- Winter Preview----Pittsburgh Pirates:
What is there to say about the Pirates?
What they need: Two power bats; pitching top-to-bottom; a veteran catcher.
Free agents: RHP Matt Capps; LHP Phil Dumatrait
The one positive thing about playing in a football-mad city that also has the best hockey team in the NHL is that the baseball franchise----no matter how storied and historically significant it is----can do whatever it wants because no one's paying much attention; nor do they really care what the Pirates do either way. There's something positive to be found in a team that's been so universally heinous from the field to the front office that no one notices anything they do anymore.
I have absolutely no explanation for why the Pirates non-tendered Capps aside from the fact that they're the rare combination of cheap, clueless and agenda-driven.
Fair enough, Capps was arbitration-eligible and was terrible over the second half of the season. The do have a replacement closer in Joel Hanrahan (who's pretty good); but with the scarcity of relievers available, Capps's age (26) and that he's been solid in the past, didn't it make sense to hang onto him to give some viability to the Pirates bullpen and have a useful trade chip at mid-season 2010? With a little luck----a concept completely foreign to the Pirates, I understand----Capps would've had a hot year and been even more marketable to a contender in June.
To just dump him for nothing? Do the Pirates have any idea at all of what they're doing? Or do they just flip a coin; throw darts at a wall or find some other arbitrary way to make their decisions?
As much as a rip into to the stat zombies for their pomposity and dogmatic devotion to stats above any and all other methods of building a team, at least they can point to a reason for doing the things they do; I may not agree with them, but there's a reason. When it comes to the Pirates, there's never a reason for anything. They run their organization as the epitome of utter chaos and while that makes for an interesting lifestyle for those that choose to partake in anarchy, it's not the way to build even a moderately respectable organization.
Remember that in the past two years, the Pirates dumped Jason Bay, Xavier Nady, Nyjer Morgan, Nate McLouth and just about anyone else who was marketable and was making money for returns that were middling at best; all the while signing such free agents as Ramon Vazquez and Eric Hinske and inexplicably trading for Akinori Iwamura as if they were one veteran player away from contention. Along with that, if one decision summed up the Pirates on the whole, it was that they non-tendered their 26-year-old closer.
Dumatrait was another washed out first round pick of the previous regime led by owner Kevin McClatchy and GM Dave Littlefield. On the bright side, the new posse running the Pirates, team president Frank Coonelly and GM Neal Huntington have succeeded in one area that was heretofore considered all but impossible----they've made the McClatchy/Littlefield years look good by way of comparison. Nice work.
Players avaialble via trade: C Ryan Doumit; LHP Zach Duke; LHP Paul Maholm; INF Ramon Vazquez
I have no idea what's going through the heads in the Pirates front office (notice I refrained from using the words "brains" or "braintrust" or anything to do with rational thought), so anyone and everyone could be on the block. Nothing they do surprises me...I hope.
But I thought the same thing before they traded McLouth to the Braves: A) after signing him to a reasonable extension; and B) without offering him around baseball before getting what was widely regarded as sub-standard return.
I've always liked Doumit. Even though he's had injuries and a bad year at the plate in 2009, he's an option for a team like the Mets if they can't come to an agreement (again) with Bengie Molina. He's making a reasonable (for most teams) $3.55 million in 2010 and $5.1 million in 2011. He's going to get traded.
Duke replenished his value with an All Star year in 2009. I was never particularly impressed with Duke and he's arbitration-eligbile. He's one player the Pirates should trade before he reverts back to what he was in the prior few years.
Maholm has talent, is lefty and has been durable. He's guaranteed over $10 million through 2011. He's going to get traded either this winter or at the deadline.
I'm still waiting for an answer as to why the Pirates signed Vazquez to begin with. He has some use as a utility player for a contender, but what the Pirates needed him for is a mystery that one would have to go to the wise man atop the mountains in Tibet to even try to find a reasonable response----and he'd probably shrug and say, "Hell if I know!"
Players to pursue:
Note: I'm not even bothering to go player-by-player and what they could do for the Pirates. I'll list them. That's it.
Via free agency: OF Rocco Baldelli (Red Sox); RHP Danys Baez (Orioles); RHP Kevin Gregg (Cubs); C Ramon Castro (White Sox); RHP Octavio Dotel (White Sox); OF Jermaine Dye (White Sox); RHP Jason Marquis (Rockies); RHP Fernando Rodney (Tigers); RHP Vicente Padilla (Dodgers); RHP Justin Duchscherer (Athletics); RHP Brett Myers (Phillies); LHP Erik Bedard (Mariners); RHP Ben Sheets; INF Khalil Greene (Cardinals); RHP Todd Wellemeyer (Cardinals); C Rod Barajas (Blue Jays); RHP Chien-Ming Wang (Yankees); OF Ryan Church (Braves); 1B Josh Whitesell (Diamondbacks)
Via trade: RHP Andy Sonnanstine (Rays); RHP Brandon League (Blue Jays); 1B Lyle Overbay (Blue Jays); 1B/OF Luke Scott (Orioles); INF/OF Brandon Inge (Tigers); RHP Brandon Morrow (Mariners); OF Cody Ross (Marlins); RHP Bobby Parnell (Mets); RHP Chris Young (Padres)
Obviously no one chooses to go to the wasteland that is the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, but there are so many free agents floating around that at least a few could fall to the Pirates simply because they have nowhere else to go.
If the Pirates are smart (yah right!!!), they could improve economically and/or trade the veterans to contenders as they settle into last place (unless the Astros nip them in that regard) and start the process all over again.
Every time you think the Pirates can't reach new levels of organizational depravity, they stun even the most cynical among us.
This organization is a disaster.
- The Prince on the podcast: