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Finally, a plan

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DENVER — If you followed the personnel moves made by the Pirates’ front office over the past seven or so years and wondered if there was any sort of plan, you weren’t alone.

Dump Chris Young, who was on the verge of a breakout. Trade for Matt Morris, who, as it turned out, was ready for retirement. Hand over Aramis Ramirez and get … well, nothing, really. Sign Randall Simon, Jeromy Burnitz, Joe Randa, Raul Mondesi. Make draft picks seemingly by throwing darts.

Each year at the trading deadline, Pirates fans have been conditioned to expect the team to sell off anyone with value for second- or third-tier prospects.

Jason Schmidt netted Ryan Vogelsong. Damaso Marte (in 2002) brought in Edwin Yan. The Pirates had two chances to trade closer Mike Williams and got Tony McKnight (2001) and Frank Brooks (2003).

Jason Kendall was worth Arthur Rhodes and Mark Redman. A few months later, Redman was flipped for Jonah Bayliss. Rhodes was dealt for Matt Lawton, who soon after was traded for Jody Gerut, who wound up being cut during spring training 2007.

That’s a lot of movement. What did it yield? More links in a chain of losing seasons. A farm system devoid of impact players or even major league average-quality depth.

That’s what Neal Huntington is staring at as he heads toward his first trading deadline as the Pirates’ GM.

The difference now is, there seems to be a sense of unity of purpose among ownership, management and the fellas Huntington oversees in the baseball operations department. In other words, there finally seems to be a plan — and it involves more than merely dumping salary and getting warm bodies in return.

“In baseball operations, we know where we want to go and we know how we want to go there,” Huntington said. “It’s just a matter of, is it going to match up, timing-wise, right now?”

The farm system must be restocked — especially with pitchers. Trades will be made, sooner or later.

“If we get the appropriate value, we’ll move forward,” Huntington said. “If not, we’ll hold onto these guys and let it play out. Determining the appropriate value is our biggest challenge.”

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