Okay, screw it. I had several paragraphs of useless words typed out, but I'll get to the point. Here is why I personally am not worried about the Pirates moving forward.
The main reason can be summed up in a sentence or two, and I'll throw that out now. The Pirates are set up to build on their 2013 success moving forward, but it did not have to be only in 2014. Now, please note, I'm not saying that the Pirates should have punted in 2014 or that they were justified in doing so, etc. I'm simply saying a lack of success in 2014 does not mean the Pirates have missed their only opportunity to win a world series or make the playoffs again.
I could sit here for days and argue that the Pirates should have spent more money and kept A.J. Burnett or that they should have went for it and signed Jose Abreu or sacrificed a draft pick and added Stephen Drew. Clearly in hindsight having Jose Abreu would be amazing right now. Perhaps the argument can be made that such a move was a no-brainer without using hindsight. I have my opinions, but the point of this post isn't to offer those opinions or defend them. It's simply to point out where the Pirates are and why they are still in a good place.
- Andrew McCutchen - Elite, 27 years old, under contract through 2018
- Starling Marte - Above-average, 25 years old, under contract through 2021, elite potential
Gerrit Cole - Elite potential, 24 years old, 2 win pitcher in 120 innings last year, 3.47 xFIP so far
- Gregory Polanco - Elite potential, major-league ready, under contract through at least 2020
- Neil Walker - Consistent 2-win 2B, 28 years old, most likely will take hometown discount
- Tony Sanchez - 26 years old, average-to-above-average potential, under contract through 2019
- Charlie Morton - 30 years old, back-end rotation starter, under contract through 2016
- Free Agents - A very rough estimate for arbitration numbers would put the Pirates at between 45-50 million in committed payroll next year that does not include current roster members Liriano, Martin, Grilli, and Rodriguez. I cut Ike Davis to arrive at that number but kept every other arbitration eligible player.
- Even getting to the payroll numbers for this year, that leaves around 30 million to spend.
- Polanco was mentioned in the Core section
- Taillon being lost for the year to TJ was unfortunate, but he could easily be pitching in Pittsburgh June of 2015 or otherwise later in the season. McCutchen, Marte, Polanco, and Cole will all be around still
- Due to lack of production - Kingham and Glasnow - along with injuries - Taillon, Meadows, Heredia, Glasnow, Ramirez, Barnes, and Holmes - it seems the Pirates farm system has taken a huge hit
- However, the farm system still offers plenty to the Pirates. Again, Polanco is ready to make an impact, and guys like Kingham and Glasnow still have plenty of trade value
- Alen Hanson has bounced back after a rough start, Josh Bell is having an excellent season, Reese McGuire is holding his own
- Depth guys JaCoby Jones, Adrian Sampson, and Wyatt Mathisen have all quietly had good seasons
RIVAL'S FARM SYSTEMS
- Easily the least recognized reason the Pirates are in a good position moving forward
Javier Baez has been horrendous; Kris Bryant has nice power numbers, but has strikeout issues; Jorge Soler has been injured; Albert Almora has been mediocre; C.J Edwards has been injured and less than stellar on the mound; granted Castro and Rizzo have been much better
- Billy Hamilton has struggled to get on base; Tony Cingrani has walked too many batters; Phillip Irvin has been awful; Robert Stephenson has seen his walk rate go up; granted Jesse Winker and Nick Travieso have had good seasons
Shelby Miller has walked everyone; Kolton Wong struggled in the majors; granted Wacha has been amazing, Oscar Taveras has been great, and Stephen Piscotty has done well.
- Granted, I don't know what to make of the Brewers. Their farm system is still poor and I don't think they will be good long term (even this year, but more 2015-2018), but it's hard to bet against them right now
- The Pirates have a great core in place, should have some financial flexibility the next offseason or two, have plenty of help coming in terms of reinforcements, and also have plenty of trade assets to make a big move
- It's completely possible the Pirates make the playoffs this year. It's also possible they finish with 70-75 wins. I would prefer for them to really pick it up heading into late July, make a smart but big move to acquire a major longterm asset
- However, if that's just not in the cards, moving the correct pieces - Liriano, Martin, Grilli, and Volquez - for useful returns and then having a top 10 or 15 pick in the 2015 draft wouldn't be the end of the world.
- Even with a poor 2014 season and some free agency defection, I still firmly believe the Pirates would be well set up to make the playoffs in the 2015 season and every year thereafter.