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Monday Morning Mop-Up Duty: the noise from PirateFest

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SOUTH HILLS – I spent some time at PirateFest this weekend. Despite the weather, the event appeared to enjoy a nice turnout. I’m sure it was refreshing for Pirates management to field mostly praise  during the Q&A session with fans. From what I understand this was the closest the event has been to a lovefest in years. It was also nice to see Charlie Morton, a good guy, rewarded for his hard work.

It has not been an easy path for Morton. He had an awful 2010 campaign and then he had hip surgery in 2011 and Tommy John Surgery in 2012.

 

So much of the focus thus far in free agency has centered around what the Pirates haven’t done. And while he was a year from free agency, the Morton signing is really deserving of some praise. Even if Morton delivers just 1.3 WAR over each of the next four seasons, the Pirates’ will still break even on the deal.

 

But if Morton stays health and/or finds another level the Pirates could enjoy millions in surplus value. Remember, Morton was just a two-pitch pitcher last season and even being just that he was still dominant at times. He starting mixing in a third pitch later in the season, a split-change, and if he can use that to neutralize lefties, look out NL batters.

 

“Rehab kind of hindered any kind of pitch-adding,” Morton said. “I think now I can look at my needs and see what my needs are … what I can do to get better against lefties.”

 

If Morton can become a three-pitch pitcher the deal could become excellent value for the club. And it’s a deal the Pirates had to make: Burnett is a free agent, Liriano is signed for one more year just like Wandy Rodriguez.  The Pirates needed cost certainty and control-able years within its starting pitcher ranks.

 

STARTING LINE THOUGHTS 

 

9. I thought the most interesting thing to come out of PirateFest was what  Frank Coonelly said on Saturday. The Pirates’ president said reports of the Pirates’ TV deal being valued at $18-$20 million at the Trib and elsewhere are not just inaccurate but Coonelly claims — without revealing contract details– that the Pirates’ local TV deal resides in the top half of all such deals in the game.

 

That was surprising given the Pirates’ market size and the fact that the Pirates signed their TV deal before the local media rights explosion.

 

Moreover, local media rights typically have a strong correlation with payroll. The Pirates ranked 27th in payroll in 2013 and  Bloomberg ranks the Pirates’ total media rights package – national TV, local TV and radio – among the poorest in the game, 28th in baseball, taking in $56 million. The Orioles ranked 15th at $80 million, representing the midpoint in baseball. The Orioles’ Opening Day payroll was $92 million in 2013 – 15th in baseball – compared to the Pirates’ $66 million mark.

 

8. Of course Pirates do have a gate-receipt gap, too, whether or not the TV-related gap exists, or the gap is as wide, as many believe. The depressed value of Pirates’ ticket prices is something the club is slowly trying to change. For instance, the Orioles took in $13 million more in gate receipts than the Pirates last season despite the Orioles drawing only 100,000 more fans last season, according to Bloomberg.

 

7. Another interesting nugget: Huntington did admit the Pirates were interested in free agent first baseman James Loney, who was reported to be atop their wishlist. Huntington said it was the years – the Pirates weren’t willing to go beyond two years – that were the deal breaker. Loney signed a three-year deal with Tampa. Loney is a fine player but I think the the Pirates made a smart call here.

 

6. The most interesting to come out of PirateFest on Sunday was Clint Hurdle’s discussion of the 2014 lineup. Hurdle said he is toying with the idea of batting catcher Rusell Martin in the No. 2 spot.

 

On the surface this doesn’t make much sense: Martin’s on-base  percentages over the last two seasons are .327 and .311.  But his walk rate is above average and his BABIP is well below his career average.

 

Dig deeper and you’ll learn that Martin sees an awful lot of pitches. He swings at just 39.5 percent of pitches, which is extremely low, and just 22 percent of pitches out of the zone.  If Martin is nearer the top of a lineup perhaps he can help inflate pitchcounts.

 

5. Hurdle said he would like for Pedro Alvarez to take hold of the cleanup spot. To do that, Alvarez must make more quality contact and have more competitive at bats. Maybe we saw some of that late last season, particularly in October.

 

4. Don’t plan on seeing Starling Marte out of the lead-off spot in 2014. Hurdle said Sunday his intention was to keep Marte in the leadoff position until a better option emerges. (Neil Walker vs. righties? Marte vs. lefties?)

 

3. Your daily A.J. Burnett update from MLB Trade Rumors.

 

Even after a report that the Orioles had interest in A.J. Burnett and had been in touch with his agent, the Pirates feel Burnett doesn’t want to play for any other team. “There’s no reason for [Burnett] not to be back,” says a Pirates official. ….

Burnett is still an option for the Pirates. “We’re working to be as patient as we can with A.J.,” Huntington said. “A.J. would be our biggest free-agent acquisition if he chooses to come back, so we’ve tried to keep that door open as long as we can.

Huntington denied the signing of Edinson Volquez will affect the team’s pursuit of Burnett. “If A.J. decides to come back and we can make it work, we’ll figure something out.

 

Since the Pirates did not land Loney, there is presumably $8-10 or so million remaining to spend on something…perhaps Burnett?

 

I think Volquez could be an interesting bullpen option but the issue is the Pirates have a loaded bullpen.

 

2. Huntington told fans on Sunday that Jose Tabata will likely be platooning with the winner of the Snider/Decker/Lambo battle on Opening Day. But is Tabata really a platoon player?

 

Tabata’s wRC+ for his career against RHP (103) is nearly identical for LHP (104).

 

1. What shouldn’t be a surprise: Huntington said the club is not pursuing free agent outfielder Nelson Cruz

 

HE SAID IT

Huntington to Charlie Wilmoth on why there’s few leaks out of the Pirates’ front office:

We don’t promote what we’re doing. I don’t call this reporter and say, ‘Can you get our name in this mix?’ We don’t want some people to know what we’re doing. We like to work in the background. I like nothing more than to surprise some people with a move, because we don’t need to announce what we’re doing.

 

HE SAID IT II

(Wilmoth was allover PirateFest)

Sorry Gaby, but I’d be shocked if you didn’t have a platoon partner on Opening Day.  Pirates are actively engaged on trade market and perhaps are in play for a free agent like Eric Chavez.

If all else fails, I think Andrew Lambo opens as Sanchez’s platoon partner. The Priates want to find out what they have in Lambo.

 

NON-BASEBALL RECOMMENDATION OF THE WEEK

Spicy tuna rolls at Little Toyko in Mt. Lebo. They never disappoint.

 

-TS

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Comments

  1. Nate83 says:

    I will have to see plan B or C before I decide if passing on Loney was a good idea. I don’t think they go into the season with Lambo being a platoon at first so there will be somebody. Who that somebody is and what they cost in money or prospects will decide how I feel about the decision.

    I personally don’t think going 3 years for 23 million would be devastating to the payroll. If you have a glaring need at a position it needs to be filled by something that is adequate. You can’t get the same production as last year. At least not with a team that is competitive. Maybe they get value close to what Loney would have given for way less and use the money saved to sign somebody else but until that happens I can’t judge it one way or another.

  2. BostonsCommon says:

    “I think Volquez could be an interesting bullpen option but the issue is the Pirates have a loaded bullpen.”

    The Pirates don’t usually pay relievers $5M, especially non-closers. Hanrahan got up to $4.1M, and Grilli will get $4.25M this year if he’s not traded.

    If Volquez ends up in the pen, something has likely gone terribly wrong with his performance. And at that point I would think he’d be DFAd before he was sent to the pen.

  3. NMR says:

    “Volquez ends up in the pen, something has likely gone terribly wrong with his performance.”

    Very much disagree. The Pirates have many back of rotation starter options and one of the top RHP in baseball ready to make an impact by mid season. Volquez doesn’t have to be awful in order to get bumped, just worse than the other four options.

    And if he can be used in the pen, I don’t see any reason for simply cutting him.

  4. Nate83 says:

    I agree they will not just DFA him but I can’t imagine the FO or the coaches are envisioning him as anything but a starter. He will be given every chance to continue starting until it just becomes to painful to watch anymore like Bedard was in 2012. At 5 million he will not be pushed out to early but instead to late. Hopefully he is a solid number 5 with an ERA in the lower 4′s and we don’t have to worry about it.

  5. NMR says:

    Ugly weekend for the Pittsburgh Baseball Club and team finances.

    Couple thoughts…

    -Frank, please, just shut up. Shut your mouth. And don’t open it until you ride off into the sunset.

    The one and only legitimate reason your boss, Bob Nutting, has for keeping payroll low is that Pittsburgh does not have sufficient local revenue sources. What does Frank do? Tells us that is wrong! That the team’s local TV contract puts them in the top half of the league! Honestly, what in the hell is this guy thinking?

    Obvious follow-up, Frank: where is that money going?

    -Sadly, $21m over three years for James Loney likely is too much strain on Huntington’s budget moving forward, at least for a mediocre player. Why, you ask?

    Because the Pirates, in a move that surely boosted profits, completely wasted the cheap, minimum salary years of their top players. Cutch, Pedro, Walker, Tabata, and Morton are already seeing major salary increases due to extensions and arbitration. These contracts will only be getting larger in the next few years. By shredding payroll during the three pre-arb, minimum salary years for all these players, the team wasted their maximum value.

    When somebody questions what good it is to spend on team payroll during rebuilding years, this is the answer you give. Nobody should be naive enough at this point to actually believe that money saved will ever see the light of day, and the years of having a cheap core of players have already been wasted.

  6. NMR says:

    And who was available in 2012 to replace Bedard?

    THAT is the big difference.

  7. NMR says:

    On a lighter note, you don’t have a soul if you don’t love Charlie Morton. Guy seems like everything you want in a teammate.

    Gave Floyd, another right hander who will miss portion of this season due to Tommy John recovery just signed with the Braves for $4m guaranteed, and another $4m in incentives. Chuck signed for $2m last year, and took less that market value to be a Pirate for the next three.

  8. BostonsCommon says:

    There are other options there. But the point is that if he ends up in the pen, it’s going to be performance related. Maybe “terribly wrong” is too strong, but if he’s not better than Cumpton, Irwin, Pimentel, or even Locke and Wandy then that $5M will not have been wisely invested and Searage and company will not have been successful in rebuilding his career.

  9. Nate83 says:

    I think you are pulling a Nate83 on this one. Seems a little over the top. None of those current contracts or future contracts are devastating. It’s not realistic to think any reasonable amount of money spent between 2010-2012 would have suddenly made a 70 win team into a 90 win team. Let’s not re-write history and think this team was close at any point before this year.

    It’s also unrealistic to expect all your cost controllable players to come up all at the same time. You mentioned 5 guys cheap years being thrown away but 3 of those guys signed very team friendly, payroll friendly deals. The other 2 Walker and Alverez haven’t been consistent enough to deserve the extension at the price they think they are worth.

    You don’t mention Cole, Marte, Polanco, Taillon, Sanchez or any number of other players that have just started or haven’t even started their cost controlled years. That is the core. What you are referring to was never the core it was a small group of players that are good but not good enough to sign 2 big free agents and become playoff contenders.

    This FO office hasn’t even had the chance to trade their first Aramis Ramirez. They obviously can’t afford to keep all their own free agents but they should be given the chance to stay sustainable by trading those players before we call past years as being wasted. That would only make sense to me if they had been winning 85 games a year during that time frame.

    Otherwise I agree FC is very ignorant to not realize he was pointing out that the one excuse for not spending money now is not really an excuse. I heard one team just opened up their books to the public. It may have been the Rockies. If Frank is going to claim the deal with Roots puts them in the upper half why not just show us. I’m sure it’s a half truth. Maybe it was in the upper half for the entire amount when it was signed 3 years ago but not per year. Which makes it worse because they are locked in for longer.

  10. BostonsCommon says:

    You could make an argument that there is more competition for a spot in the pen than there is for a spot in the rotation. That could all change if someone is traded, but Grilli, Melancon, Wilson, Watson, Jeanmar, and Mazzaro are all locks to at least start the season there. Hughes or Pimentel probably are too.

    Great to have competition for both the rotation and pen though, it really is.

  11. Nate83 says:

    I agree, there are other options. Which makes you wonder why sign him to 5 million, unless you see tremendous upside. Once you make the investments if your the Pirates you don’t give up on it quickly. I’m not saying it’s what I would do but instead what the Pirates would do. They don’t spend that much on a guy to just hope he will be good in the first month but if he isn’t throw him in a bullpen that is already full of capable guys. He gets until at least the end of June.

  12. BostonsCommon says:

    And I forgot about Welker too, who is out of options.

  13. Nate83 says:

    There is a good interview of Stewart over on Bucs Dugout. He seems like an easy guy to like as well. Really knows his role. I think he will be more added value then I originally thought.

  14. Nate83 says:

    It sounds like an opportunity to put somebody on the 60 day convenience DL.

  15. BostonsCommon says:

    Exactly! Here’s hoping that upside is realized.

  16. 21sthebest says:

    I wouldn’t call what the Rockies did as opening up the books exactly. But they did a great job of getting the public to think that’s what they did.

  17. BostonsCommon says:

    Re: Stewart.

    I think you’re right about his value too. The defensive dropoff from Martin to McKenry was just too big. The defensive metrics suggest that Stewart is going to significantly close that gap. Stewart will definitely have an impact given the 30-40 starts that are heading his way.

    And it’s not like McKenry/Sanchez/Buck was Mike Piazza with the bat either.

  18. Nate83 says:

    I agree. I’m sure the numbers don’t show everything but one number I have to imagine is correct is the Roots contract.

  19. 21sthebest says:

    I don’t dispute any of the numbers. But until a business shows you how much cash flow and profits they’re generating over at least a several year period, it’s just window dressing to me.

  20. BostonsCommon says:

    FWIW, I think the bigger issue is closing the gap defensively between Martin and Sanchez. Tony is going to need to step it up big time in 2015.

  21. NMR says:

    “Let’s not re-write history and think this team was close at any point before this year.”

    Nate, seriously?

    I mean, come on. Do I really have to say the “C” word?

    To look back and tell me the Pirates would’ve finished no better in 2011 and 2012 with real, tangible increases in payroll despite collapsing after great starts to the season is preposterous.

    Those two years are absolutely textbook examples of the good investing BEFORE your young players peak can do.

    And don’t tell me those other players are the real “core”, either. That is classic moving of the goalposts. You better damn believe Cutch, Walker, Alvarez, etc are “core” players.

  22. Andrew says:

    I think the correlation of payroll and television revenue is another way of saying there is a link between payroll and market size, with market size being the causal factor. I do not think that the Orioles example is very illustrative because while Baltimore is a similar size to Pittsburgh, MASN covers both the Baltimore and Washington markets, which destroys the comparison by raw population without even considering income/capita.

    The criticism of the Pirates TV contract is justified but I do not know what else the Pirates front office could have done. The Pirates are 22nd of 26th in market size, and when the current contract was negotiated in 2010 were 15 years into an unequal run of misery. Maybe the front office could have called Robert Shiller, had him diagnosis the sports media bubble and tell the Pirates to wait 2-3 years to re-negotiate.

    I am in no way defending the recent Coonelly comments. Which at best are diplomatic chief executive statements at worst outright lies. However, the free agent market is the least efficient use of resources so I really cannot get too worked up about the lack of activity.

  23. Travis Sawchik says:

    Andrew,

    I chose Baltimore as a reference point not because of its similar market size (BAL is market No. 21, PIT is No. 25 per Nielsen) but because Baltimore is ranked as having the No. 15 most lucrative media rights package, per Bloomberg. They represent the midpoint, which Coonelly claims the Pirates rank above. Their deal with MASN is a far different animal.

    While the Pirates will always be at a relative market-size disadvantage, they were also the victims of poor timing in negotiating their previous deal. The local TV rights gold rush began with the Rangers’ deal in 2010 and the Pirates, as you noted, were in the midst of a 15-year deathspiral of losing when they sign the deal. Even the Padres (No. 17 market) negotiated their own 20-year, $1.2 billion deal in 2013.

    I’m not sure when the Pens’ deal expires with Root but the Pirates and Pens would seem like ideal partners to create and share revenues from a regional sports network. They could pump it full of live content over the course of an entire year. Live content is king in the age of DVR and streaming video.

    The silver lining is free agency has become a less productive market place, so the TV dollars have slightly less impact, and the Pirates’ will have a new deal in place before Gerrit Cole reaches free agency. I think the biggest risk for the Pirates’ lacking TV deal is its ability to retain players and afford talent through arbitration.

  24. Travis Sawchik says:

    The Pirates no doubt failed to maximize the pre-arb years of players like Alvarez and Walker who are about to become more expensive. But I think they’re in good payroll shape, overall.

    The ‘Cutch deal is one of the most club-friendly deals in the sport and it runs through 2018. Cole is three seasons away from arbitration. If he builds upon his second half that will be incredible value. Those are tremendous building blocks. Then you add in a cost-controlled Morton and Taillon, Polanco and other potential near-ready impact prospects and it is shaping up to be a nice five-year window with a lot of cost control over potential star-level talent.

    The question is will the Pirates be able to supplement it. We’re seeing how difficult that is given their financial constraints this offseason.

    Chris Stewart is a fine under-the-radar pickup. I can’t complain about Barmes for $2 million and in a vacuum I have no issue rolling the dice on Volquez. But other NL contenders have done more and the Pirates have been unwilling to spend at critical areas of need … even unwilling to make a QO to a pitcher that led the NL in strikeout and groundball rate and has logged 400 quality innings over the last two years.

  25. 21sthebest says:

    Travis, do you think A.J. asked them not to make the Q.O. or they didn’t do it as a show of goodwill?

  26. NMR says:

    Excellent response, Travis.

    The Pirates are in fact well positioned in terms of talent and payroll to remain competitive for years to come.

    But as this winter has shown, they are either unwilling or unable to supplement these players with market-rate impact talent. And it is far, far from proven that they will spend money on extension for any player not named Cutch – hell, even Cutch – once this second wave of talent (Cole, Marte, Taillon) hits arbitration.

  27. Travis Sawchik says:

    NH said the Pirates weren’t willing to pay market rate for a pitcher of Burnett’s quality (4.0 WAR in 2013) … NH has said they are not willing to commit 18-20 percent of payroll in one player … that’s why they didn’t make QO.

    FWIW, 18 percent of $80 million is $14 million, or the qualifying offer.

    That seems to indicate the Pirates will not have an Opening Day payroll exceeding $80 million. If true, the Pirates have about $7-8 million remaining to play with in free agency.

  28. Nate83 says:

    So you honestly believe in years 2010-2012 the Pirates where better equipped to compete then they will be in 2015-2018. Nobody was saying in any of those years now is the time to go for it. This core is in place we have to do it now, it’s now or never. There where so many soft spots on the team.

    You really feel like we wasted Alvarez’s good minimum salary years? I guess that would be true if they where good years but they where not. Nothing he did before this year said build your team around me and I will put you on my back and lead you into the playoffs. The guy could barely stay on the major league roster. Same with Walker. He’s a good player but he isn’t a player you feel like you have to win now because you won’t be able to replace him.

    20 years of losing doesn’t convince any front office now is the time to start spending money just to spend it. How would you suggest they spend it back then. On a 4 or 5 year contract for some stud first baseman or right fielder. I guarantee you that would have prevented them from signing Martin or Liriano last year. It’s just not money spent that year but money spent years going forward.

    Why are we talking about unspent money from years past. It may have gotten us 5 or 6 more wins but the team just wasn’t good enough to compete with a payroll 10,15,20 million higher.

  29. Travis Sawchik says:

    I’m sure the Pirates would be interested in a Chris Sale- or Matt Moore-like contract with Cole … but the problem is Cole’s agent, Mr. Scott Boras, will strongly recommend against that.

    Same with Alvarez. Now would be a great time to approach Alvarez with an extension that would buy out arbitration and a free agency year or two. Again, Boras.

    Now, Neil Walker, the Pittsburgh kid, might be more open to signing an extension. He’s three years away from free agency. The second base market is really thin and Walker is a quality player. I’d be approaching him.

  30. 21sthebest says:

    I get all that Travis and I know what Neal said publicly but they’re certainly not going to hang A.J. out to dry in public if the two parties came to an agreement about not making the Q.O.

  31. 21sthebest says:

    I don’t feel comfortable right now locking up Walker past 2016. For one, I’m not sure his body type is conducive to second base as he continues to age and I don’t know what else do with him if the loses range.

  32. Nate83 says:

    They have some big contracts by Pirate standards coming off the books next year in Wandy, Liriano, Martin and maybe Burnett. I really think their goal is to stay competitive but not lock themselves into long term money. Next year I think we may see our first true upper tier free agent pirate signing. Not Ellsbury or Cano size but Beltan, Peralta size.

    Think of it like NBA salary cap system. Teams sometimes spend a year sometimes two making moves specifically to clear salary cap space for a good crop of free agents. In my opinion the Pirates will have more defined needs at the end of this year and more money to go fill those needs with legitimate free agents.

    I personally don’t like it. I want and think payroll should be north of 90 million if not more, but I understand if they don’t want to lock up an average first baseman for 3 years at 8 million a year. Burnett I don’t understand as much. It’s a one year commitment and it that regard I agree with you NMR.

  33. NMR says:

    Dude, you are all over the place right now. How many strawmen can one put into a single post?

  34. 21sthebest says:

    But we really don’t know what A.J. is demanding.

  35. Andrew says:

    Travis,

    Sorry, I interpreted the Baltimore as a similar market size, I agree the timing was unfortunate, I think if the deal was completed in 2012-13 the Pirates could have something similar to Cleveland or Cincinnati which would be another $10-20 million in revenue. I just do not think there is anyone to really blame, which some fans and other writers/analysts are quick to do.

    I like the Pens Pirates owned network idea but apparently the Pens deal with Root is through 2028-29, yeah? I haven’t seen a number on the value.

  36. Nate83 says:

    Let me narrow it down to one question. In your eyes what did this current “core” do to give the front office confidence that before this year they should spend money on long term free agent contracts?

  37. Nate83 says:

    I agree that none of us know but I don’t think a 1 year contract for 15 million should be out of the question. The team is good enough to compete, the money would seem to be available this year and the contract wouldn’t hinder any future moves made past this year.

    Maybe he comes back in June for the 9 million Nutting is more comfortable with.

  38. Nate83 says:

    21 I agree completely on Walker. Unless it was a very team friendly deal I’m personally not comfortable with the risk involved with him. The problem is if he has a good enough year to convince them I can’t imagine what his asking price would be if they already can’t find common ground.

  39. NMR says:

    Haha, you just couldn’t help but throw another strawman into that question, could you?

    I never once said anything about long term free agent contracts.

    But your response is very indicative of this group’s MO. They are distinctly REACTIVE, not PROACTIVE.

    A baseball executive who is confident in the prospects he’s accumulated should have no problem adding to the team from the outside in conjunction with said prospects reaching the big leagues. You’re seeing management in Chicago(x2), Minnesota, and Houston do just that as we speak.

    Even if the win totals from those additions weren’t enough to make those teams contenders, there should be absolutely no doubt that improving the team would’ve positively correlated with attendance. A two-year head start on the progress made last year could’ve easily already had the Pirates over the 2.5 million mark Coonelly mentioned over the weekend.

    By the way, how’d you like those goalposts being moved? Honestly, Coonelly is such a rat. Nothing but dead weight to this franchise.

  40. NMR says:

    I have to laugh at these comments about timing and blame.

    Presumably, SOMEBODY was responsible for negotiating these bigger contracts, right? The networks didn’t just walk to the table and throw a buttload of money at these teams, right?

    The Pirates can’t afford to have people like Coonelly who relish in the fleshy middle ground of “good enough”. They HAVE to be better than everyone else, or at the very least strive to be.

  41. Nate83 says:

    I’m not a fan of Connelly at all. Never have been.

    Now I can’t figure out if your original comment was intended for them to spend money to be competitive to make the playoffs or just win enough games to feel good about themselves and get more butts in the seats.

    If it’s to be competitive the only free agents worth signing that will make a difference are the ones that are long term contracts. Finding/lucking into the one or two Liriano’s that are available every year would be a very difficult way to go. The only other way to raise payroll is to pick up 5 or 6 Barmes, Barajas type free agents and then you are blocking young players. You could trade for more payroll but what really did the Pirates have to offer prospect wise during the time frame we are speaking of.

    Out of the teams you mention only Houston, Chicago (NL) are making good moves and doing things that a good front office would do. I think you would agree and you already knew that.

    What should they have been proactive towards? 82 wins? because I don’t see how anybody would have looked at the 2010 and 2011 teams and thought 90-95 wins was possible with the addition of 20 million in payroll. The 2012 team yes and they proactively went and got Wandy the year before, Martin, Liriano, Byrd and Morneau. Small market teams to proactively persue adding 20 wins to their team by free agency or trade. The Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Tigers do. The Red Sox did it last year and won the World Series. Small market teams don’t do it. The Marlins did it once and completely lost their fan base because of the aftermath. They did it a second time and failed miserable and lost a completely different fan base.

  42. 21sthebest says:

    I’d go $15M for one more year of the pitcher who had the best K rate and the best groundout rate (or one of the best) in the NL last year.

  43. NMR says:

    “If it’s to be competitive the only free agents worth signing that will make a difference are the ones that are long term contracts.”

    False. The World Champion Boston Red Sox just shed their long term contracts in lieu of short ones.

    “Out of the teams you mention only Houston, Chicago (NL) are making good moves and doing things that a good front office would do.”

    Again, false. Or at least incomplete.

    The Twins have put together a rotation this winter that may be uninspiring, but also may be good enough to make them competitive once their prospects arrive.

    “because I don’t see how anybody would have looked at the 2010 and 2011 teams and thought 90-95 wins was possible with the addition of 20 million in payroll. The 2012 team yes and they proactively went and got Wandy the year before, Martin, Liriano, Byrd and Morneau.”

    Laughably false.

    Go ahead and show not named Clint Hurdle who said after 2012 that the Pirates were a 90-95 win team with the addition of Russell Martin and Frankie Liriano. Good luck!

    Once again, the 2013 season is absolute evidence that meaningful free agent additions could’ve turned this franchise into a contender prior to that year. Maybe not in 2011, but at least 2012.

  44. NMR says:

    It should be a matter of timing, as well.

    The percentage of payroll study is one that assumes additional payroll above the 20% mark is invested in making the team better.

    If there are no options available to make the Pirates better, then they absolutely should devote more than 20$ to AJ, or any similar player.

  45. NMR says:

    As for the on field stuff:

    -I seriously doubt Huntington’s comments regarding Tabata and a platoon partner are to be taken literally, as in a STRAIGHT platoon. Tabby will undoubtedly face righties, as he has his entire career.

    -Regarding a platoon partner for Gaby Sanchez, can anybody tell me what makes guys like Ike Davis, Justin Smoak, and especially Andrew Lambo better options than Adam Dunn?

    All these guys seem to have the UPSIDE of a high-k, low batting average homerun hitter. Dunn is already that, has been for his entire career, and hasn’t shown any signs of losing it.

  46. cmat0829 says:

    Well, for starters, Lambo is already on the roster and Adam Dunn would have to be acquired, so that may be one edge for Lambo. As to Ike Davis and Justin Smoak, they are both younger than Dunn…. but generally I agree with you that Dunn should be considered alongside the other options out there….

  47. cmat0829 says:

    My view is that I just don’t know how to trust what Frank says… seems pretty obvious the Pirates local media deal is in the lower end of the league…and it also is reasonable to expect ownership to allocate $$s to payroll in correlation with these local media $$s…. so there can only be one of the following facts, in my opinion:

    1) Coonelly is completely wrong and the Pirates local media $$s are indeed as speculated, in the lower end of big league teams. That said, the payroll of $80M or so is fairly reasonable given this fact.

    2) Coonelly is right, the Bucs are in the top half of the league in local rights fees. And if so, the major league payroll at $80M is probably $10-15M TOO LOW. And ownership should be asked what that money is being used for.

    Now, this is completely separate from the question of what FA signings NH should be making (I tend to agree that Loney at 3 years/ $27M is not smart regardless of how much our payroll is)… that said, if I were GM I’d have told AJ he has 1 year, $12M but he has to tell us by Thanksgiving… not sure why we are squeezing the odd $2-3M as I’m pretty sure all involved want AJ back (NH, CH, RS, team leaders, etc.)

  48. National Mart of Records,

    I am IN LOVE with every thing you have said in this stream of conversation!!! It’s scary!

    Can you feel the MAN LOVE?

  49. Nate83 says:

    Your last sentence is exactly what I said. I only mention 2010 and 2011. I didn’t make any mention of 2012 except to say yes they could have been proactive which I think they where in raising payroll 12 million and trading for Wandy.

    You do understand saying false doesn’t make something false just because it’s your opinion. Nothing we are discussing is black and white. If I said somebody made 5 million and it’s actually 7 million then go ahead and say false.

    The Red Sox did dump salary and then they went out and spent it again. Spending a lot more on free agents then you will ever see a small market spend. Their bullpen free agents alone out cost what the Pirates do in a normal year. I really don’t know how any of that matters since I was talking about small market. The Red Sox had a mess of a manager and still had plenty of talent left after those dumps and plenty of money left to fill in the holes. To use one of your words it’s laughable you think the Pirates or any other small market club can use any business model that even comes close to the Red Sox’s.

    If the Twins or White Sox make the playoffs in the next 5 years I would be shocked. I am a big believer in knowing what you are and not trying to be something your not. The A’s and Ray’s are great at that and I think the Pirates making decisions very similar. Overall I like what they are doing. Not everything but a lot of the thing. I can’t fault them for 2009-2012. I didn’t then and I won’t now. They where staying honest to the process. However right now I fell there needs to be free agents signed to complement what they currently have.

  50. NMR says:

    Always love for you, GRoat. :)

  51. Adam Dunn:

    1/ Has a crazy large contract and White Sox have shown no desire thus far to pay part of it
    2/ Adam Dunn is a cigar store Indian on defense. Pedro and Jordy need a 1st Baseman to help them on their throws.
    3/ Adam Dunn, according to teammates, has the personality of a persimmon. Standoffish and negative.
    4/ Adam Dunn is a cigar store Indian on defense.
    5/ Adam Dunn makes Rod Barajas look fast.
    6/ Adam Dunn is a cigar store Indian on defense.

    Although I deeply feel the Bucs need a middle of the line-up hitter, I am big, big, big on not giving up runs on defense. Adam Dunn has little hustle and no range in the field. Have I mentioned that Adam Dunn is a cigar store Indian on defense?

    Clogs the bases, no defense, no hustle, tons of strikeouts, no range, costs a mint, cigar store Indian. Probably fitting him for a uniform right now.

  52. NMR says:

    “To use one of your words it’s laughable you think the Pirates or any other small market club can use any business model that even comes close to the Red Sox’s.”

    Strawman, and moving the goalposts for good measure.

    Your statement was that the only free agents who make a difference sign for long term contracts. That is, factually, false.

    And the Twins are setting up to be a monster. Buxton, Sano, Meyer, Stewart, Rosario and more.

  53. NMR says:

    If I may…

    1)Rick Hahn has already shed the contracts of Peavy, Rios, and Thornton en route to his spoken goal of cutting up to $30m from last seasons payroll. Dunn could easily be had at half his contract.

    2-6) Noted, and this is the obvious flaw. However, Lambo barely even plays the position and all these young guys have large bust potential. In a situation where no good solution exists, I’d rather double down on Dunn. If we cared that much about defense, then Gaby Sanchez should be our full time first baseman.

  54. NMR says:

    But yeah, you pretty much nailed the reasons Dunn could be bad, IMO.

  55. Steelkings says:

    Justin Morn…..Ok, im not going there again. I’m not going to bring up the fact that a Left handed hitting 1st baseman who everyone liked could have been had for a 2 for 12. No, im not bringing that up again. Nope! I’m not going to talk about how we will likely trade a prospect for a guy who will cost more and likely be no better. I fully understand that NH wasnt prepared to move that fast. so instead of presenting past problems, I’ll provide a solution.

    1. Marte (RF)
    2. Martin (C)
    3. MCcutchen (CF)
    4. Alverez (3RD)
    5. Walker/Sanchez (1ST)
    6. Mercer (2ND)
    7. Tabata/Snyder (RF)
    8. Barmes (SS)

  56. Nate83 says:

    Let’s say it’s fair enough to say we disagree on this one. If you believe signing a few fringe free agents would have put any previous team under this management over the top I can’t change your mind anymore then you can change mine. I can at least acknowledge your side of the debate isn’t laughable. It would be nice if you did the same.

    You keep needle in a hay stacking my comments so it’s impossible to debate. My next sentence acknowledged that you can’t rely on getting the one or two Liriano free agents that are bounce back candidates and have career years. The Red Sox free agent signings totaled 126 million last year. They should not even be mentioned when comparing how the Pirates should add free agents. They probably haven’t spent that much combined in the last 10 years on free agents.

  57. Andrew says:

    I have been following this discussion, I am going to have to side with Nate. NMR usually make very good/intelligent points, but I cannot follow your argument here. (Disclaimer I mean no ill will, this is not political its sports, if it where politics and I disagreed with you are all *_^#**&!!! Neanderthals.)

    NMR is your argument that the Pirates should have increased payroll sooner to better utilize cost control players? I do not think 1/3 of a lineup is a core, where is the quality cost controlled pitching, Karstens? While I do not favor losing on purpose the Pirates of previous years need a massive influx of talent to be competitive. The 2011 Pirates were a bad team, the early start was a mirage demonstrated by the entire rotation outperforming their FIP/xFIP.

    At the start of 2012 the Pirates traded for Burnett, signed Barajas for $4 million when he was a 1.0 Win catcher over the last 4 years. Signed Barmes for 2 years/$10 million when he was 1.5 Win player the previous four years. (Yes his offense would decline outside Coors but the Pirates wanted solid defense up the middle.) While you might malign Berdard he performed at 2 WAR in 2011, and over a Win in both 2010 and 2009 while only throwing 80 innings due to injuries, also go back and look at his Baltimore years. The Pirates signed him for 1year/$4.5 million.

    Then at the trade deadline brought in players, Sanchez, Snider, Rodrigeuz with multiple years of control. How is this reactive? I am not a front office sycophant, not all signings work out, the converse being some work better than projected, Liriano and Martin. However, I think Huntington has done a more than adequate job.

    If your argument is that Nutting/Coonelly profited nicely receiving the revenue sharing checks while the Pirates rebuilt with skeletal payroll and would now like to see that payroll in line with revenue now you definitely have a point. Or it would be nice if Huntington was given additional resources so maybe the Pirates could out bid Tampa, I agree, but I’ll reserve judgment on this off-season till spring training.

    It would nice if there was a signing to debate instead of analyzing the recent history of Huntington regime.

  58. Andrew says:

    So is Coonelly dead weight or merely average? I guess you can fault him for not extracting enough value, but neither were any of the other front offices before the Rangers deal. After the first mover the rest of the front offices just hung on to the proverbial coattails.

    I guess the Pirates could get someone better, but I think they would have to pay for it.

  59. tedwins says:

    I too am very surprised we didn’t sign Justin mourneau. Also did you think maybe walker at 3rd in your scenario with Pedro going to first? Guess not much difference. You do show that we already have a team, now to improve it further :)

  60. tedwins says:

    I am also surprised we didn’t sign Justin mourneau. Also did you think maybe walker at 3rd in your scenario with Pedro getting more time at 1st? Guess not Much of a difference. You do show that we already have a team. Now to improve it :)

  61. tedwins says:

    Silly rumour on boston blog, sox give doubront, middlebrooks, Nava or carp and prospect SP Owens for pirates Alvarez, Liriano, and hanson….funny time of year :)

  62. Steelkings says:

    No, walker has to be at first because he’s not the one you want playing every day if choosing between him and El Snoro. Plus Gaby Pujols Sanchez needs a platoon partner. NH has said he is way to good to leave off the field.

  63. Steelkings says:

    Dude! How’s bout a dual platoon on the left side of first base. 35 year old Adam Dunn and fellow Cigar store Indian, 42 year old Jason Giambi. Who ever feels good enough that day gets to play.

  64. Steelkings says:

    Payroll page is the easiest Ive ever seen in showing the free agency/ arbitration/ salary stuff.

  65. NMR says:

    WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DON’T AGREE WITH ME?!

    But really, its cool.

    All I’m saying is that we were told management would bring in players from the outside when the time was right, and I don’t believe they are doing that to the fullest because they waited until their home grown guys started getting expensive before doing it.

    Yeah, we’re only talking a year or two, but guess what? I like winning baseball. A year or two matters to me. Not a crazy demand after sitting through a few decades of suck.

    And just because I like what they’re doing overall does not mean their excecution has been infallible. Quite the opposite, in fact. I feel like it would be wise to wait until we’re sure this thing is going to work for a few years before forgetting all the previous failures. It has only been one year of winning, after all.

  66. LeeFoo says:

    A day late as usual. You guys seemed to have gotten all the good stuff out of the way. But, here’s my 10 cents (inflationary 2 cents worth).

    1) Frankie C may be great at what he does, but he should NEVER be allowed to speak in public again.

    2) I would like Lambo to get first shot at first base unless Smoak, Davis, Carp, et al, come cheap (eg, reliever)

    3) VERY ticked that Milwaukee took Wang. I was SOOOOOO looking forward to Wang/Jhang as a 2017 battery.

    4) Still 8 weeks to go. I ain’t getting nervous. In NH I trust. In Frankie I fear.

    5) This is fast becoming my second favorite site behind the PBC Asylum (ex PG Plus dudes). Also, we link this site on that site. We link ALL the good sites.

    6) It does a Foo good to see NMR and Groat ‘huggin’ it’.

    And today will be better than yesterday, IF the meds kick in.

    .

  67. NMR says:

    My point exactly, Andrew.

    The Pirates, or any small market team, simply cannot succeed with “average”.

    Average GM, average President, average scouts, average coaches. Just not good enough. That is the reality.

  68. NMR says:

    Henry Owens?

    I’d take that deal and run.

  69. Steelkings says:

    “”"”"”The Pirates can’t afford to have people like Coonelly who relish in the fleshy middle ground of “good enough”. They HAVE to be better than everyone else, or at the very least strive to be.”"”"”"

    Being just good enough is the whole M.O of the franchise.

    Gaby Sanchez is good enough to play 1st base full time…Bla Bla Bla…..
    Just Good enough to sell an additional 2000 season tickets..Bla Bla Bla….
    Just good enough to raise ticket prices…Bla Bla Bla………

  70. NMR says:

    You are one of a kind, sir. The world needs more Foo. :)

  71. tedwins says:

    Hi nrm, not sure but I hear that this owens I there “it boy”

  72. tedwins says:

    Oh foo, does the old, other newspaper, still exist?

  73. tedwins says:

    Got it bro, but still wondering ( see my middlebrooks trade) if we can’t improve a different way. Who knows :)

  74. Steelkings says:

    As the three walk away from the Q&A stage during PirateFest…….

    Bob: ” Well,…That went rather well I think!

    Frank: ” I was still a little uncomfortable out there”

    Bob: ” Oh suck it up, Frank. When we win people love us. And with that said, next year I am not paying for security. It’s a waste of money that we do not have .”

    Frank: ” You had better fix that first base problem, Neil. We lose again next year and you’ll be doing this presser by yourself without security.”

    Neil: ” DO NOT RUSH ME, Frank. I am not prepared to be rushed. EVER!”

    Bob: ” Frank, You got the new slogan ready yet. How bout, Pittsburgh Pirates, Looking for treasure! I love treasure. Or something like Pittsburgh Pirates, Going for the gold! Who doesn’t like gold?

    Neil: “Pittsburgh Pirates, Prospecting for a first baseman. Speaking of which…Im trading Liriano for Jordan Lannerton. Any objections?

    Frank: “Who’s He?”

    Neil and Bob Simultaneously: “Exactly!”

  75. Steelkings says:

    Barnes or Webster and I’d do it.

  76. LeeFoo says:

    NMR….thanks…I enjoy having fun and like to share the fun. :)

    ===========

    TedWins….not much left of the old PG Blog. We all went here:
    http://pbc-asylum.blogspot.com/

    It is a daily blog.

    JAL has continued his links there (he also posts them on DK’s blog). This site gets mentioned quite a bit.

    Most all of the former Plus posters are there (altho most are known by their real names now)

  77. Steelkings says:

    Questions: Kendrys Morales turns down a qualifying offer to become a free agent. If someone signs him he becomes that teams property and that team in turn gives their 1st pick to Seattle. What happens if no one wants to pay him and give up that pick? Can He go back and take the QO? Does he sit in forever free agent hell? Can Seattle trade or waive the pick?

  78. BostonsCommon says:

    All that said… Anyone realize that Dunn is quietly approaching 500 HRs (440 and counting). 2014 will only be his age 34 season.

    That big Donkey is going to be in the HOF one day.

  79. Nate83 says:

    Andrew put into words perfectly my main point and that is the team just wasn’t good enough to add more then just left over free agents early in this FO regime. What would have been the point to give the fans 5 more wins and finish with 75 instead of 70. What you are referring to as the core just wasn’t enough. They still fell way short of being a competitive team and their farm system fell well short of having pieces to trade for meaningful returns.

    I think they have appropriately ramped up their spending as the team got better. I have no issues with the moves made at the trade deadlines the last 3 years. As the team got better the type of free agents they have gotten got better. 2 years ago Barmes and Barajas, last year Martin and Liriano. This year hopefully they resign Burnett which would be easily the highest amount they have ever given a free agent per year.

  80. LeeFoo says:

    BCs….he’ll be there right along with Dave Kingman and other one dimensional sluggers.

    I don’t think Dunn will ever make it.

  81. NMR says:

    Wow, that is incredible. Never would’ve guessed he was that high…or that he had a career .366 OBP.

    If Jason Giambi and Travis Hafner can still find work as DH’s, I figure at worst Dunn would be a three month experiment for the Pirates as he could easily be dealt to an AL club.

    If he truly is that awful in the field, the Pirates aren’t stuck financially.

  82. NMR says:

    He cannot go back and take the QO. Somebody correct me on this, but I believe the QO last until the draft and once it has passed, any team can sign Morales without forfeiting the pick.

  83. BostonsCommon says:

    He’s going to fly past Kingman (442) this year.

    In 8 of the last 12 seasons he’s hit at least 38 HR, and only hit less than 34 once. Even if he declines to 25 HR/year over the next few years, he’s likely going to hit at least another 100…

    …which would put him just ahead of the Mick (536) for 15th all time… He’s going to the HOF.

  84. BostonsCommon says:

    Excuse me, thats 10 of the last 12 with at least 38… The others were 2011 when he couldn’t hit anything and had one of the worst seasons in MLB history.. And last season when he hit 34.

  85. tedwins says:

    Or drew.. etc I.

  86. tedwins says:

    Im still hoping that drew lasts through june amateur draft, then we grab him for 3 years 33… sure im alone ……

  87. tedwins says:

    Thanks foo :(

  88. NMR says:

    I like the idea, just not the player.

  89. NMR says:

    Well, all your lineup has really done is substitute Gaby Sanchez against RHP for Clint Barmes, which is actually worse than Alvarez-Mercer-Walker-Sanchez.

  90. 11:19 PM Tuesday night:
    .

    Andrew Lambo has exactly 1/2 season of accomplishment at AAA.

    Travis has an article up saying the Pirates are sniffing around Ike Davis. Part of me thinks he is a dog. The Mets need a 1st baseman and they are still dumping him!

    Yet at least he has accomplished something IN THE BIG LEAGUES, even though it was seasons past.

    The problem in waiting until after the tree has been picked over is that the leftover bruised fruit filled, with worm holes, starts to look good. Thank you, Neal and Frank! We did not want the filet mignon anyway. Hotdogs will do. I know hotdogs fit better into your imaginary budget.

    I’m almost ready to renew, for the 4th straight off-season, my call for Justin Smoak.

  91. 11:43 PM Tuesday evening

    Travis —— go to Vincent’s Pizza Palace on Route 30 between Forest Hills and the Westinghouse Bridge.

    Don’t be fooled by the Vincent’s Pizza in Mount Lebo. Fake.

    Vinnie’s in Forest Hills is da bomb! Unique experience; unique pizza. Yinzer.

  92. tedwins says:

    Hear ya, I have a peculiar optimism for drew…

  93. Travis Sawchik says:

    Thanks for the recommendation, Groat. I’ll check it out.

  94. Travis Sawchik says:

    Gammons reported some GMs think Morales will go unsigned until after the draft

  95. NMR says:

    For discussion sake, who exactly was the “fillet mignon” available in your analogy?

    Mike Napoli? James Loney? Corey Hart?

  96. LeeFoo says:

    Personally, I think you need to go to either JoJo’s or Zeiderelli’s here in downtown Mechanicsburg.

    :) :) :)

  97. LeeFoo says:

    NMR….to me, none of these firstbasemen out there were stellar or without question marks.

    Not sure any of them were worth the cost, $$$ or players.

 
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