It’s been a few days since the Pittsburgh Pirates traded a fan favorite, right-handed starting pitcher Joe Mugrove, to the San Diego Padres in order receive four prospects, along with the second rated catcher from the New York Mets Farm System to complete the deal; which has done nothing but give me time to sit down and evaluate this move, along with all the others, General Manager Ben Cherington has made since arriving in Pittsburgh in November of 2019.
In the moment my immediate reaction to this was one of excitement due to the return, three of the top 20 prospects from the highly touted Padres Farm System and the #14 prospect from the Mets, that Cherington was able to get for an inconsistent Joe Musgrove based on moments of near brilliance, along with the potential from his peripherals. This is not me taking shots at a player as he is walking out the door; it’s the truth and has nothing to do with Big Joe the person or teammate. In three seasons with the Pirates Musgrove posted a 4.23 ERA, a 3.69 FIP and a 1.1205 WHIP, while earning 3.6 WAR and 6.5 fWAR respectively. Those are solid numbers for an average to slightly above average starting pitcher, who was also a pretty good dude based on the heartfelt letter he penned to Pirates Fans.
As the hours and days passed, my enthusiasm grew as I looked at all of the talent Cherington had infused into the Pirates Farm System in a little over a year. With the trades of Starling Marte, Josh Bell and Joe Musgrove, one MLB June Amateur Draft, a few international signings and a Rule 5 Draft he had taken the Pirates Prospect Rankings and flipped them on their proverbial heads. Almost all that had taken place from November of 2019 to present day was illustrated very nicely in a single tweet by Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.
After reading this totally impartial, just the facts, plain as black and white, less than 280 character explanation of what Cherington had done for the organization , there was no reason for me not to be hopeful for a promising future that could be in store for the Pittsburgh Pirates and all their faithful fans.
Then I read a tweet from a member of one of my favorite Pirates podcast groups, guys that I have been religiously following for a long time and have the utmost respect for due to their ability of presenting authentic and honest views on the Pirates and to have fun while doing it, Jim Rosati; formerly of the North Side Notch Pirates Blog and currently of North Shore Nine (NS9) Crew.
Now I am not going to try to interpret what Jim meant by his original, and eventually subsequent comments as he is more than capable of speaking for himself. I can only convey what these statements and graphic made me think and feel as I looked over them.
In all honesty I was taken back to my late 20’s, as a diehard Pittsburgh Pirates Fan when Neil Huntington took over the helm of a floundering ball club in 2007. I remembered Xavier Nady being sent to the New York Yankees, for two of their top prospects. And then before I could catch my breath, just few days later seeing Jason Bay shuffled to the Boston Red Sox for quantity and quality from the Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers, in a three team blockbuster deal. Later that summer I was glued to the radio as I waited anxiously to find out if we had inked Pedro Alvarez to his $6 million signing bonus in the 11th Hour.
Not all these memories came with an over abundance of joy at the time. However, eventually these moves, along with other trades, acquisitions and drafts, the Pirates nearly made it up the mountain in 2013 through 2015; which clearly brought some exhilaration back into Pittsburgh. At this moment I experienced a clarity and confirmation as to why I was so excited about the moves Cherington had been making, as well as why I made claims about what it was like to have a real GM. In essence I was comparing the beginning of Cherington’s time with the Pirates to the end of Huntington’s tenure, especially two apparently horrible trades involving Gerrit Cole and Chris Archer.
This is not to say that Huntington didn’t make some mistakes and that it wasn’t clearly time for him to go, but we can’t ignore the acquisitions of Oneil Cruz, Bryan Reynolds, Tahnaj Thomas, Ke’Bryan Hayes and Quinn Priester either. For me, in the end, it became more about the ability , or lack there of, to develop players; the third step in Cherington’s master plan of Identifying, Acquiring, Developing and Deploying talent.
So, are we still allowed to be excited about the moves that Cherington has made so far, which has started to saturate the Pirates Farm System with potential talent? Very simply put, yes we are, but it is far from the end of the journey; or the process if you prefer.