It always seems like when something weird happens in baseball the Pirates are part of the story, as news broke on Wednesday that teams had expressed interest in four members of the Bucs starting rotation it struck me just how odd that is for a team that finished last overall.
So, what happened here? What is the league seeing that the Pirates clearly didn’t benefit from? More importantly, what could this mean for 2021?
Let’s start at the beginning, the players who have been mentioned are Chad Kuhl, Steven Brault, Joe Musgrove and Trevor Williams. Most of the fan shock has been over the inclusion of Brault, but for me it has to be Trevor Williams.
This could mean anything from availability to an overriding belief that some if not all underperformed in 2020. Let’s start with availability. Keeping secrets in professional sports is hard, and the most difficult one to keep is where your club is in its evolution. Other GM’s know what’s going on here in Pittsburgh and while we sometimes sit on every word Ben Cherington shares with the media and parse it for information as to what he plans, his competition need only understand that he is willing to listen.
On the other side, the underperformed aspect, we’re looking at more of the why. Why would teams be interested in 4 pitchers who helped lead the Pirates to the worst record in baseball. Well, control and potential, sprinkled with a hint of understanding.
In other words, Joe did well in his last few starts and many people give him a pass for the overall record since he spent the majority of the season injured. People understand that Kuhl was returning from a long TJ recovery and may have just reached his groove by the close of the 2020 bastardized season. Brault, is left handed, has control and has shown ability to start or pitch out of the pen. Williams is cheap, experienced and worth a shot at least according to whatever team is interested in him.
I’ve written about the Pirates rotation for 2021, way too early of course, and I’ve laid out 8 pitchers who could be part of it, so moving one of two of these players wouldn’t completely kill the rotation and if the goal is to truly stock the system, moving anyone you don’t see as part of that eventual window makes sense.
None of these guys would be true salary dumps as none of them make enough to worry about, even for the Pirates.
We can talk about return all we want but if they do this the way most rebuilding clubs do, you won’t know most of what they get back. As I’ve said, if they leave this team untouched, they’ll improve in 2021, so purely from a fan’s perspective any of these moves won’t be greeted kindly. That said, there is a way to really understand what this is about.
See, if you have a yard sale and in the morning you go in your garage and start emptying trash bags on the ground to pick through and find things to sell, you probably aren’t going to get much. If you are able to part with that lawn mower that doesn’t have a sharp blade anymore, you might be able to sell it to someone who can fix it up and use it better than you could for a few more years while you get money (young prospects) in exchange.
Now imagine who you’re selling to knows you just had your entire lawn reseeded and as it’s November, they also know you won’t be cutting grass for quite some time. In other words, they know you don’t need it right now. They’ll be more interested because they are reasonably assured they can pry it off you and eventually you’ll be more open too as you come to grips with that fact.
Bottom line there is value in all these players and if they don’t plan on extending them that value is on an ever decreasing clock. It won’t feel good when and if they pull the trigger on any of these, well most, but it might just be best for when the club plans to be in the game again.