Thursday, September 15, 2011

Maybe I was just a year too early...

Going into the 2010 offseason, I wrote about how that offseason was an Inflection Point for the future of the Pirates franchise. I advocated that the Pirates make a serious attempt to improve the major league team by utilizing some of the minor league depth to trade for young veterans with multiple years of control.

Some of the same players I advocated trading for last offseason (Scott Baker of Minnesota, Gavin Floyd of the White Sox, Ricky Nolasco of the Marlins, and James Shields of the Rays) are still possibilities again this year.

The 2011 season gave us all a taste of winning baseball, like crack fiends getting that first vial for free. Now we're ready to sell all of our furniture (read: minor league system) to get another taste. I'm not saying we trade Jameson Taillon and Starling Marte to get some players, but I wouldn't rule out too many other people. Perhaps I was just a year too early in my advocating for trades to improve the major league team.

The Pirates may have been playing over their heads until the end of July, but the fact remains that they were 5 games over .500 going into the end of July series with the Phillies. At that point I felt the losing streak of 18 years would be over, even if I didn't truly believe that they were a completely legitimate playoff contender. The fact is that were contenders based on the record, but I would have been thrilled with 82 wins and getting that silly losing streak monkey off their backs.

But August smacked this team in the jaw and like a mid-1980's opponent for Mike Tyson, the Pirates could not get up from the canvas after that 10 game losing streak. It really left a bad taste in some fans' mouths on how sour this season turned.

The Pirates will again have a great deal of payroll flexibility after they decline the options for Doumit, Snyder, and probably Maholm. Even with some arbitration cases on the horizon (Hanrahan, Veras, Morton for example), they should still have around $10-$15M to potentially spend on either free agents or trades for younger veterans with multiple years of control. That doesn't even factor in the whole increased attendance and revenue they acheived in 2011, although the decrease to revenue sharing is unknown.

In short, last offseason the Pirates got Clint Hurdle and he has been a huge improvement over John Russell. Now it's time to get Andrew McCutchen some help on the field. You can't rely solely on your own prospects (but I can't wait for Starling Marte to get here in 2012!) because they flame out too often.

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