One of the main goals that the Pittsburgh Pirates new Front Office has made clear they want to focus on is improving the farm system. Well, apparently they have done a good job of this so far.
When Neal Huntington was let go by the Pittsburgh Pirates, he left an organization that was treading water. After a few years of winning, Huntington did not do what it would take to sustain some sort of long term success. Early on in his tenure, the former GM laid out a five year plan” and it worked. However, after it worked it seemed like there was no plan.
The team instead found themselves in a gray space, which in large part was due to Neal Huntington. After the 2016 season, the writing was on the wall. The Pittsburgh Pirates were getting further away from being contenders than contending. The team was looking to cut payroll, but also did not have the farm system they had earlier (another failure on the previous regime).
Instead of doing what small market teams should do, trade away veterans replenish the farm and develop, Huntington tried to expedite the process. The Neil Walker trade was the first of these mistakes, instead of getting a prospect package the team acquired Jon Niese, a veteran whose shelf life was coming to an end. He got a mediocre return for Gerrit Cole because he was more concerned with getting MLB ready players.
Any time a team trades for MLB ready players, they are not going to get the maximum value in return. That is exactly what happen to Huntington, and in turn cost him his job. Players like Jon Niese, Michael Feliz, and Jason Martin could have been turned into better quality prospects. Yes it would have been the old cliche of “great prospects, see them in five years”, but at least the team would have been building towards something. Instead, Huntington wanted to ‘stay competitive without mortgaging the future’.
Ben Cherington has entered the Pittsburgh Pirates organization knowing that the team’s success will always come through the farm system. While he has operated methodically, Cherington has already acquired multiple top prospects. In fact, Cherington has taken the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system from middle of the league to one of the top systems in baseball already. Mike Rosenbaum of MLB Pipeline recently put out his five most improved farm systems this year. He has the Bucs listed as the number three most improved farm, citing the amount of arms they have added:
"The Pirates had a disappointing 2020 season by all measures, finishing with baseball’s worst record (19-41) after a 69-win season in ‘19. But the organization still managed to add multiple young, high-ceiling pitching prospects to its rising farm system via trades, acquiring Brennan Malone (from the D-backs in the Starling Marte deal) as well as Eddy Yean and Wil Crowe (from the Nationals in the Josh Bell deal). The Pirates also added a pair of hurlers in the Rule 5 Draft, taking Jose Soriano with the No. 1 pick and then trading for Luis Oviedo."
Obviously, Neal Huntington left some prospects behind, but Cherington’s work has really put this organization in a position to success going forward. If you read the story, Rosenbaum outlines a few other note worth prospects that were added in 2020. The thing is the team still has multiple trade chips that seem likely to be moved this offseason. There is less than 48 hours left in 2020, so who knows maybe this ranking was premature.