Do the Pirates need to counter other teams moves?

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I had a thought the other day, upon hearing news the St. Louis Cardinals are potentially looking to add a front-line starter to their rotation and guys like Max Scherzer, David Price and Cole Hamels have come up as most likely scenarios, whether or not teams counter move each other based upon roster decisions their rivals make?  What I mean by this question is, will a team stand pat if their biggest competitors stand pat or will they try to out-do each other if one team makes a move first?

To look at this from both scenarios, you have to understand that teams see the other teams within their division as the first teams they need to beat to make the post-season.  If they feel good enough about their team to win the division, they may take a look outside the division as to whom they need to beat to make the World Series.  However, do teams think that far ahead prior to the start of the regular season or do they just look at weak parts of their lineups and make moves based up their allotted budget?

Case Scenario 1:  Teams DO Make Moves Based Upon Their Rivals

I would be hard-pressed to believe that Team A doesn’t look at Teams B, C and D and try to match up their teams ability to compete with those teams.  If Team A sees Team B and C make a few moves to improve themselves, if they want to compete, they will have to make a move themselves to either be on par with those teams or an even bigger move to surpass those teams.  In a real world situation, the Pirates have added Francisco Liriano and AJ Burnett to their rotation and the Chicago Cubs have added Jon Lester and Jason Hammel to their rotation.  In return the St. Louis Cardinals who may be a bit envious of these moves and with money to spend, could trump both of those by adding a Price, a Hamels and/or a Scherzer.  One or more of these moves may sacrifice the future a little bit by making a big trade or they may have to go outside their comfort zone in budget to sign a free agent.  This seems like something that could have prompted the Cardinals to go ahead and make a huge move before the season starts so they remain the favorites within their division.

Case Scenario 2:  Teams DO NOT Make Moves Based Upon Their Rivals

I believe that any General Manager can honestly look at his team and determine which areas could use improvement based upon past performances, injury situations and depth to cover any deficiencies during the season.  Sometimes, a team will sit back and wait to see how the market is going to shake out and maybe they want to get a better idea of what the final price tag will be on certain players before asking their owners for the capital to improve the team’s weaknesses.  If Team A has a few question marks in their rotation, they could take note that several big names are still available that would be really great pieces to solidify the position.  Team A is only looking at their own team and their budget and when the market starts to clear, they can make their move and get excited to grab someone whom they weren’t expecting to get.  In a real world situation, the Cardinals took note that they only have 2 starters who haven’t been through some sort of injury and needing the offseason to rehab.  Even their Ace, Adam Wainwright has some question marks surrounding him and that could make any GM or Manager worry about the team’s depth.  Remaining on the market is the aforementioned Hamels and Price who could be available through trade while Scherzer and James Shields remain on the free agent market.  The Cardinals have not been linked to Shields and probably due to his age(33) and length of contract wanted.  The Cardinals are a smart baseball team and this is why they’ve been contenders for a long time.

Answer:

The only correct answer here is that it’s a little bit of both scenarios.  Most teams will say that Scenario 2 is the way they operate but Scenario 1 could put the pressure on a team to make a move or two to keep up with the joneses.  Let’s take the Pirates for an instance and wonder, if they could afford any of the pitchers that could be available, at this point would they go ahead and sign or trade for them based up solidifying a need position?  Sure, Liriano, Burnett and Gerrit Cole makes for a really good Top 3 in the rotation, how much better would they look with Scherzer heading the entire group?  The Pirates more likely will start the season with what they have and if there is a need towards the trade deadline, they are more likely to make a move then to help compete with any weakness they could have.  The Cardinals meanwhile may feel the exact opposite and feel that making a move now gets them a guy for the entire season and keeps them as the favorites for the NL Central.

Just in case anyone is wondering whether or not the Cardinals are thinking of making this move(s) based upon news the Pirates are signing Jung-Ho Kang, while they were a team excited to grab him, their want for a front-line starter more likely stems from moves made from the Pirates and Cubs or simply finding budget to help solidify a need area.

Until next time,

Eric