It’s the goal if we’re honest with ourselves. The method of build GMBC has undertaken requires it. Get young, do it fast, and let it grow. I’ve described the organization he inherited as a failed rebuild before because having so little money committed and already being young is in and of itself a really odd situation.
We often say and see others say similar, that this is the only choice they have. This is the only chance they have to win in this market.
Well, I’m here to tell you, while I think this is the best method, they certainly didn’t have to go this way. I should also warn you, I’m a team building process geek in case you couldn’t tell, and I find the different methods out there fascinating. Let’s look at some other ways the Bucs could have gone and see if after that you agree with what they’ve done, or think another method would have been better.
Let’s also keep in mind the goal is winning at some point, not making you feel they ‘tried’ in 2021.
Full Rebuild (AKA Build, AKA Whatever)
I’m making a little joke here, and I’ve heard it described as Cherington feeling the word doesn’t apply because it denotes he has already built, to in fact “re” build.
Who cares. Call it what you want, but for our purposes, we’ll call it full rebuild.
With this method you sell off anyone and everyone in an effort to bring in as many high end prospects as possible. Ideally you get as much of this done at one time as possible because if you don’t it becomes another method that I’ll touch on later.
Again, ideally, you have a crop of valuable veteran players who command the kind of talent you’re seeking in return and this is exactly why this particular method typically takes quite some time. Sellable, high end talent tends to come young. The rebuilding team assumes the risk that these prospects will or won’t make it to MLB. They also assume the risk that no matter how good they look, making the show and contributing is a win, so to be successful, you need a ton. The other team assumes the risk that the fading control of the player they just acquired will be enough to get them over the bar.
Boiled down, it’s an all out talent acquisition effort, and to do it right you must fully abandon the idea that today matters beyond the few players you’ve identified as part of the answer.
Let’s look at the White Sox, the most recent team to experience the fruits of a rebuild. Years ago they decided of all the players they had like Chris Sale, Quintana, Eaton, that Tim Anderson was the guy. Anderson was who they would build around and they went about their work.
Not much different than what the Pirates have done really. They’ve got a few players you get the impression they’d like to build around like Hayes, Keller or Reynolds, but they certainly didn’t have a Chris Sale to move. Surprisingly the Eaton deal is really where they accelerated this build along with heavy investment in the International signing period. Sound familiar?
What the Sox are doing right now is actually beyond the build. It’s the next step and the one that rightly Pirates fans struggle to believe will happen. There are other ways to handle it when you get to this stage, and we’ll talk about that a bit too.
The Sell and Patch Method
Building the system for the future is all about gathering prospects and while that fact doesn’t change, how you handle the present certainly does.
Some teams could call this a retool, but that’s different to me. This is a path that you sell off players just as we discussed but you also don’t shy away from picking up quality players in free agency to give yourself more sellable assets, and while you’re at it provide your fans with more fun to watch in the season.
The Joc Pederson signing in Chicago is a perfect example. The Cubs are in the middle of realizing they’re window is closing. They’ve moved some high end talent out, and more to come certainly, so why sign a guy like Joc? I mean why not just keep Kyle Schwarber instead for a couple extra million? Well, what Kyle was going to get in arbitration they felt wasn’t moveable, while Joc is. They’re stuck in a weird spot with Kris Bryant too, because he won’t sign an extension, has been injury prone, and makes 19.5 million dollars. They couldn’t just let him walk, but finding a team to take that salary and send back anything worth much is at the very least a slim market. They also need to make some decision on Anthony Rizzo who sits at 16.5 million and is a free agent at year’s end. Extend, or move. If they extend him, he won’t be the player he is by the time the rebuild is done, if they don’t extend him another big chip walks for nothing.
And none of this touches their lack of pitching. For a team like Chicago, it makes potentially more sense to bring in a guy like Joc, try to have a passable offense that shines a bright light on their two big pieces to try to move them at the deadline when they don’t hit team budgets quite so badly.
The Pirates should and could do something very similar. They’ve exhausted most of what they’re willing to admit won’t be here for a winning club with the exception of Adam Frazier, Chad Kuhl and Steven Brault potentially. So in order to not slow the stocking process, a good play might be to bring some chips in. Picking up veterans on affordable contracts who they can sell for pieces isn’t about trying to pretend they’ve replaced Bell or Musgrove, it’s about making extra sure they didn’t part with them without making it count.
In 2019 the Pirates signed Jordan Lyles to a one year deal. He had been a reliever and the Pirates offered him a chance to start. To his credit, he took advantage and performed well, at some points actually being the most reliable arm in the rotation. The Pirates flipped him to the Brewers for Cody Ponce, who we just saw last year get a couple shots and he’ll be in the mix this season too. Perfect example of using free agents by way of getting prospects.
Just Stink Baby
I think Detroit is very close to showing this can work a couple times. They did it before and while they didn’t win it all, the Miggy led group was the class of the AL Central for a while. Well, here we sit in 2021 and the Tigers have something brewing over there.
It’s the longest of long plays. They long since moved everyone they could, nobody wants Miggy for what he makes and how he’s declined at this point. So they just stunk their way into top pick after top pick. Even this season they’ll pick number 3.
Not fun for fans, in any way, but the future couldn’t possibly be more apparent, the Tigers will be back in the game relatively soon. And they’ll be in position to use their Miggy money to lock up at least one or two of them very long term.
It’s been a long road, but it might just pay off.
Burn it Down
Believe it or not, it get’s more aggressive than what the Pirates have done so far. Remember the Marlins? They’ve done this a few times, one time it provided Detroit with the very albatross they have as their DH right now, Miggy. And more recently they moved a young Christian Yelich with a ton of control to Milwaukee to become their new face.
This would be like the Pirates having Reynolds, Hayes and Keller as feature chips right now. In other words, they believe they’re so far away that even the players who have 5 years of control aren’t likely to be part of a winning club. At least right now, the Pirates don’t seem to think they’re there.
Hey, who are we to argue, the Marlins have won it all more recently than the Pirates right? That doesn’t mean that’s the path that needs taken, it just means there is a level deeper that this team hasn’t gone to.
The Pirates of the Past
What the Pirates have done in the past is wait until they were in forced positions. For instance, nobody that was traded this season had to be. They all had control beyond this season, and make no mistake, the Pirates would be better for having them, well, in 2021 anyway. But shave a year of control off all of those guys and the returns are halved, if not more.
Being afraid to really go all in on building creates trades like Cole to Houston. Not recognizing where your team really is leads to trades like Archer to Pittsburgh. Not being honest about the players themselves creates overvaluing and more than anything it creates a team that always finishes middle to below middle and never brings in that top tier talent via the draft.
It’s a constant state of spinning your wheels.
We’ve seen this method, it’s played out here since 2016 in the form of ‘bridge years’, or retooling. I’ve seen enough of that.
Even all the way back to Bonds leaving and the Pirates selling us Jeff King as a drop in star replacement. Enough.
If you really want to understand how some people can see what’s happening now as a positive, this is why. Because to many of us, we recognize there is no path to the top for this club that doesn’t first start at step one.
Welcome to that process, because that is very much so where they are, and more trades will come before 2022.