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Pirates Were Right Not to Keep Old Players

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It's not a big deal, but this piece in State College's paper, whether it's supposed to be a piece of journalism, or an editorial, or what, is kind of amazing, from the sarcastic headline all the way through.

Coonelly is difficult to detest, even if his team makes some curious moves. The Pirates could have started 2010 with an outfield of Andrew McCutchen, Jason Bay and Nate McLouth, and infield of Adam LaRoche, Freddy Sanchez, Jack Wilson, Pedro Alvarez and Ryan Doumit. Bay, McLouth, LaRoche, Sanchez and Wilson now play elsewhere. No matter how many homers he cracks in spring training, Alvarez will begin this season at Triple-A for financial reasons.

Well heck, if this is the game we're going to play, then forget McLouth--the Pirates could have started 2010 with an outfield of Bay, McCutchen and Barry Bonds, who had about as good a chance of sticking with the Pirates until now as Bay did. I bet Bonds could still hit some homers!

Even after that, there's so much going on in that paragraph that it's hard to know where to start. One might point out that the Cipriano could have written the same paragraph back in 2004 about how the Pirates could have started the season with Brian Giles, Jeff Suppan, Scott Sauerbeck and Jason Christiansen on their team. But they didn't, because even Dave Littlefield knew enough to go through the motions of trading way older players on a bad team to get new ones who might one day help the team contend. That's just Running A Bad Team 101. It's not rocket science. Littlefield flunked all the other courses (except 363: Advanced PR Technique, and 426: Awesome Hair), but at least he appeared to remember the principles of 101 for his first couple of years.

Or one could point out that the reason most of those players got traded was because they weren't good enough to form the core of a competitive team. Or one could make the obvious point that keeping all those players would have been extremely expensive, based on the contracts to which they're now signed:

Player 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Jason Bay $15 mil. $16 mil. $16 mil. $16 mil. $17 mil. ($3 mil. buyout)
Freddy Sanchez $6 mil. $6 mil.      
Adam LaRoche $4.5 mil. $7.5 mil., $1.5 mil. buyout      
Jack Wilson $5 mil. $5 mil.      
Nate McLouth $4.5 mil. $6.5 mil. $10.65 mil. ($1.25 mil. buyout)    
Ryan Doumit $3.55 mil. $5.1 mil. $7.25 mil. ($.5 mil buyout) $8.25 mil. option  

 

Just for the record, I think that McLouth, LaRoche and Doumit are worth their contracts. And the price of this bunch in 2010 is manageable. But all of them (depending on how you look at LaRoche's contract) are guaranteed money in 2011. Sanchez and Wilson are already arguably pretty close to their expiration dates now. Of the others, Doumit still plays for the Pirates, not even the Huntington-is-Lucifer crowd cares about losing LaRoche, and the Bay deal is the sort of massive stinker that can ruin a team like the Pirates for years, even if they raise their payroll. That leaves McLouth as the only guy there's any kind of case for here, and that's even before considering the players the Pirates got in return for those who departed, or the question of who would have been willing to re-sign with the Bucs in the first place.

I understand fans have strong connections to some of these players. When I see McLouth in a Braves uniform, it still feels weird. But mostly I'm glad to move on to something new, and my connections to the old guys aren't that strong, because frankly, they weren't that good, and mostly I just associate them with losing game after game. The way some folks pine for these guys is kind of strange, as if 2008 were some golden era of Pirates baseball.

Also, there is no reason to craft some kind of conspiracy theory for the reason Alvarez is likely to start the year in AAA. He'll be there because he hasn't played there, and because it's generally incredibly stupid to rush prospects through the minors, no matter how talented they are. And if the Pirates were holding Alvarez in AAA for two months for financial reasons while beginning what's likely to be a non-contending season, I'd admit it, because frankly I don't think that's bad business practice.

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Sorry to those of you who posted in the Joe Sheehan thread, which I removed because, as some of you figured out pretty quickly, the Joe Sheehan who works for the Pirates does not appear to be the same Joe Sheehan who wrote for Baseball Prospectus. I decided it wasn't worth it to keep such a FAIL pasted to the front page. Sorry about that, and thanks to those of you who did the detective work. Relatedly, you should go vote for Bucs Dugout in the Pittsburgh Sports Blog Tournament, because this site is unerringly accurate and would never steer you wrong.