Five Pirates Thoughts at Five 2-1-21

It feels like we just flipped the calendar to 2021 and here we are in February already. We should be ramping up for and starting to cover the pitchers and catchers as they report to Spring Training, but of course MLB is still arguing this out.

The Pirates made news this week by simply not making any trades as bad as Colorado did. It’s one thing to trade veteran players, it’s another entirely to give up an all world player, probable future HOF player for crumbs AND pay 50 million for the privilege.

Let me drive this home. The Pirates got more for Jameson Taillon. The Pirates got more for Joe Musgrove by far. Even if eating some of his salary was the only way to get this done, even if he has opt outs baked in, he has to return a package of prospects better than what he netted. Appalling move.

Baseball loves to blame the individual franchises when things like this happen (although this might be the worst I’ve ever seen) rather than point the finger back at the system that created it.

So, before I go on a rant and write an entire article before the Five Thoughts, let’s dig in.

1. Should the Pirates Pay to Unload Polanco?

The Bucs have one player who makes real money, Gregory Polanco. At 11.5 million, he’s by far the highest paid Pirate and all he’s owed after the season is 3 million to buy him out.

He’ll cost them a total of 14.5 million to get him off the books. That’s just a straight cost. If they cut him today, that would be the price tag.

Now, here’s a guy who even if he stinks (good bet right) will give you 20 homeruns, his average will underwhelm. His plate discipline will prevent him from being the clean up hitter, but his power will tempt them.

At the trade deadline, he would cost another team roughly 4.5 million in salary for the remainder of the season and then the 3 million they would owe to buy him out. So a total of 7.5ish would be the total expenditure for a buyer.

My answer to this question is simple, the Pirates should actively consider offering to throw in the 3 million. They’d have to pay it if they don’t find a buyer anyway, and if that equates to buying a prospect, so be it.

Anything more than that and I can’t get there. Now if he shows up and looks like even 2018 Polanco, all bets are off, it goes back to a seller’s market and all thoughts of helping the deal along by paying part of his salary go out the window.

Don’t miss a trick, but also don’t out think yourself.

2. Why Did the Cubs Sign Trevor Williams?

Well, he’s cheap. At 2.5 million Williams is hardly a risk and veteran pitchers have a role to fill on almost every club. They certainly don’t believe they’ve signed Max Scherzer, but every club needs to eat innings. I suggest from personal experience there are better options out there for serving that purpose, but again, low risk.

Put it in context though, they probably could have had Jon Lester for 5 million, I mean that’s what he signed for in Washington. Why they wouldn’t just go in that direction, we may never know, but the answer is eating innings. Even if you lose 100 games (which Chicago is in no danger of as of this writing) those innings still need dealt with.

It’s exactly why the Pirates will do the same. Now why didn’t they just keep someone they had under control? He was going to get more than that in arbitration, and simply put, he isn’t worth that. On top of that, as I mentioned earlier, he doesn’t eat innings.

3. Miguel Yajure Might Actually Be a Good “Now” Move

He was the big get in the Jameson Taillon deal to the Yankees, and he’s impressive. Miguel Yajure will be in the mix to take command of a spot in the rotation and he could actually give us a glimpse of the power arms being amassed in the lower levels.

These videos don’t tell the whole story. They show movement, power and control, but they also show a plastic cutout who isn’t going to swing. Please don’t assume I’m enamored by these couple pitches. But this isn’t some fringe guy who the Pirates might be forced to use, this is a real prospect, with very real pedigree who might just show he belongs.

It’s ok to be excited about that, and it’s also fair to question if he’s that good why would the Yankees roll the dice on Taillon instead? Well, despite the injuries, Taillon has shown he can pitch at this level. They aren’t evaluating a skill set, they’re evaluating a guy who has thrown more than 7 innings against MLB hitting.

To get a guy like this in exchange was nice, to get 3 more prospects on top of that, is awesome.

4. Top Pick in 2022?

First of all, I really wish yinz weren’t already doing this. I’ve said before I don’t believe in tanking in baseball. It’s a side affect of stinking, but targeting it is quite something different.

We don’t even know the final rosters yet. For instance if you has asked me last week I’d have said they only had Arizona as a competitor, now I have to toss the Rockies in there too, and that’s just the National League. Take a division like the AL Central, the Twins, KC, Sox are all legit contenders for the title, The Tigers are starting to reap the benefits of their long term rebuild and the Indians sold off. The Indians head to head with the Pirates are still better, but you must account for the beating they could take in their own division.

Baltimore has the same issue, if not worse. All while the NL Central is down everywhere but St. Louis. Now, they could be that bad anyway, but I hardly think they have the inside track. Even last season the Rangers came out of nowhere to compete for the top pick in 2021.

Point is, we won’t know if this is there for the taking for quite some time. As I said last year, if this is the bright spot that helps you get through, enjoy.

5. So What’s Going on With the Start of the Season?

MLB proposed a one month delay to the union. The highlights are DH in the NL, Expanded playoffs, Shortened season of 154 games, zero pay reduction for the players.

Sounds pretty damn good right? Well as most leaks are designed, it was supposed to.

Here’s why the players will ultimately balk. The cut back in games with no pay reduction amounts to around a 5% pay raise for players. Again, why would they not like that right? Well, it’s MLB’s way of getting the players to accept more playoff games with no additional piece of the pie.

There is nothing that either side does from here on out that isn’t soaked in the upcoming negotiation of the CBA. I’m not old, but I’m old enough to remember every CBA negotiation is going to be a bloodbath. Fans in certain markets get excited about change finally coming to the economic system, and most of the time it amounts to very little.

This time, economics are on the table and I’ll try to explain why here and maybe I’ll write a deeper piece on this soon.

The Players Want:
1. Bigger Piece of the Pie – Now the biggest problem there is, they have no faith that they know how big the pie is. See in the NFL or NHL the players know the exact amount of total revenue they get vs ownership. So if you negotiate an extra percentage point, that translates into real dollars. And the reason that works is they have a cap, so those dollars are forced to be spent to a certain degree. The players don’t want a cap. Essentially, they want the books open, but don’t want the reason books get opened implemented.

2. Universal DH – This gets them more permanent players and technically a bigger slice of the pie. Starting to catch a theme?

3. A higher luxury tax – Here’s the funny thing, the players don’t even realize this is a soft cap, and why would they, up until 2019 the teams who could afford to approach it never cared. They do now, and it’s costing veteran jobs.

4. Restructuring of Rookie Deals – The players want to get to free agency more quickly and Super 2 will be their main target. They’ll also want to reduce arbitration years from 3 to 2, something along those lines. Maybe they’ll even try to target rookie deals themselves down from 3 to 2. This would send 2/3 of the owners screaming at the clouds.

The Owners Want:
1. Cost Control – And I wish I could tell you this meant they were smart enough to be talking about a cap. It’s not as though they are unaware of the idea, it’s that it’s become such a sacred cow, such a non-starter with the players that they almost take it off the table themselves. They’ll want to achieve this by discussing things like non-guaranteed contracts, or signing bonuses that don’t count toward the luxury tax.

2. Expanded Playoffs – They want this as a standard, and the players do too, they just want paid for it.

3. More or Less Revenue Sharing – There is a split here, some want more, some want less, some want a lower tax threshold to cut down on the gap. Again, there is something that could get all this done.

What Nobody Discusses
1. MiLB inclusion in the union – Some form of this should be on the table. Attracting young talent to the game will suffer if the road to the show doesn’t stop feeling like a 5 or 6 year roll of the dice, and that comes with representation. It’s a big undertaking but there is a groundswell, and rumor has it MiLB will at least be represented at the negotiation table.

Question of the Week

This week’s question comes from Garrett Dockter on Facebook – Dude! Thank you for not bashing! I would love to hear your perspective! Will we stay with playing this trade game? Is their a glimmer of a 5 year plan yet?

First, thanks Garrett, we really try to be fair here, hell we built it into our home page. Doesn’t mean we’re shiny happy people about everything, but we like to look at subjects through that lens.

Now, Yes, they’ll stay with the trade game. They may not be done yet this season, but as I’ve said before, follow the control. They have two years left on Brault, Frazier and Kuhl, those are the most likely candidates. It’s not about money, it’s about how long they’ll be here and do they factor into the window this club sees themselves setting up for.

Next season Colin Moran will be a hot name, again, he won’t be here for the window.

Five year plan gives me headaches. Bad memories. No, they have no X amount of years plan, but that doesn’t mean we can’t guess. I said follow the control for trades, well follow the ETAs for pitching to see the window.

2023-2024 the Pirates will have barring injury a top end Starting rotation with pedigree. Priester, Malone, (Maybe Rocker), Thomas, Mlodzinski, Jones, and I’m not even mentioning pitchers like Yajure, Keller or Brubaker who are here or about to be.

Follow the pitching. That’s the most expensive thing in the league and its the guide to prying the window open.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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