The Pittsburgh Pirates – Panic Stations or Trust the Process?

Welcome to BF&N, Estevão Maximo…

Contrary to popular belief, even if you do things the right way, it might not work.

In baseball and sports in general, the reason for using correct objective methodology is to get the best chance of achieving the outcome sought, (winning). You could put a 12-year-old in there basing every decision on a coin flip and 1 out of 100 times he could build a championship team, it’s all about analyzing the percentages.

Which team best describes that?

The Pittsburgh Pirates.

Neal Huntington has done a superb job running this franchise, being handed a lousy ballclub that couldn’t reach .500 ball for its life, on a budget that makes Fred Wilpon look like the late Mike Ilitch.

He has built a solid team, that right now it’s at a crossroads, retooling for the near future, sending away franchise icon Andrew McCutchen and former number 1 overall pick Gerrit Cole.

Multiple people in the game, especially some scouts have come down hard on Pittsburgh for getting a light return on the Cole trade, mainly because Neal didn’t go for the flashy top prospect that the Yankees were offering.

As an aside, there’s a reason why the Yankees have been quick to include Clint Frazier in any trade talks and it’s not because they have no room for him, he’s a center fielder and while Hicks is a nice player, the feeling would not be the same if they had Ronald Acuna. That’s not to say Frazier will be a bust, but it is a sign they have seen some red flags, mainly his plate discipline, which is awful. Power hitters that strike out a lot are fine, power hitters that strike out a lot and can’t walk, are concerning.

Anyway, the Pirates got a package of Joe Musgrove, Colin Moran, Michael Feliz and Jason Martin

Funny thing, after the deal was made, Fangraphs projections had the Astros getting one win more and the Pirates remained as a .500ish team, why is that, part of it is the fact Musgrove’s projected to have roughly a 3 WAR season 2.7 to be exact, basically replacing Cole’s production except for that one great year he had in 2015.

Here are FG’s Depth Charts/Steamer Projections

Musgrove 157 IP   3.95 ERA.  2.7 WAR

Cole 172 IP.  4.29 ERA.  2.6 WAR

The thing people must realize, they are trading away 2 years of Cole, a 3-4 win pitcher, he has that 6 WAR upside but nobody is gonna pay for it.

Musgrove is a nice controllable starter with good potential, that can replace Cole at least to some degree.

Colin Moran is a nice prospect, former first-round pick, blocked in Houston, now you get a chance to see what he can produce with 600 AB, it gives Pitt flexibility to play Harrison at 2B, or trade him. Plus you get 2 fliers in Feliz and Martin.

I’d take that any day over Frazier and a couple of lower level top 20-30 prospects.

The Andrew McCutchen trade, one year of control, almost no chance of resigning him, you get Kyle Crick a nice young arm, give him a chance to start 20-30 games see what he does, plus a toolsy outfielder you’re taking a chance on.

The Pirates are a team with a lot of financial flexibility, a very smart GM, promising young pitchers in.

Jameson Taillon, Tyler Glasnow, Mitch Keller, Crick and Musgrove. A couple of those guys hit and you’re pretty well set.

Plus they’ve inked an elite reliever on a team friendly contract in Felipe Rivero.

On to the hitting side, they have controllable long-term assets in Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, Josh Bell and Austin Meadows. Josh Harrison is still there, will probably be moved, but the good news is they have a lot going for them and this retool might only take 1-2 years depending on how some of these prospects develop.

Right now if you asked me who is a better run franchise, Pirates or the Royals, both teams got over the hump and experienced success these last few years, KC got a WS,

Pittsburgh didn’t; it happens, and luck plays a big role. The Pirates got shutout on a couple of wildcard games at home and that was it, maybe on another night, those games play themselves out differently and who knows.

Three straight postseason appearances where all-time great pitching performances killed their playoff hopes. Game 4 NLDS, Michael Wacha took a no-hitter into the eighth, Cards won at Pittsburgh, tied series at 2 a piece. Mad Bum and Jake Arrieta threw shutouts in the wildcard game. Bad luck.

A couple of breaks go their way and this is a completely different conversation.

The Royals got those breaks and a World Series ring.

But ask yourself this, results aside what roster outlook would you rather have right now.

Unquestionably, it’s the Pirates.

Neal Huntington has done a fine job with this team, under these circumstances and it was granted with some bad losses in the postseason, just gotta keep moving forward.

It’s that time of year again! Don’t forget to order this year’s Baseball Prospectus 2018 from Amazon for delivery on 9th February!

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