When the Pirates finally traded Starling Marte, the media jumped on this, as the sign that the Pirates, were going into rebuild mode. There were chants of tear it down, and a list of other players to trade, to make this happen. Ben Cherington on a radio broadcast gave the impression, that this might not be the case. Many would say that he is not being has forth right as he should be, because this tear down and rebuild mode, is not being looked at too kindly, by major league baseball. Since Baltimore and Kansas City seemed to have tanked the last two years, there is the feeling that every team should try to compete every year, to be fair to their fan base. This tanking formula is credited to the Chicago Cubs and the Houston Astros, who had some really bad years before they became World Series Champions and recent perennial contenders. Now, tanking is being frowned upon by MLB. Giving the benefit of the doubt to the rebuild proponents concerning the Pirates, lets say that this is what the Pirates are going to do. It appears that the target years for the Pirates to contend, would be 2023 and 2024. Before we look at future moves, the Pirates may make to do the rebuild, lets look at the Marte trade.
Starling Marte would be considered one of the best three players on the Pirate team. You could argue for him being any number, from 1 to 3, but third would be the worst position that you could rank him on the team. Once he became an Arizona Diamondback, this made the Diamondbacks the number one challenger to the Dodgers for the division title, and an immediate wild card contender, according to many media sites. In other words this was a significant acquisition for the Diamondbacks. What did the Pirates get in return? They got two top 10 prospects that are 19 years old, one pitcher and one shortstop. They were labeled as high risk, high reward returns. You do not want to emphasize high risk, but you can not totally ignore it. On face value, I have no problem with the trade. Starling Marte is heading into his age 31 season. He is already showing defense decline. His abilities to steal bases is not going to improve. He is not an analytic favorite, because he never has had plate discipline. His walk percentage has always been low. Watching Starling Marte play everyday, was at times frustrating, because at times he seemed to have mental lapses out there. Even considering all of this, he is a top 3 player on the Pirates.
So who is left to trade. The names mentioned are Josh Bell, Adam Frazier, and possibly Joe Musgrove. Let me add Bryan Reynolds to the list. What would be the return? Are any of those players going to bring more than Starling Marte. Josh Bell may bring a little more in the American League, because teams would not have to put up with his way below average defense. These players may bring a little more value at the trade dead line when teams are making a stretch run. Musgrove’s value may increase at that time if he can improve , as teams are always looking for pitching down the stretch. Even if you want to stretch reality and say that these 4 players could bring back exactly what Marte did, do you really want 8 more high risk, high reward players. Maybe you get one prospect for them that is closer to being major league ready but teams do not like parting with prospects, unless the return is solid. There are teams that are more prospect rich, and if they are in contention at the deadline, may be more receptive to such a deal. You are probably not getting much in return, for the Pirate players that may be available. The reason is, that none of them have had that long of a track record. Bell had a great first half but became mediocre in the second half. Even Reynolds had a bad September. Frazier’s first year at second base, was a double surprise, as his fielding improving greatly but his bat seemed to falter. From a fans perspective, if they stay on the Pirates, there is a good possibility that they all can improve and build on their success in 2020. From another teams perspective, they are all players that a wait and see attitude may be the best path before you give up anything to acquire these player.
Whatever the Pirates do from this point on may be dictated by how they perform in the first 90 games of the season. Last year, at the All Star break the Pirates were 44-45 and 2.5 games out of first place. This was a two edged sword. Two and a half games out of first place was nice but one game under 500 is really not all that great. Most people feel that the Pirates have no chance of repeating this in 2020 for the first 90 games. We do not know what, if any, more moves management will make. If the Pirates could get in that same position that they were last year at the 89 game mark, you have to wonder what they will do. They certainly will a lot of room to spend on some trade deadline pick ups. This could be the shortest rebuild in history. There is the problem. Just what do the Pirates have, to rebuild with. What kind of prospects can they get. In my view, not much, in order to win in 2023 or 2024. That could change in a big way if the above players make a big leap forward. Are you listening Joe Musgrove? I do not know how well the Pirates are going to do, but I do know this could be one of the most interesting seasons in Pirate history. This would just be fitting, if Pirates became the team that tried to tank, but couldn’t.