Jayson Stark: Pirates Could Shoot For .500 This Year

With the draft coming up here in a few days, it seems like we've seen more unsourced reporting about the Pirates than at any time since I've started blogging, and I hate to keep guessing whether these writers with their deliberately-vague reports might actually know something. But Jayson Stark's recent note about the Pirates is, at least, interesting, so I'll run with it.

So do they dangle a potentially attractive veteran arm like Kevin Correia at the trading deadline? Or do they hang on to their current group and make a run at ending their deadly streak of 18 losing seasons?

They're not making any announcements yet, obviously. But increasingly, there are signs they could prioritize a run at .500 over collecting prospects, much like the Brewers did in 2005 after 12 straight losing seasons. And one NL assistant GM tells Rumblings he would do the same thing if he ran the Pirates.

"I know it's important to think long-haul, but part of the long-haul thought process is getting rid of that losing tradition," he said

I'm not sure what these "signs" would be, particularly since the Pirates' front office has repeatedly and consistently said that they won't prioritize a run at .500. There's no doubt that a .500 season would temporarily smooth things over with some fans. But their rise in confidence would likely be temporary unless the Pirates could sustain their winning ways. For example, the Royals came out of nowhere to win 83 games in 2003, then went right back into the toilet, winning 58, 56 and 62 games the next three years, finishing 13th of 14 American League teams in attendance in each season. The value of getting to .500 one time is greatly overstated.

I do think the Pirates will be less likely to trade veterans this year, though. With Ryan Doumit on the DL, they really only have two veterans to trade, Correia and Paul Maholm. Well, and possibly someone like Jose Veras, who might actually bring back a pretty decent return. Lyle Overbay and Matt Diaz have no value. Joel Hanrahan is under team control for a couple more seasons. And even in the cases of Correia and Maholm, the Pirates can keep them next year if they like.

In addition, like I mentioned in my top 30 prospects list a couple weeks ago, there's a ton of depth in the minor leagues. What the Bucs' minor league teams lack is star power, and they're not very likely to get that by trading Paul Maholm. Instead, they'll get more guys like Nathan Adcock - guys who play reasonably well, but not brilliantly, and then cause the Pirates problems when they have to be added to the 40-man roster. The Pirates needed players like Adcock a couple years ago when the farm system was barren, and certainly it's always nice to have more players like Adcock. But now the Pirates don't need such players nearly as badly. This is particularly true given the 40-man roster crunch that will ensue after the 2011 season.

Now, if the Pirates get offered a great prospect for someone like Hanrahan or Maholm, that's obviously a different story. But if we're talking about trades like the Jack Wilson / Ian Snell deal that brought Adcock, or the Adam LaRoche deal that brought Hunter Strickland and Argenis Diaz, there's little reason for the Pirates to consider deals like that.

If the Pirates make fewer veterans-for-prospects trades this year, I think those are likely to be the main reasons why. I don't think the Pirates will finish with a winning record this season, but if not trading veterans helps them back into one, that's great. But based on everything the Pirates' front office has said - over and over again - I don't think that will be their goal.

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