Five Pirates Thoughts at Five

10-4-21 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

I hope none of you thought we were going to take some long break now that the season is over, we’re just getting started. This is where things really start getting interesting. The conversations start to change this off season, oh, I don’t mean negative people are going to wake up positive, or that 100 losses didn’t just take place. I mean the talent we’ve been tracking is now that much closer and for example that mighty flick of the wrists from Oneil Cruz yesterday may not have been technically what you want to see, but it sure is nice to see it’s in there.

As we officially step foot into the Pirates off season today, you can expect a plethora of opinion from all over the map but we’re going to do our darnedest to keep it realistic and honest right here.

Let’s dig in, keeping this to five might be a real struggle for me.

1. Reason for Optimism?

I mean, of course you’re looking at the pool of talent on the doorstep, but facts are facts, and this 101 loss team is likely going to return a large percentage of this active roster to the team next year. Now, before you lose your mind, THIS roster, meaning what we watched down the stretch isn’t the same as what they started the year with so it’s not fair to say something like “same team, same results”, thing is though, the pitching is what has me most concerned.

Next year will be a whole lot like that, difference being prospects are going to be the influx of talent that changes the complexion instead of finding a former Japanese League Star, they’ll call on one of their many close prospects. My issue there is, they still don’t have enough pitching in my mind. If this team goes out and gets a pitcher or two, we’ll see real improvement in the record. If they don’t, marginal at best.

I like the potential of a bunch of the arms the Pirates have, but not enough to simply trust they’re all ready. Time to buy some vets for prospects to push through. It’s fun to think about getting a bunch of those young guys up here right away, but remember talent doesn’t always equal MLB ready.

Bryse Wilson, JT Brubaker, Mitch Keller, Roansy Contreras, Miguel Yajure, Wil Crowe, Dillon Peters, Steven Brault, Chad Kuhl, Max Kranick, and I haven’t even named everyone who should compete for a starting gig. Some will be moved, some will wind up in the pen, most are incredibly young. Again, I’d bring in a vet or two, rather than pretend every youngster is going to reach their potential on an MLB mound and improve this team. If 101 losses is truly unacceptable, and I assure you it is, don’t rely on 3 rookies and pretend it’s an improvement.

Many on that list are far more talented than Tyler Anderson was but it’s highly unlikely that any of them at this stage will be nearly as reliable.

In many ways, it’s not unlike the Steelers offensive line this year, lot of talent there, but expecting 4 rookies or second year guys to perform to their ceilings is foolish.

I trust that the bats will happen before the pitching, and I don’t think it’s a long odds bet. Look at the system, the timing is right in front of you.

2. The CBA Should Be Huge, Even if it Probably Won’t Be.

Many people think guys like me talk about MLB having no Salary Cap is in defense of Bob Nutting, or giving him cover for not spending. Maybe for some that’s true, for me it’s part of an undeniable truth. Nutting doesn’t spend what he could, and what he could is nowhere near what the top of the league can.

National guys are loathed to approach this subject by in large but Michael DeCourcy isn’t typical.

Well, Mike isn’t stupid, he knows the answer to this, no they don’t have the vision.

They’d be fine with however the league wants to handle revenue sharing, but keep that word, that evil evil word out of your mouth. Thing is, rational adults know without a cap, which you all know from reading my ramblings on this doesn’t come without a floor, there can be no reasonable expectation that aggressive revenue sharing will take place.

Owners have the ball, literally. Their willingness to accept that this is an issue is step number one. If enough of them feel the same, and are willing to lose money because rest assured it will cost money to shut down the game, they can get this done. I truly doubt they will, but the fact remains, it’s in their court.

I stand firm, if there is no cap, the Pirates are travelling the only real course that can work, but if there is one instituted, they’ll come out of it ready to rock. Either way nothing changes until it does.

That said, when guys with the profile of Mike talk about this, it’s a positive step.

3. Is Oscar Marin the Right Guy?

Let’s start here, as it comes to him being back next year, it doesn’t matter, the Pirates will certainly do so. So, we can choose to start calling them wrong right now or we can simply sit on that for a little while longer and talk about what we need to see to change our minds.

Well, here it is for me, someone who he tangibly makes better.

Show me a guy like Mitch Keller looking confident in his approach and refining what he does. Give me a guy like Wil Crowe finding a way to consistently have more of his pitches working more often. Hit me with a Nick Mears having that velocity and hitting his spots.

Show me something.

His plan doesn’t just cover the MLB club, it’s the entire organization. So when we hear chatter about Joel Hanrahan being some kind of whisperer, just keep in mind he’s whispering Oscar’s sweet nothings. If indeed Joel is doing a better job instructing, well, that’s not the same as having the wherewithal to create and institute a global plan, and I’d also like to see someone give me an example of who he’s improved.

Someone has to prove something and if it doesn’t start next year they better move on just like they did for Eckstein. It’s not like Marin has this decade long log book of successes, he’s just got a great reputation for analytics driven pitch concepts, and sometimes that doesn’t translate to the actual throwers of the ball without a whisperer of some sort, someone who can translate.

Another thing that troubles me are plans that seem to want everyone to be the same.

We hated pitch to contact because it forced strikeout pitchers to ignore their skillset and instead hunt contact, now we have guys who simply don’t have the stuff hunting strikeouts when they just need to focus on getting soft contact.

One isn’t better than the other, and just because the coach has a philosophy doesn’t mean everyone has the skillset he’d like to coach. Sure over time the team can to some degree make sure he’s got the types of guys under his tutelage that can execute his concepts, but right now, how about a little flexibility?

At the end of the day, I’m unimpressed, but I hope to be proven wrong, that simply won’t happen without more than a couple showing something.

4. This is How it is, Cause it’s Always Been. That’s the Pirates, Right?

I get this all the time. Had more than a few people tell me Oneil Cruz absolutely won’t be a Pirate until 2023 because “that’s how the Pirates do things” or “if you think different you haven’t paid attention”.

Umm, who wants to tell them?

This is the same team, with the same logo and admittedly the same owner. Everything else has changed, now should we just ignore that?

Maybe we should assume Bob Nutting is making player decisions? Nah.

Listen, anything could happen at this point, you’d actually be better off looking at what Boston or Toronto have done than think you have the knowledge base to assume Pirates history will repeat itself.

In fact, just this week we were treated to two instances of “this isn’t very Piratey” in the form of Cruz and Contreras making their debuts a mere weeks after being promoted to AAA. I mean that’s a lot more what history shows of Cherington’s style, but you’re right, this Nutting guy who you think is pure evil is going to mastermind slow walking players through a system he allowed Ben to stock, you know, so there would be far more instances of prospects being ready in the first place.

I actually kinda feel silly writing this, my audience isn’t typically this blind after all.

None of this means I can or will predict with certainty when Cruz will be up for good, he could work his can off this off season and show up for Spring identifying those breaking pitches and doing everything with maturity, or he could require some more seasoning. Roansy could make the rotation right out of Spring or he too could have to go back down because they don’t like the shape of his changeup.

One thing it won’t be is Bob Nutting worried about whether he pays arbitration in 2025 or 2026.

At least let this management group make mistakes before we blame them for making them shall we? For instance, want to criticize them legitimately, how about their talent identification? They did a legitimately poor job picking up players on the waiver wire. They waited too long to pull the trigger on a hitting coach that wasn’t getting the job done. See, those things happened. Neal didn’t do those things, Frank was long gone for those events, that’s how it works.

5. For a Team That Didn’t Hit, It’s Funny How Many Guys People Want to Return

Sign Yoshi! Bring back Gamel! Difo is so good off the bench you can’t lose him! Moran wasn’t healthy let’s see what he does in 2022.

I’m not saying I disagree with any of those in particular, but you all do realize some of these players have to go or prospects can’t come up right? Keep Difo? Ok, but that means Tucker or Park or Chavis can’t be here. Keep Yoshi, that’s fine, but that DH spot might be nice for a younger guy too right?

It’s super easy to say this team stinks they need to get better at X, Y and Z, you know, until you have to embrace moving X, Y or Z out of the picture.

If the Pirates choose to trade say Colin Moran, I expect a healthy dose of CHEAP! But we are honestly entering uncharted territory for the past decade plus, they have actual players on the way, and that’s different than just trying like hell to acquire young talent, it’s about making room now.

Sometimes that’s going to mean you have to be ready to say goodbye to someone you’ve become attached to, or convinced yourself was an answer. Sometimes it happens to be a guy who goes on and does well in his next home too.

Others will simply never make it, instead being moved themselves to bring in better fitting pieces. Again, this isn’t something we’ve seen a ton of here, and it’s going to require you to use a different set of eyes to embrace.

Go sign a big name outfielder? Well, ok, but what happens when Swaggerty, Smith-Njigba, Mitchell or someone else is ready? I say this because some of these decisions won’t be about being too cheap to get one, it’ll be about wanting to leave room.

It’s different, and in case you haven’t noticed from the last 40+ years, different is kinda needed.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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