2-24-23 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter
Ahh Rinse & Repeat, one of my very favorite comments from the plethora of people who don’t read anything more than a headline. It’s the same old Buccos don’t ya know? Nothing has changed, they’ll just trade all these guys for prospects!!!! Angry face emoji!!
Fans have every right to be angry about this franchise. The owner isn’t investing enough, the team communicates like we’re still on the tin can and string system, and yes, as usual, they have a bunch of veterans on one year deals who will likely at least get shopped at the deadline.
All that being acknowledged and accepted, don’t you think you might actually want that this time? I mean what makes these comments frustrating is the juicy slice of truth in it.
Lets walk through those rinse and repeat guys a bit shall we?
Ji-man Choi and Carlos Santana were both brought in here to provide some veteran competency to first base, and DH options. Both are one year deals, both could easily be back out the door by August. R&R right? Well, the Pirates have Malcom Nunez, Mason Martin and now Matt Gorski at the AAA level trying to take charge of one or both of those positions. Those three all have big power, Gorski and Martin have shown big strikeout numbers as well. At the MLB level, they also have Connor Joe to fill the role.
Now, if none of those prospects look like they’re ready to make a jump, a very real possibility, the Pirates still have an issue over at first base heading into 2024, one that they’ll have to address in the offseason one way or another. That could be simply retaining and re-signing a Santana, but he’ll be 38 next year, and Choi, well, he’s just above average as it is. Wouldn’t you want them to move on here? I those prospects aren’t ready, chances are they won’t be. So to me, at this position the Pirates have bought a one year grace period for this position to backfill.
I can and have argued they should have done this last year too, but we all saw how they handled it.
Keep all this within the prism of Rinse and Repeat. Is it the same? Is trading these guys away bad for the club? I’ll say this, much like Quintana in 2022, trading isn’t the issue, as much as not having anyone ready to replace his production. So to me, this all boils down to this.
If they aren’t ready to replace both with prospects or Joe, for the sake of this season, and all the prospects they do have here trying to win, maybe only move one.
Austin Hedges is a defensive specialist, literally one of the best in the game and he’ll pay dividends with the pitching staff, even while he hasn’t and probably won’t hit. This plan sounds a whole lot like what the Pirates tried to do in 2022 with Roberto Perez and before his injury very early on, we were seeing many of the same things Hedges is already drawing praise for in Spring Camp.
I know they have other guys and NRIs but Hedges is THE guy. He’ll be the starter, and all the competition is for backup.
We all know where this position is headed, it’s one or both of Henry Davis and Endy Rodriguez. Endy has a good chance to be up here by July, Davis probably is a cup of coffee candidate come September.
Now at this spot, the Pirates likely aren’t going to want to move their one year veteran. They’re going to want him to stick around and help teach.
Not to mention, while the Pirates value his defensive prowess, there won’t be a ton of deadline buyers looking to add a defense ONLY guy. At least not one who makes real money, and even if they’d take the salary because it’s no sweat off their books, they aren’t going to send anything back of much value, surely not the value the Pirates could get from having him stick around and help teach their stud prospect how to at least become defensively above average.
I like this set up, almost as much as I hated it last year.
I know, makes no sense right? Well, hear me out. Last year, they had no prospects on the doorstep, so best case scenario, a veteran (Perez) would play more games in 2022 than he managed to play in years, and then in the offseason they’d be right back where they were except with prospects a step closer. This year, there is an actual reason for a one year signing for the simple fact, he really should get eclipsed.
Rinse, & of course repeat, right? Kinda, but not really. And did you want them to sign a veteran to a 3 or 4 year deal with those two coming?
Maybe you do want that, but man, I don’t think that’s where I’d have wanted to see them put their dollars this year. Last year a 2 year deal would have made sense, but looking back, probably best they didn’t give Perez that.
Connor Joe and of course Andrew McCutchen.
Now let’s start with Joe, he’s had a meh career so far, not horrible, nothing too awfully exciting either, but he’s not a rental. He doesn’t reach free agency until 2028 and he still has two minor league options. Meaning if they so choose, he’s nothing but depth. Depth with some MLB experience and a measure of success.
Andrew is of course a one year deal, with a wink and a nod that he wants to finish his career as a Pirates player. Not necessarily this year, but soon, and it would appear moving him at the deadline would be unlikely.
The Pirates have a ton of outfield prospects, but not many who have forced the team to consider them as starters out of Spring.
So the team insulated the position.
Yes, yes, bringing Cutch back has plenty of PR benefits too, but he and the team think he can still play too. I say this because bringing a former star back is good for PR, but if he stinks and you ultimately have to bench him and or move on like the Brewers did with Lorenzo Cain, it ultimately damages things more than it helps. Point being, if either side thought this might ruin his legacy, I doubt either are interested.
While they don’t have a ton of prospects knocking the door down to get here yet, they have some reason to believe someone will emerge. If the rumblings I hear are correct the team is really big on Canaan Smith-Njigba in particular, but no matter, point is they have a lot of guys and they hope someone emerges. This could even be filled by moving a guy, like Bae, or Gonzales, maybe even Peguero, god forbid maybe even Cruz.
Point is, the only way to know is to see, and in this regard the Pirates had two ways to go. One, go get an MLB outfielder on a 3-4 year deal, and trust that what you see in AAA will be enough to make informed decisions on your glut of prospects. Two, go get some FA who can play this year, and hope as the season plays out you audition enough and one sticks.
While I personally think the team will wind up extending Reynolds, and I like the potential of Jack Suwinski, the Pirates need more, probably 2 more, 3 if you think Jack is going to require a platoon which its far too early to say with definitive tone.
This year, those two more are Joe and McCutchen, and the prospects.
Same old same old? If you go back far enough I’m sure you’ll find a similar setup, but since this rebuild started, it’s the first time they have 4 MLB players on the roster to play outfield, I can honestly say that.
The Pirates have Johan Oviedo, Luis Ortiz, Mike Burrows, Carmen Mlodzinski, Quinn Priester, and Cody Bolton with a side dish of recovering from TJS Max Kranick all slated for AAA Indianapolis. Let’s start there, because more than any other factor, that list right there is why they handled their pitching acquisitions the way they did.
Mitch Keller, JT Brubaker, and Roansy Contreras were already here. So rather than start the season with those 3 and trust the short sample sizes they have on Oviedo or Ortiz the team rightly went out and got some veteran help.
That happened to be Rich Hill and Vince Velasquez.
Now, you want to argue they could have done better, even on one year deals, I won’t fight you, I think they could have too. I also think, they kinda want these two to get beaten out and or render themselves movable because some of that young group emerged.
Now, the Pirates could be dead wrong, every single one of these guys I listed in AAA could ultimately bomb out. Think back, Mitch Keller was a higher ranked prospect than anyone I mentioned and look how long it took him to finally make his mark. Then on the polar opposite side you have Roansy who jumped on the mound and looked like a top end starter almost immediately.
So why take the risk? Go get a guy for a few years, make this rotation at least 4 deep with guys you trust and get the ship turned right.
Because whether you blame Bob Nutting or you blame MLB, or maybe both, it’s hard to argue the Pirates aren’t a team that is going to buy a young MLB front line starting pitcher.
That’s why they have to develop it, and as they develop it, it stands to reason they have to leave it in a state where they can actually find a place to land.
So they sign an old starter who has a history of missing time with minor injuries, and a bullpen pitcher who wants a shot at starting. Both won’t block anyone who shows themselves deserving, neither will hurt the team in the process most likely.
So will they trade one or both of these guys? Is it fair to say hopefully?
Is that Rinse and Repeat? I guess.
All in all, the cycle that everyone seems to want the Pirates to pull out of, it isn’t going anywhere. Even as we start to think about where Nick Gonzales might play when he gets here, the Pirates have 3-4 more guys working in the minors to ultimately get here and if everything goes great, and by great I mean a completely ideal event here, Nick gives the Pirates 4-5 good years and is either beaten out by Termarr Johnson or another prospect. Maybe by that point they’ve decided to extend Gonzales and he has to change positions, maybe he’s been around a 3 WAR player and it’s reasonable to move on and let the next generation take over.
That would very much so be Rinse and Repeat would it not?
Thing is, sometimes, it makes perfect sense.
What you’re watching this year has happened before, and not just here. If every trade is going to send you crying to message boards that it’s Rinse and Repeat, I’m sorry, it’s just lazy.
The beauty though, you probably didn’t read this either, so here’s hoping it at least makes a few of you who did smirk when you inevitably see it all over the place when the Pirates trade one of these veterans this year.
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The facts of life in a small market.
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