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Thoughts On Casey Deal

Dejan Kovacevic says the Pirates may keep trading pitching this offseason, but even with money left over after the Sean Casey trade, this was probably the Pirates' big move of the offseason.

Sorry for the cynicism that follows, but I've been a Pirates fan too long to be able to help it:

DJ AnyReason, in the comments to my last post about Casey:

See, Sean Casey is a big name, so if the Pirates get him, it looks like they're doing something to try to win. That way, more people will buy tickets, because they think the bucs are trying to win (and the Trib will assure them the Pirates have a great shot at contending, now that we have a REAL 1b, and we're assured of at least .500). Then, they can say "Hey, lookit all the money we spent on Sean Casey! We really did increase payroll!" and then go bargain shopping the rest of the offseason and nobody will be the wiser.

Plus, Casey's a local kid, so that's even better for PR and the gate! It's brilliant! Casey will easily pay for himself. Then, next year, when we don't resign him, the Pirates can cry about how unfair the market is, and confuse people for at least another year or two into thinking they're actually trying to win, not just rake in as much money as they can.

I think this is spot-on. Casey hasn't been a great ballplayer for years, and while he's better than many of the stiffs who've played for the Bucs recently, he's not a particularly good bet to be even a good one going forward. His value to the Pirates lies mostly in his Pittsburgh roots. Pictures like this one of Casey from his days at Upper St. Clair, which appears in today's Post-Gazette, are very valuable to the Pirates in terms of marketing. (Although I'm sure they wish Casey hadn't gotten baked before the picture was taken.) The Pirates appear to be getting a star, and a popular, likable, hometown star at that.

There is definitely value in having a popular player. Exactly how much value is difficult to quantify, but I feel quite comfortable saying that, for example, the Mariners are getting much more from Ichiro Suzuki than just a stat line.

The trouble with that is that the fans aren't likely to ever see any of that marketing money. It'll disappear into the pockets of Kevin McClatchy and Ogden Nutting. Meanwhile, when the Pirates lose next year (and they will), the ownership can say, "Hey, we tried to spend money. It didn't work."

As a ballplayer rather than a stoned-looking face in an Upper St. Clair uniform, Casey's value to the Pirates is limited. He'll essentially be replacing some combination of Brad Eldred, Nate McLouth and Jody Gerut next year. Casey had an 804 OPS in 2005, and he's on the wrong side of 30. I'd put the odds of one of Eldred, McLouth and Gerut beating an 804 OPS at about 70 percent.

You can quibble with that guess if you like, but either way, Casey is at best a marginal upgrade for the Pirates. He hit NINE homers last year. Think about that.

Also, he'll be a free agent after 2006, meaning he'll probably be gone at this time next year. Why are the Pirates trading real talent and spending money for a marginal upgrade? Because Casey will help them make money that you and I will never see. That's the only sensible reason I can think of.

Man, I try to get excited about the Pirates' future, I get my hopes up because they make noises about acquiring legitimately helpful players this offseason, and then they go and do this.