Kovacevic: Pirates' front office not 'all in'
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Clint Hurdle loves to use the phrase “All in” with the Pirates' coaches and players, and it's been easy all summer to see they've embraced it.
But it's just as easy to see, after Major League Baseball's trading deadline passed with a whimper Tuesday, that the philosophy goes no higher than the manager.
The bold, smart acquisition of Wandy Rodriguez last week looked like it would lead in to a productive deadline, one in which management would address a wish list for not only a starting pitcher but also a reliable bat and bullpen help.
That's not me saying that. Those were the assessments of Hurdle and Neal Huntington.
What they wound up with Tuesday were recently recalled outfielder Travis Snider, .202-batting first baseman Gaby Sanchez and 6.14-ERA reliever Chad Qualls.
That was it.
That's what a team that entered the day 3 1⁄2 games off the majors' best record did to improve its playoff chances.
Let's take each acquisition in order …
Snider, 24, has promise. He was just coming to life in the minors, and his first nine games with the Blue Jays saw three home runs. He's a good defender, too, and a gamer.
And truth be told, if the Pirates got him in 2011 — or even the coming winter — I'd have applauded. But the team is adding Snider to a corner outfield mix that, with Starling Marte, had played a combined 14 games this season heading into the first pitch at Wrigley Field.
What was the thinking there?
Huntington's assessment of whether the Pirates are better now was, “We'll see over the next two months,” and that's fair. But the fact remains that the team's greatest need in this calendar year has been corner outfield help, and they enter this pennant race by — correctly — going with Marte in left but not complementing him in right with experience.
Sanchez, 28, is a player I've liked a long time. In 2010 and '11 with the Marlins, he batted a consistent .273 and .266 with 19 home runs each season. But injury limited him to 55 games this season, and he plunged to .202 with three home runs.
He'll probably hit again, but he was on the bench in Miami, and he should be on the bench in Pittsburgh.
Qualls, 34, is simply awful. The only place he's pitched in past three seasons where his ERA was lower than 4.50 was the hitter's graveyard in San Diego. This season with the Yankees, opponents were batting .345, roughly what they'd pull off in the indoor cage.
Let's give Huntington the benefit of the doubt on Qualls. He knew there was no place now for Casey McGehee and moved McGehee for a breathing body.
Let's also acknowledge the Pirates didn't give up too much Tuesday. Brad Lincoln was breaking out but still profiled as a reliever. You'll always give that up for an everyday type. Gorkys Hernandez and a post-first-round pick for Sanchez was nothing, especially with how this team's drafts lack depth. And McGehee, again, was out.
But the object at this stage isn't to go 4-0 in trades.
It's to make the playoffs.
These playoffs, not in 2013.
“This year's rentals were very expensive,” Huntington said Tuesday. “We're looking to get years of control in return.”
This year counts more than most. Teams that spend at the Pirates' level don't get many. Nor is the Central Division going to see many more seasons where the Cardinals and the free-spending Cubs are down.
Look at those bios up there.
That look like a playoff push?
Or a gentle, we-did-what-we-could nudge?
No, I don't think the Pirates should have given up the farm. If it's one prospect, I'd have at least listened. Here's guessing Huntington did and found it all distasteful. I can respect that.
But what about a prospect coupled with significant cash, like the Rodriguez trade?
There were no hitters in that mold anywhere?
People will point to players who changed hands Tuesday as evidence that prices were too high. Philadelphia traded two corner outfielders, Shane Victorino to the Dodgers and Hunter Pence to the Giants. Both would have looked terrific in black and gold. And the cost wasn't prohibitive, a reliever and minor league pitcher for Victorino, a spare outfielder and minor league catcher for Pence. Zero elite prospects involved.
Did Huntington go in with a bold enough approach?
Maybe the Pirates worried about money. If so, it would have flown in the face of most of owner Bob Nutting and the front office's moves in recent years, but it's hardly unthinkable.
Victorino is making $9.5 million this season, after which he can be a free agent. Pence is making $10.4 million this season, $13 million the next. The Pirates' two position-player pickups, Snider and Sanchez, each makes less than $500,000, so the only cash added was Rodriguez's $12.2 million.
Money most assuredly should not have been an issue. Not after 19 years. Not after Pittsburgh has been filling PNC Park.
Not after everyone else was all in.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- South Butler students push composting as a way to slow food waste
- Steelers notebook: Linebacker Timmons hoping for contract extension
- School lunch group hopes to revise rules it calls impractical, too restrictive
- Miami (Fla.) gets prepared to take on ‘physical’ Pitt team
- Western Pa. dairies get creative to ensure eggnog supply
- Amazon raises bar for other retailers with same-day delivery
- Penguins 4th line is showing promise
- Former police officer who was indicted found dead in Massachusetts home
- Holiday shopping season off to early start in Mon Valley
- Mon City man arrested for alleged assault
- Chicago police videos of black teen McDonald’s death lack sounds; protests planned for ‘Black Friday’