Williams: The Pirates Really Aren’t Facing a Long Rebuild

The Pirates traded Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen in the last week, finally putting themselves in an official rebuild, and changing the shape of the team for the 2018 season and beyond.

Well, maybe not an “official” rebuild. I’ve called it a rebuild, simply because that term can apply to many different scenarios. But the Pirates aren’t using that word, simply because, as Neal Huntington said on Monday, they don’t see this as a five-year turnaround, and expect to be competitive sooner.

Before the Pirates made their trades, I looked at the roster for every position, breaking down the short-term and long-term options. I saw a team that could contend as early as 2019, and should be back to being contenders by 2020. If we’re comparing it to the last rebuild, the 2019 season could be like 2012, where they were legitimately close, but a bad collapse in the final two months put them out of the race (hopefully if they’re close this time, they won’t repeat that trend). The 2020 season could be similar to 2013, allowing the window to open again.

So while I’m still calling it a rebuild, I can see Huntington’s point that they think the team will be competitive in a short amount of time. His comments about possibly having a shot in 2018 are another thing for another column. For now, let’s look over each position once again, seeing where the Pirates stand after the trades, and what we can expect for the remainder of the offseason.


This position was unchanged by the trades. I don’t think it will be changed going forward, since Francisco Cervelli’s contract will likely prevent him from being traded. That might be a good thing, as it would allow Cervelli to manage the younger pitching staff that the Pirates will have. He’s under control through the 2019 season, and a bounce back year could allow him to have some trade value next offseason. Elias Diaz will get a chance in 2018 to show whether he can be a starter in the future.

First Base

This position is unchanged, with Josh Bell under control for five more years.

Second Base

The next trade to take place will most likely be Josh Harrison on the move. In fact, he released a statement on The Athletic saying that he wants to be traded if the Pirates aren’t going to be contending in the next year or two. I don’t think he needed the statement to get his wish.

Trading Harrison makes sense. The Pirates won’t be contending in 2018, and can use that year to transition to a younger player. They can first see if Max Moroff can be a starter in the majors. If that doesn’t work out, they can give Kevin Kramer a shot. If Kramer doesn’t work, they have Adam Frazier as a fallback option until someone else comes along, with the disclaimer that Frazier’s defense would be a liability and lower his value.

Really, nothing has changed here since the trades, but I’d expect the next change to come at this position.


This is another position that is unchanged. Jordy Mercer has one more year remaining, and Kevin Newman will start the season in Triple-A. I could see Newman arriving by mid-season. I wouldn’t trade Mercer, as I don’t think he’d have any value, and would provide the Pirates with more value working with Newman, similar to how Mercer adjusted to the majors with Clint Barmes when he first arrived.

Cole Tucker is right behind Newman, and could take over as soon as mid-2019, eventually pushing Newman to the second base mix. In the lower levels, the Pirates have Stephen Alemais, Adrian Valerio, and Rodolfo Castro as middle infield options.

Third Base

This is the biggest area of change, as long as you assume that Andrew McCutchen opening an outfield spot was inevitable. Before the Gerrit Cole trade, the third base position had a big question mark. The only prospect in the system who could be a starter was Ke’Bryan Hayes, and he should be starting off in Double-A this year. They have some middle infield prospects who could make the jump over, if needed, but that won’t be needed anymore.

When the Pirates added Colin Moran, they filled the need for a third baseman. Moran recently made an adjustment to his swing, getting more power production as a result of a massive fly ball increase. If the power increase is lasting, then Moran will be a nice addition to the lineup. At the least, he will take over the third base position until Hayes has arrived, and might even make it so that the Pirates have to make a tough decision on which guy to go forward with. Or, he provides insurance in the form of another option if Hayes doesn’t develop as expected.

The Pirates don’t exactly have a guarantee at third base, but they’re far from the question mark they were at a week ago.


After the McCutchen trade, my guess is that Starling Marte will move to center field. I’m not sure where Gregory Polanco will end up, as the Pirates tried him in left field last year, but moved him back to right by the end of the year. Neal Huntington said that Jordan Luplow and Adam Frazier would be options for the other outfield spot. This could be Luplow’s best chance of being a starter in the majors, with his bat carrying his value.

Austin Meadows is still in the wings, ready to get another shot at Triple-A, with the chance to move up to the majors by the middle of 2018 if he’s healthy. He will eventually take over as the starter to replace McCutchen, although Luplow should get the first shot.

The Pirates did add a few outfield prospects in the recent trades, getting Bryan Reynolds for McCutchen, and getting Jason Martin for Cole. Both should go to Double-A this year, and of the two, I think Reynolds has the best shot to be a future starter. Those two, plus the young group in West Virginia consisting of Lolo Sanchez, Calvin Mitchell, and Conner Uselton, will give the Pirates some depth from the lower levels. That depth will either provide a backup plan for Meadows, or will provide eventual replacements for Marte and Polanco.


The Pirates didn’t get many starting options back in the trades, with the lone option being Joe Musgrove. I don’t see his upside as more than a number four starter. Trading Cole away means that the Pirates are left with Jameson Taillon as their only top of the rotation guy. That will eventually change when Mitch Keller arrives, which could be as early as the second half of the 2018 season, but would probably happen in 2019.

There are plenty of options to fill out the rotation, along with Musgrove. The current rotation includes Chad Kuhl and Trevor Williams. The Indianapolis rotation includes Clay Holmes, Steven Brault, Nick Kingham, and the guys who will be making the jump from Altoona. There are also options who will be starting off below Indianapolis, but who could be up by 2019 or 2020, like Taylor Hearn, Dario Agrazal, and Luis Escobar. Shane Baz leads a group of lower level guys who could provide long-term depth.

The wild card here is Tyler Glasnow. If he can finally figure things out, he’d give the Pirates a top of the rotation option to pair with Taillon and Keller. Even if he only partially figures it out, he’d join that group of guys to fill out the rotation.

I’d expect to see Taillon leading the 2018 rotation, with Kuhl and Williams in the mix. I think Glasnow will get another shot to make the jump to the big leagues. The final spot would likely go to Musgrove, although he does have options remaining, so there could be some competition with Holmes, Brault, and Kingham. The question here is whether Ivan Nova would still be with the team. If he is, then Glasnow’s spot would likely be the one up for competition. I think it would be better if the Pirates parted ways with Nova, and went with the younger guys for the rotation.


This is another area that got an upgrade in the trades. The Pirates have reportedly extended Felipe Rivero, which doesn’t impact the 2018 season, but does keep him under control through 2023. They need a complement to Rivero in the late innings, and added two potential guys in Kyle Crick (McCutchen trade) and Michael Feliz (Cole trade). Both players are hard throwing right-handed relievers with control issues. Aside from the right-handed part, that is similar to the profile Rivero had when he was traded to the Pirates.

They have also added some other hard throwers this offseason. Nick Burdi was acquired in a trade after the Rule 5 draft, and is rehabbing from Tommy John. The Pirates should see in the second half whether he can return to throwing upper 90s with good strikeout potential. Jordan Milbrath is the other Rule 5 addition, showing a sidearm delivery with a lot of movement, and the ability to sit mid-90s and touch 99 MPH.

The Pirates have some internal options, led by Edgar Santana, who has the best chance to be a late inning guy. Dovydas Neverauskas could also start to factor into the 2018 bullpen. They’ve added left-handers Nik Turley and Jack Leathersich off waivers, and still have A.J. Schugel and George Kontos on the roster. Plus, there are all of the starting options in the minors, with some of them inevitably making the move to the bullpen this year.

I’d expect the Opening Day bullpen to include Rivero, Kontos, Schugel, and Feliz as the obvious choices. That would leave three spots for Crick, Milbrath, Turley, Santana, and others. The only one from the remaining group who is out of options is Turley. Schugel is also out of options from the previous group. The standout here is Kontos. He can be a good reliever, but is only under control through 2019, and it doesn’t really make sense to keep him around if they’re rebuilding.

One thing to consider here is that the Pirates haven’t shied away from trading relievers in-season, even when they were close. Kontos, who they got for free last year, is under control for the next two years. Feliz is under control for the next four years. If their values improve in 2018, and the Pirates aren’t looking like contenders for 2019, then they could deal one or both of those guys to assist in the rebuilding efforts.

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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This column is foolish and downright bordering on irresponsible. For you to suggest that this roster in our division could possibly compete in 2019/2020 is laughable and completely casts a blind eye to the facts at hand. This regime is entirely reactionary to their projected profits – nothing else matters to them besides which lies they will be spinning to the media tomorrow. I understand that your business model depends on ‘hope down the road’, however, we as fans have had enough….

You say things like “…Francisco Cervelli’s contract will likely prevent him from being traded..” and i would just remind you that this regime has NO PROBLEM including prospects to dump a contract (see Liriano)…they have NO PROBLEM dumping their ace pitcher with 2 years of control left….they have NO PROBLEM dumping their Sidney Crosby/Ben Roethlisberger type player (can you imagine if the pens or steelers did such a thing?)

The pirates under the Nutting regime WILL ALWAYS receive less back in these types of trades because the other GMs know that they always have the better poker hand and once again, players will begin wondering about this team again and if they should consider a team like pittsburgh to goto as a free agent


have to disagree with you Tim. There’s not one A type offensive player
in the minor leagues and they need more than one to rebuild. The return
for Cole & McCutchen was mediocre at best so losing both for
nothing was regression. Polanco & Marte both have all the
“potential” in the world but neither have been improving or stringing
solid seasons together so there’s no reason to think they are going to
live up to their potential. They have no third baseman or second
baseman at the major league level, too many holes without any pegs to
fill the holes. And their starting pitchers are all all question marks.

The Pirates are five years away from competing and only if they restock the
farm system which is unlikely based on the Huntington’s track record.

The evidence is in. Several years of contending followed by several years of cheap & misguided (Huntington) ownership/management shows up a team stuck in the bottom of the Central Division for years to come. Where are the core star players in the system, anywhere? Ans: nowhere outside a pitcher here ‘ there.

ralph j

We are the Philadelphia 76ers of baseball.


As if on cue, the first NH apologist article…..

First, NH is delusional and out out of touch with reality. And I find it insulting for him to try to paint this entire scenario as anything but a salary dump/purge. It smacks of the past regime’s ill fated trade of Aramis Ramirez for “payroll flexibility” – aka salary dump.

I get trading Cole, and I even advocated for that. He’s been a disappointment the last 2 years, but more importantly he was NEVER going to sign an extension with the Pirates. Having said that, the Pirates should have prioritized getting younger, high upside position players – not 4 guys who will be fortunate if be anything more than role players. The Cole of 2015 can’t be replaced short-term, but the 2016-2017 Cole can easily be replaced.

If the goal is to get back to being a competitor quickly while also placing value on your fan base, you don’t trade your best player (even though he’s regressed some, he was still the Pirates best overall player) for a AAAA relief pitcher and a minor league OFer. Although Reynolds COULD become a very good ML player, the odds are not in his favor – and it is not going out on a limb to suggest he will never be remotely as productive as McCutchen. So, in the next 2-3 years, where are the Pirates going to get an OFer to produce 20-30 HRs and 75-90 RBis, while hitting .275-280? Our other two starting OFers have never come close to those numbers.

You factor in that it is just a matter of time until Harrison is traded, who is going to fill that spot and match his production in the next 2-3 years? Newman? Frazier? Moroff? I like all of them as good young players, but none of them are likely going to be the overall player Harrison is – as far as versatility, defense, power, speed, etc. Types like him don’t grow on trees.

Factor in the Kang saga, I see a 65-75 win season (at best) in 2018. Beyond that, it is hard to predict. The only way I can see the Pirates contending again in 2019/2020 in the tough NL Central and winning 90+ games is if all or most of the following all occur:

(1) Bell and Rivero don’t get traded and don’t regress.
(2) Polanco fulfills his potential
(3) Marte stays away from PEDs, stays healthy, and returns to his 2015-2016 form.
(4) Diaz hits adequately to allow his outstanding glove and arm to play
(5) Moran is a late bloomer and becomes an adequate starting 3B and provides most of the power/run production given away in McCutchen trade.
(6) Glasnow fulfills his promise
(7) Newman grabs the 2B starting job and becomes a poor man’s Pedroia
(8) Taillon stays healthy and productive
(9) Some combination of Williams, Kuhl, Kingham, Holmes, or Brault become adequate starting pitchers over an entire season.
(10) NH doesn’t make too many more trades and eventually is shown the door

That is a lot of things that have to break right….the Pirates just don’t have enough available help at the AAA and AA levels – you have 3-5 pitchers, Meadows, Newman, Tucker – who else?

Now, if Nutting shocks everyone and actually signs a quality FA position player or two, that would surely help – but, I won’t count on it. This management team just needs to get their heads out of their a**** and start pursuing top LA talent and high ceiling prospects in the draft. The AAA and AA cupboards are largely bare because of their failures in these areas – and I predicted it would come to this 3-4 years ago.

The 2017 draft was a start in the right direction, but i see zero change in their LA free agent strategy – they are still opting for quantity over quality.

The NL Central is a tough division – the Cubs have a lot of money and resources, the Cards are an infinitely better run franchise, and the Brewers and Reds both have more overall talent in young position players and hitters.

I could be wrong, but I think 2018 is going to be a very tough year. The play this year of young guys like Polanco, Moran, Newman, Kuhl, Taillon, Glasnow, Diaz, Tucker, Meadows, etc. will dictate whether there is hope in 2019.


I’m assuming you are equating “quality” with “amount spent on a single person” because Pittsburgh doesn’t sign the high priced guys.

Look at the top 25. How many all-stars?


Re: Rotaion – don’t have one.

SP – 0
RP – 12


Is Frazier’s defense worse than Neil Walker’s was? Because the kid can really hit. I’ll take a double into the gap any time, over giving up a single through the 3/4 hole.

Steve Zielinski

I believe the greater fault for the organization’s current predicament belongs to the players. I believe this because the Pirates drafted well most years. Their early round picks were credible given what we believed about the players taken. The FO even took financial risks when it drafted players like Josh Bell and other over slot signees, ‘breaking’ the bonus allocation system in place at the time. On the other hand, the FO failed to compete for international free agents during that time, preferring to spend money on quantity over perceived quality in the DR and elsewhere. This is a problem, but it did not contribute into the ML team’s disappointing record since the 2015 watershed season. The culprits for the past two years are clear:

Cutch aged, and fell from his peak production, landing close to an average CF.

Marte and Kang destroyed their 2017seasons because of Kang’s personal problem and Marte’s blunder. The team lost about 8-WAR because of that.

Francisco Liriano fell apart. He was a strong Number 3 starter when he was good.

Cole was injured during the 2016 season and gave up too many HRs during the 2017 season. Even his superb 2015 season did not reach his peak capabilities. The 2017 team lost about 2-WAR because of Cole’s struggles. More importantly, his 2016-7 seasons diminished his trade value. The FO traded Cole for a disappointing return given Cole’s pedigree and talent. This one hurt.

Polanco failed to breakout at the ML level. When he was first promoted, he looked like he would become a 5-tool, 5-War player at his peak. But Polanco cannot stay on the field, and his physical struggles may have diminished his offensive production. We have yet to learn what we have with Polanco. Given his injury history, he may remain what he has been.

Pedro Alvarez was something of a bust, and the Pirates released him after he cratered. His pre-career ceiling: A 3-WAR cleanup hitter.

Alen Hanson failed to develop.

Josh Bell failed to quickly adjust to ML pitching. His ceiling remains unknown. He could become a .300/.400/.550 player given his hitting profile. He could hit some HRs and draw some walks.

Tyler Glasnow has yet to establish himself as a ML starter. His ceiling: A Number 2 starter.

Chad Kuhl’s likely ceiling: A Number 3 starter. He has struggled so far.

Nick Kingham has yet to return to form since his TJ surgery. His ceiling is unknown.

Jamison Taillon has had an injury plagued career, which his retarded his development and undermined a promising rookie campaign. His ceiling: A Number 1 starter.

That group included many talented players which the team and its fans could expect to have received more than they actually did. The FO cannot take the field and play the game for these players. The FO, especially a resource constrained one like the Pirates have, cannot overcome injuries and poor performance with FA signings or trades for expensive players. This FO needs to get lucky. It was lucky with Liriano, Volquez, Happ and Burnett, Byrd and Martin. It was unlucky with others. In any case, despite the constraints the organization faced and will face, the Pirates were a contender for three years. Nevertheless, the core group that contended for a championship, augmented by the prospects in a top-tier minor league system, failed to sustain this championship run. It is this failure, attributable mostly to the struggles of the younger players, that wasted the past few seasons, especially the 2017 season.

My conclusion: The younger players who have yet to peak need to reach something close to their ceilings. The Pirates can contend sooner rather than later. Contending will require the new core to produce. The talent is there. Good luck would help too.

Finally, I doubt the Nutting Partnership is pocketing mega profits from the team, as some critics contend. League-wide revenue increases do not help the low revenue teams. Every team enjoys these monies. These increases thus would only inflate the player’s salaries, leaving the distribution of talent undisturbed. As for the Pirates, the local television market is just not that large and lucrative that it could fund a >$150M payroll, a near median tier payroll. Consequently, the FO needs to be both lucky and good.


I agree 100%. A lot of last year is on the players. Not only the failures of everyone you mentioned, but the combo of melancon/watson and the rest of the bullpen went from tops in the league to atrocious. The BP finally got better after the all star break, but man did they blow a lot of games early.

The failure ultimately does fall on the FO, but you can’t predict cutch, cole, marte, kang, testicular cancer, and one of the best 8th/9th inning combos in the league falling apart. Glasnow and Meadows forgetting how to baseball…

The fact that I had to watch John Jaso struggle in the outfield game after game still pisses me off though. Never attempting to find help at 3B pisses me off too. Those two things needed to be addressed and never were.

IC Bob

If you count the value of the increase in the team since his majority stake in ownership he has seen an increase of almost a 1/2 billion dollars. That does not include profits from running the club annually and our team has not lost money in any year he has been the owner.

You mention the players issues however you can also blame management for a lot of the issues you describe above. We could have drafted Posey instead of Alverez, We really should never have expected Polonco to be better than he is, Liriano have had virtually no success.was a poor pitcher when we signed him, it could be argued we should not have resigned him or gone to that well again. We drafted a ton of over slot players when there were no limits to what we could spend(when we broke the system) and outside of Bell we have had nothing to show for it. There is lots of blame to go around with management but to me the biggest issue was when we had our window, ownership limited what could be done unlike the Royals, Astroes (right now) and the Indians are doing. There is no guarantee for success for any of these clubs winning a WS but make no mistake they are going for it or went for it and for that I commend them.

Steve Zielinski

Team value is mostly conjecture. Teams rarely come on the market, which is the event that sets the team’s price. Like Trump’s net worth, the Pirates could be bought for less than the conjectured price.

Alvarez was a credible choice when the Pirates took him with the second
pick. There is no reason to criticize this pick.

Polanco was a top rated prospectm, a tool shed with adequate plate discipline. There was every reason to believe he would become a star — or more.

The FO was more capable than you suggest.

Eric Marshall

I agree with all of this. Only thing i would add is NH should have added in 15 and 16. He failed with Liriano, Walker, Happ, Vogelsong and Niese. Hard to blame him with the Cubs being so strong and spending much more than we could ever hope to.

Steve Zielinski

I thought Coonington held their cards close between the 2015 and 2016 seasons. They had prospects that would m I very to the Majors during the 2016 a 2017 seasons. That said, bringing in Vogelsong and Neice, retrieving Srod from the Braves, among other moves, diminished my confidence in the FO. These moves make credible the claim that the FO is complacent.

We shall see what they make of this transition.


FWIW, the Cubs spent about $120m in 2015 en route to making the World Series, including paying Edwin Jackson $13m *not* to pitch for them.

I don’t point this out to quibble with you but to show how bad Huntington is with the limited funds he’s given.

By punting – twice now – on cheap pre-arb years from core players, he wastes his most valuable assets on losing seasons instead of supplementing them with outside help.

Doing so not only shortens the window of contention but reduces their ability to concentrate talent.

John W

Tell me nh is gonna get this thing turned around again. I need something to look forward to.


They’re totally turning this around by 2020.


John W


Eric Marshall

Feel good about the team next year and the year after. Need to see what happens with Nova, Hudson and Harrison. Once those three are out we should have a good feel for what we have. Lots of youth and ability to spend.

Eric Marshall

Personally, I will be more interested in watching the team this year vs. the last two. Cutch, Cole, Liriano, Kang, Harrison, Marte, Polanco… all have failed miserably to a certain extent one or both of the past two years. Certain part of me realized this core would never get over that hump. Still, i held out hope that we could get rid of Cole who for me never delivered or seemed interested in being a buc and sign Cutch to an extension. Felt we could move on from Harrison with Frazier and Moroff. Now that i have had some time to think on the trades… first reaction was extremely pissed… i can’t wait to see the guys we developed get a chance to grow with the big league club. Hope Glasnow figures it out. Hope Feliz and Moran and Musgrove prove out to be plus starters for this team. Will be fun again rooting for guys with not as much expectation vs. shaking my head at people under performing or just failing.


This is a refreshing viewpoint.

Jack S

I predict that when the 2018 season ends the pirates will have expended $60-65 mil in payroll

John Allen Habel III

Have we just blocked the whole Kang situation from our minds until something changes

ralph j

Kang the Conqueror? Who?


If the Pirates don’t expect to be competitive next year, and if their payroll goes down (I’m not sure I understand if it will or not – I thought I read the Pirates might pay part the salary of either Cole or McCutchen), can they take the money they save, put it under a mattress, and then break it out in 2019? Or, same thing if they won’t be competitive in 2019. Say their payroll is only $90 million in 2019. Can they just take the extra $10 million and then spend it in 2020? You have said their target payroll is around $100 million year, so this question is premised on the idea that $100 million a year is a constant. If that were the case, then it seems like they could save money on a cheap roster in 2018 and/or 2019 by spending only $90 million, and then increase their payroll in 2020 to $110 million


There’s absolutely nothing stopping them from using past profits on future payrolls.

There’s also absolutely *zero* evidence they’re willing to do this, nor have they ever.


They won’t use past profits on future payroll. When Nutting took over as controlling owner, the Pirates were worth $274 million. (Ranked #28 ) As of April 2017, they are worth $1.25 billion. (Ranked #17 ) They’ve been able to increase the value of the franchise dramatically despite having only THREE winning seasons out of the 11 since he took over. Why spend?


Yeah – I guess three questions – can they, have they in the past, will they in the future.

It sure seems like it would be a great plan. Save money during a rebuild, and then spend that money either to retain players or to go fill in the gaps.

How are the Pirates doing financially? Are they losing money or making money? If the owners are losing money they probably can’t just put the money aside for later. So I guess another assumption I am making is that owning the Pirates is not a money loser right now.


Every indication we have says that they’ve been profitable in every year of the Huntington era.

Their justification of “putting profit back into the team” through amateur acquisitions (draft / Latin America) and facilities in the past was always disingenuous. These costs were explicitly accounted for in annual budgets. Even the facility projects were paid off over a period of years, not in one cash payment.

In order to actually utilize past profits in a present year, revenue from said year would have to be less than expenditures; a structural loss. Otherwise it’s nothing more than accounting tricks. If your revenue in a given year surpasses expenditures, there’s no need to use a dollar earned from previous years. You can say you did, but that’s disingenuous.

wilbert m

I agree with many of the posters here. Thorough evaluation but depressing. I like the bullpen. I like cervelli but if Harrison leaves our infield is very average at best. We have no legit starting third outfielder.


i really dont have much of a problem with letting Frazier and Luplow duke it out until Meadows is ready.

Let Frazier try to prove he can field, and let Luplow try to prove he can do… well… anything at the MLB level.

this is a year for experimentation!


Would MLB be cool with the Bucs having such a super-low payroll in 2019 (Marte would be the most at $10 mill).
Can the Bucs REALLY get a good tv deal with little-to-no star power and a barebones payroll?
Or, is NH gonna shock the world and sign a big FA in next yrs FA class?
Even though Nutting is “thrifty” I just can’t believe they’d get the $50 mill from Disney, all the $ from the trades, all the money rev share, the tv contract at stake, the monster FA class…and do nothing.


Believe it. We will do ‘nothing’ except pay for some odds and ends type players.


Tim….I completely disagree. I will leave it at that.

Thomas H

It depends on what you’re trying to build. The team just lost its best two players in terms of WAR from last year’s team and they’re talking about removing Harrison who was their 4th best producer. Last year’s team was a 75 win team. If you just replace the production of those guys, you’re still looking at a 75 win team. So it’s not just about replacing Cutch, Cole and Harrison. It’s about substantial improvements at ALL positions. At least if you want a contender. Do you really see that in the pipeline? I don’t.


My super-bold/stupid prediction for the 2019 Opening Day lineup:
OF: Meadows/Marte/Polanco
IF: Moran/Machado/Newman/Bell/Grandal
SP: Taillon/Keller/Nova/Kuhl/Williams/Musgrove
BP: Rivero/Feliz/Kingham/Santana/Brault/Glasnow
Bench: Frazier/Moroff/Kramer/Luplow/Diaz

Bucs sign Machado at $35 mill/yr and Yasmani Grandal at C.
Payroll would be right around $100 mill.

Also, scotch at lunchtime is wonderful.


Heh…Last sentence brings everything into perspective.


i’ve had the same exact daydream haha


Whoa. Machado. That is bold. I read the rest of it, and there’s more bold to be found in there, but Machado is the boldest bold.


Scotch, man…scotch.


As I said. Scotch. Neat.


There are other ways to drink it?

Daniel D

“I think it would be better if the Pirates parted ways with Nova, and went with the younger guys for the rotation.” Do you have any sense that the Pirates agree with this sentiment? Haven’t seen Nova’s name popup in the trade rumors or in potential trade targets. What do you think Nova is worth at this point?


I cannot imagine that Nova could be worth much in a trade, but who cares what they get in return – he just needs to be removed as a roadblock to the young starters. You know the Pirates won’t just cut him….but they may have to pay part of his salary to move him….or maybe they will package Keller and Meadows with Nova to get Hutchinson back!


Could be as short as 1 year or as long as 3 years for me to get back 2013 level, but team must continue what they started and then go after FA from Monies saved.

John W

The scenario Tim references (the window and 2020 possibly looking like 2013) doesn’t do justice to the enormous head start the previous era had with Cutch. I mean you were getting 6-8 WAR right off the bat. There is no one in the system who profiles to remotely match that. They had that and a lot of other stuff go right for the window to open. NH’s development had very little to do with the 2013 window opening. I mean sure Cole was a fine pick for 1/1, Pedro had a good year, Just in Wilson had value in the 7th but the heavy lifting was being done by Cutch, FA and reclamation projects which don’t seem to exist anymore(Russ Martin, Liriano and Burnett). They also had a homegrown 3 WAR 2b everyone took for granted. Once Jhay leaves there isn’t anyone in this infield who projects anywhere near 3 WAR for a long time.

michael t

This is what makes Huntington’s comparisons to 2013 so absurd. We don’t have Cutch at the top of his game, Martin, Walker, Burnett and a young Cole adding fresh blood to the staff at midseason. That team showed promise in 2012 before fading. Expectations for 2013 were not high but the stars and the leaders were there. They aren”t now…..and even Josh Harrison is publicly stating the obvious. That was truly a team poised to achieve that believed in itself, this group lacks game changing talent……and the talent tools so heavily hyped(Polanco and Glasnow) were mismanaged or overblown.


Just as important, the Cubs were terrible in 2013…now the entire division is very competitive….


Hi Tim: Do you see the Pirates still having any interest in Drew Hutchison?




If they’re smart and aggressive in free agency, they should be very solid by 2019, average at most positions, with a couple plus spots and a strong bullpen. Upgrading one or two of those average players, filling holes in the rotation, whatever, would likely have them pushing 90 wins. But they can’t rely just on internal options. They need good signings.

When Yasmani Grandal hits free agency next season, they should target him. I’d consider signing a solid above-average to good player in free agency this year, too, to a three or four year deal to complement those first contending teams in 2019 and 2020. Lorenzo Cain, Carlos Gomez, or Carlos Gonzalez are all players who are young enough to give about four years to, whose expected market values the Pirates could afford, and any of them could replace McCutchen’s net production. Cain is the least risky, I think, so he’d be my preference. Even if Meadows and Polanco work out and stay healthy, the Pirates will have plenty of at bats to give all four outfielders over the course of a season, too. Lance Lynn or Alex Cobb would be good targets this offseason for SP for the same reasons. I wouldn’t look for infielders this year, since it’s harder to shuffle those guys around as much and get everyone the deserved playing time, but outfield and starting pitcher are two good areas to target to add value now and in the future without putting yourself in a roster crunch.

There’s a lot of average to slightly above average players we could be adding internally over the next couple years, and that’s fine, but good moves in free agency would relieve the need for a superstar to emerge by putting more good players on the roster and spreading that value out a bit.


I like your ideas, but do you really believe the Pirates are going to be “smart and aggressive in free agency” and pursue guys like Grandal? When was the last time the Pirates signed a free agent who was in the prime of his career – and not over 35 or coming off bad seasons? I see no indication that they will suddenly change and spend money like that. Grandal will be a very high priced FA signing….

John W

I also have some reservations about Marte in centerfield. And I don’t think Meadows is a long term option there eitehr.


I probably crossed the line quite a bit yesterday and for that I apologize….Question for you – Is the glass half full, or half empty…or maybe there’s no glass at all. Is this your stance in real life as well. “Got to go to work today, hopefully my car makes it, hope I don’t get into an accident…” Being serious with this question

John W

I’m going to tell you something seriously and I’m not being a smartass. You are a funny dude and I mean that as a compliment- I’d probably really enjoy having a few beers with you but anyway…

That’s a really good question. I never thought too much about it before. I’m not sure if I’m a glass half full guy in real life, probably not. If I’m understanding your reference to the car though I think you’re wondering if I’m always worst case scenario day to day… No I’m not. I’m pretty much in the middle in that regard I imagine.

I get your point. Constantly glass half empty would be a drag. But no, I don’t walk around all day reminding people “hey you know we’re all going to die” or anything like that. I try to enjoy the funny interludes along the way in life. But pertaining to baseball and the Pirates it’s probably too important to me which is why I get worked up about what I perceive to be poor strategic decision. But look, I put in some positive words about the bullpen and Moran- give me a little bit of credit today.


I was just being a flat out asshole, no other way around it…Not to make excuses but, with all the trades and meh returns I’ve been real anxious and I was probably just looking for trouble…I want that feeling back from the 2013 Wild Card game and I’m starting to realize, I may never get it back…Christ, I sound like a junkie, looking for one last needle.

John W

No, it’s fine man- absolutely no need to apologize. I apologize for beating a dead horse all too often. We probably are very similar as far as baseball. I love baseball and count the days off once the season ends. I’ve grown not to like football and really not many other sports I follow anymore.

The last few days hit me hard as well. I loved every moment of 2013-15 and I’ll always give NH a lot of credit for those wonderful days. Part of me selfishly wanted it to last forever or wanted more… maybe that just wasn’t realistic. But even though I know they had to go, it’s been exceptionally hard to see Cutch and Cole walk away. Jhay won’t be easy either. It was such a great ride. Even 2014, man that was an incredible season as far as I’m concerned- so many twists and turns after a bumpy start.

I guess I got pretty jaded early in 2016. But I’d love to see things get back on track. I’m coming around on Moran and really like Feliz- I have a feeling he’s going to be great pickup. We need another good surprise in our favor. Whether it’s Bell turning in a 3 WAR player or Polanco hitting that 3-4 WAR threshold. Even Glasnow finally finding it.

At this point I think I’m sort of working through the 7 stages of grief. Hopefully through the anger phase soon and onto the upward turn


I was 9 when Bream slide across the plate and I’ve to this day have never seen my Dad more hurt…As soon as he scored, he shut the TV off and told us he was going to bed…Anyhow, from that day, baseball become part of me, I obsessed over the game, watched every single Pirate game, played all the levels all the way through high school. I might have missed a total of 6-8 games from 1993 until the streak was broke, I watched all that bad baseball, all the Tike Redmon’s, all the Brant Brown’s, all the Jose Silva’s and I just accepted that this was Pirate baseball. I would get envious watching ESPN Sunday Night baseball and see winning teams and never thought the Bucs could ever be good. Then NH got hired, I didn’t think much of it, then you could see something, I was watching this team grow. 2011 bothered me a little, I think they were in 1st at the break and off course fell apart. 2012 a little part of me died when they had that historic collapse, as I was certain it was going to end. Then, ’13 happened and it was worth every hour of baseball I watched for the past 2 decades…It was awesome! I enjoyed every second of those 3 years, man going to the park, there was just a buzz in the air that I never experienced before. I can still remember watching the ’13 WC with my GF at the time and literally pinching myself after Martin hit the dinger….I could’ve done anything that night, I could’ve beat James Harrison in an arm wrestling match…Better feeling than good coke!

I guess what I’m trying to say is NH gave me 3 of the best years of my life (other than my 2 kids) and I’ll be forever thankful to him….I never in a million years thought it was possible watching the Bucs obsessively in the mid 2000’s. Hell, prior to ’13, my biggest thrill as a Bucco fan was the 1997 freakshow.

I know, pathetic…

John W

Thanks for sharing. In all honesty, as bad as the Bream slide was it hurt me more each time this team was eliminated. Because I liked this team so much better. I loved Cutch, and Jhay, Russ, Frankie, AJ- I wanted it soooo bad for those guys. That game 3 to take a 2-1 lead vs the Cards- I think it might have been better than the WC game. It was so damn close, I really think they matched up favorably with Dodgers and had a good chance to win it all that year. Morton pitched a really good game in game 4, just not enough.

I thought the 2014 team was sneaky good after a rough start they played great ball from May on… Cole and Frank were pitching so great down the stretch but weren’t available for the WC game. I think people forget how good that offense was that year.

And man 2015!! I was with my wife and friends at a bar. As soon as they got a baserunner in that inning they loaded the bases(I think Snider pinchit) I just sprinted to another dive bar because I was going nuts. I can still see the ball going off Marte’s bat. Another few feet in a different direction. Who knows.

I understand what you said about your Dad because I really felt the same way after all those losses- particularly the last one in 2015. I was left with this eery, sad feeling. Of course I had no idea how 2016 would unfold but I was devastated for weeks.

I do love baseball but that era from 2013-15 was so special. Going down to PNC and you just feel the excitement. I really hope that comes back again one of these days.


So well said. Thank you.

Ron Zorn

Not at all, outstanding, and too often forgotten by the haters.


Time of my life…I’m just trying to make sense of why I get highly agitated when I read NH bashings on a constant basis…But, I’m honestly working on it.


Very well thought out post! I certainly appreciate that…Yeah, I was starting to wonder if you were one of those guys that reminds people of “Everyday, we’re one day closer to death”

Either way, man I get way too worked up over my Buccos! Hell, I don’t stick up for family members the way I stick up for the Bucs…They’re part of who i am now and will be until I die.

All honesty, WTM is living my dream…If I’m still single when I retire, I’m selling my house, taking my 401k and living the easy life in Bradenton. Just watching baseball all day in the sun.



What if I were to tell you that Marte has lost *more* speed than Cutch and ranks behind almost every other center fielder in Catch Probability?

John W

Wow. I know it was a very small sample last year but I was not impressed with what I saw out of Marte in CF. Maybe his head wasn’t there with the pending suspension but I don’t know.


He looked lost out there, especially in Fenway.


I don’t think he’s going to be a liability or anything, but when you step back for a minute and look at the big picture he’s a guy who will end the 2018 season as a 30 yo and nobody has ever claimed his defensive prowess came from great route running or instincts. This is a guy who’s defense has likely peaked.

A big reason for his defensive value in Left came from the manner in which the metrics are calculated. Fielders are judged against their positional peers, meaning Marte will go from competing with the lowest outfields on the positional rung to the highest. Catch probability and Outs Above Average doesn’t differentiate, and that’s why you see center fielders rise to the top.


Hi Tim: I was disappointed with the guys that the Pirates got in the trades of Cole and Cutch. Would they have had better quality potential prospects if they had kept these players and then lost them in Free Agency, but then got corresponding draft picks for the lost free agents? I remember that this was valuable for the Brewers when they lost CC Sabathia. What do you think?


I don’t see Hudson listed in your bullpen options. Is the assumption that he’ll be dealt or released?


Which would be weirder, seeing Hudson on the Opening Day roster and sending Milbrath back to the team we took him from in the rule 5 draft because Hudson’s guaranteed 5.5 million, or releasing Hudson and paying him not to play for another team since they can afford to having just cleared 20 million off the books, presumably with more to come?

Either way nobody is trading for him.

John W

Does anyone think taillon ever has more than a 4 War year as a starter? I don’t.


Yes, my belief all along is that he would be better than Cole.

John W

I hear this a lot and just don’t understand it. His whiff rate on his pitches is mediocre among starters and I’m not buying he’s going to pitch to contact his way to a 4-5 WAR season in this era of baseball.


It would require him to move back to a 4 seam fastball as his primary, and increase the use of his curve. Both of which should help his whiff rate. That would be the same approach that helped Kuhl last year, and it is the only really way, IMO, to combat the increased fly ball era in baseball.


I don’t either.

4 WAR is a *really* high threshold for two-pitch guys.


Unless the changeup progresses more, he’s AJ Burnett. Maybe a little better because of the better command. Which is a fine outcome. It’s just not as fine as outcome as we’d hoped.

I think he can have 4 WAR seasons *because* of the command, and he’ll have a year or two where he has really good HR/FB luck. But without the change, I agree, he’ll be hard pressed to do it consistently.

John W

He’s not AJ Burnett. AJ had a swing and miss curveball- Taillon does not- look at the swinging strike rates on that pitch.

Not only was AJ’s K% higher, it was higher relative to league average.


The curve isn’t any worse than AJ’s, but I do think he uses it differently. Net results, they accomplished roughly the same thing, though, Taillon with fewer walks, AJ with more Ks, and both talented pitchers who got by with just fastball and curve, more or less.

He also improved last season as a strikeout pitcher over the previous year, so the usage may be evolving as he gains experience.


Pitchers come up with new pitches throughout their careers. New changup grip, adding a cutter, changes from two seam or four seam.

Taillon has 2 plus pitches and will add to that repertoire. I’m pretty sure he was tinkering at the end of last year, but I can’t remember what it was. Either he or Glasnow was adding a cutter.


last year he was on a pace to exceed it. Just not enough innings. Cancer and whatnot.

i’d say he has a good shot to do it multiple times in his career. not necessarily consistently. but yeah.


Taillon had a higher fWAR in the second half than first.

As bad as CANCER sounds, he only missed four or five starts.


True. I’m with you on the “he only has two pitches” thing too.

like i said, i dont see him doing it year in and year out. But i’d bet that he has a few 4 win seasons in him.


Of course he had a higher fWAR in the second half than the first. The starts he missed were in the first half. He had cancer surgery in May.

He also struggled a little bit when he came back, and I think his innings were depressed a bit in the few starts immediately afterward. He probably ultimately lost close to 30-40 innings from it, all told. 4 fWAR is pushing it, but he probably pitched reasonably to a 3.5-3.8 fWAR pace.


He only pitched eight more innings in the second half than first.


He had a second half stretch of really short outings, a couple because he was knocked around, but a couple where he was doing fine, but other circumstances dictated and early removal. I think his first half WAR is depressed considerably from the struggles immediately upon returning, though, and projecting his actual WAR out for another 30-40 innings is fair. (And that would result in something just a bit shy of 4 WAR for the season.)


First seven starts after returning:
comment image


Huh. The innings are pretty depressed for the performance, which makes sense. They had him on a pitch limit, I recall. I guess his rough patch hit later than I remembered.


Catcher — I think the Liriano trade taught us that no contract prevents a player from being traded by the Pirates.


Any realistic assessment of whether the Pirates will be contending during a window of time must take into consideration two factors. First is the expiration of contracts or control of key players. Second is the Pirates’ history of holding onto key players to the conclusion of those contracts or years of control. Marte is under contract through the 2021 season. Polonco 2023 and Bell 2022. If the Pirates make a decision not to afford a player who is approaching the expiration of contract/years, their history is to trade that player. The almost NEVER let them play out the term. Tim you say they may be able to “contend” as early as 2020. I would counter that 2020 is when they’ll start to think about unloading Marte. Certainly by 2021 they will be unloading Marte and that’s when they’ll probably unload Bell. So my suggestion to you is that just when the complimentary players they just acquired plus some from the minors might be coming up and rounding into shape, the next wave of departures is likely to begin, undercutting their so-called competitive window.

John W

Absolutely correct. And that doesn’t even get into fact that that group doesn’t look remotely close to a contender talent wise. Will need serious help from free agents


first off I’m keeping Jhay, and try to move nova , freese, or srod. my rotation will be tallion ,kuhl, williams, glasnow, and musgrove. bullpen rivero, kontos, feliz, crick, and who ever pitches the best in spring training. Now the starting infield bell, jhay, mercer, moran. cervilli at catcher. Outfield ,here where I might go and sign a free agent maybe a gargo or carlos gomez on the cheap and have marte in center and polanco either in left or right. and the fa playing if gomez left gargo in right. bench will be frazier srod or freese luplow, moroff, ozuna and diaz.

Chris Thomas

Average….sadly looks like the best they will be is average. What is the one thing missing here that is not missing with most other teams? The concept of going out and actually signing a significant free agent. All the fans have is hope that all there prospects work out. Which sadly has not happened.


I agree that it won’t necessarily be a long “rebuild” but it takes quite a few leaps of faith to see this particular “rebuild” as laid out here being one worth pursuing. Unless we still think Glasnow/Meadows can be 4-5 WAR players, and even *assuming* Keller is one within his first few years, it’s hard to see how you get to 90 wins.

Bill W

“Under Control” This is not a factor with the ownership group. Once the arbitration process starts anyone making $6 million plus is on the trading block or they extend then place on the trading block. Josh Bell will not be a bucco when his arb numbers explode. This term that they love “under control” is a joke and is disingenuous. I get tired of this term. How many “years of control” will this fanbase be held hostage by this owner?


Josh Bell won’t be with us because his agent is a Jagoff. If not, he would probably sign a long term deal like Cutch did. Not much management can do.


Cole is the first player they traded in their Arb years outside of Walker who was on his last. Pirates FO unlike McClatchy and Littlefiled have done a good job extending young players through this process. Have they all worked out? No. But they extended McCutchen, Marte, Polanco, Harrison, Cervelli, etc. and another refusal under McClatchy was to pay high end draft talent. Something the Pirates did and right away under Nutting sole ownership. Dishing out the $5 million for prospects like Bell in the 2nd. Until MLB came in and screwed them again.


I’ll push back on Musgrove having an *upside* of a number 4 starter.

His minor league stats are pretty Taillon-esque. 9ish k/9, less than 2 BB/9, mid 90s fastball, and Musgrove hasn’t had his date with Ray Searage yet.

i might agree that his *likely outcome* is something like a 4 SP, but how isn’t his upside something like a weak 2/strong 3, like Taillon (or at least… the Taillon that we’ve seen so far)?

Fangraphs thinks he’ll push 3 WAR this season!

Also, when Moroff is brought up as a starting option, i think people probably scoff. Hopefully everyone could agree that he has slick, above average defense. Perhaps even better than Harrison. But maybe some of the readers here could use a case that his bat could be average or above as well. Just a thought.

Another Moroff-related thought… I almost wonder if he should play SS against RHPs. Mercer’s lefty mashing is well documented, and he won’t be around in 2019.

Vs LHP: Mercer SS, Moroff 2b…. Vs RHP: Moroff SS, Frazier 2b


Hurdle’s usage of Moroff last year was the #1 cause of my personal angst. Do I expect his skills to 100% translate to the bigs? No. But, a team lacking power or consistent hitting, and management gives Hurdle Moroff. Only for Hurdle to treat him like a window display, and people gripe about him not hitting when he would see 1 pitch every 2 weeks (over-exaggeration). While they trotted Freese out there everyday in the midst of struggles, among other players. Kid was near the IL league lead in HR’s, slugging, OPS, etc., and just got sat.

All that being said, Hurdle’s usage of Moroff isn’t itself the issue, but it’s the bigger picture of how Hurdle was more worried about the kids “adapting” to the bigs, than just putting the bat in their hands and letting them go.

Scott K

Valid point. Once JHay gets dealt, Moroff should get his opportunity to shine (or not).


he *eventually* started plugging him at SS in the final week, but yeah. it was a little frustrating.

I guess they didnt want to shut Freese and Mercer and SeanRod. And they’re all still on the team, so i kinda get it. i guess.


I just feel like he didn’t maximize his roster, even when they were still within range. Could have easily shifted J-Hay to third, and Moroff to 2B. Or even vice versa. Either of them may not have been the ideal 3B, but the potential for better overall production was available. The younger kids were never given an opportunity to get into any groove.


just expanding on the Taillon Musgrove comparison a little bit, the projections have Musgrove and Taillon putting up really similar ratios!

7.8 k/9 for musgrove, 8.3 for Taillon.
2.3 BB/9 for musgrove, 2.5 for Taillon
1.1 HR/9 musgrove, 1 for taillon

Their main projected difference is that Taillon has more innings projected.

2.7 WAR / 157 innings vs 3.7 WAR / 189 innings


Musgrove has 6 pitches, Taillon has 4. The problem, Musgrove has 1 very good pitch and 5 average to below pitches. Ray will have him drop 2 and increase the consistency of the 4 he keeps. At least, I hope that’s what he does.


Does he actually have 6 pitches, or does he have three or four that do different enough things that PitchFX registers six? The scouting reports I’ve read are mixed on that point.


Supposedly he has 3 fastballs, 4, 2, and cutter, curve, slider and change. Of this, I think the cutter and slider could get registered differently due to velocity. I’m not sure it is possible to confuse any of the other pitches, but I in reality, anything is possible.


makes sense. that sounds like it’d help.


Tim love the site but they have taken three steps back. Huntingdon and his staff have shown zero capability to develop an ever day player. By the time they hit the majors their 25 years old. Heck if Kris Bryant was in the Pirates organization Huntingdon would be saying well we would like to get a few more bats we don’t want him to get overwhelmed.


It doesn’t matter what age they make it to the majors. Doesn’t change the clock on the number of years we have them under control. As a matter of fact, I don’t see a downside to having a player under control from 25-31 instead of 23-29. We get more of his peak years before free agency.


Don’t forget about Daniel Hudson in the bullpen…


Damn you.


I wish we could.

Douglas Byrd

Assuming that somehow these prospects like Keller and Meadows replace Cole and Cutch (which I doubt since Cutch was the freaking MVP) we might return to competing. But how long till we start thinking about trading Bell,Taillon etc. I thought that we’d broken the cycle when Cutch resigned, but I guess not.


The Cutch that was traded was far from MVP material


Cole & Cutch averaged something like 1.55 war each the last two years. Adam Frazier put up a 1.8 last year. I am not comparing Cutch and Frazier, just saying that Cole and Cutch haven’t exactly lit it up. Cutch has averaged a 3.0 offensive war though so he would be ok in RF or a small LF which the Pirates don’t have.


This is 100% correct and what is so depressing about this management group. The economics of baseball are certainly stacked against small market teams. However, it doesn’t prevent success. Kansas City, Cleveland being recent examples. This management group chooses to be even more fiscally conservative than most. it’s not unusual for business owners to take calculated risks. But baseball economics – ala revenue sharing — actually works as a disincentive to the Pirates to take risks. They’ve decided to just take the easy money and work w/in that. That’s their end-game folks. Whatever lip service they give to competing and winning is very much secondary. If they didn’t have revenue sharing they’d sell the team or they’d actually have to try and win b/c winning makes money.


I think what we’re really seeing these past few years is the Tampa model of trading a >2+WAR player a year or two before the end of their contract on the idea of returning multiple A level prospects to keep their pipeline full and be on the edge of contention year and and year out no longer happens. Those trades are not returning the same yield they used to. Either that or Huntington can’t negotiate worth a damn.

Ron Zorn

I had this same thought. We can debate NH’s negotiating skills, who really knows. But I had same thought when I saw these returns. Entire industry is smartening up regarding paying high end prospects for aging veterans. Or in Cole’s case, not consistent high-end production.


You just contradicted your entire argument with this post. You said Cleveland and KC yes they were Just like the Pirates were successful for 3 straight years in WC games. They won the first went to 5 games against St. Louis in the Divisional Round but the next 2 years they had the unlucky break of facing the best Pitchers in those perspective seasons while playing in a division that was arguably the best in baseball over that same 3 year stretch. So I fail to see your point.


My point was that small market doesn’t prevent success. Those teams extended themselves a bit to get some success — and they achieved more than the Pirates by doing so. The Pirates, in contrast, are unwilling to extend themselves. In order for them to be successful w/in their chosen business method, everything has to work out for a given season. That is rare. To your point, they faced some great pitching in the post season. So do all playoff teams. For them to be successful they have to luck out and get the easier path.

Scott K

The only thing KC & Cleveland did better than Pittsburgh is win more in October. Pittsburgh won more games from April-September.

Try again with the whole money bought KC & Cleveland more success. It was nothing more than SSS luck!


Oh FFS, this bologna again.


The Royals only made it to the post season in 2014 and 2015 Last year that had a losing record.

The Indians only made it in 2013, 2016, and 2017.

The Pirates made it in 2013, 2014, and 2015 to include a 94 and 98 win season in 2015 to which was the second best record in all of baseball (unfortunately the best was St. Louis relegating them to the Wild Card against the 3rd best record team in all of baseball the Cubs) How often are the 3 best records in the same Division. That’s really bad luck. Not to mention they had to face Arrieta when he was flat out unbeatable.

So I fail to see how they extended themselves more then the Pirates.


Pirates opening day payroll 2014-2017 (in millions): $78, 88, 86, 101. Royals 2014-2017: $92, 113, 112, 127; Indians: $82, 86, 86, 101. Indians projected in 2018: $131. Get the picture?


So they paid more for the exact same results…… Seems the Pirates managed money better. I think you just made a positive argument for the Pirates front office unintentionally.


What? The Royals went to the world series twice (won it once) and the Indians once. The Pirates got past the wild card round once. But hey, you’re entitled to believe whatever you want to believe.


Look at the season records man. Those are facts. It already was established the bad luck the Pirates ran into in 2015 second best record in baseball etc… That is when the royals won. Same number of playoff appearances. Similar number of wins per season.


That is true, I’m curious what the pirates would have done if they guys we gave the contracts to did not regress, would we have been able to raise the payroll like the indians? or would we still feel the need to move salary. I’m sure the Pirates assumed that Cole would be making much more this year but his arb numbers are more reasonable because of his play. I was hoping they might stay put with Cole and Cutch this year while trying to add a 3B and another SP, could they have done that to any level of success for even 30 mil? Its hard to say. I’m disenchanted with mgmnt but I’m also disappointed that Cutch and Cole slipped after that great 2015 season


MLB’s economic system is broken. You have about a third of the league deliberately trying not to compete and tear down and hopefully build back up. That model is not good for competitive balance. As it stands, small market teams truly only control players for 4 years and then try to trade them with 2 years of control remaining if they are unable to extend them.

Scott K

Sure looks that way, but it still depends on the individual and competitiveness of team.

Michael Sanders

I’m starting to think that the only thing that makes them a small market team is the lack of vision and ineptness of the managers.


… and front office.



That is what makes the Pirates a small market team. Revenue is what is.

Ron Zorn

What I find interesting is the disparities between the NY and Chicago teams. Very large.

Scott K

How about SF & Oakland?!!!

If the A’s put in a stadium on the water looking across the Bay at downtown SF, both the Bay Bridge & Golden Gate Bridge, and Alcatraz Island, they’d see these revenues skyrocket!


i’m kinda tempted to see the correlation between revenue and payroll…

Scott K

That’s the best way to judge if Pirates are truly cheap or not. Look at their payroll % to revenues the last 5 years. Compare it to other teams. I think people will be surprised to see Pirates place on that list.


After reading my reply I realized it may not make sense. So for and example rounding numbers. If everyone’s operating cost is roughly 50 Million. If the Pirates revenue is 200 Million and they pay 100 in player Salary 50 Million in Operating Costs and 25 Million in Front Office then 50% is going to Player Salary.

The Yankees have 500 Million in Revenue So they can spend 400 Million in Player Salary 50 Million in Operating Costs and 25 Million in Front office. But 80% of their Revenue is going to player Salary.

THIS IS FOR REFERENCE ARGUMENT ONLY BY NO MEANS AM I SAYING THIS IS FACT….. Hopefully that makes more sense to my argument of why % may be skewed.


Scott, the only thing to remember is Payroll + Operation Costs (sales teams gate clerks etc…) Which probably will be similar Franchise to Franchise except in places like NYC where cost of living is a little higher and they may pay a beer vendor $2 more an hour (which adds up but most likely is minimal). So that might make percentages off without crunching the numbers just a thought. The overall point is no owner is going to operate at a loss. I don’t like what is going on here but I really don’t think Nutting is as much of a cheapskate as everyone makes him out to be. We need to renegotiate TV Deals etc. which will increase revenue too. Perhaps a slight hike in ticket prices is needed too but.. people need to come to the games its a vicious cycle.


You might want to look at some other teams for that study and not the Pirates. LOL. Especially if you are looking at 2017 & 18. They will be out of whack because of Kang and Marte savings last year along with the selloff this year. Their revenue to profit will look excellent though. As it always does. The Pirates are an excellently run franchise from a profit standpoint. As an investor, that’s the goal. Fans do not necessarily factor into this. The Pirates’ business model is to play well enough and hopefully have a few winning seasons every 5 years and keep the money rolling in. If they win something by accident that is just a bonus. I’m exaggerating slightly but this is pretty much it because they have raked in money and really taken no risks to try to win. It is what it is.


agree 100%


265 Mil in Revenue, roughly been about 100 Mil in “PLAYER” salary the last 5 years. Then you have to add in Manager Salary plus Front Office plus Sales Staff, Electricity Etc…..


It’s not hard to be better than Cutch was the last two years… -46 DRS with an inconsistent bat.

Douglas Byrd

I agree. But if the goal is to win a World Series, we’d need vintage Cutch type production. Makes me wonder what the goal is.


Could of won WS a few years ago if Cutch & Walker showed up in the playoffs.

Scott K

Would be nice to have a position player produce at an MVP type level, but it’s not mandatory to compete for a title. Just makes it harder.

Looks to me like Pirates are focusing on run prevention as the way to compete going forward. Score enough to get a lead in the first 5-6 innings, then rely on bullpen to seal the win.

We’ll see how it plays out.

Steve Zielinski

Vintage Cutch players are rare.


Why don’t The Pirates trade for Christian Yelich? I believe his remaining contract is about 5 years/$58 million, certainly affordable, even for the Bucs. We could give them all of the prospects just received in the Cole/Cutch trades except Moran. With us keeping Moran we can include K’Bryan Hayes to Mia. So that’s Martin, Musgrove, Feliz, Reynolds, Crick & Hayes to the Marlins for Yelich. Maybe add another Minor League arm (Holmes, Kingham). Come on Neal, get it done!


Who says no first:

Yelich and Realmuto
Meadows, Tucker, Craig, Glasnow, Hinz, Holmes


If I am the Pirates, I make that trade in a heartbeat….but no way Marlins would do that.


I like the idea of trading for yelich and don’t know why we haven’t tried. Give Austin meadows, Kevin Newman, Ke’Bryan Hayes, clay Holmes, Tyler epler. Seems like a lot to give but that’s what yelich will yield from someone


I like the idea of going after him and thought about that again this morning.

Scott K

Why trade away so much of our future, when next winter there will be enough “payroll flexibility” to purchase what Yelich provides?


Won’t happen.



I prefer Hayes over Moran… (I just really like watching good defense & his bat doesn’t sound bad either. Power’s a question mark but so is Moran’s.) but I get your point.


Hayes isn’t ready.


He’s not, but he will be in 1-2 years. We aren’t ready to compete next year too. So it’s just that one year. Not like Moran’s a guaranteed power hitter either. This might sound irrational. There’s few I really like and Hayes is one of them.


Extremely well said, Angie.

Hayes’ floor is so much higher than Moran’s that CM *has* to hit for power just to break even with KH.




why don’t we dig up the bones of honus wagner and get his dna and clone him, 20yrs down the road you have an hall of fame shortstop.

Michael Sanders

I see an Ancient Aliens special in our future.


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michael t

The Marlins will get value for Yelich, not pass along prospects in decline that the Pirates took for their two top players.


You mean like the pathetic haul the Marlins got for Stanton and Ozuna? Hahahaha

Stanley Yip

Stanton had one of the biggest contracts in the last 3 years. What teams could possible support that contract? Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox, and evidently St. Louis. He vetoed the Red Birds. The Dodgers don’t need him. The Red Sox don’t need him. The Marlins FO had nobody to trade with, it was a blantant slaary and everybody knew it.

The Ozuna trade wasn’t as bad everybody thought. When you have a barren system like the Marlins you need to fill talent to fill it and Boy did the Marlins get enough for it and they got their money’s worth.


I’d have to disagree with you Tim. There’s not one A type offensive player in the minor leagues and they need more than one to rebuild. The return for Cole & McCutchen was mediocre at best so losing both for nothing was regression. Polanco & Marte both have all the “potential” in the world but neither have been improving or stringing solid seasons together so there’s no reason to think they are going to live up to their potential. They have no third baseman or second baseman at the major league level, too many holes without any pegs to fill the holes. And their starting pitchers are all all question marks.

The Pirates are five years away from competing and only if they restock the farm system which is unlikely based on the Huntington’s track record.


Very well stated and I agree with you completely.

Michael W

Yeah, you’re right. I guess Marte’s 4 straight seasons of 4+ WAR isn’t solid enough for you. Or the stacked farm that Huntington built from nothing before all our prospects started graduating to the MLB.

You posting anything that makes sense is unlikely, based on your track record.


I pretty much agree with everything you say here, BucsStopHere, with the exception being about the starting pitchers. While I don’t think that they are going to make anyone forget the 1971 Orioles, I also don’t think the cupboard is completely bare either. Time will tell.
The overarching point to me with all of this talk about a “rebuild” is this question: Rebuild for what? The Bob Nutting ownership group has proven that they are not willing to pay the necessary money to put a legitimate contender on the field. Unless they change that philosophy, or sell the team to someone who will–and I don’t think either will happen any time soon–then the only thing that will be rebuilt will be the hopes of the fan base, the same fan base that they have just screwed BIG TIME, the same fan base that has been getting screwed BIG TIME, ever since the Galbraith’s sold the team.
THESE TWO MOST RECENT TRADES JUST TOP OFF WHAT HAS BEEN NOTHING SHORT OF STUPEFYING FOR ME SINCE THE 98 WIN SEASON OF 2015 CONCLUDED. The organization, specifically the farm system, was rebuilt, and that largely (not entirely) led to the success of 2013-2015. Since the end of the 2015 campaign, this ownership group has reverted back to the ways of 1992 to 2012.
ABSOULETELY INSANE!!!!!!!!!!! I will not allow myself to be sucked in again. I suppose that I will always follow the Pirates, and MLB in general, but it will be with a greatly tempered enthusiasm. I am tired of the whole business aspect of MLB, and completely exhausted regarding the m.o. of the Nutting regime.
I really hope that Pittsburghers and all fans in the western PA region just stop going to PNC Park. I want to see an ALL OUT, TOTAL BOYCOTT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Sorry for trolling, but I’ve been seeing a lot of this “stop going to PNC Park…Boycott (the pirates).” Unfortunately I think the only thing that would do is either see:
1. The Pirates moving to another city who will support them. Or
2. The ownership group spending even less money then they do now (see Miami and Houston a few years back), And
3. If either of those do happen, they actually have a legit argument to the other MLB owners that would allow them to move.

The situation is definitely a real shitty one. The owners don’t want to spend to keep or add talent and I too don’t see anything changing in the future with this group. Frustrating to say the least.


I don’t even care anymore. What’s the point of having a team in Pittsburgh, when all the ownership group worries about is their precious financial flexibility, when they don’t use that flexibility to improve the product on the field?


I agree that this ownership group has made some ridiculous moves since after 2015. And unless things change – and I don’t see that happening anytime soon- I think it’ll be 3-4 year runs intertwined with 2-4 year builds.

IMO the only thing I think that would really help this club, and all the other small market teams, would be a the arguement of a salary cap. I don’t see this ownership group selling. And outside of spending big a few years, then selling off and rebuilding, I don’t think they’ll ever spend enough consistantly to make everyone happy, its too big a disadvantage vs the high revenue clubs. All the small market teams have to sell at a certain point, especially when they think their window is closing. Unfortunately this ownership group did not spend when they were in the mist of what is now their most recent window. However, they did make the playoffs for 3 years straight, so for me, as frustrated as I was in 2015 when they didn’t spend when I believe they should have, I do believe they earned one more shot at another window. (Grant it it’s not starting out very well with the returns they received from Cole and Cutch)

michael t

This makes absolutely no sense………..

The region has supported this team since its inception. Attendance has gone down since the management mistakes after the 2015 season. The team is profitable and has increased in value 4x. The team has/will receive an $80M distribution from the MLB asset sale to Disney.
Nutting has decided to cut payroll because the smaller attendance and resulting loss of revenue is outweighed by reduced costs.
Ron Burkle, majority owner of the Penguins, knows how to build and support a winning franchise that sells out every game. He has been rebuffed twice in his attempts to buy the team. And yes I know hockey has a cap….but he spends to the limit and goes beyond it by spending on facilities that are the envy of the league.

Compare what Penguins past and present say about that franchise with what Cole said today during his press conference in Houston.

Nutting and his stooges are wringing profits out of the club and insulting the intelligence of the fans while doing it.
I believe the online petition seeking a Nutting sale of the franchise has already passed 40,000 signatures.


I’m not sure if you’re stating that what I said doesn’t make sense? Or that the Bob Nutting and his ownership group doesn’t make sense?

I can’t see how saying that if everyone in Pittsburgh did in fact stopped going to games and stopped supporting this club that moving the franchise would not be a serious option. If fact, with all the money your referring to them receiving for just being an MLB club in a small market, it would be an even bigger incentive for them to move instead of sell.

Bob Nutting is a business man. Hes not going to sell a club/business that starts off every year in the black with that kind of income on his books already. Especially when all he has to do is move it to another city to make even more money.

I agree 100% that the current ownership group is not spending enough money and when Burkle offered to purchase the club, I too held out hope that they would sell. But before the Pens got their new arena, that same ownership group too was considering a move (Kansas City), and would have moved had they not gotten a deal in place for a new arena. This is even after fans started to come back after getting Crosby.

This region has supported the Pirates since their inception, but if everyone were to stop, and stayed away, I’m not so sure they would sell. I think they would have to strongly consider moving and other MLB owners may let them do it, especially if they know it was a concerted effort by the fanbase.

It’s all about the $$.

michael t

Where I take issue with you is the idea that “if everyone stopped going the owners would consider moving and the other owners may let them do it.” Not plausible…it won’t happen.

Why? One of the top ballparks in America, strong history and fan support, contractual ties to city, state and PNC Park, profitable, rich owners.

A public boycott of all things Nutting related will hurt attendance, not kill it. He can still rake profits. But the league will not like the national adverse publicity. Bob is already avoiding the public. I believe there is an increasing chance all the bad press may cause him to consider pocketing the huge profits from the increase in valuation. Several hundred million, maybe in excess of $500M.


Thank you, Michael t, for being a refreshing voice of reason on this site. I AGREE WITH YOUR POINTS HERE, WHOLEHEARTEDLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


right on!


This guy will be the first in line for playoff tickets when they return. Heard this crap for years


i would prefer if NOOBs such as yourself, keep your thoughts to yourself when a long time poster is venting (bucs1971)….8 comments and most since the trades? im thinking you are one of the bucco employees that Tim eluded to having subscriptions here – away with you, company man!!!


If you are referring to me, clearly you have failed to comprehend anything that I wrote earlier. I will pull out the main points, which will serve to refute your assertion:

1. ” I suppose that I will always follow the Pirates, and MLB in general, but it will be with a greatly tempered enthusiasm. I am tired of the whole business aspect of MLB, and completely exhausted regarding the m.o. of the Nutting regime. Unless they change that philosophy, or sell the team to someone who will–and I don’t think either will happen any time soon–then the only thing that will be rebuilt will be the hopes of the fan base.”

So, make no mistake about it, the only way that I would line up for post season tickets is if this ownership changes its ways, or sells to someone else who is willing to spend to compete. Neither of which is likely at all. Short of literally a miracle, that’s about the only way that the Pirates will revisit playing baseball past October 1st.

Scott K

Moved from denial to anger, I see.


Denial to anger? Please clarify. I have never been in denial about anything relative to the Pirates. As far as anger goes, any devoted and knowledgeable Pirates fan, and frankly, baseball fan, should be angry about this situation.

Scott K

I was making a joke about the different emotional stages of grieving: Denial, anger, bargaining, acceptance. I may have left one out.

My apologies for poking fun. Trust me, I too am pissed they traded Cutch.


I am not so much angry that they traded Cutch and Cole, but that they seemingly (granted, it is too early to reach any conclusions) got pennies on the dollar for both of them in return. The same is probably going to happen very shortly with J-Hay. I know that the days of players staying with one organization from start to finish are over. We all love Cutch. That said, the economics of baseball in this day and age just dictate that such trades are basically inevitable. I get that. What angers me is the return, or lack there of one. This also from a front office that did nothing last year to replace Marte and Kang, even when they were still well within striking distance of a playoff berth when the trade deadline came and went. There just is no sense of urgency or aggressiveness with this front office.
I really thought that we had something to look forward to and build on after 2013-2015. I thought this ownership group had learned a long and hard lesson. Apparently, I was wrong. They are going back to the way of 1992 and 20 years thereafter. GO FIGURE!!!!!!!!!!!!


Marte’s career wRC+ is 117 even including last year… I don’t know how you can call that not solid.


And that will play way up in CF this year.


He also hasn’t seen Josh Bell play before

wilbert m

Josh s not special. He is pedro.


How can you possibly compare Bell to Pedro. Alvarez was a head case from the start. He could not field and he could not throw straight. Yea he hit a lot of HR’s but he couldn’t even hit his weight for an average. Bell has done nothing but learn and improve since he’s been here. Sorry Wilbert but I think you are dead wrong on this one.


Pedro simply couldn’t recognize the spin on a breaking ball. It was a great mystery to him.


As was the curveball! He still can hit a fastball a mile when he’s on though. A latimo- American Dave kingman comes to mind, for some reason


Josh is obsessive about getting better. Pedro never wanted to work in the off season.


You haven’t seen Meadows play then. He’s special.


No, he is not.

Michael Sanders

So is Corky

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