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Changing of the guard at the Winter Meetings

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How Ben Cherington is changing how business is done by the Pittsburgh Pirates, complete with an update to the rumor mill concerning Marte, Frazier, and more

Ben Cherington Leaves Red Sox Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

As this is a Pittsburgh Pirates’ blog, I’m going to take the liberty of glossing over a certain nine-year contract signed by a certain former Bucco pitcher late yesterday evening with the Evil Empire in New York. Let’s allow the frustration and sleepless nights to casually pass us by.

In other news, it’s midweek at the annual Winter Meetings for Major League Baseball and the Pirates, while certainly not making a lot of noise in the way of big names and blockbuster trades, have gotten the attention of the league in their own unique way.

The regime change from former general manager Neal Huntington to Ben Cherington has signaled to many that the Pirates are changing the way they do business. Rob Biertempfel and Stephen J. Nesbitt, both of The Athletic, explained that unlike Huntington, Cherington has been much more forward about what his plans are with the team, even if not totally forthcoming about his intentions.

Both writers explained that Huntington would often “talk down” to them when it come to trade rumors and offseason plans, choosing instead to cloak himself and the organization in mystery as to what their true intentions were. This may have served the purpose of not tipping his hand to other teams, but other organizations knew the Pirates were wary if not incapable of making a splashy move. In turn, they grew tired of Neal’s mystique and alleged arrogance.

Perhaps the most notable critic of Huntington within baseball was high-profile agent Scott Boras, who constantly characterized the former GM and the organization as unserious about winning. But with Cherington has come a true change in the way the Buccos do business; even Boras himself has taken notice.

Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Boras stated that he believes “there’s going to be significant change in Pittsburgh.” The agent went on to say that Cherington will “provide a competent approach to winning that has not existed there for five or six years.” While I think a lot of Boras’ compliments stem from his characterization of Cherington as a big-market GM, the guys he’s used to dealing with, I also think it’s a sign of respect for this new front office and their plans for the team.

Cherington has also been more open as to how he’s going to operate during the offseason; he’s commented that he wants to bolster the starting pitching, has tipped his hat that he’s going after a “young, controllable catcher” per Jon Heyman at MLB Network, and has gone on record stating that the front office is fielding calls on everyone on the current roster. While he has not gone as far to tell anyone who he’s targeting or what kind of haul he’s looking for in the case of trade chips Starling Marte and Adam Frazier, he’s providing a transparency to the league and to the fan-base that says the Pirates are not going to try and fool anyone any longer.

An Update from the Rumor Mill…

As implied above, it’s no secret that the team is shopping Starling Marte, looking for a controllable catching prospect or an overall talented group of players in return for such a move. The New York Mets are said to have the most interest in Marte, offering OF Brandon Nimmo in return, but have stated they would want another player from the Pirates in order to part ways with their outfielder. Surprisingly, Joe Musgrove’s name along with Keone Kela have been tossed around as supplements to the trade. I for one do not enjoy the idea of parting with Musgrove, his untapped potential, and his leadership in the clubhouse, but for the right haul, anyone should rightfully be available for trade.

Adam Frazier has also drawn considerable interest, although the writers over at The Athletic have posited that this could be purely Pirate-driven. Trying to capitalize on Frazier’s Gold Glove campaign and offensive upside is a good move by the Bucs as trading him at his peak could warrant an overpay by another club. The signing of Erik Gonzalez also indicates that the Pirates could let Frazier walk and sink or swim with EGon at shortstop or second base, waiting for Tucker to mature at Triple A before bringing him up and sliding Newman to Frazier’s old stomping ground.

As the meetings round up tomorrow with the Rule 5 Draft, there will surely be more noise surrounding these Pirate players.