When news broke that Milwaukee had signed standout Christian Yelich long term to a very rich contract, I knew immediately that Pirates fans would start clamoring for someone to be extended. I agree, the Bucs have some players worthy of consideration and some of them would be very wise decisions, others would be a huge stretch. Talk all you want about the Archer trade putting this team back for several years, a bad extension coupled with this frugal budget would do far more damage.
The Pirates don’t have a player like Yelich. I’ll elaborate surely here but they just don’t. Nobody on this club is worth 30 Million a year, now or likely in the future. That doesn’t mean the club shouldn’t consider it however, it may very well be the only way they can actually keep one of their best pieces long term.
Josh Bell, great human, solid in the community, seems happy here, power like nobody else on the roster, All Star. Probably the best candidate for a mega deal on the club right now. You could say Reynolds but for everything he does well, he’s only done it one year and power is in no way his most prolific area of strength. So, let’s focus on Josh, and yes acknowledge that Scott Boras is his agent.
Scott has a ton of clients, not all of them will get top tier money. He knows the market, in fact he probably already knows what Josh profiles to get when he hits free agency and I bet it’s not top tier, not yet. The Bucs could easily pay Josh Bell 30 Million a year, the payroll this season would only go up minimally to pull it off too, and I bet Boras would jump all over it. Betting on Josh to hit 30+ homeruns every season for the next 7 or 8 would probably be enough reason to make a move like this, hell he might even exceed that figure, but what if he is exactly what he is right now? What if this is the very best, he ever performs? Is that money well spent?
I’d say yes, but I’m not thinking like the Pirates have over the years. See Bell is a piece you want and need if you surround him with talent. If this club pays anyone 30 Million, will they ever pay for the rest of the pieces they need? Who will pitch? What happens when Reynolds IS ready for his extension? Start digging into this and it quickly becomes an episode of Ancient Aliens where you take scant evidence and start asking reasonable questions to back your point.
If I’m the Pirates, the first person I give mega money to, assuming they ever do, better be a pitcher. I’d start with considering an extension for Joe Musgrove this season, offer him 13-15 AAV because he has proven at the very least, he is capable and durable. Lock up a cog of your rotation for years to come, not the best pitcher in the world, but someone you can use as a foundation for that rotation. Let Keller show you over the next couple years who he is and consider if Taillon is ever going to factor into the future, maybe take a shot and offer him 4 or 5 years at a reasonable rate if he’ll take it.
If the Pirates are strong in any one area of their system, its position players. Locking down pitching and augmenting with the few pieces that are coming like Quinn Priester and the like will provide a solid rotation to keep the team in the hunt.
Wanting Nutting to spend money is absolutely fair and he certainly should, but there is a finite level this club is capable of sustaining. I’ll not pretend to know exactly what that is as the numbers aren’t public knowledge, but everyone has a top end, even the Dodgers. So, expecting this team, or more accurately wanting this team to extend someone symbolically could actually impede the ability to build a winner off the table.
Folks often point to the extensions that Marte and Polanco signed as youngsters to keep them as Pirates into their thirties. That’s fair, but its also a crap shoot. Marte turned out, not that half of you noticed, Polanco hasn’t, although if he gets right and finds his homerun stroke, he will wind up quite the bargain.
Think of how many correct educated guesses it takes to live like that. You have to either identify a 16 to 20-year-old as having potential and sign them with limited proof they will ever earn your offer to a long-term deal after they’ve reached the majors and put in a year or two of actual big-league play.
Christian Yelich did more than that. He struggled as a rookie but showed capability, no deal. He improved in year two but somehow didn’t convince Miami he was part of a young core. Moved to Milwaukee for a ransom of prospects, none of whom will ever be the player he is today and put in two solid campaigns comparing favorably to names like Cody Bellinger and Mookie Betts. His deal is huge, but not blind, they have made a decision that they can afford one big money deal per core. Last time it was Braun, and oddly enough that deal ends right when this one ramps up.
The Pirates have not made moves like this. Closest they came was the Andrew McCutchen deal and if we’re honest, Gerrit Cole is the only other player that was worthy since. Maybe had they offered him a deal like this 4 years ago instead of nickel and diming a kid who felt he was worth more than league minimum he could have remained a Pirate, or maybe he was never going to stay here from the start. Either way, stretching to find someone on the roster who deserves Yelich money would be a fool’s errand and a detriment to the construction of a club that is nowhere near completion.