The Pirates are this year's winners of the Team Most Grumbled About Before the Deadline award. You name a contender. They've all made a run at somebody in the Pirates' display case (Jason Bay, Xavier Nady, Damaso Marte, John Grabow, Jack Wilson). And all those clubs have come away complaining that the price tags are way out of line. For instance:
Bay: The Pirates are asking for four players back -- two sure-thing young players, one good prospect and a fourth prospect with upside.
Nady: A similar package, except they want three players instead of four -- one sure thing, one good prospect and a third, more iffy, prospect.
Marte: The Pirates seem confident he'll be a Type A free agent, so they're telling teams they need to do better than the first-round pick and sandwich pick they'd get if he walks.
Grabow: Because Grabow can't be a free agent until after next season, the Pirates are looking for a similar package on him as they're asking on Marte.
Wilson: One rumor -- heavily denied -- is that they asked the Dodgers for Matt Kemp and/or Chad Billingsley for Wilson. But everyone agrees they want two or three players, depending on who they are, all of whom have to be big-league ready.
Just because people are telling Jayson Stark this stuff doesn't make it true, of course, but if it is, junk like this is straight out of the Dave Littlefield playbook, particularly the stuff about players being "big-league ready." I'm all for the Pirates trying to get Kemp for Wilson because the Dodgers are desperate and dumb, and I agree with their approach to trading Marte. (And the bit about Marte later in the article, in which Stark quotes a club official wondering if everyone will pass on Marte if he's a Type A free agent, is pretty silly, since teams have willingly given up picks for players like Justin Speier, Danys Baez, Roberto Hernandez, Frank Catalanotto, and Scott Linebrink in the past two years.) But in general, the Pirates asking for too much, if Stark's sources are telling the truth. And we all know what that means: we're going to be waiting with bated breath until an hour before the deadline, at which point the Pirates' prices will drop dramatically and we'll wind up with the 2008 equivalent of Matt Peterson.
I understand that it's certainly possible that Stark's sources aren't telling the truth. (And I'm pretty suspicious of reports that say things like "the Pirates are asking for four players back--two sure-thing young players...", since I highly doubt the Bucs are taking that sort of hard-line approach with every team they talk to. It's possible the Pirates asked for four players from one team and then that got translated by that team's GM into a sort of general principle.)
But Stark is far from the first person to report something like this, and it'd be easier to believe his sources were lying if Neal Huntington had made a single big trade since becoming GM, but he hasn't. Meanwhile, other teams, like the A's, continue to collect youngsters and build for the future.
I'm sure everyone has noticed already, but I'm getting impatient. And I don't think I'm wrong to do so. Most of the Pirates' good draft picks remain unsigned, the minor league system is still a complete mess, and the Pirates' veterans aren't getting any younger. I understand that Rome wasn't built in a day (and that Huntington was probably wise to avoid trading Bay or Nady last offseason), but it clearly wasn't built by doing nothing, either.
UPDATE: Long4willie wrote a FanPost about this while I was writing.