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Why Break From the Plan?

The question Dejan Kovacevic addresses today is a good one about why management strayed from its goal of rebuilding by trading Jesse Chavez (who is under team control for the next five years) for Akinori Iwamura (who is only under team control for the next year). I was lukewarm about the trade when it happened, for pretty much the same reasons as the questioner.

I do think there's an important distinction to be made here, though. Focusing on a goal is a good thing. Focusing on a goal so intensely that you're blind to other opportunities is probably not a good thing. Let's say you're 22, are about to graduate from college, and have always wanted to be a lawyer. Would it make sense to take a year off to, say, play basketball? If you're like me and you're skinny and slow and awkward, obviously not: you'd be hanging out on the courts all day, not learning anything about law. But what if, miraculously, you were 7'4", agile, had a killer jumper, and had just been drafted by the Oklahoma City Thunder? In that case it would make a lot of sense to play for a few years, collect several million dollars, and use that money to go to law school later.

I can see why the Pirates thought Chavez-for-Iwamura was worth postponing law school for. Chavez was under control for five years, yes, but non-elite relievers are the last people on the roster who are worth worrying about for five years. They aren't that valuable to begin with, and they aren't especially likely to maintain their value over time, even if they're young. And the Pirates had an enormous hole at second, at least for a while. I don't generally like the idea of deviating from the plan, which is why I wasn't head over heels for the trade, but I do think the opportunity forced the Pirates' hand. They got a big upgrade for a fairly cheap price, and it's pretty unlikely this trade negatively and substantially affects their chances of winning in 2011 or 2012.