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Pirates Will Trade Some Bad Players

That is, if Rob Rossi has any idea what he's talking about.

Rossi says that while Dave Littlefield and Jim Tracy will keep their jobs, many players will be moved in the next few weeks. "Almost every contending club" is interested in Craig Wilson, Rossi reports. (Wilson is good enough to play for "almost every contending club" but not good enough to play for the Pirates, apparently.) The Pirates will try to trade Jeromy Burnitz, Joe Randa, and possibly Sean Casey if Casey and the Pirates can't reach a contract extension. In addition, the Pirates will probably trade at least one veteran reliever.

Rossi repeats the prevailing thinking about signing Casey, unfortunately:

A three-year deal worth $18 million would do the deed, but the Pirates might scoff at offering so much guaranteed money to a player they consider to be injury prone. Still, with no real alternative at first base, the Pirates have few options but to ink Casey before he becomes a free agent upon season's end -- even if that move would cast doubt over the future of power-hitting prospect Brad Eldred.

Forget Eldred - there are always options. The Pirates could swing a trade, mine free talent sources, or go with a player they already have. Or they could grab another free agent like Aubrey Huff or Shea Hillenbrand - though these options are far from ideal and I would probably avoid them unless I could get a bargain, they're still better than Casey.

Sean Casey is a nice guy, I'm sure, but there is absolutely no good baseball reason to keep him. He has long been a below average hitter for his position. He is over 30. He is injury-prone. He is unathletic. He is incredibly slow. He might as well be wearing an enormous flashing neon sign that says "BUST." Signing him to a three-year extension would, and I don't think I'm exaggerating, be an invitation to problems of Kevin Young or Pat Meares-type magnitude. It would be that bad. A two-year contract wouldn't be a whole lot better.

This is an extremely bad idea, and the notion that there just aren't any other options than to sign Casey is the sort of rationalization that could only be created by someone whose expectations have been lowered to lithospheric depths. This might come as a shock to some Pirates fans and beat writers, but some general managers possess qualities like foresight and imagination that prevent them from getting into situations where there are "no real alternative[s]" and enable them to find creative solutions when they do. These qualities prevent these GMs from feeling compelled to make future-destroying decisions just because a particular free-agent crop is thin, especially when they aren't in a position to contend immediately anyway. (And did the Pirates not know the free agent crop was going to be thin when Craig Wilson was willing to make a deal this offseason?)

Is there any possible doubt that a three-year Casey contract worth anywhere near $18 million is extremely likely to be a huge problem by, oh I don't know, its second year? Could anyone possibly dispute that? In that case, why why why would you knowingly screw up 2008 and 2009 (when any number of better options will be available) just so 2007 is, at best, a little more certain? 2007 is already a lost year - the Pirates aren't going to make up the 35 or so games in the standings they'd need to be competitive. And they'd have probably about a 50/50 shot of doing better than Casey in 2007 if they just did nothing and went with Eldred or Ryan Doumit or whoever. Seriously, Littlefield, please don't sign Casey.

An interesting subtext of Rossi's article has to do with the circumstances surrounding potential trades, and how revealing these circumstances are of Littlefield's inability to judge talent. Every contending team wants Craig Wilson, but only the Giants seem to want Casey, who starts ahead of Wilson. Burnitz, who was signed to start ahead of Wilson, can't be given away unless the Pirates eat a chunk of his contract, which was signed only months ago. Nobody wants Randa, either. And listen to what Rossi has to say about Jack Wilson:

Jack Wilson, signed through 2009 with an option for 2010, probably would land an outfielder or veteran pitcher. However, his increasing salary would make him a hard sell to opposing clubs...

I'd like to point out, yet again, that Wilson's increasing salary has nothing to do with this season. When his stupid contract was signed, he was already under the Pirates' control for 2006 and 2007. Wilson would not be a "hard sell" of any kind if potential trading partners were only required to take on his 2006 contract and take him to arbitration for the 2007 season if they wanted to. In that case, Wilson would probably be a fairly valuable commodity. But, because of a contract that hasn't even kicked in yet, he is a "hard sell." Wilson's contract has therefore actively decreased his value to the Pirates.

So, when Littlefield tries to make trades this month, he'll be hampered by not one, not two, but three big mistakes he's made in the past half-year or so (the Burnitz, Randa, and Jack Wilson contracts). He'll also need to consider another even bigger one that he hasn't even made yet, which is the possible extension for Casey. Well done, Littlefield, well done.