Thursday, July 15, 2010
What Exactly is the Pirates Plan?
Let's take a look at where the Pirates currently sit at 30-58. They are on pace to lose roughly 105 games this season. That's fine. I didn't expect much this year anyways.
However, a majority of the public has been eyeing next season as the year the Pirates get to .500 and start to compete. That is just not a realistic goal. Hypothetically, let's say the Pirates improve by 15 games next season off of their projected 57-105 record. A fifteen game improvement is quite a stretch, but that still would only make the Pirates a 72-90 team. Then let's say in 2012 they improve on that and win 81 games, hitting .500. Where does that leave us?
It's quite realistic that those numbers could be pushed back by a year. It's realistic to say that without some real veteran talent; not your Ryan Church's or Bobby Crosby's, but some real talent, that the team could be just as bad next season. That would lead to an improvement in 2012 and not hitting .500 until 2013, which means competing is 2014 or later.
Depending on which theory you subscribe to, where does that leave the team. The core of youngsters that include: Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker, Jose Tabata and Brad Lincoln will be three, maybe four years into their first contracts. This is assuming they all become legit major league players, and it's not a guarantee that they all do. Will the Pirates front office make the attempt to keep them here long term to see this "plan" out? That doesn't even include Andrew McCutchen, who surely will be due for big money when his current deal expires.
Remember, the goal here is to win a pennant and compete year in and year out. It's not to just get to .500 and be happy. There is talent at Bradenton and Altoona, but they are still a couple years away. As for this years class that includes Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie? They still have to be signed. If they do, they would still be a few years away from PNC park as well.
Assuming Lincoln develops, the Pirates are still thin on pitching at the big league level for the next couple of seasons. All of the talent they are counting on, including : Bryan Morris, Jared Hughes, Jeff Locke, Rudy Owens, Justin Wilson, Nathan Adcock, Tim Alderson, Hunter Strickland and Aaron Pribanic are at a minimum two years away. Morris could be fast tracked to the big leagues, but the rest won't be around anytime soon. That's not even considering the fact that once the young pitchers do arrive, they will likely struggle their first go around at the major league level.
Not everything is so great down on the farm though. Alderson has been demoted. High regarded prospects such as: Starling Marte, Tony Sanchez, Victor Black, Quienten Miller, Brock Holt and Colton Cain have all suffered long term injuries that will push back their development.
So exactly what is the Pirates plan? Do we wait around until at least 2014 to see if these guys are a good judge of young talent? More than likely, based on past results, they aren't. Was it worth calling up all of the young guys this season, starting their major league clocks? Do we have to cross our fingers and hope they team can lock up all of our young players? We may have to.
I've said it many times before. Once the Pirates get some of their young core in place, they have to start adding to it from the outside. They are simply not going to win a pennant operating at the current pace. Granted, there is more talent in the system now then at any time in the last two decades. The Pirates overall farm system has improved from dead last to the middle of the pack. That's quite the improvement in a little under three years.
Most of the talent though is viewed as borderline major league talent. There are very few game changers currently in the system. We've been hearing for years that this is the core they wanted to build around, so let's see them do it. I have no problem this season if they deal every veteran on the current team. Trade Ryan Doumit, Zach Duke, Octavio Dotel, Church and others. They can't quit adding talent to the system. Also, continue to draft well. The plan should be to have a continuous pipeline of talent to the majors.
As for the big club, the time is now to start to add to this group of young players. That needs to start this off season. You can't run a major league team on nickles and dimes. Now the pressure is solely on Bob Nutting. If you don't want to spend money or can't spend money, then this franchise will always be a loser. You have stated you have no problem spending the necessary money. The time is upcoming. Show us, quit telling us.
They don't need to go out and spend $200 mil on one superstar. That doesn't make sense at the moment. What they need to do if add some quality bats and arms to the current group. They will be out there next year. Then we will see exactly what the "plan" really is.