By that I mean concluding that your team is uncompetitive and trading away decent players for prospects while they still have some value. This is a business question, not a baseball question, although there's an important baseball question hidden inside it. The baseball question is, If you won 73 games last season and don't have a major infusion of talent scheduled to arrive from the farm this year or next, can you be competitive next year?
The baseball answer is that all forecasts are pretty much bunk. Luck, injuries, and those tiny changes in approach that signal the difference between a successful player and an unsuccessful one make predictions more like guesswork than something more substantial. in the words of Dave Cameron,
Realistically, . . we’re left with a team forecast that can’t really be any more precise than some projected mean, plus or minus at least 10 wins, and quite possibly more.
But the real challenge to rebuilding is the business challenge. A rebuild alienates the fans and hurts revenue. It takes years to build a loyal fan base, so depleting that asset can be very costly. (Notice any examples in Pittsburgh?)
A recent analysis by Dan Farnsworth suggests that a bad team (64 wins or less) that increases payroll has revenues that are 13% higher in five years and a bad team that cuts payroll has revenues that are 4% higher. A mediocre team (73-81 wins) that increases payroll has revenues that are 18% higher in five years. One that cuts has revenues that are 3% higher.
The moral seems to be that trying to win is the way forward.