Five Pirates Thoughts at Five

12-5-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

MLB’s Winter Meetings were always going to be interesting for the Pirates this year, but as they get underway, the main topic of discussion has shifted to one subject.

I’ve written as much as I know about the Reynolds situation, but no chance I get through 5 Pirates thoughts without him and his situation creeping in.

Let’s do this folks, cause Reynolds here or gone there will still be a team come April so even if that’s all you want to hear about right now, I’m going to try real hard to keep in mind there are other issues.

Not to ignore the elephant in the room, but to instead keep in mind there are multiple elephants. This team already had work to do, if they move Reynolds, they have even more.

1. Hostages VS Volunteers

This dichotomy was pointed out last Steelers season by Mike Tomlin when explaining why they went ahead and traded outside linebacker Melvin Ingram to the Chiefs after he had requested to be moved. The NFL, NBA and even the NHL are simply different entities, and the punitive nature of a player sitting out is often far less oppressive than it is in MLB. Remember how “stupid” the Steelers were for capitulating?

Many people have already cited something similar with Bryan Reynolds’ situation.

Here’s the thing though, this is a valuable player to the organization. You’ve all seen the trade pieces the Justin, Joe and Corey write on our site, they all use FV or Future Value to estimate the value of a player. This is one way to do it, not the only way by any stretch, but in some form or fashion, every team, every site, every agent, has a method for valuing their assets. For Bryan, he’s worth in the case of FV, close to 59 million dollars.

That means in the 3 years he’s still controlled, meaning arbitration eligible which he’d remain even if traded by the way, that’s the asset cost formulated to calculate an adequate return.

Again every team or agent will have a different number for this. Some could have him as low as 40 or 45, others could have him even higher.

I said yesterday, the Pirates were under no obligation to move him just because he requested it, and of course, that gets pushback.

Way back in 1974, and thanks to my buddy Craig Toth for this, the league and the union made a change to the arbitration and service time process. This change has done something to expressly address the eventuality that players would not be happy with the club that drafted them. MLB and the Union agreed to not allow service time to accrue during holdouts.

Let me simplify this for you here. If Bryan were to sit out 2023 in protest, first of all, he’d be the first to do so since the rule change back in 1974, and he’d quite literally only devolve his own situation. Meaning all he’d do is kick his team control clock down the road.

I say this because I was caught off guard by some big names in the baseball writing world both nationally and locally seem to think Reynolds sitting out is a real possibility, even with some saying he could “afford it”.

So could everyone else. What they can’t afford or more accurately won’t afford, is to make free agency even further away than it already is.

Now, if you want to get into moral issues, have at it, but this happens every single year. Think Vlad is pleased to still be dealing with arbitration in Toronto? Devers seems pretty happy about it in Boston. Kris Bryant did the same thing in Chicago. It’s part of the game, and folks if he’s not traded, he’ll play.

No, he won’t tank either. All that would do is hurt his value and his own free agency when it does come up. If anything he’d actually make it harder to move him.

Bottom line, the Pirates aren’t going to move him for nothing, fully acknowledging there is no “winning” a deal like this. If they choose to just hold on to him, he’ll play, and I’m sure he’ll look like himself because he’s a professional. They could very much so subscribe to Tomlin’s statement up there, but if the hit it causes their plan is too steep, well, changing a moral compass is often easily justified in life isn’t it?

Some fans will take this as Bryan not wanting to play for them, as in fans, not the team, and they’ll take it out on him, which is just as dumb as hating a guy for signing a big contract and then not being good enough in your eyes to “earn his paycheck”.

This is a sport, but in the offseason it’s a business. Business isn’t always pretty, or fair, but it is bound by rules, regulations and history tends to be a true predictor of outcome.

The more I look at this situation, the more I think a 2 year deal was signed with a soft promise they’d revisit an extension this offseason that could potentially pay him more than the 6.25 million he’s signed for in 2023 as well as move them into the future. That’s the only way I see this entire situation turning on a heel this quickly, but on this, I’m guessing.

Finally, every major league has an entry level process, and every one of them has come under fire for not being fair. This sort of thing isn’t new, it’s just not often public.

2. The Song Remains the Same

The Pirates still have the same holes they need to fill, perhaps with the addition of a veteran starting quality outfielder.

They must get a starting pitcher, preferably a left handed one. They must get a catcher, preferably starting quality. They need to get a left handed reliever minimally for the pen.

They can’t lose sight of a couple things while this drama is going on.

This team has to win with Oneil Cruz. Every year they don’t surround him is just as dumb as the years they spent doing the same to Reynolds.

Ideally those two would be together, but either way, because of Cruz they can’t afford to just allow this whole thing to essentially take a step back.

I’m under no illusion that this management team is beyond error, that’s fairly clear no? I’d like to think they understand where they are and why they simply can’t decide this situation should have them looking to put progress on hold.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, it very well could have them frozen almost, but my point is it shouldn’t.

Just like you expect Oneil to learn to handle a curveball, so too the front office should be expected to handle a change to the expected path to relevancy. I’ve already talked about the very real hit losing a player like Reynolds will be, at this stage of the offseason the Pirates or any team that doesn’t feel they have the wherewithal to address the issues created is lying.

This isn’t like your star player ruptures his ACL on April 1st and your hands are tied. It’s December 5th. They have next to no payroll, they have prospect capital, they have a star they could move.

I’m not saying it would be easy, but I am saying if they let this situation derail everything, it’s an active choice, not something they were dealt.

In other words, if my nice SUV should die tomorrow and I still owe half it’s worth, I may have to get a Kia just to have some wheels as opposed to just sit there thinking I’m going to hitchhike to work every day until I pay it off. You can’t expect to replace the player entirely, but you can put in place a reasonable facsimile that minimizes the pain.

Don’t let them off the hook here for this aspect. This situation sucks, but they have options at their disposal to make it suck less.

Of all the things the Pirates do wrong, the worst is willingly being a victim. MLB disadvantaged this market along with some others with their system, the Pirates often strive to have you believe its more out of their hands than reality dictates.

3. What the System Lacks

The Pirates system is quite good. Lots of depth, nice quality, spaced out enough to expect it to help the big club for years to come. What it’s missing though in my mind is transformative players.

They have a whole lot of good, but I look at the system right now and I don’t see a whole lot of obvious future MVP candidates.

You know what I mean too. I see no Wander Franco, no Julio Rodriguez, I’m not seeing a Bobby Witt Jr. or a Vlad Jr. I see lots of really good players, maybe even some future All Stars, but for a team that has picked as close to the top of the board as the Pirates have, I just don’t see many players that have the anticipation Oneil Cruz brought with him.

Maybe it’s because I can’t see it.

For instance, entering last season I’d have Endy Rodriguez in that category. Very good, probably not transformative. Now, I think if anyone in the system who’s close has that ability it might be him. So maybe it’s just I’m not doing a good job of seeing through the incubation period.

That’s me being nice though. I’m not here to tell you I’m the best talent evaluator alive or anything, but I can also say I knew Witt, Rodriguez and Wander were going to be difference makers, just like most people who pay attention did. More importantly, I know when I don’t see it.

If I had to pick one really young guy right now and predict he had the stuff to really be this type of player, I might have to go Anthony Solometo but even he is so raw it’s hard to pin something like that on him.

Again, there will be a lot of good players that come out of this system, I truly mean that, but everyone should know, for a team like this to shock the world, they’ll need more than just Cruz to be that type of freak.

4. Early Reports…

The Winter Meetings are in full swing today, and things that get started here will often reignite come deadline time.

For now, the Pirates seem to be sticking to their guns. Robert Murray, one of my very favorite national baseball writers says in this YouTube post that the chances of moving Reynolds at this time is “slim”, and I can totally believe that, but that doesn’t mean foundation won’t be laid here.

In other words, the Pirates may not be willing right now, but they’ll lay out their expectations for return and see what teams consider an overreach.

I’ve also been told from the team perspective, this isn’t a fe de’ compli and they aren’t ruling out taking one more swing at getting something done.

Don’t get your hopes up, simply passing on what I’m hearing, and things like this will often get leaked just to reinforce how loathed they are to deal an asset.

The Marlins have put some players on the table that could force this deal to make sense for the Pirates.

This is an opportunity to get that front line starter under team control for 3 or more years. Now, does that matter if it means your historically bad offense just lost one of it’s best players? Debatable.

These rumors are going to be increasingly crazy. When they really get insane and the Pirates say no, you’ll know how serious they are about sticking to their guns here.

We’ll see.

5. 11 Years, 300 Million

Trea Turner just signed with the Phillies for that amount and for that long. He’ll be 40 in the last year of that deal.

Justin Verlander took a two year deal from the Mets for 86.66 Million and he’s already 40 and will be pitching next to Max Scherzer who will be 40 when his 130 million dollar deal is through.

We’re told that fear of regression in a long contract is part of why the Pirates and Bryan Reynolds had negotiations break down, but folks, teams have found they have to ignore that traditional wisdom to do business in this league, and the numbers are only getting bigger and the contracts longer.

I’m not one of these people who’s going to sit here and tell you these big spenders are dumb or that these are bad contracts. I think it’s clear especially in the case of the Turner deal, that the Phillies are just fine if he only gives them 7 years of great. The fade years are a calculated risk, a posting fee if you will.

MLB is pay to play and the Pirates don’t spend and even if they will they won’t lock themselves in for knowingly buying years that have the slightest chance of being past prime.

Nothing depresses a fan base like Pittsburgh more than watching some of these numbers fly by the screen.

All of the concerns you’ve been told are out there are immediately proven to be necessary risks for teams that are really in it.

Contract after contract roll in, each one in comparison to the Pirates total payroll laughable.

Thing is, deals like this are really what the Pirates can’t compete with. They could afford 3 or 4 years of Turner at 23.5 per, they just can’t afford (or at least think they can’t) to spend that on what by the end would be far from their best player.

Is this all Nutting? Partially for sure, but look the Cardinals are the only team in our division that could even entertain this type of deal, and even they tend to shy away from going this big.

Nutting stinks. He’s not been a good steward of this franchise, but my fandom stretches back long before he was involved.

I’ve never seen my team truly in the conversation for any top line free agent. Not in my lifetime.

I’ll leave it here today.

Baseball is broken, it has been and the next chance that it isn’t comes in 2027.

It couldn’t possibly be more clear the Pirates won’t and honestly couldn’t if they wanted to, buy their way in to relevancy.

Want to know why fans buy this year after year? Well, they love baseball, love their city, love the colors, and hope against hope that this time they do everything perfectly. That’s why this Reynolds situation is such a dagger, clearly perfectly is already out the window.

We simply aren’t playing the same game here in Pittsburgh. There are other teams in the same boat to be sure, but no matter how you peel the onion you wind up with stinky fingers and tears in your eyes.

The one thing positive to take from what we’ll watch unfold this offseason, the more ridiculous the divide gets, the larger the chance MLB has to fix it in some way. I just can’t guarantee we’ll like the fix.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

One thought on “Five Pirates Thoughts at Five

  1. Glad to see a make sense analysis of the Reynolds situation. He is doing what he feels is best for him. The team will do the same. That could end up in an extension, a trade or arbitration again 2024. I’m not crazy about the fact that this info became public. It smells like the work of an agent but I think they made the job harder than need be.

    Liked by 1 person

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