BRADENTON, Fla — In my feature story in today’s Trib, I touched on some of the reasons the Pirates did not make many offseason roster moves. The new front office team says it wants to give the players it inherited a chance to perform up to their proper levels and win. It also hopes certain players can boost their value as the midseason trade deadline draws near.
Remember tuning into “The Sopranos” each week and wondering who would get whacked and who’d be around for the next episode? That’s sort of how I think this season will play out for the Pirates, especially in the last few days of July. Who gets traded? Released? Banished to Indy?
The Pirates also did not do a lot of shopping — at least, not a lot of buying — on the free-agent market. A lot of that was because the market wasn’t that strong and it was overpriced. The days of the Pirates bidding against themselves for random has-beens — Joe Randa, Randall Simon, Raul Mondesi, Jeromy Burnitz — are over.
Money is one reason the Pirates did little on the free-agent front. Another reason was revealed in the explanation free-agent infielder Morgan Ensberg gave for signing a minor league contract with the Yankees: “It’s a great team and a great lineup. Most importantly, it’s a team that’s consistently playing for the World Series. After you’ve been in the league for a few years, you really start valuing that pursuit.”
The Pirates haven’t really been in that hunt since 1992, eight years before Ensberg made his major league debut.
Pretty ballparks and thick towels in the clubhouse don’t lure free agents. Neither, for the most part, do brand-name coaching staffs. What does cause a player to want to play for a particular team are money and a high probability of victory.
Right now, the Pirates cannot offer much of either.