I have no doubt that things didn’t turn out quite how most of you wanted to see the deadline play out yesterday. I have little doubt Ben Cherington agrees with you. The prevailing reasoning seems to be that the Pirates were not satisfied with any of the offers they received for the players they made available and I’m sure to a certain degree that’s factual, but it’s also not the biggest factor at play.
Any of you who have read our coverage on this site have seen our insistence that the trade deadline for the Pirates wouldn’t be all that active. The reasons ranged from under-performance, to injury, but quite possibly, no single reason is bigger than the simple fact this is already a young team. And it’s actually poised to get younger.
Despite not making any moves at the deadline beyond moving Jarrod Dyson for International Pool money, the Pirates only stand to lose one other player they could have avoided losing for free, Derek Holland. Keone Kela counts too but injury took him off the table entirely as he has not even picked up a baseball, this would put his recovery timetable even in the most optimistic scenario at around a week or week and a half left in the season. In other words, nobody was going to take a chance, no matter how minuscule.
I’d love to break down all the offers received and proposed but the reality is nobody will ever really know what was and wasn’t on the table. the best we can do is look at the other deals that did happen and infer the types of packages that were on the table potentially. Even this will ultimately be a guess, but an educated one.
Sometimes you can gather just as much from deals that didn’t happen, take Lance Lynn still being a Ranger. Here is a pitcher who this season has been very impressive, and throughout his career has been relatively steady, best part, he still has another year on his deal. The Pirates don’t have a single starter who lines up with him career wise but toss in two years of control and solid performance you can make a case that Chad Kuhl is in the ballpark.
Point being, the Rangers were not able to find anyone willing to part with enough value for them to move Lynn, it stands to reason the Pirates were in the same spot.
Now take a look at Mike Clevinger, really solid pitcher, with control but everyone knew his team at least really wanted him gone because of his part in their COVID quarantine misstep. Brutal situation for the Indians really, the last thing a first place team wants to do is move arguably their best pitcher, especially when the top choice to replace him is another guy who your players don’t want to be around. Moral of the story was the league kinda had the tribe by the short hairs on this deal, and it showed. Not to say they got nothing, but this is as close to the Cole deal as we’ve seen since it was consummated, and the return was the same mix of players. Some barely MLBers with upside and some prospects who again have upside with some warts. It may end up working out for them, but being put in a forced to sell position is not where you like to be as a club.
The Pirates now turn the page, 2020 has been about evaluation (or so we’ve been told) but it also needed to be at least a little about showcasing things they had for sale. Did you ever go to Target and see a huge display of mix and match clearance stuff on every end cap? That’s prime real estate for making sales and one might wonder why they would waste it on things nobody wanted. Pretty simple really, if you want to move things efficiently, they need to be in highly visible areas. Give them a good month or two run and if they don’t sell, write them off.
That’s where we should be. We’ve watched a month of that evaluation, display, salesmanship, whatever you want to call it, and honestly whatever they want to call it for that matter. Now it’s about finding out how 2021 looks. That starts with the few ready to play prospects the Pirates have and really nobody more so than Ke’Bryan Hayes.
There are moves that need made and it is very much so a numbers game. I don’t say there will be deals lightly, or with some expectation that the Pirates are building, rebuilding, re branding, again, whatever they want to call it is fine with me. The reality of baseball is there are not very many employed GMs out there who have given away assets for nothing but making room for talent pushing from the lower levels is also part of the gig. That’s where we are now.
Let’s talk about the immediate decisions first. Archer will be bought out. TOS is not an easy injury to recover from and nine million is a bit too much to try to salvage signing him in the hopes he performs well enough to move. What he would return wouldn’t equal what has been spent and more than anything, this isn’t Cherington’s mistake to cover. Game over, bad trade, and the Pirates will only pay more for it by keeping him. It was a worthy risk this season as you’d have the year of control to float, that changes now.
Gregory Polanco will return, and anyone who thinks he’ll just get cut or sit, isn’t paying attention or not being honest. Next year is a legitimate contract year, no options but to keep him and if you hope to get anything for him, play him. 2022 brings about a 3 million buyout option and 2023 can be accomplished for 1 million. If he isn’t dealt, I fully expect at least one of those to be executed.
Point is he’ll be here next season as he hasn’t laid enough foundation to get a trade done and realistically, he may never.
Almost everyone will be back as a matter of fact, and the decisions will become difficult as they’ll have less roster space to play with as MLB get’s back to the standard 26 man units.
It’s too early to start figuring out the roster for 2021, but the targets to move remain largely the same. Bell, Frazier, Polanco (if you can get anyone interested), Williams, Musgrove and I’m not even going to touch the bullpen. Of course there could be others but if the goal is to make room for Hayes to play everyday, someone has to go. If you want to see Will Craig up here he’s clearly a DH or 1B, so if Moran and Bell remain, guess where he lives.
Ideally you’d get Keller back on the mound within the next week or so and see a good month from him, but I suspect we enter 2021 with all the same questions we entered 2020 with. Brubaker is making his case and he could make moving one of the current starters even more likely.
At the end of the day, you know what the 2020 trade deadline provided? More clarity for us and Cherington. Rebuilds (again whatever you want to call it) are much more difficult with young teams, because you are typically dealing with someone else’s failed attempt at it. That tends to leave the cupboard bare or at the very least further away than you’d like. This team is not as bad as it’s looked if healthy, but if healthy, they probably would have moved at least a few more players at the deadline.
Next season when all the players are back, that’s when the real decisions need made, and they’ll at least be partially based on what the market has to offer.
The rest of 2020 will be about deciding who the Pirates want to move, 2021 will be about whether they’ve executed the moves that facilitate roster space for who they choose. It’s easy to say bring up the young guys, its another thing entirely to make room for them to play, because it means making choices and in some cases knowingly losing on trades.
Buckle up, yesterday just started the ride.