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An unofficial Pittsburgh Pirates blog



Updated: 2018-01-16T09:22:23-05:00

 



Thoughts on the McCutchen and Cole trades

2018-01-16T09:22:23-05:00

Well, I won’t belabor the obvious: Not many fans, whether Pirate fans or not, think these were good trades. I think the best argument for the trades is that the alternative — waiting until July -- was too much to ask of a fanbase in which many fans understand the team can’t contend with its current core. It’s a lot to expect fans to spend four more months in purgatory, waiting until, as Eli puts it, the team chooses a direction. And then they’d still have to go through the inevitable anger over trading the team’s best players. It’s a little more disturbing to see reports, in connection with the Cole trade, that the Pirates chose quantity over quality, although you do have to acknowledge the possibility that these reports aren’t entirely accurate. I don’t think it’s any coincidence, though, that the top three players the Pirates received are major leaguers or major-league-ready. This was the pattern with Neal Huntington’s first set of veteran-for-prospect trades, back when he broke up the ‘27 Yankees, and it didn’t go well. Back then, he was faced with a farm system that simply didn’t have any players ready to step in at the major league level, so he had little choice. That’s not the case now, but you have to wonder whether the Pirates simply don’t think much of their own prospects. It’s also unsettling to see reports that, in pursuing Cole, both the Astros and Yankees meticulously put their best 4-5 prospects off limits. One of the explanations that’s been offered for the slow off-season, and it’s a credible one, is that the highly sophisticated front offices that predominate now place similar values on players. The Pirates’ experience with Cole and McCutchen is likely an indication that teams all placed a similar value both on the Pirates’ players and on top prospects generally. This is just one more indication that the Pirates no longer have the edge they briefly appeared to have in analytics. (In fact, their reliance on a fastball-heavy, pitch-to-contact approach to pitching and contact-oriented, all-fields hitting appears to have left them behind MLB’s successful teams.) Of course, there’s still one more shoe to drop, that being Josh Harrison. (I expect the Pirates would love to trade Francisco Cervelli, but they’re not going to get any prospect return at all for him and would probably have to pick up most of his remaining salary.) The only team that’s been consistently connected to Harrison is the Mets, but they reportedly just want to offer salary relief. Milwaukee may be interested now, too, so maybe the Pirates will be able to get another reliever. One question that should start being asked is whether the Pirates will be able to wean themselves from their obsession with veteran bench players and relievers. The acquisition of Colin Moran leaves them backed up at the corners, with David Freese and Sean Rodriguez still around. The team isn’t going anywhere in 2018 and neither Freese nor Rodriguez will be around after this year, unless the Pirates are insane enough to pick up Freese’s $6M 2019 option. There’s also the risk that Clint Hurdle will cut into Moran’s playing time if Freese and/or Rodriguez is still around. Moran has a history of struggling against LHPs, but in a rebuilding year he should be playing every day, period. It’d make no sense at all for a rebuilding team, even one that hopes for a quick turnaround, to let Freese and Rodriguez take playing time away not only from Moran, but players like Adam Frazier, Max Moroff, Chris Bostick and Jose Osuna, among others. All of them at least have some chance to contribute to a winning team in a couple years. Freese and Rodriguez don’t, and both should be tradeable if the Pirates pick up some of their salary. The same issue exists to an even greater degree in the bullpen. If they’ve accomplished one positive thing in this off-season, it’s to stockpile a long list of relievers who have at least some potential to pitch in the late innings. Right now, that list includ[...]



Andrew McCutchen Appreciation Thread

2018-01-15T19:51:23-05:00

I’m not sure this trade requires a whole lot of analysis (though you can certainly talk about that). If Andrew McCutchen wasn’t traded, he wasn’t coming back for 2019. Realistically, it was clear one year of McCutchen, coming off of two questionable seasons, wasn’t going to bring a whole lot back to Pittsburgh. It’s pretty cut and dry. We’ve got an overflow, of feelings, though, and with good reason. He brought pride back to the Pirates in a bad time. He experienced the lows — the 20-0 game, the collapses — and was integral to the highs — his 2013 National League MVP award was a nice consolation after the sting of the Pirates getting knocked out of the postseason. His energy was infectious. And he appreciated Pittsburgh as much as Pittsburgh appreciated him. He’d tweet through Steelers games. He named his son Steel. He was your kid’s favorite player. He was your favorite player, even if you were too cool to have a favorite player. Pittsburgh.My Home.My Fans.My City. The placed that raised me and helped mold me into the man I am today. You will 4ever be in my heart.A tip of the cap to all who have been on this journey with me. With Love and respect,Cutch pic.twitter.com/QB0n9vuBuZ— andrew mccutchen (@TheCUTCH22) January 15, 2018 That is understandable. While Cole has been great in the past, notably in 2015 when he finished fourth in Cy Young voting, he has struggled to replicate that performance in the past two seasons. And even though Cole is an above average major league pitcher, dreams of him seizing the reins as the Pirates’ unquestioned ace have largely diminished. Still, this is not the direction-defining, domino-tumbling maneuver that many of us expected it to be. Entering this offseason, the Pirates did not seem to have a clear indication as to whether they were going to try to compete in 2018 or attempt a rebuild. Presumably, trading Cole would have resolved that issue. But the players the Pirates received for their best starting pitcher are more geared to helping fill holes on the 2018 team even if the gains may be less apparent in 2020. Neal Huntington pretty much told Post-Gazette reporter Liz Bloom that yesterday when he was asked about the trade. “It’s the balance of immediate and moderate and longer-term … we felt this was the right move to get these players that are major-league ready with 15 years contribution combined,” Huntington said. In many ways, this is the kind of trade that should have been expected from the Pirates’ notoriously risk-averse general manager. Huntington has long eschewed flashy free agent signings or big-splash deadline deals for low-key, cost-effective alternatives and all of the players the Pirates received in this trade seem to fit that bill. Moran, 25, enters the Pirates system as their number four prospect according to MLB.com and figures to spend a good deal of time manning third base in Pittsburgh this season, giving David Freese some much-needed rest. Hitting from the left side, Moran posted some quality numbers last season in 79 games at Triple-A (.308/.373/.543) with 18 homers. Typically cited as a contact-first hitter, Moran reportedly made some changes to his swing to enhance his power and boasted a .235 ISO last year with the Fresno Grizzlies. Whether or not that power surge is legitimate will likely make a huge difference in Moran's major league outlook. Musgrove has been in the big leagues for the better part of two years, making 49 appearances and 25 starts for the Astros. The 25-year old struggled in the rotation last season, posting a 6.12 ERA as a starter, but became an effective reliever (1.44 ERA, 2.68 FIP in 31.1 innings of relief) for the Astros down the stretch. In Pittsburgh, Musgrove appears to be in line for a rotation spot. The 6'5" sinkerballer is the kind of guy who Ray Searage and the Pirates coaches have helped find success in the past, but pitchers who frequently allow contact are a dying breed in the modern day juiced ball era. Feliz, 24, is a hard-throwing reli[...]