Great Scot - Ep. 10 - A Plan or Series of Guesses?

Does Pittsburgh Pirates GM Neal Huntington go into an offseason with a plan on acquiring a certain player or two, a certain position or two, or does he completely wing it with some thoughts on what would be nice to have?  As we saw in the movie ‘Moneyball’, when any GM wants to add payroll to the team, he must have discussions with the owner about whether or not the funds are available to make such a move.  Most people feel that the GM has the complete freedom to spend at will; in fact, it’s the owners who make the final decisions.

This offseason for the Pirates, it was well-known the team needed a 1st baseman and a right fielder, and they hoped to bring back AJ Burnett.  When Burnett failed to sign, the Pirates grabbed RHP Edinson Volquez with the confidence that the money was worth the shot for him to be another reclamation project.  The Pirates tried to make a couple of signings, most notably James Loney, who ended up re-signing with the Tampa Bay Rays.  They also were connected many times with the New York Mets for Ike Davis.

The team always had in the back of their minds that top prospect Gregory Polanco would arrive in Pittsburgh this coming season so they seemed to be ok with Travis Snider and Jose Tabata until the day he gets the call.  Polanco to this point has been fantastic in AAA Indianapolis, and is well on his way to arriving as soon as the Pirates can keep him for the extra year.  There have been a lot of calls for the Pirates to call him up immediately; however, it would be foolish to do so unless they were confident they could extend him past his arbitration years.

Moving to today, the Pirates have just made a trade to finally acquire Ike Davis from the Mets and will plug him into a platoon with Gaby Sanchez.  Don’t be fooled, Davis will get the majority of the playing time with Sanchez coming off the bench and starting on those days against lefties.  The potential downside to this move is that the team may never get to see what Andrew Lambo can really do – though if there is an injury, he provides them with some depth and a possible bench bat if he can prove to hit the ball more consistently.

I’m sure that part of the plan was never to bring in a new guy just 3 weeks into the season, as you would hope these types of moves would have been made before the season.  However, the asking price from the Mets was documented as being a bit too high for Davis, especially knowing that he was already being replaced by Lucas Duda.  The two teams finally reached an agreement on which player(s) the Mets will receive in return.  And while no one is fretting losing Zack Thornton, it’s the PTBNL that has people a little worried.

Generally, PTBNL guys are a list of agreed-upon players the receiving team can choose from and almost always it’s a player of lesser value than the named player.  In this case, it seems the PTBNL is more “significant” than Thorton, but I wouldn’t be too worried that it will be anyone in the Pirates Top 10 – or even Top 15 –  prospects.  It wouldn’t surprise me if it were Lambo himself that was going to the Mets and possibly fitting into their outfield picture.  Huntington’s comments suggesting that Lambo still has value for the team probably means that he’s not going anywhere, and it could be a 2013 Draft Pick player once they clear one full year or service.

All in all, the Pirates generally go into an offseason with an overview of need areas and a wish list of players they would like to see fill those positions.  They also most likely have a preset limit on how much they are willing to give up to acquire these players.  If the numbers don’t work out, they don’t make the move.  That’s exactly what happened this offseason, and while maybe the Pirates were being a little bit too conservative in not making a move, they also know they can upgrade themselves with rising players(Polanco), trades(Davis) and even more trades closer to the deadline(??).

It may not always be the most sound plan and definitely not the most popular plan, however it’s been effective to this point.  Whether or not I agree with that plan, I have to trust these guys have done their homework and know way more than I do about what’s out there and the costs vs. the risks of each player.  Sometimes, they simply swing and miss but I still have faith and I still believe in this team so I think we need to see how it all plays out and critique everything after the season.

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