What is the Pirates front office doing!?
As I’m sure we have all heard by now, the Pittsburgh Pirates are back to their ways of trading marquee players to stock up on prospects and draft picks, or are they? The two players involved this time were ace pitcher Gerrit Cole and face of the franchise Andrew McCutchen.
These two moves did not sit well at all with fans. Especially, the one that sent fan favorite and former MVP “Cutch” to the San Francisco Giants. These trades lead us to ask “What’s next for the Pittsburgh Pirates?”.
Let’s break these trades down. Is the criticism of Owner Bob Nutting and General Manager Neal Huntington is actually fair?
Gerrit Cole Trade
Cole signed with agent Scott Boras who is considered by Forbes the most powerful sports agent in the world since 2013. With the Pirates being a small market ball club, moving Gerrit Cole to get something in return rather than nothing once he hit free agency was a good decision. That being said, did they get the absolute best deal for him that they could have?
The Pirates were reportedly in talks with the New York Yankees during winter meetings to make a deal for Cole before nothing ever came of it. According to an article on ESPN.com by Jerry Crasnick, the Yankees were willing to deal either outfielder Clint Frazier or pitcher Chance Adams but not both. While on the other hand the Astros were open to sending both pitcher Joe Musgrove and third baseman Colin Moran. Obviously, the Pirates jumped on the latter of these two options.
This leads me to believe the Pirates are expecting their outfield prospect Austin Meadows to join Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco in the outfield sooner than later. Which lead to them passing on Clint Frazier and taking Joe Musgrove and Colin Moran along with others from the Astros.
No one can tell the future to see how this decision will work out. But, I do believe the Pirates made the right and best move for the organization in this deal.
Andrew McCutchen Trade
This trade may be an unforgivable offense that sent fans into a rage. Enough for one to even start a petition on change.org for MLB to force Bob Nutting to sell the team. At the time of writing this, has over 54,000 signatures.
McCutchen is loved by fans, was the face of the Pirates, a former MVP, 5x All-Star, 4x Silver Slugger, Gold Glove winner, and the centerpiece to baseball being relevant in the Steel City again. Seeing McCutchen go was very difficult to take in. He did everything, but bring a World Series title to Pittsburgh. He will go down in most people’s book as a top five Pirate of all time.
According to Chris Haft in a piece for MLB.com. The Pirates received RP Kyle Crick, OF prospect Bryan Reynolds, and $500,000 in international pool space. Giants received McCutchen and will be responsible for $12 million of $14.5 million Cutch is owed this year. The Pirates will cover the other $2.5 million.
Was it Worth it?
Again, the future is hard to predict. Based on fan reaction I do not think anything short of Crick and/or Reynolds being a key piece in bringing a World Series title to Pittsburgh will make this a good move in the fan’s eyes. From a performance based point of view. Cutch has declined in recent years and isn’t getting younger. The real question is did the Pirates get enough in return? Not only for the player McCutchen, but everything else he brought to the table like ticket and merchandise sales. I do not think the Pirates did a good job in this deal. In the eye’s of fans I think more in return was needed to justify trading Cutch. The guy who was a beloved icon and role model to the city of Pittsburgh.
In an interview the day of the McCutchen trade both Nutting and Huntington expressed how hard of a decision it was to deal Cutch. Followed by saying they feel they received enough in both the Cole and Cutch trade to compete in the 2018 season and also built for the future. Whether they truly believe that or trying to sooth the pain and confusion felt by Pirates fans we will never know.
Since the trades even players have taken shots at the front office. Some more subtle than others. Former Pirate Gerrit Cole spoke up shortly after he was dealt. Saying this “…it’s refreshing to come to an environment where the team is willing to continually put resources into the club and continue to move forward and try to provide the best possible product for its fans.“. As well as current Pirate Josh Harrison wanting to be traded if the organization is looking to rebuild. Comments like these will not work well in the Pirates favor moving forward.
So, What Exactly is Next for the Pirates?
To answer the question in the title “What’s next for the Pittsburgh Pirates?” I don’t think anyone knows the answer, not even Nutting or Huntington. Seems like Bob and Neal are stuck in the middle of trying to compete now and rebuilding for the future. Which leaves me to think the Pirates are in for 65-75 win seasons. That is until the front office decides to either go all in on competing now or all in on rebuilding for the future.