Biertempfel: Pirates keeping focus on future
By Rob Biertempfel
Published: Thursday, August 9, 2012, 11:42 p.m.
Updated: Saturday, December 22, 2012
It has only been 10 days since the non-waiver trade deadline, so it's impossible to say with any certainly how well the Pirates did.
Their first move was to acquire Wandy Rodriguez, which put another lefty in the rotation by bumping Kevin Correia to the bullpen. They also picked up veteran reliever Chad Qualls, who's struggled this year and was about to be cut by the Yankees.
The Pirates made bids for high-impact guys such as Hunter Pence, Shin-Soo Choo, Shane Victorino and Chase Headley. In the end, the Pirates got Travis Snider and Gaby Sanchez, both of whom had spent much of the season at Triple-A.
When he announced the trades, general manager Neal Huntington spent a lot of time talking about “years of control,” especially with Snider and Sanchez. Both are making near the major league minimum and won't hit free agency for a while. Hope for the future, blah blah blah.
One phrase I didn't hear, though, was, “This puts us over the top in the playoff race this year.”
At the start of spring training, Huntington made a sexy trade when he snatched A.J. Burnett away from the Yankees. The clubhouse was energized from the moment Burnett toted his gear to his locker at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla. Since then, the feeling has only grown more positive.
It was different when Rodriguez, Qualls, Sanchez and Snider arrived. Not exactly in a bad way, but also not in a manner that suggests the team feels a new sense of completeness.
There's a feeling among some of the holdover Pirates players that, with a postseason berth within reach, management did not step up and get them some help for the here and now.
Manager Clint Hurdle knows the temperature of his team. When he closed the doors for a post-deadline day meeting last week in Chicago, he wanted to stomp out any dissatisfaction about the new-look roster. “Anyone who has any GM in them, they've got to let it go,” Hurdle said. “Anyone who has any manager in them, they've got to let it go.”
The price to get Burnett was almost shamefully cheap: two minor leaguers with low ceilings and not a ton of cash in salary obligations. The cost to get Snider — former first-rounder Brad Lincoln — was higher. Yet the front office did not part with any of its top prospects. And, with an eye toward escalating salaries for guys like Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, James McDonald and Pedro Alvarez, management moved to keep other costs low.
The future could've been now. Instead, the five-year plan mentality is still alive.
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This is such a "no-brainer." For NH to have offered top prospects, especially pitching prospects, for any of the players being discussed in the media, would in my mind have been grounds for dismissal. NH has a plan. It appears to be well thought-out, and it seems to be very clearly moving the organization toward a reasonably sustainable competitive footing. He did not, and should not, stray from it. This is not yet a team in which he should make major investments, in terms of sacrificing top prospects, for a chance at short-term success. The future is still on too-shaky a foundation. This team has one established everday outfielder, two established (or emerging) everyday infielders, and a cohort of starting pitchers, which, while they have certainly been pretty effective, are not the staff to lead this team into the future. NH made some bets that may help this year, and possibly going forward. These are the right types of bets to make at this point in this team's development. BTW, the Burnett trade was not widely hailed as a "game changer" at the time of the trade. Perhaps the Pirate players were uniquely positive in viewing the trade, but I recall that some gurus were, in fact, reporting that the Yankees were simply relieved to rid themselves of an aging veteran on a career-downside slide. And others recognized that AJ has not really been a dominant pitcher over the course of his career, to date. I recall some observing that he had parlayed a couple of outstanding years into a huge contract. And of course, the reason that he came at a price that, IN RETROSPECT, is "almost shamefully cheap," as you described it, is that deals can only be made looking forward. The market sensed the Yankees' "desperation," and also recognized the associated risks. NO ONE (except perhaps AJ himself) saw AJ to be the ACE that he has been this year. I'm totally impressed by him, and what he has meant to this pitching staff and this team. Good for AJ, good for NH, good for the pirates and their fans.
Submitted by: thomas on Friday, August 10, 2012
Seriously, you are complaining about not winning today with some crap move that may or may not have worked to GUARANTEE us anything this year? It would be downright FOOLISH to trade a top prospect for ... Hunter Pence. He made moves to enhance our team NOW and even more in the future. Snider has looked good so far, dare I say ALOT BETTER THAN PENCE. Why throw good money away on someone else's mistakes. Adding ONE good bat like Victorino likely wasn't enough to guarantee us the division, much less a World Series. We have a solid team which should be better next year and better after that. Why scramble it for a shot in the dark this season. Seems you are just trying to drum up clicks and responses. i'll give you one, then discount you from here.
Submitted by: Blaine on Friday, August 10, 2012
Who, exactly, was energized at the beginning of the season? Pedro Alvarez who was hitting .196 on June 15th? McCutchen, who entered May with no home runs and seven RBI? ...or Walker who went into the same month with zero dingers and six RBI? Maybe it was the team as a whole...after all, the Bucs were so energized at the start of the season that they were under .500 as of May 29th. Maybe you're right...the Pirates should've have made a move for Pence...after all, Hunter's hit a scorching .154 with his new team. Could Victorino have been the answer? Perhaps...he does have an RBI since becoming a Dodger. All the team would've had to give up was Marte...who's hit .300 with 3 HR since the trade deadline...and a another top prospect or two.