Blogs | Sports | News
Dejan Kovacevic's Blog

Pittsburgh sports talk with the Trib columnist

Wakeup Call: Pirates and internal valuation

Some sporting thoughts before sunrise …

>> No one really should be scratching their heads over the Pirates buying out the 2012 club options of Paul Maholm, Ryan Doumit, Chris Snyder and Ronny Cedeno. There is now a ton of precedent to show this is how this management team does business: The internal valuation placed on a player rules the day.

There’s nothing surprising or complex about it.

The way it’s been explained to me many times, the Pirates’ baseball people assign a value to all players of interest, their own and on the outside. That’s based on a wide array of indicators, and all are unique to that player’s circumstance, including whether he’s arbitration-eligible, a free agent or whatever. That number essentially is stamped on that player’s forehead, and it’s stamped in mostly indelible ink. I’ve heard peripherally of exceptions, but I can’t cite one firmly.

So, if Maholm is deemed to be worth, say, $7 million, and his club option calls for $9.75 million, then it’s been nice knowing ya, Paul.

This probably results in more good decisions than bad. For example, it’s how Neal Huntington has been able to cobble together a good bullpen on few dollars year after year. But it also costs the Pirates players they genuinely want and who can genuinely help them, often because of a minute amount of cash. Fearing Jose Bautista’s arbitration days was a glaring one. Letting Matt Capps walk rather than trading him was another. Even the failure to sign the amateur Miguel Angel Sano fits the bill.

In the latter’s case, if you want the player as badly as the Pirates apparently did, well, hey, overpay just this one time rather than trying to smoke out whether or not the agent was bluffing.

>> Anyone surprised specifically by Cedeno being cut loose clearly was not a reader of this blog as far back as September.

Here again, Cedeno would have been due $3 million for one year next season. Even if he isn’t your starter, he can play both shortstop and second base, and he’s more than competent enough overall to be a reliable backup at a fairly decent market rate. But it’s a rate that apparently didn’t match the stamped number.

>> What’s strangest about this mindset is that the Pirates still are going to end up spending about the same as the $52.3 million spent in 2011. It’s just that they’ll do it their way, based on all those individual valuations, right up until it’s crunch time and someone hands Lyle Overbay $5 million.

>> If the Steelers’ secondary was athletic and deep enough to engage almost exclusively in man coverage against Tom Brady and the Patriots, why would Dick LeBeau switch back?

Some quarterbacks get confused by zones, but not the veterans. They read zones, love their predictability and run timing routes off them. If Player X is at Spot Y against the Z defense, it’s a completion. But man-to-man boils it all down to … well, man-to-man.

>> I’ll be spending my day with the Penguins before they head out to the West Coast (again).


  1. diehard says:

    The Pens’ 14th game of the year is their 3 trip out west. When did Bud Selig start having input into creating the NHL schedule? (Though this should make travel easier as the year goes on, one would hope.)

  2. Ed says:

    The Pirates “hide” behind the label of evaluation; it’s merely a euphemism for cheap. They are either not wealthy enough to compete with the big boys, or simply unwilling to do so—(just as Mr. Nutting’s newspaper businesses have a reputation of being “cheap”)

  3. Chris says:

    Sad that the pirates view winning and making money as mutually exclusive. The mirage that was the early summer, showed that a city with two championship caliber teams was willing to come out quickly when the local MLB team won a few contests. How can a down and out city like Milwaukee pay for some winning ball and this ownership group still views th payroll as pure costs and never investment.

    As for man to man, check the WR for NE, outside of Welker none of whom would be coveted by too many franchises.

  4. pghboyinca says:

    What is going on with the Pirates? Nothing out of the ordinary except now they have dropped the facade of even attempting to try and compete. Why, because a certain percentage of the fan base that has become their defenders proclaiming that they are involved in some type of “grand plan” Why, because enablers in the media who have ignored the obvious and actually advocated people to go to P.N.C. and give monetary support to these con artists. (see Smizik, Bob)

    The Nuttig regime makes Enron look like the Salvation army. If you sit by watching nothing will change, make life unbearable for Nuttig and his minions.

    They shouldbe savaged at every turn in the newspaper, online, and on television. They should be booed unmercifully any time any one of them show their face in public. They should be overwhelmed with protestors at Pirate fest and people at Penguin and Steeler games should make signs ridiculing the Pirates. It should be a city wide movement to force them to come clean with their financials or get the hell out of town.

    Yeah act surprised, no one could have possibly seen this coming? Nothing will change until this fan base stops supporting the blatant fraud that is the PBC.

  5. JAL says:

    JAL’s Hit the road Jack! Morning Links


    1- MLB Transactions

    2-MLB Trade Rumors-Pirates

    3- 2011-12 Pirates Prospects Off-Season Calendar

    4 Pirate Offseason Stats

  6. JAL says:


    5—Pirates Prospects

    MLBTR Predicts a Busy Off-Season For Pirates

    AFL Recap 10/31: Gerrit Cole Makes His Fourth Start

    Pirates Decline All Four Club Options

    Official Elias Rankings Released

    6 Bucs Dugout

    Neal Huntington: ‘We’ve Got To Be Willing To Make Some Tough Financial Decisions’

    7 Rumbunter

    Pirates Open Up Four Roster Spots

    The Last Slide of Chris Snyder’s Career as a Pittsburgh Pirate?

  7. JAL says:


    11 NY Daily News

    Baseball free agency could be impacted as new CBA talks hit snag over draft slotting issue

    12 Wall Street Journal

    La Russa’s Lasting Effect on Baseball

    13 Wilmington Star News

    Column: La Russa smart enough to get out on top

  8. JAL says:


    14 PBC Site

    Pirates decline options on four players

    15 The Outside Corner

    End of the Season Postmortem: The 2011 Pittsburgh Pirates

    16 Fox Sports

    Baseball eyes new $1 billion TV contract in off-season

    17 Yahoo Sports

    Things to Do this Baseball Offseason to Pass the Time

  9. JAL says:

    Steelers Blogs

    -Behind the Steel Curtain

    Ten Observations About the Steelers Win Over New England

    Despite Paucity of Turnovers, Steelers Defense Continues to Establish Itself as one of NFL’s Most Versatile and Stingy Units

    Two 3rd-and-9 Plays, Two Years, Two Completely Different Results

    -Steelers Depot

    Week 8 Coverage Stats

    -Steelers Gab

    James Harrison via Twitter: “Looks like I won’t be playing this weekend”

  10. JAL says:

    Pitt Blogs

    Pitt Blather

    Catching Up on Football

    Cardiac Hill

    West Virginia Suing the Big East: This Just Got Interesting

    WVU Blogs

    Gold and Blue Zone

    WVU to Host Big 12 Reception

    WV Illustrated

    ESPN Exercises 6-Day Window for WVU-Cincinnati Game



    James Neal vs. Phil Kessel – The Uber Early Rocket Richard Race

  11. Curt says:

    I have to agree with Chris. Its hard not to keep thinking about the Brewers and how they do things and spend and win in a similar market size.
    I guess wait until the winter is over before we all criticize….

  12. leefoo says:

    Dejan…….As you have pointed out, Sano would’ve been offered more, but the Bucs never got the chance. And who is to say that didn’t teach them a lesson that ‘spilled over’ into signing Allie, Bell and other lower round picks (and other Latin Americans)?

    As for Capps, like Maholm, i was upset to see them let go for nothing. However, in Capps’ case, his replacement, Dotel, was moved for McDonald, so I guess that worked out ok.



  13. Turner Ward says:

    I still have a hard time getting really mad at the Pirates until we see where the money not spent on those 4 actually gets spent. Precedent says we shouldn’t get too excited, but before we lambaste these guys as total dummies, they’ve got about $25-30 million (maybe more) to spend before spring training. Interested to see how it all shakes out…

  14. John A says:

    Nevermind the fact that all 8 players released yesterday just arn’t very good, save Maholm. Cedeno, at any price, is a terrible baseball player when you can have Jamey Carroll (for example) instead. Any independent baseball evaluator (not a Bucco fan) had no problem with declining all these options. Maholm’s was the only one I have some issue with, but lets see where that $9 million goes before we hang the front office. The major concern is NH’s previous inability to sign the “right” free agents in the market.

    DK, the Sano shot is a cheap one considering your own reporting made it clear that his agent did not allow the Pirates to counter offer.

  15. woomer says:

    As for the Pirates:
    “going to end up spending about the same as the $52.3 million spent in 2011″
    and yet not picking up any options…

    What ever happened to…”better the devil you know…” ???

  16. Dan says:

    What is weird about the ‘internal valuations’ the Pirates place on the players is that they are missing the replacement value. And DK, I’m just going on what you have said before here… Is Maholm worth 10M? Of course not. But if we sign a comparable player, it’ll have to be for a multi-year deal. Maybe a little less per year, say 7 or 8M, but for 2-3 years. So our financial risk is higher. Or worse (and more likely), they will sign someone clearly not as good and still for a decent chunk of change. I’m not going to cry over missing any of these players individually, but I shudder to think of who we’ll be replacing them with.

    The problem with man-to-man, which another reader alluded to above, is you can get beat big. The Pats have only Welker and he is underneath. Imagine trying to play man-to-man against, say, the Steelers young money WRs. It works most of the time, but the three times you get beat are often three TDs. That said, I would like to see the Steelers mix man and zone… maybe somewhere around 50/50.

  17. woomer says:

    …and John:

    the Pirates wouldn’t have needed to “counter offer” (as you put it), if they had read the market right (which is what they are paid to do) and put enough money up in the first place.

  18. Drew71 says:

    Dejan, my problem with Internal Valuation is application not theory. In general I support the concept. But as with any theory, it stretch the blanket too thin creates holes in the clothe.

    How have the Pirates answered the issue of, does applying the IV so uniformly create more problems than it solves when there is NOTHING behind the dismissed player in their system that comes close to matching his talent or readiness?

    Their theory CAN’T be, We Can Stink For Less. Can it?

  19. bdubb says:

    I don’t believe any of the Pirates just released are worth the amount on the contract but that is market value and I just can’t see the Pirates replacing those players with with players on the same level of talent for less money. And we know they won’t replace them with better talent for more money.

    It seems every offseason is interesting when it comes to the Pirates and this one will be no different. I can hear NH come March – “we freed up money to go after some big free agents but couldn’t get a deal done so now we go North with what we have” – as he tries to cover up the fact they just won’t spend money with lies. Fool me once PBC and shame on me…fool me for an 8th time and I will just switch to the Yankees

  20. TJA says:

    The World Series is over, but just wanted to share this story: I was on vacation last week on a cruise through Eastern Canada. While on the ship, we were able to watch the W.S.. What made this so interesting was there were folks viewing the game with us who were from Missouri and Texas. I have not seen a W.S. in some years that was so exciting. But even more so, it was awesome to be in the same room with fans from both of those clubs. The emotions were incredible. It was so much fun to watch a Series with fans yelling and screaming. I just keep thinking…I would love for us in Pittsburgh to have this someday…baseball in October. As many of us introduced ourselves to each other and shared where we were from. People I met from Colorado and Texas had good things to say about Clint Hurdle and that we in Pittsburgh should have a good future with him at the helm. We are here and see and read things each day about the Pirates. It’s always funny how outsiders see our team and many feel the Pirates are not that far away. We are very frustrated with the losing, but we can continue to hope and hope and hope… Let’s Go Bucs!

  21. Bizrow says:

    I agree with what I think some of the posters today are saying. Ok, these guys weren’t the 27 Yankees, but what is in the cupboard to replace them?

    Huntingtons four year contract gives him that Linus security blanket, he doesn’t have to try to win till his option year.

    As far as spending money, there ain’t much out there to spend it on, but that will be ok with Nutting

  22. John A says:

    and woomer, read the market value? Is that like reading the stars? Why would you bid against yourself? They were led to believe that Sano was a Pirate from day one. In what business model do you make your top offer as a starting point?

    NH’s primary issue is he seems to believe that 3 or 4 near replacement level free agents is better than signing one quality player and going with internal replacement level players at the other spots. Sure you spread the risk by avoiding one big contract, but you also almost completely eliminate the reward of adding impact talent. The Bucs spent $18 million in free agency last year on 4 players and got very little to show for it. That kind of cash could be better used on one meaningful bat like AmRam for example.

  23. radio wave says:

    The Steelers have the best record in football, the Penguins are off to a great start minus the best player in hockey, but what still gets the biggest reaction here?
    The hapless Pirates.

    What does that say about the sports fans of this region?

  24. Dongta says:

    Not that I expect it to happen, but wouldn’t it be interesting to see the funds go into extending the “young core”. Try to extend McCutchen, Alvarez (now that his value is low) through arbitration and maybe 2 to 3 years into F/A. I am not that high on Walker, but extend him if possible and they see a future. If there is a window of maybe 2 to 3 years in 3 years it would be best to make sure the top tier talent is still there.

    I have no problem with the options not being picked up if the money goes to extending the next wave of talent. The tried it with Malholm and Doumit as well as others previously with the same result.

    The part that I don’t get is that you all sound shocked by the pattern that has developed even before Nutting was in this organization. This has been happening since Barry Bonds left and Al Martin and Kevin Young were the “young guns” to replace them.

  25. Milo Hamilton says:

    My internal valuation told me that pair of shoes I saw at Kohl’s this weekend was only worth $25. I wouldn’t pay that ridiculous $39.99. I stuck it to Kohl’s, didn’t I. Now, I’ll be walking around barefoot this winter…

  26. Thundercrack says:

    At the time what do think Matt Capps’ replacement value in return would have been if we did trade him.

    My guess is a mid-level prospect, fringe bullpen arm, or back up infielder.
    It really wouldn’t have made me more happy if they had traded him.

  27. CWalton_67 says:

    I find myself in agreement with pghboyinca. And I feel for the guys who post here, who are the true Pirates fans, always with hope for next season, despite knowing the reality is Bob Nutting owns this team. There is nothing wrong with making money–we all want to do that. It’s just sad that this guy does it at the expense of some of the best sports fans in all the world.

    Go Pens.

  28. leefoo says:

    Can’t believe that a) DK brought up Capps, Sano, etc and b) we all fell for it and are now arguing over whether we did the right thing all over again.

    I guess, if the only coffee in town is bad coffee, we will still drink it. :(

    Tea Man Foo


  29. Naje says:

    Please move on with Bautista and Sano. Thank you.

    As for the defensive backs playing man to man, well, can you name a Patriots receiver other than Welker? Come on… not Chad Johnson, either… he didn’t play. Still can’t do it, can you? No… not a tight end, a Wide Receiver.

    See what I mean… their receivers scare NO ONE. Not a deep threat in the bunch.

    Now, try playing man to man against Anquan Boldin… hey, they’ll stay with him stride for stride, but that guy makes the tough catches. It would be great to watch Ike matched up with him all game. But the Ravens have a deep threat, too… one much more valid than the Patriots.

    I’m all for working on that man to man stuff… especially if it will help in the playoff run, the playoffs and defeating a team with 4 or 5 legitimate wide receivers like the Packers.

  30. aglebagel says:

    The reason that reading this makes me even less enthusiastic about the offseason is that the “internal valuations” of free agents by the Pirates’ management will never be as high as it will take to pry an actual person away from offers from more respectable franchises.

  31. leefoo says:

    Nage……….you sound like someone who’d find something to complain about even if the steelers ran the table.

    They beat a team averaging over 30 pts a game and that moved up and down the field almost at will.

    I, for one, think we did a heckuva job. Boldin doesn’t scare me. How well did he do in the SB and last year against us?

  32. PhillyJake says:

    Funny, I’m reading this and thinking about work. The general consensus here is that if you never fail, you’re not trying hard enough. The extra gained by taking chances outweighs the loss from failure. Of course it’s a bit more complex than that, but you get the idea.

    It seems to me that NH is trying hard not to fail, leaving potential on the table.

    The Irony is that he’s failing anyway (i.e. Overbay, which was supposed to be safe)

    He seems to take the chances on the draft – there was no sure thing is signing Josh Bell. And, we all know most of the bonus babies won’t make it – such is the draft.

    But on the major league level, he’s gun shy. Then he ends up with scraps.

  33. Chuck Snow says:

    Not surprised by the Pirate moves; confused as anyone on why Maholm and Cedeno were not picked up. I guess Huntington has a plan, that what we keep hearing. Guess it will shake out over the winter.

  34. Bizrow says:


    No disrespect intended, but Capps was worth SOMETHING

    And blaming not being able to trade the guy because the newspaper folks speculated he might be non-tendered was nonsense

    Especially considering the way NH handled the fact he wasn’t picking up these options, think that increased trade value??

    BTW, just saw Green Lantern on DirecTV, pretty darn good flick

  35. JohnS says:

    I will never understand the Maholm love. Hasn’t he consistently been one of the worst starting pitchers in MLB for several years? He is no different than Duke. Soft tossing lefty that doesn’t get enough people out. This was a career year for him and it still yielded a 6-14 record with a 3.66 ERA.

  36. JAL says:

    Gerrit Cole and Robbie Grossman named to AFL Rising Stars roster Game will be televised on November 5 on MLB Network

  37. pghboyinca says:

    Has anyone else noticed how Huntington is now gettingrid of his own players? Cedeno, Hart, Snyder, etc.. are all guys he acquired. And inthe case of Maholm, Doumit etc.. they were here but he extended them after seeing them play. Can we agree that it is now “his team” and Littlefield is no longer responsible for the bullshit on the field starting this year?

Other blogs
Sports: Rob Rossi | Steel Mill | Chipped Ice | Bucco Blog | iPreps | Pitt Locker Room | Penn State Sports
News: This Just In | Trib List | ICycle | Flow Back | Stories Behind Trib Stories  

» Top Sports
» Top News
» Top Breaking News