|For the Pirates: Now or later?||| Print |||Send|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on July 19, 2012
Sure the Pirates can make a run at .500 and maybe even one of the playoff slots here in 2012, but if the front office decides to go for that, it could be a very shortsighted decision.
Right now the Pirates have more trade chips than they’ve had in a long, long time. If they were to use the next 10 days or so to swing some deals, they could greatly deepen their farm system for years to come. After a highly successful draft this year, the question boils down, Do we go for glory this year or build something we could sustain for the future?
Certainly the Pirates aren’t exactly a powerhouse in terms of talent, but as a whole the National League doesn’t have any really dominant teams this year. That’s kept a lot of teams in the mix, including a number that in any other year would already have been written off. Nowhere is that weakness more apparent than in the NL Central where only the Reds have better than a .500 record against non-divisional opponents.
That could mean that it’s really the Pirates year. But realistically that’s a stretch. What the Pirates have is a rotation filled with journeymen and good but hardly remarkable starters and a lineup largely filled with replacement type players. Most of these players aren’t signed to come back for 2013, and most of them won’t bring draft picks as compensation if they leave via free agency.
Yet plenty of them have value, maybe even more value than they’d command as free agents, to other teams especially the pitchers. That of course is where the real value usually is at this time of year.
Photo by At Home Plate, used under creative commons license.
Of the starters slated for free agency after this season, Erik Bedard and Kevin Correia both have enough of a proven track record to attract at least a moderate return. Jeff Karstens probably wouldn’t bring as much, but would probably fetch at least a middling prospect or two as he’s pitched fairly well this season.
The relief corps is a different story. The Pirates bullpen has been a strength and with the exception of Tony Watson, every one has been pretty much lights out. It’s also the team’s greatest strength in terms of contracts. With the exception of Juan Cruz the Pirates aren’t poised to lose anyone until after the 2013 season. While that means that Cruz should be available, it doesn’t preclude the Bucs from trading any of the others. But the returns would have to be very good, or even great, in terms of a team trying to acquire Joel Hanrahan.
On the hitting side, you’d have to assume any starter except Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez and Neil Walker is available for the right offer. However value in the majority of those players, with the exception of Garrett Jones, isn’t very high. Still some of them, including Casey McGhee and Rod Barajas might well slot in to the plans of several teams.
I know if you are a Pirates fan the last thing you want is to break up the run that this team is on. The urge to ride the success is high, but the fact is that the Pirates for the moment are taking advantage of a weak division and riding pitching that can’t be sustained for next season. Despite their record, the Pirates don’t have a huge amount of talent. While they could use this season -- an over-.500 season (hopefully) -- to try to attract some better talent via free agency in the offseason, the odds are that they won’t be able to improve hugely that way.
The Pirates and other small market teams are going to have to develop the best of their talent internally, like the Rays have. Trading away players who won’t be with them next season should be a no brainer. Adding depth and talent to the farm system could pay dividends for years to come.
But the urge to go for it has to be strong in Pittsburgh.