There's little doubt depth was needed and, despite the disappointing play on the major-league level of the acquired players, it's too early to label these trades a mistakes.
I can't overstate how tired I am of hearing this conspiracy-theory stuff about the trades being a way of saving money. Given the way the last management team behaved, I can certainly understand where it comes from, but it's pretty simple, really:
1) This team stinks, with or without Jason Bay and Xavier Nady.
2) With the franchise having nowhere near the core it needed to contend, rebuilding was the only intelligent option.
3) "Rebuilding" involves playing young players who may have the opportunity to help the franchise the next time it's ready to contend, even if they struggle at first.
4) Young players are cheap.
Mystery solved! Rebuilding almost necessarily involves cutting parts of the big-league payroll. That's the way it works. Playing young guys--who make the league minimum in their first three years--is pretty much the only way for this franchise to get better. I'm sure Bob Nutting isn't crying his eyes out about money he doesn't have to pay as a result of the Bay and Nady trades, but what the Pirates' management has done is absolutely consistent with what should be its goals. (One could argue that the trades aren't likely to actually help achieve those goals because the players aren't good enough, or something, but that's a different argument.)
If you want to find out if the Pirates are being cheap, first you need to figure out exactly what they should be spending their money on. Should they be spending their money on a 36-year-old reliever like Salomon Torres? Not really, no. They should be spending their money on the acquisition and development of amateur talent. In that area, they've done a pretty good job in the past year. They spent lavishly in the draft (counting the Pedro Alvarez bonus, which seems fair, since the Pirates did agree to pay it and it will likely stand anyway) and they're building an expensive new facility in the Dominican. Once the figures for bonuses spent on Latin American amateurs are released we might find they didn't spend enough there. But that's the only important criticism about how the Pirates have spent this year of which I'm aware.
If the rebuilding effort fails, then the Pirates should be blamed for that. If they accumulate a good core of talent and then fail to spend to get the right pieces to complement that talent, then blame them for that. And certainly it's fair to blame Kevin McClatchy, Dave Littlefield and Ed Creech for the current state of the franchise. It might also be fair to blame the rest of the Pirates' ownership group for taking so long to squeeze McClatchy out of the picture. But it's unfair to blame the Pirates for being cheap now, when spending a bunch of money would be the wrong thing to do.