That's the question posed by Paul Maholm's contract and by the contract of any player who is not part of the core now in the Major Leagues. The core players must include:
I would also include Charlie Morton in the core group, an addition that seems obvious to me but is also very surprising given his struggles last season.
And I would include a player like Anthony Rendon if the Pirates draft a player that's near to the majors as Rendon happens to be.
The two players on the edge of the core group but not yet members:
Including Cedeño might surprise some and disgust others but it's a defendable choice. Cedeño is now ranked second among qualified shortstops in the FanGraphs UZR/15 at 14.4. It is true, though, that his offense lags far behind his defense. But his recent surge has made his offensive production respectable for a shortstop playing defense like Cedeño has this season. Given the relative lack of internal options, I'd say Cedeño is a keeper.
That leaves everyone else, it leaves them readily and obviously available as tradable players. (In principle, every player is tradable.)
The question posed by Maholm's contract and possible future in baseball generates two additional questions, namely:
- Should the Pirates work to put themselves on the plus side of the McClatchy Line (81-81) this year and should the team continue to work to realize that goal next year by retaining players like Maholm and signing players like Lyle Overbay (i.e veterans who can plug a hole in the short-term)?
- Should the Pirates ignore the benefits that would come from finishing the 2011 season over or near to the McClatchy Line by making decisions that would promote the construction of a championship contender?
I believe the team's approach to Paul Maholm this summer will tell the fans a lot about the quality and daring of this front office. It will tell us whether or not the organization is committed to building and retaining a championship contender.