currently exists between the two teams, thus allowing Pirates to approach their level of payroll dollars.

      To claim the gap between Pirates and Cardinals is getting larger is just plain wrong. The plan Nutting and his management team put in place has brought them much closer and it’s quite reasonable to think Pirates could overtake them in the standings in 2015.

      • Because the Pirates are run better now than they were for 20 years doesn’t make me satisfied. I want to see them fill holes in the roster to take the next step.
        This off season isn’t close to being over but I can tell you last year the Pirates put a team on the field that was worse than the year before. Byrd, Burnett, Morneau were replaced by lesser players. This year already Martin has and we will see about Liriano and Davis. 1B has been a hole forever now and it looks like we are putting our hopes on a guy who hasn’t played it much.
        I think I can safely say that the Cards are improving big time over last year with Heyward. Plus they will replace Miller with a top starter in free agency.

        • What holes would you like to see filled? They’ve pretty much committed to Pedro playing first base and by all accounts they are actively shopping for starting pitching while adding the usual “low level” pieces. What exactly would you like them to do?

          • Just because they put Pedro at 1st doesn’t mean the hole is filled. One can say that , overall, the hole is deeper.

          • 1B is a hole… SP is getting worse from 2 years ago not better and so is relief pitching. Catcher is a guy who is a downgrade from last year and injury prone. It’s time the Pirates put money into the MLB team.

        • If you honestly believe the Cards are better off having Heyward in RF, than having Tavares in RF AND Miller in the rotation, you’d be the only one.

          • The Cards can do something the Bucs can’t – roll the dice on Gonzales because the rest of the rotation is solid. They’ve got Waino, Lynn, Wacha and Lackey. Which is a helluva lot better than Cole, Worley, Burnett & Locke.

            And I wouldn’t be surprised to see them add a starter.

            They had to replace Taveras with someone they could plug & play and not backslide. Heyward will do that for them. Maybe it’s not the cost the Bucs would pay to replace a RFer, but it makes sense for StLouis.

            • I’m not as certain as you the Cards rotation is better than Pirates in 2015. Pirates aren’t done adding pieces, plus they have Taillon and Kingham as potential difference makers on cusp of arriving.

              If I were a Cards fan, I’d be concerned of age and injury w Lackey, Wacha and even Wainwright.

            • Have the Pirates thought about picking up Chase Headley??

        • Do you remember how the Cardinals dealt with Pujols’ departure? The Cardinals never sign bad contracts, neither do the Pirates, and sticking to that year after year after year is how they will win.

      • You left a few important points out.
        1. The famed Dominican Academy was a one time cost. and was less than an AVG ML player would cost for one year at the time.
        2. The draft is capped. 3. Cards flat out have more money to spend AND develop players just as well as the Pirates.
        4 As it stand today, the Cards are a better team than the Pirates. They were also a better team than the Pirates last year. And the year before and the year before that.
        the gap between them, today IS larger, mostly due to the Pirates not yet replacing the good players they lost.
        Improving an already good team is harder, and more expensive, than improving a poor one. The Cards can more easily improve their good team than the Pirates can.

      • Financially, the gap closed by $10 million or so between 2013 and 2014 from an $85 mill StL advantage to a $75 mill gap. It can continue to close somewhat over the next few years, but will never be even as a Bucs ticket will still be less than a Cards ticket and Busch III will still be larger than PNC – it’s impossible for the Pirates to draw 3.5 million. However, it is possible that when the Root deal is redone in 2019, local TV revenues might equalize.

      • Recent history lesson – the core of their team McCutchen, Marte, Walker are NOT results of Huntington.. With years of high draft picks, record spending on the draft etc. there is no reason they don’t have more to show for it.. The free agents have been mostly a bust, the drafts outside the top 10 average to below at best

        • Burnett, Martin, Liriano, Grilli, Melancon, Volquez. Please sign me up for more “busts” like these guys NH brought in.

          As for draft, Glasnow & Bell were not taken in 1st round and are prospects predicted to be difference makers in MLB.

          Come on man, get your facts straight.

    • You are right about one thing : ” maybe I’m wrong “. One other point : 40 years rooting for the Pirates isn’t even a starter kit with some folks.

      • Don’t waste my time with this garbage. You have something about the Pirates?

        • Yes, I do have something for you abut the Pirates : you don’t even have a clue about their organization, how they operate and why. You don’t like that ” garbage ” ? Too bad.

    • As someone already noted, the big difference is prospects. You know the salaries at the deadline, so you can determine if that’s affordable ahead of time. You don’t know the cost in prospects, so you check for interest.

      As I recall, the cost for Pence was way too high (Marte). The Rays wanted something specific for Price, and weren’t looking for prospects. And I don’t even know with Stanton, because that has been a mix of “he’s available” and “Miami says they’ll never trade him”.

      As for the rumors, if you think the Pirates are putting them out there just to BS the fan base, then you’re wrong. They don’t like rumors coming out, and I don’t think they care that much about public perception. Think about two things. First, think about the moves the Pirates actually make. They don’t include rumors. Then think about who benefits by leaking that the Pirates — a team with a ton of top prospects — are interested in Price or Lester. Is it the Pirates, who can only “fool” a fanbase with fake interest? Or is it the trading team, who can use that rumor to help drive up the cost for everyone else?

      • Thanks Tim. I can only hope that one day the ‘teams do things for PR purposes’ can come to an end. Rumors come from one place – the player’s agents or the teams looking to deal their players. The acquiring side, not just the Pirates but most teams, does not leak information and most certainly not for PR purposes.

        I also can only hope that one day generic comments about the Pirates ‘being cheap’, not ‘ being interested in fielding a winning team’, ‘not putting money into the team’ are replaced by thoughtful, specific comments about what and where the Pirates should invest their $s to upgrade the team.

      • OK Tim fine but take Price for example. Like you said the Pirates didn’t have the right offer for Tampa. They were willing to pay his big salary then though right? Well now they can just sign a big FA pitcher and give up no prospects. Maybe a draft pick. Yet all of sudden those guys are out of the price range.

        • TheSharkTankisNasty
          November 26, 2014 1:16 pm

          If we offered to take on his salary in a trade we would take on whatever was left of his $14 million salary in 2014. That’s the only salary we could take on from the Rays. He’s arbitration eligible this year and we would pay that, as well. In the end, around half of his $14 million salary from ’14 and his ~$20 salary he will get in arbitration for next year is not equivalent to what he will get in free agency.

          Price will get a contract worth $20 million a year for around 6 years in free agency. That’s why they don’t sign guys like him in free agency. That’s why they are instead attempting to make trades during July. They can’t afford to pay a guy like Price $20 million in the back end of a contract when he’s in his mid-30s and pitching like a shell of his former self.

          The Pirates would rather send top prospects (they have a ton of them for a reason) in trades than spend huge amounts of money in free agency. That’s how small market teams work.

        • 2 contracts of 20 million over 5+ years on the Pirates makes it nearly impossible for the team to fill out a roster that wins divisions unless a crap ton of prospects all work out at the same time. All of the young pitchers would have to pan out and a few would have to do so very quickly.

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