Well, the Pirates have a manger, a general manager and a President, finally. They shall remain nameless in this blog to protect their families. The question now is, what are they going to do. The consensus is that the Pirates need to tear it down and rebuild. If you watch MLB Network, there doesn’t seem to be any other way for the Pirates to get back on top. Certainly, for the new management team, this is the safest way to go. If you are rebuilding you are going to get at least a 2 year reprieve on criticism and maybe even a third. It is the cheapest way to go. Even though the payroll of the Pirates is one of the smallest in baseball, it can be pared down even further, by trading Starling Marte, Chris Archer, Gregory Polanco, and Keone Kela. With the exception of Polanco, they should all bring back some good prospects and they are, by far, making the most money. Trading them would more than make up for the money be paid to Huntington and Hurdle over the next two years. Polanco was called one of the most disappointing players in all of baseball, by Joel Sherman on MLB Now, the show for the thinking fan. Geeze, and I thought I was hard on Polanco. The point is, he probably is not going to get much of a return. The rebuild proponents, which there are many, point to the 93 losses the Pirates suffered this past year, as the reason this team needs to start over. But let’s just wait one gall darn minute here. At the All Star break this team was 44 and 45, and about 3 games out of first place. Then they collapsed mightily, on and off the field. So are you going to base a rebuild on just a 2 month bad stretch. Granted, they have not come close to making the playoffs since 2015, but at least when they take the field this is not a bad or old team.
According to Baseball Reference, by measuring , Wins Above Replacement, a player value stat (WAR) the Pirates have 5 solid Major Leaguers in Josh Bell, Adam Frazier, Kevin Newman, Bryon Reynolds and Starling Marte. WAR is a production number, so the more you play the more your WAR can go up. Jacob Stallings with only 71 games played and 210 plate appearances had a WAR of 1.4 with 2 being a Major League starter. With more starts Stallings should be able to hit that 2 number easily. That would give the Pirates 6 position players considered Major League starters. Compare that with the rest of the NL Central at the moment. The Cincinnati Reds have just one, the Milwaukee Brewers 3, the St. Louis Cardinals 5 and the Chicago Cubs 7. I know that gives Stallings the benefit of the doubt on a small sample size but who cares. The Pirates starting 8 is pretty good and the oldest member of the group is Marte at age 30. The Pirates have 2 glaring weaknesses third base and right field. How they will deal with that I have know idea and again I do not care. I know the pitching is a mess but there is lot’s of pitching out there on the free agent market. The management team has not really given us a clue on what they will do, but it will become evident, as this offseason moves along what’s going to happen.
Derek Shelton, the new Pirate manager, (sorry Derek I mentioned your name) said that this will be a fun clubhouse. He may be the first manager to win Manager of Year and lose 95 to 100 games, if he can keep that promise. I can hear Bob Walk saying after the 95th loss, ” This is the happiest I have ever seen the Pirate clubhouse since I have started broadcasting. They weren’t this happy when they first made the playoffs in 2013″. Bringing happy and losing together, would be quite an accomplishment for the new Pirate manager. In case you haven’t figured it out, I am against the rebuild solution to the Pirate situation. Have a 140 million dollar payroll, make a few good trades, and this team can contend. What ever happened to that saying, the nucleus is there. How big does a nucleus have to be for it to be significant. The Pirates have 6 in the field and despite the pitching being such a disaster they have about 4 or 5 solid arms. In my view that’s enough to add on, not tear down and start over again.