You’re the Pirates GM, What Would You Have Done?

There aren’t a whole lot of people covering the Pittsburgh Pirates who step up to defend Bob Nutting, with good reason, he’s responsible for the club being where it is right now. He handcuffed his yet un-hired President and GM just by waiting too long to let the former front office go alone.

That said, as cheap as they are, this roster has a whole lot of things stuck in place. Let’s go through some choices you could make up and down the club and see how much better we would have done shall we?

Plus, so many of us have had to play teacher this year, who doesn’t like a good multiple-choice quiz, will you score higher than Cherington?

Starting Pitching
1. Picking Up Archer’s Option – The choice is simple, pick up Archer’s option for 9M or let him walk. Oh, it’s easy to say let him walk knowing what we know now, but when the choice was made the thinking was 9M is nothing for a pitcher who at the very least is a veteran starter in the league and let’s be honest, you can’t trade him if you don’t retain him.
               A. Let Him Walk
               B. Pick Up His Option (Dealing him completely on the table)

2. Believe in Joe – Joe is playing in his first season of arbitration and is under team control for two more seasons. He’s shown flashes but hasn’t put it all together more than a few times. Again, if you want to deal him, you have to retain him.
               A. Let Him Walk
               B. Take Him to Arbitration (or sign a one-year tender)
               C. Extend Him beyond Arbitration

3. Which Williams is He? – Trevor too is in his first year of arbitration and has shown a half year of brilliance bracketed by mediocre to below par performance. I think he deems the same options as Joe. Broken record, have to retain someone you might want to deal.
               A. Let Him Walk
               B. Take Him to Arbitration (or sign a one-year tender)
               C. Extend Him beyond Arbitration

4. Mitch Keller Time? – Mitch Keller is one of the few on this club you could truly envision being part of the answer one day.
               A. Start him, and Count on him
               B. Start him, but have a viable option if he falters
               C. Ease him in potentially via the pen

5. Steven Brault – Steven is better than his tools would lead you to believe but is he a starter? He’s entering his first year or arbitration next year.
               A. Start him, Steven has earned it and we need to see what he can do
               B. Bullpen, he could do really well as a long man
               C. No guarantees, Steven isn’t one of the best 13 pitchers in the organization

6. Chad Kuhl – Chad is in his first year of arbitration, so much of the mess in this franchise is about the missed time injuries from Kuhl and more so Taillon, but I digress. Kuhl is returning from Tommy John surgery and his path is a bit murky.
               A. Kuhl Deserves a chance to start but be ready to call him a BP arm
               B. Convert Kuhl to a Back-End BP guy
               C. If he’s one of the starters, we’re in trouble

7. Remember Brubaker? – Still on his rookie deal and sitting on options JT was actually ahead of Keller on the call up list before running into injury trouble himself. He’s been a starter his entire pro career and has upside.
               A. C’mon, he starts in AAA
               B. Give him a real shot at the rotation
               C. Start him in the BP, there isn’t room, but we like what he brings

8. Do I Even Consider Jamo? – There isn’t much about Jamo that matters for 2020, but I also can’t call him a lock to come back in 2021 looking like his old self, if not better. Coming back from two TJs is at least long odds.
               A. I can’t trade him, I can’t even play him, But I think he could be a big piece in 2021
               B. He’s always been a starter, but maybe he’ll come back a BP arm
               C. As soon as this guy shows his arm is attached, I’ll have him on the block

That’s it for the perceived starters, AKA who was already here. But there is more to cover, depth was tested in 2019 and failed the test, badly. Cherington ultimately chose to not rest on these seven options but we have options just like he did.

9. Who Else in the System Could Step Up – There is almost no way he saw it as plentiful, but if you think it’s just for an emergency there are a few.
               A. Nobody, go get someone, a rental like Lyles, he probably won’t have to pitch anyway
               B. Bolton could use more seasoning, but let’s let him cut his teeth
               C. Go big, this team is good enough to get a big arm

That about does it for the starting pitching. I’m not trying to prove anything really here, as much as helping you see the real options there. It’s easy to practice revisionist history and blame Nutting’s wallet, which let’s face it, is how we got here. But when met with the reality of making a conscious choice to let a player go without taking a shot at getting something in return, you start to see the very real rock and hard place going on.

Now, I guess this is kind of disingenuous to not frame the entire conversation with one real big choice first and I quizzed you on the pitching because I think it’s the one factor above all that educates this next decision.

Where Are We?
1. Based on The Pitching I Have, When Can We Compete? – And I very much so mean this to be organizationally speaking. Look up and down at who’s here, who’s coming and when does it all come together.
               A. Now, if these guys stay healthy, we have a real shot to be pretty good
               B. This doesn’t add up, even if I add a big Free Agent, its just not good enough
               C. I like the young pitching, but I need more so I’m going to have to make moves
               D. All of the Above

Pretty easy to see this being a less than straightforward choice. I hesitate to put years on the table but I’m sure that’s part of the internal discussion, identifying a timeframe he really thinks is realistic. I always base this on pitching because without it, nothing matters. Even in the homerun era, the game is still won and lost on the mound. I’m sure a real GM, rather than a fan-turned writer takes his decision making far deeper, but to me, the rotation opens and closes windows in a small to mid-market environment.

Once you’ve decided which path to take up there it leads you to the fielders. Depending on what you choose you’re looking for different reasons. For instance, if you chose A, you probably want to see based on what’s here, where are your upgrade areas? If you chose B or C, you have some important decisions to make and it largely depends on when you think the window opens. Some guys just won’t come up, its hardly important to look past whatever you consider the core, everything else is moveable parts or too young to matter on the trade market.

So, let’s start up by looking at what the perceived core was, way back when Cherington would have needed to make his decisions.

The Core?
1. Gregory Polanco – Man if it’s overall talent you’re looking for, not many can compete, more importantly, Gregory has a very hard to move contract unless he’s good, and then would you want to?
               A. Time to move on, Greg will never get it. Eat the 22.5 Million in dead money
               B. I don’t care what our payroll is, I can’t make one of my first moves to eat 22.5 Million
               C. Once Eckstein gets a full season with Polanco, healthy, I have to believe he’ll come around  D. Please, anyone, make an offer
               E. Extend Gregory, this is the kind of guy we want to build around beyond 2023

2. Josh Bell – Which JB shows up? The monster that terrorized the league in the first half or the second half where all he terrorized was Hurdle writing his name in the clean-up spot.
               A. The Power is there, and it looks like last season they figured out his swing
               B. He’s not the worst first baseman I’ve ever seen, but if the bat is there, so what
               C. This is the biggest chip I have to play, no way he signs, solves more problems in what he returns
               D. At some point this club needs to make a statement, I want to extend this guy. Even if I have to Overpay
               E. I’d love to keep Bell around, I’d be willing to pay, but I just don’t think he’s good enough to be THAT guy

3. Bryan Reynolds – There is no such thing of course, but prior to the season nobody was closer to can’t miss
               A. This could be my Christian Yelich, if I want to move him, big jump in rebuild
               B. I’m not trading my one true star with that much control. There isn’t enough upside out there to consider it
4. Starling Marte – Clearly the best weapon on this club, but he isn’t happy, and I can get some much-needed prospect capital.
               A. Keep Marte and try one more time
               B. Move Marte for prospects knowing it leaves a gaping hole, and what that means

All the Rest?
1. The Next Level – This is a mix of players. They can’t be the core really, too early to really decide, but let’s see what we have.
               A. We have to be one of the richest teams in the league for middle infielders, I can deal from real strength here, nobody is untouchable
               B. I leave open the door for any of these to be part of my core
               C. Trade as many as we can, the future is then not now
               D. All of the Above

The questions go on from here, and there is absolutely no way we could cover all of them. If you consider these to be the most important ones or even if you have a few of your own. The point is, answering these questions show exactly why Cherington didn’t add much, didn’t move much and decided to take a flyer on 2020. So much youth, so much control.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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