If there’s any one trait that has clearly marked the Huntington/Coonelly/Hurdle era with the Pirates, it has been a love of veterans so irrational, it borders on insanity. The cause of this particular issue is largely tied up in one player: Jose Bautista. Most Pirates fans know that Bautista was a Pirate before his career took off in Toronto. Bautista was traded to Toronto for what essentially amounted to nothing, and a couple years after, things clicked for him in Toronto, and he became a top five power-hitter in the majors.
This loss of a player that looked bad before being dealt and then blossomed into a superstar who is a perennial threat to hit forty home runs (although he is struggling to start this season) seems to have made the Pirates more willing to pick guys up off of the scrap heap. Sometimes that works with guys like AJ Burnett, and sometimes it doesn’t, and Pirates fans are treated to the crapfest that was Jonathan Sanchez this April. The Pirates desire for veterans is fueled by a thought that maybe there’s just one little thing that needs fixed, and if they can find it, they’ll have a superstar on their hands. Somebody needs to inform the Pirates that Bautista situations are a rarity. Brandon Inge? Not a guy who needs one part of his hitting fixed, he’s just old. Jonathan Sanchez? His mechanics and mental game are completely messed up. Rod Barajas last year? Yeah, his bat was nearly as nonexistent as his throwing arm.
The good news is that the Pirates struck gold when they made the deal for Burnett. He’s been an ace ever since the Pirates acquired him, and he’s genuinely fun to watch. The problem is that the Pirates don’t know when to quit rifling through the veteran scrap heap while they’re ahead. If nobody else wants that player, there’s probably a very good reason for that. Be happy that you won on one gamble, and quit. Let’s hope Manny Ramirez doesn’t get a phone call from the Pirates anytime soon.