A brief warning as its a decently long post, so if you plan on commenting or replying please read the entire post first. thank you
The plan, the core, the whatever you want to call it is in place for one reason: to become a competitive team and compete for a World Series title. NH has said it himself, that its not about just reaching .500, but going for the playoffs and building a contender.
So what makes a contender? In my opinion (which doesn't count for much) I believe a contender is a team that has the pitching staff to take it all the way to the end. Granted, you can win a game or games because of a great offense but over the course of a season a team wins its division, or pennant, or world series because of its pitching and its pitchers ability to go out there and put a team on his back and carry them to a win.
The Pirates have made great strides this season no doubt, as I do not purposely intend to bash the Pirates in this post. They have made the promotions of McCutchen, Walker, Tabata and finally Alvarez over the past two seasons. These players have looked their part so far from what we have seen but we are still so very very far off the mark and the problem rests with our pitching.
The window of opportunity to win with this "core" is now closing. Yes, I know, it just started but 2015 and 2016 will come along fast and that is when this new core will be hitting the Free Agent market. I think we all generally agree here that the talent in the minors leagues is growing, but the impact pitching appears to be way off down the road. A majority of the guys who we all believe could be front of the rotation starters are still in short season ball or just drafted this year. Lets look at some of those guys: Ill just do some generous guess work as to their promotions and when they would most likely be in the bigs.
ZVR, Cain, Decker, Pounders - State College 2010 * WV 2011 * Brad./Alt 2012 * Alt/Indy 2013 * MLB 2014
This of course is a very genrous promotion schedule and of course its barring any injuries or bad seasons that may force any of these guys to spend some extra time at any one level. Next:
Kingham, Allie, Cumpton?, Hafner? - State College 2011 * WV 2012 *....MLB 2015
Again being generous and hoping for no set backs to anyone. Next:
The Wild Card in all of this Jameson Taillon - State College 2011? WV 2011? Bradenton 2011? It all depends and we will see shortly. Lets say he hits the MLB Level in 2014, that seems fair enough to get to my point.
The vast majority of these players will not be major league ready until the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Do we really expect to ride these guys to the playoffs with assumingly them being monitored by a pitch count and inning count? I certainly do not. But even so, many may argue well we will have Morris, Locke, Owens, Lincoln, etc..filling out the front of the rotation as the vets that can eat up innings. That is the problem though, those guys are possibly nothing more than the inning eaters we have now. At best, middle of the rotation guys. Maybe one of them flashes out into a Cy Young, Allstar, Ace candidate but maybe not.
So what do we do? Who do we turn to? Maybe by 2016 the pitching catches up with the hitters, thats plausible. Maybe we go out and spend 20Mil/Yr on a SP (i really hope not....). That money could be spent elsewhere or even to keep those hitters (whose windows are closing!) on the team through the possible 2016 and beyond season.
How about looking into the 2011 draft. We know about the "Amazing Rendon Sweepstakes"...yay for finishing in last this year! (sarcasism). But really though, anywhere in the top 3 of next years draft is bound to pick a winner. The question is do we need the bat of Rendon is much as we may need the arm of a Purke or Cole.
Following the Alvarez timeline, Rice U star Anthony Rendon would most likely debut in 2013 (a la 2 years after he is drafted, Alvarez 08).
Tony Sanchez and Starling Marte are in the majors by 2012 or 2013 along with maybe Andrew Maggi at SS? or Lambo in the OF? Matt Curry maybe at 1B? These guys can contribute on offense, so would the need for a Rendon be as serious as a need for a top pitcher?
Assuming we take Purke or Cole or another top college arm in 2011, i would guess they also are making the majors by 2013 or the slow process has them in 2014. Ok, so now we have Taillon and say Purke coming on board in 2014. Along with a lineup of Cutch, Tabs, Walker, Alvarez, Sanchez, etc...
Now fastforward to 2015 or 2016 (will give the FO the benefit of the doubt and assume Cutch is here in '16). Taillon and Purke entering there 3rd season while guys like Allie and ZVR and along with the now "old guys" of Owens and Morris fill out the rotation. I gotta believe in that rotation a lot more than a one made of Taillon, some sort of FA signing or two and then some other organizational guys.
Its about the timing of getting these guys together at the right time to make a run at the whole thing. It looks like its going to come down to either 2015 or 1016. Hopefully I'm wrong and we won't have to worry about this by then as the FO opens up and signs the "core" long term, past their 6 years of team control. But if we do have to worry about the window of opportunity, I want the team with the stronger pitching staff built from within and through the draft (that is the '09, '10 and '11 draft) .