My weekly column in today’s Trib had to be trimmed due to space constraints. Here’s what I guess you could call the “director’s cut,” my unedited piece. Some of y’nz have asked via Twitter and email who the “holdover players” are who are unhappy with the deadline deals. At the risk of sounding like Sen. Harry Reid, I cannot reveal my sources. Suffice it to say, I canvassed the clubhouse before and after the trade deadline and had several long conversations.
It’s only been 10 days since the non-waiver trade deadline, so it’s impossible to say with any certainly how well the Pirates did with their deals.
Their first move was to acquire Wandy Rodriguez, which put another lefty in the rotation by bumping Kevin Correia to the bullpen. They also picked up veteran reliever Chad Qualls, who’s struggled this year and was about to be cut by the Yankees.
The Pirates made bids for potentially high-impact guys such as Hunter Pence, Shin-Soo Choo, Shane Victorino and Chase Headley. Counter-offers were made by the other clubs, who had no shortage of suitors. In the end, the Pirates got Travis Snider and Gaby Sanchez, who both had spent much of this season at Triple-A.
When he announced the trades, GM Neal Huntington spent a lot of time talking about “years of control,” especially with Snider and Sanchez. Both those players are making near the major league minimum and won’t hit free agency for a while. Hope for the future, blah blah blah. One phrase we didn’t hear, though, was, “This puts us over the top in the playoff race this year.”
At the start of spring training, Huntington made a sexy trade for a difference-maker when he snatched A.J. Burnett away from the Yankees. The clubhouse was energized from the moment Burnett first toted his gear to his locker at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla. Since then, the feeling has only grown more positive.
It was different when Rodriguez, Qualls, Sanchez and Snider arrived. Not exactly in a bad way — everyone’s personality and personal circumstances are different, of course — but also not in a manner that suggests the team feels a new sense of completeness. There’s a feeling among some of the holdover Pirates players that, with a postseason berth within reach this season, management did not step up and get them some help for the here and now.
Manager Clint Hurdle knows the temperature of his team. When he closed the doors for a post-deadline day meeting last week in Chicago, Hurdle wanted to stomp out any dissatisfaction about the new-look roster. “Anyone who has any GM in them, they’ve got to let it go,” Hurdle said. “Anyone who has any manager in them, they’ve got to let it go.”
The price to get Burnett was almost shamefully cheap: two minor leaguers with low ceilings and not a ton of cash in salary obligations. The cost to get Snider — former first-rounder Brad Lincoln — was higher. Yet, the front office did not part with any of its top prospects. And, with an eye toward escalating salaries for guys like Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, James McDonald and Pedro Alvarez, management moved to keep other costs low.
The future could’ve been now. Instead, the five-year plan mentality is still alive.