The Real Problem with Small Market Regime Change in Baseball

If you have nearly unlimited resources, identifying talent and turning a franchise around makes a lot more sense. I mean I could randomly grab 10 people from Twitter and show them video of Mookie Betts and Gregory Polanco for half an hour and you tell me which one they’d want.

Ben Cherington knows this too of course. Make no mistake, he doesn’t think Henderson Alvarez or Nick Tropeano are uncut diamonds. He thinks they have potentially major league talent. Meaning, there is not a long list of good that comes from being forced to throw Nick Mears or Brandon Waddell into the fire before they’ve been prepared. If Alvarez fails, so what. I don’t mean that flippantly, sure it would be nice if he accidentally discovered bullpen help that’s affordable, but nothing is expected aside from providing cover to stop forcing kids who one day will be counted on into action they aren’t prepared for.

If Chicago, specifically the North Side, changes their GM and team president immediate change for the better used to be the norm. Even the big market clubs have come to understand the majority of talent needs to come from within. Here’s the difference, when they realized they had a ton of talent in the field, they looked to the mound and realized they had nothing. They got lucky resurrecting Jake Arrieta and traded for Lester, and Darvish. Kyle Hendricks is about all they cultivated and he’s not exactly Cy Young. The Cubs could afford to do that, and they could also afford to keep some of what they had.

They might win this season, good for them, but they’ll be starting the dismantle process in the near future.

I’ve said before, Nutting could spend more money. In fact, he has, so even if you only take it to 100M he could easily pump another 40 million into the club. Gerrit Cole makes over 35.

That’s how much TOP end talent costs. That’s why fewer than 6 or 7 teams in the league would even have a conversation with him and at that, you have to be willing to say yeah Gerrit, we think you’ll be just as good when you’re 38. That’s the part only teams like the Yankees or Dodgers can truly afford. Could the Pirates afford 31 Million a year for a fantastic pitcher whose back hurts so often 25 games aren’t a guarantee? Fiscally, sure, but let’s face it, Kershaw wouldn’t be surrounded by 200 million dollars in talent.

It all leads you to where we are.

Many fans have had enough and have grown weary of trusting the process. Many fans that have fully embraced that this is the path to success under this system just want to see it executed correctly. Now, here’s the kicker, when you hire a new GM and front office and the path forward is some form of rebuild (honestly, it’s just a word) you’re in for a ride. If he’s the wrong guy you won’t know for 4 or 5 years. Then what do you do? Maybe you fire the manager, maybe you clean house in the scouting department, sometimes you bring in a whole new regime and they pick up the pieces you left them and see if it builds a puzzle.

Cherington walked in knowing he was missing some edge pieces, so he didn’t even start putting it together. This still doesn’t mean he has to burn it down to the studs. He might, or he may identify someone he thinks he needs to keep. I’d love to have that player be Josh Bell, but I’ve often said, your best player can’t also be your most inconsistent. Spare me the Boras stuff, the market will be down for a minute and Vazquez signed an extension guess who repped him. Point is your best player can’t have 2-month long droughts. I have no doubt Bryan Reynolds is real, despite his start here in 2020 but why make a decision like that right now?

Regardless, here’s the list of what you the jaded fan are asked to get behind.
1. Cherington is the right guy
2. Williams and Cherington secured their ability to spend more than the Pirates have based partially on what they aren’t spending right now.
3. When they make trades for prospects, many of them will pan out.
4. They can identify talent and more importantly develop it.

Boil all that down and really what fans want is simple, to not be having this conversation 5 years from now. It’s not unlike getting married in a way, nobody goes into that thinking it will end, you go into it thinking this is forever and everything will go great. Well ask a divorcee how they go into a second marriage, it’s not pessimistic but maybe eyes a little wider this go around. By the third time the vows are just as powerful as signing a new lease for a Nissan.

I wish there was a fast-forward feature sometimes on this process. Not to stay there but just to take a glimpse of what this team could be if everything is done the right way. It would make enjoying the journey a bit easier to take in.

I don’t blame one person for saying they’re from Missouri, Show me.

The reason players are going to be traded is not to pad Nutting’s wallet, not this time. It’s because right now you’re watching the product of never admitting perpetual competitive baseball in this market, with this system, is so far from reality it boggles the mind.

They have pieces, they don’t have enough pieces. If you need to step away from the process and jump back in when/if the fruit starts showing, great. Just realize if you never plant the tree, there won’t be any harvest. It’s nowhere near as fun digging the hole as eating the apple.

It’ll be 5 years before we know if Williams and Cherington were lied to. That doesn’t mean they’ll suck out loud for 5 years, but the rent won’t come due on some of the players that make it to that point. For instance, Bryan Reynolds won’t make real bank for five years. Maybe they extend him beyond that and answer the question earlier. Bob’s done that before, Polanco, Marte, Cutch, Vazquez, Cervelli, I could go on. That’s the glimmer of belief right there. Recently, Neal didn’t provide much excuse to do it, again did he?

Cutch would have been a feel-good extension, but this team wouldn’t be measurably better right now. Cole is simply not a realistic signing for this club, I said it earlier but there are maybe 6 teams who can even entertain that kind of contract. None of that means he couldn’t have gotten the kind of return a player of that caliber should send back. Instead, Neal (and he stated this) wanted close to major league talent in exchange. This was an effort to not experience the valley that inherently comes with moving a talent like that. The result, no infusion of prospects on the near horizon, just players who were placed on the team with the hope they were just being held back by a star-studded lineup.

If everything goes well, Cole won’t be the last this club can’t afford to keep. Will they recognize what that means this time? Will they execute a dip in order to ascend more quickly?

I can’t promise these guys will do it right, but I promise that the plan doesn’t include buying their way out of it, and if you’re honest, you know why. I’ve told you baseball needs a cap and for the overall health of the league I firmly believe it’s the single most important topic in the sport, but until or if that happens, this is the reality.

You don’t have to like it, hell you don’t have to watch it, but if you want this club to maximize what they can be, you will have to be patient and hope the right people are in charge.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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