2011 Pirates

This post is partially inspired the thoughts I shared in the Neil Walker thread, the most specific of which is that I still think Walker's a good prospect. The larger context of that thought, though, is that the Pirates have given themselves a lot of options for 2011 and one year to sort through them all. Since last summer, when the Pirates started trading players in earnest, I kind of assumed, as did most people, that they were trying to set themselves up for a run at contention in 2012-13. But the more I think about it, the more I think they can turn it around quicker than that. I'm fully aware that this might be fanboy wishcasting, and if so, feel free to tell me so in the comments. But I decided to take a look at what would have to happen for the Bucs to be competitive in 2011.

Obviously, this is a complex topic, but I'll try to make it as succinct as possible. Here's an example of what the 2011 Pirates roster could look like, followed by a discussion of what would have to go right for it to happen. (One thing I'd like to make clear before I go any further is that this is just a thought exercise meant to test the hypothesis that the Pirates can be competitive in 2011. So what I've listed below, including and especially free agent signings and trades, don't have to happen exactly as I've suggested. It just needs to be realistic enough to suggest that contention in 2011 is possible.) Here we go:

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pos player PA ba/obp/slg WAR salary
c Doumit 450 .275/.330/.445 2 5.1
c Jaramillo 200 .260/.325/.375 0.4 0.41
1b Alvarez 600 .265/.350/.470 2 0.55
2b Iwamura 600 .290/.365/.400 2 7.5
ss Bartlett 600 .285/.350/.415 2.5 8
3b LaRoche 600 .275/.350/.440 3.2 2
lf Milledge 600 .290/.350/.460 2.3 2
cf McCutchen 600 .290/.365/.460 3.5 0.41
rf Church 500 .275/.350/.450 1.8 3
1b/of Pearce 250 .260/.330/.440 0.3 0.41
if Cedeno 200 .260/.305/.390 0.2 1.5
of B Jones 350 .270/.340/.430 0.8 0.41
if Walker 150 .260/.310/.440 0.2 0.41

IP ERA WAR salary
sp Harden 140 3.6 3 9
sp Maholm 195 4.1 3.2 5.75
sp Duke 190 4.5 2.2 8
sp Morton 190 4.3 2.5 0.41
sp Lincoln 180 4.6 1.8 0.41
sp McCutchen 100 4.8 0.8 0.41
cl Dotel 60 3.7 0.7 4.5
su Affeldt 70 3.7 0.7 4
rp Hanrahan 70 4.2 0.3 0.75
rp Meek 60 4.2 0.3 0.41
rp Ascanio 50 4.2 0.2 0.41
rp Veal 90 4.75 -0.3 0.41
rp Hart 60 4.2 0.3 0.41

total 36.9 66.57

wins 84


As you can see, that's an 84-win team on paper. No world-beater, but a contender in a weak NL Central, and it doesn't interfere with long-term plans to get even better. So what would have to happen for this Pirates team to manifest in 2011? I'll break it down into four categories:

Reasonable Expectations: The above projections for Jaramillo, Iwamura, Pearce, Cedeno, B Jones, Walker, Maholm, Duke, Morton, D McCutchen, Dotel, Hanrahan, Meek, Ascanio, and Hart are all basically the same as their respective 2010 CHONE projections. There might be a bit of aging decline for some, but there will be progress for others. All in all, I think those ones are very reasonable. In addition, I'm a little optimistic with A McCutchen, but I think that's perfectly reasonable as well.

Very Possible, But There's Some Reason to Doubt: Doumit stays relatively healthy. Lincoln develops into a serviceable back-of-the-rotation starter. Alvarez is ready to be an above-average hitter and an average fielder at first.

Could Go Either Way: Milledge and LaRoche both step up their offensive games. What I've projected for them isn't insane, but it's ~.040 points of OPS above the 2010 CHONEs in both cases. Church needs to get healthy and regain some of the potential he showed in 2005-2008.

Out of Left Field: This is stuff I pulled out of thin air to fill in the roster. One thing that needs to happen is that Nutting has to live up to his word and put some more money into the payroll. In this specific scenario, he'd have to extend Iwamura (2/15), pick up Dotel's extension, and sign Affeldt (2/8) and Harden (2/18). I also took the liberty of imagining a trade with the Rays, wherein we send Clement and G Jones to them for Bartlett. I imagine we'd have to swap prospects to even that out, with us getting some of the Rays' pitching depth and the Rays' maybe getting some of our corner depth. Bartlett will be a 3rd-year arb player in 2011, and the Rays want to cut payroll. With Brignac coming up behind him, I imagine they'll cut ties with Bartlett next offseason, and they'll need a DH and 1B with Burrell and Pena both becoming free agents. Clement and Jones aren't superstars, but as cheap solutions with years of control left, the Rays might be interested. Of course, for that to work both Clement and Jones would have to hit pretty well this year (say .270/.350/.480 and .275/.335/.480). That's a little on the optimistic side, but not insane.

This thought exercise shows some of my biases (optimistic about Milledge and LaRoche, pessimistic about G Jones, Ohlendorf, and Tabata), but I hope it illustrates the point that the Pirates could be contenders sooner than we think. Obviously, not everything I've suggested will happen, but the pieces are there, and it's completely realistic to think that they have a decent chance of coming together for 2011. If Milledge falters, maybe Tabata is ready. If LaRoche falters, maybe Alvarez sticks at third. If Church isn't good enough to start, maybe we keep G Jones and Clement around and use LaRoche as trade bait instead. Maybe Ohlendorf is good enough that we don't need a free agent starter. Maybe we trade Duke and Doumit with ML-ready players as part of the return (a la McLouth). There are a lot of questions to be answered and a lot of ways that the next year could play out, but I think when the dust settles, the Pirates will be in very good position for 2011.

What do you guys think? Am I being unrealistic? Can we compete for a playoff spot in 2011?

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of the managing editor (Charlie) or SB Nation. FanPosts are written by Bucs Dugout readers.

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