Eye On the Prize

7-22-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

This is a better Pirates team than it was in 2021.

Not by leaps and bounds. Not to the degree most fans would consider enough, or even exciting, but better.

If I sat you down and made you commit to who on this roster in your mind must be here when this team is competitive, I’d be shocked to hear more than 5 or 6 names.

And yet, the pushback I see about potentially trading players like Jose Quintana, Daniel Vogelbach, Ben Gamel is just everywhere.

Some of it is just genuinely liking a player, I get that, I too like a guy like Ben Gamel but folks this is why these players are here.

Here’s what I really don’t understand. A player like Quintana in particular, he’s an older pitcher, he hasn’t thrown a large amount of innings since 2019, he’ll likely not last through the season without at least a rest period, and more than anything people, he isn’t signed next year.

You aren’t keeping him for 2 million in 2023 if that’s what you want to do. In fact, there is no guarantee he wants to be here. There’s nothing binding him to the Pittsburgh Pirates, and he’s not a good enough player to get you a comp pick for letting him play out his contract. There literally is nothing to gain by keeping him aside from at best 10-14 more starts should they choose to ignore his arm health.

Here are his last 10 starts from Fangraphs.

Now what do you notice? He’s a good pitcher? This is someone to fight for? He’s a must keep asset?

Let me ask you this, if those were Mitch Keller’s stat lines over his last 10, is he a bum?

Thing is, Quintana has been exactly what the best case scenario looks like for a 2 million dollar veteran pitching reclamation project.

I mean, I still hear many of you routinely tell me that he’s “the best starter on the team”. And folks, hell no he isn’t. I’m sorry if this is coming across like I hate the guy or think he’s stunk, I don’t think that or feel that, but he’s not what you have built in your mind. He’s not even what you remember from April and May if you’re really honest with yourself.

Thing is, even if he was killing it, signings like this are acquired to help of course, but if you play baseball, and sign a one year deal, on a team that quite literally isn’t going to sniff the playoffs, well, trust me, Jose knew he was either going to pitch himself into a DFA or a trade. There was never a scenario in which he was finishing 2022 as a Pittsburgh Pirate.

OK, so if you feel you need to have him next year return, the Pirates would have to go out and sign him. It’s likely he’s not going to accept another 1 year deal, it’s even more likely he’s going to want paid based on what he provided this season too. 2 years, 4-5 million per would probably get it done, but in my mind, I’d rather put 5-7 in the bucket and get a real upgrade. Maybe a guy that won’t shock me if he gives 150 innings.

Either way, he’s not signed. Even if by some chance he’s better than the Bryse Wilson we’ve seen in his last few call up starts, you’re talking about keeping a guy around on the off chance he delivers 3-4 more wins which might be the difference between 68 and 71 victories. If the Pirates can get a prospect that helps years from now instead of those 3-4 wins, I honestly can’t fathom not doing it.

Back in 2017 the Pirates traded Tony Watson, a vastly superior player who was on his last year with the Pirates for Angel German and Oneil Cruz. 5 years later I think you’re probably pretty pleased about it. I bet the Pirates cost themselves 3-4 wins in 2017 because they made that move, and I dare say Tony did more for this club and had more to give than Quintana at this stage of his career.

The point of all of that is really simple.

What the hell are you so anxious to hold on to? Do you really want to fight to keep temporary components who helped lead your team to what, 65-70 wins? I don’t. I want to keep seeing the prospects get time. I want to keep filtering things out. I want room for a Mike Burrows to make his debut. I’m looking to get Bligh Madris back up here. I’d much prefer to see Ji-hwan Bae finally get a shot.

Nah son, trade as many of these rentals and short term stop gaps as you can, and cut the others if you ask me. I’m certainly not hugging on tight, begging to make sure we see this team stick together. And I’m not looking to see them “grow together” either. A player like Quintana isn’t growing with anyone. His ceiling has come and gone. As I heard Chris Lunati put it recently on the Bucs in the Basement Podcast, this has all the hallmarks of a lightbulb getting bright before it burns out.

I know trades upset some of you, but this isn’t a team in position to think many players are to be kept. I also don’t think everyone really understands why players are put on the block in the first place. That’s evidenced by seeing people still put up whiny posts like “whaaa we could have Cutch and Marte with Reynolds, wouldn’t that be nice” I mean where do I begin?

Now, they won’t, but if they were to shock me despite everything I’ve been told and they decide to move someone like Reynolds, yes, I’d be mad.

I’d be mad because it sets the whole damn thing back. It would say to you that they don’t expect to win or be competitive by 2025. If they were to trade a guy like Oneil Cruz, I’ve got questions.

This stuff is really predictable though, honest. There’s a reason everyone and their mother can easily put together a list before the season of players who will be on the block and no, it’s not because we evil writers are driving a guy out of town. It’s because logic is available for anyone and everyone who chooses to use it.

As soon as this deadline passes, I’ll be able to tell you everyone left who will be on the block in 2023. So can like 200 other people. And if they sign another pitcher to a one year deal, guess who’s on the block next deadline. If they sign another DH on a one year deal, guess who’s on the block.

For instance, the Pirates could have skipped bringing in a Quintana all together and just kept Chad Kuhl. He’s had a great season in Colorado, that’d help right? Guess who’d be on the block. Why? Because it’s his last year of team control. Why not just extend him? Sure, you could, but he’ll be 30 years old. How many years do you think he’s got in that arm before he drops off? Was one decent season, and I mean decent he’s got a 4.11 ERA and a 1.402 WHIP, enough to decide he’s worth a 3 or 4 year extension? I ask that because that’s what he’s going to want, likely what he’s going to get somewhere. My guess is that 4.11 ERA looks terrible to you on your team, but like you lost something really great when he’s wearing purple.

For the rest of the time Kevin Newman is here he’s on the block. His isn’t about control as much as being squeezed out but even so it’s entirely and logically predictable.

You get a team that is in the race, and I mean legit in the race, ok, most of that stuff goes out the window. You’ll hold onto that guy who’s going to walk for nothing in an effort to win a few extra games or even just keep depth in place. Even then, I’ll be able to tell you which prospects might be available to help add to the MLB team via trading them.

So many have worked themselves into believing every single decision comes down to Nutting not wanting to spend, they’ve blinded themselves from the reality that at this stage, none of them cost a damn thing in terms of meaningful money. Daniel Vogelbach costs 800K this year. 1.2 next year should they choose to keep him. If they move him, it isn’t about money, it’s about selling a guy who has hit far better than his contract, and might return something that helps later, you know, when it friggin’ matters.

There’s reason to distrust Nutting obviously. He’s a cheap dude, and if you want to get angry Jose Quintana was arguably the best free agent they signed, cool, but his spending has nothing, and I mean nothing to do with any trade they make this year.

Eye on the prize people. The goal here is to build a winning team. This isn’t a winning team, so stop asking them to keep it together. To prevent forest fires you might have to have some controlled burns. It makes no sense, until you actually see why it’s done and how it works. Consider these relatively small moves you’ll see this year as a controlled burn. This one though creates room, provides more help later potentially and more than anything trims the fat.

I actually don’t expect them to be all that active, and the reason is more about the fact that they don’t have a whole lot of attractive, movable pieces than it is desire. I bet they’d trade up to 10 players if anyone wanted them, and therein lies the problem.

Trades aren’t always a bad thing. You really must find a way to understand that because you’re nowhere near seeing them stop. In fact, I’ll remind in 1987 the Pittsburgh Pirates traded catcher Tony Pena to the St Louis Cardinals in exchange for pitcher Mike Dunne, catcher Mike LaValliere and outfielder Andy Van Slyke. Pena was my favorite player, he was 29 so he wasn’t ancient, and I certainly didn’t understand it at the time. I was hot, a ten year old who just saw his favorite baseball player moved for people I didn’t even recognize. Clearly it worked out but I didn’t know why it happened. I had no idea that he was going to be lost in free agency if they didn’t move him. I didn’t really understand that his offensive stats had steadily declined over the years. All I knew is they traded a player I knew as the best player on my favorite team.

Folks, that’s not what this is. Not this year. Someday it will be again, but what you’ll see this year is nothing near that.

I’m not saying you have to cheer when they ship Quintana or whomever, but you also don’t have to act like they’re shipping out something that would have gotten them to the promised land. That just isn’t there, that’s not what any of these guys are.

They’re stop gaps, and just like Flex Seal, it’ll do the job, hell you can even patch a boat with it, but I wouldn’t try to see if it holds on a cross Atlantic trip.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

5 thoughts on “Eye On the Prize

  1. Would like to see suwinski and .adris come back up once we vet room Allso what your thoughts on the rookie reliever we got back for Vogelbach???? Numbers look good to me


  2. There are some people who simply do not want logic and cannot be swayed. They want pure emotion and every whim and complaint validated, however preposterous. They also complain the loudest about (well, everything, but I digress) people they view as spoiled and whiny–even though such people actually aren’t those things, just logical. It’s maddening especially because it’s a lose-lose situation: disengage and they’re emboldened; engage and they merely scream louder.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. All I can really say Zak is our website and our podcasts are growing faster than anyone. The podcasts especially. So the audience of those who want logic is either growing or some of them are waking from hibernation


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