The Pirates have not had a very good track record in terms of developing talent. I can attribute this to several possible factors:
1. There has been no talent to develop
2. They’ve been unfortunate with injuries
3. Their player development philosophy is poor
4. They don’t coaches and staff that excel in teaching and motivating young talent
Assign blame wherever you like, the fact of the matter remains that it seems like we don’t do much with the little talent we have. Furthermore, no organization bats 1.000 with their top prospects. If you take Keith Law’s top 100 prospect list you can be sure that a minority of them will have significant impacts on their organizations. It’s foolhardy to presume that we’ll have significantly different results in developing talent than the rest of the league. It’s foolhardy to think that we’ll have significantly different success rates than we have in the past.
We get so excited about the success of Jeff Karstens’ success. His breakout campaign (arguably unsustainable) gave him a WAR of 3.0. Which for a low-paid pitcher is okay, but considering he’s at best a 4/5 starter this is hardly reason to start making october playoff reservations.
On offense we have one player that is significantly above average (WAR) from last year, Andrew McCutcheon (5.5). After that we have Neil Walker at (2.5 WAR) who is just marginally better than league average – at least he didn’t have the precipitous dropoff of Karstens and we can assign some confidence that he’ll continue to be a league average player. Everyone else was well below league average.
Now these three players are all performing above their contracts and therefore this would give just about any organization some flexibility to invest in free agents to improve the quality of roster. But we’re not going to bring in ANY difference makers via free agency because: a. we don’t try to bring in players that would make a difference at PNC; and b. they don’t want to come here anyhow.
Now I agree that Prince Fielder isn’t going to work for PBC because we can’t afford his salary and also, we need to invest all we can into amateur talent. But players like Oswalt and Jackson would serve the bucs immeasurably. First by bringing out baseball fans that on occasion deserve a little better than a AAAA ballclub. Second by bringing guys that have succeeded before that can teach the rest of the team how to do it (Oswalt in particular). And most importantly by growing the farm system – because come July Oswalt will look VERY attractive to several teams vying for contention or experiencing an injury to a SP. At that point in time, we’d be able to pick one or two high-grade prospects to add to our stable of cheap talent that hints at the potential future of multiple all-stars and post-season glory (dovetails nicely with PBCs “plan”).
And that brings me to AJ Burnett, he of dynamite stuff and dolomite brain. He’ll challenge Morton and McDonald for the guy with the most electric stuff that can’t seem to keep it together for 3 consecutive starts. Or most 5 inning 110 pitch outings. Burnett is certainly a decent ML pitcher but carries a prohibitive pricetag. According to the latest reports, Pittsburgh could be a destination for Burnett (exciting tattoo parlors on the southside) with the NY Yankees eating significant portion of his cumbersome salary. The sticky wicket in the deal is the Pirates reluctance to include Garrett Jones in the deal. Now I like Garrett Jones and he fits the mold of Pirates 1b/RF combo talent with guys that can certainly hit the long ball (chicks dig the long ball) if and when they connect. GFJ is serviceable in either position but he’s never going to be confused with Keith Hernandez at 1b (I’m Keith Hernandez) or Roberto Clemente in right – wow that sounds blasphemous. In any event, Jones is a 1.2 WAR and not someone that appears to have the skillset to become much more than a league average player. I mean when have the bucs ever given up on a player and he turned into a great player (besides one of the most feared sluggers in the American League Jose Buatista). Seriously, how can they hold the deal up for GFJ?
I don’t enjoy it, but this all points to the continued and long term futility of the PBC. And before anyone can reply, yes, sale the team.