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A Note On Bob Smizik's Column

I just want to add a note to Bob Smizik's column yesterday. Smizik's point is that the offseason is a bad time to be a Pirates fan. For example:

he Chicago Cubs sign Aramis Ramirez to a five-year, $73 million contract. Wouldn't Rammy, who grew up in the Pirates' organization, look sweet hitting behind Jason Bay? But, of course, that's impossible. As recently as 2003, the Pirates couldn't afford the $6 million Ramirez was due the next season. Although the giveaway of Ramirez was the most spirit-crushing event of the McClatchy-Nutting ownership era, in retrospect, it only jump-started the inevitable. The Pirates cannot afford players the stature of Ramirez.

Those same Cubs, the only team in the National League with a worse record than the Pirates, sign backup catcher Henry Blanco to a two-year, $5.25 million contract. That's chump change for the Cubs, but a major expenditure for the Pirates.

I don't really disagree with any of this line of argument - it's basically a cookie-cutter version of an argument that gets trotted out a lot, but the Pirates are nothing if not a cookie-cutter sort of organization, and that's not Smizik's fault - but I think it misses the real reason to be depressed.

Yes, the Pirates won't spend money and that stinks. But that has been true for years, and it will probably continue to be true for years. What's even more depressing about this offseason is that it could be a marvelous opportunity, but the Bucs aren't going to treat it as one.

The $51 million the Red Sox paid for the right to negotiate with Datsuke Matzusaka a few days ago now looks... well, not exactly sane, but something close to it. $136 million for Alfonso Soriano?  $12 million for Jamie Walker? $14 million for Alex Gonzalez?  $18 million for Justin Speier? Baseball is going nuts. Teams are making jaw-dropping signings every day.

Low-payroll teams should welcome these sorts of developments, whether they initially appear to favor low-payroll teams or not. Unusual circumstances offer smart teams the opportunity to take advantage - to figure out what's going on and exploit the market. So instead of moaning about soaring prices for ballplayers, Pirates fans could be licking their chops.

Contrary to popular belief, the Pirates don't need free agents right now. They need puzzle pieces. And they have a huge number of players who are cheap and decent but aren't good enough or young enough to be potential core players. There is no better time to sell, sell, sell than right now. A good GM could use this opportunity to build a contender in Pittsburgh by selling role players whose values on this market far exceed their actual salaries. The spending spree probably won't last, and when the market comes back to earth a bit, a good GM would have the Pirates flush with a lot more talent than they have right now, and cash left over from this offseason to buy some more.

That's the most depressing thing about this offseason. The Pirates don't have a good GM. They have a GM who won't react at all - he'll just wait a month or two for prices to come down, then spend his $12 million on horrible players he doesn't need.

Yes, this is just a variation on my "Trade the Relievers" post from a few days ago, but I don't care. In fact, I'll probably post things like this at various points this offseason. This is just a great opportunity. It's an extremely important time. And the Pirates are going to blow it yet again, because they're the Pirates.