By Richard A. Mathews
While calmer viewpoints have been exhibited throughout the Pirate Nation among multiple Message Boards, the number of e-mails I received requesting my out of touch view on the recent trade moving Nady and Marte to the Yankees for four prospects carried the tone of those who might wish to consider the following as evidence only time will tell if this transaction becomes a long-term benefit to the team;
“Was anybody excited to see Giles moved for three guys named Perez, Bay and Stewart?”
Before we begin, let’s take a realistic look at where this team was before the Nady/Marte deal today and with a view toward the future.
I am on record as saying, “I’m hooked on this 2008 Bucco club, how about you,” from a rare article which appeared here on OnlyBucs earlier this year.
Much like the Pirate Nation as a whole, the play of Nady, McLouth, Doumit and a resurgent Bay frustrated me to no ends. If this 2008 squad had any consistent starting pitching at all, our Bucs would be sporting a record over .500 with an outside chance at earning a Wild Card spot in the National League playoffs.
Yet even while hooked on this club’s offensive excitement, I noted in my prior article, managements decisions to be “cheap”
- cutting out advance scouting
- hiring a pitching coach with “0” MLB experience
- bringing in no MLB experienced veteran starting pitching contenders for the rotation
limited this teams opportunity to be competitive before the season began.
As many of you pointed out when my prior article was written, it is not the pitching coaches fault prior management left him with multiple starters who still do not possess the basic arsenal of pitches necessary to be successful at the big league level. You were correct that from Duke to Snell to Gorzelanny, the complete failure of the prior administration to develop these pitchers complement of pitches while rushing them to the majors was and remains a sound reason they were fired.
Additionally a strong case can be made that the struggles of Snell and Gorzelanny are both latent liabilities of the prior management team who worked both young pitchers over 200 innings in 2007 during a meaningless season. Throughout MLB, the number of starting pitchers having a successful season in 2008 who threw over 200 innings last year for the first time in their career can be counted on one hand!
Gorzelanny is back in the minors attempting to rebuild his status as a possible top of the rotation type starter. Snell’s struggles continue with his 60+ walks through only 21 starts the key statistic proving Ian rarely this season ever exhibited the type of control which made him a potential top of the rotation starter first in 2006 and again last year.
Of course, losing Capps, capped the fate of the team as we all realized dreams of a winning season ended with his placement on the 60-day DL. Or at least the Pirate season should have collapsed as the rotation fell apart with Minor League call-ups failing repeatedly. But your 2008 Lumber Company kept hitting and hitting and hitting some more.
Jack Wilson came back from his two month absence and hit perhaps as well as ever in his career. Adam LaRoche’s bat finally came to life as the pitching staff’s problems deepened. Even 2006 N.L. batting champion, Freddie Sanchez began to drop a few fish fillets into play safely adding to an already potent offense.
Your 2008 were and remain a very solid hitting club even today without the services of Nady.
Your 2008 Pirates even with the services of Nady were not going to finish the season above .500 nor were they likely to be a contender in 2009 with the current composition of talent available at the major and minor league level.
The completely barren pool of starting talent in the minors which no longer includes Littlefield’s #1 pick in the draft, Bullington is a stark reminder of why former management was dismissed. Wilbur Miller has chronicled the Bucs farm system as well if not better than any other analyst in American including both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus.
Wilbur has told OnlyBucs readers for several years, the Bucs lower Minors have little to nothing to offer this team in future starting pitching held. Wilbur has sounded the alarm for several years concerning even the hopes for the few top notch prospect position players in the Bucs upper minors.
Contrary to the Pirates official position, even the club’s top prospect, Andrew McCutchen and last’s years MLB Player of the Year Steve Pierce are not looked upon as “lock” future MLB All Stars. The numbers being put up by McCutchen and Pearce in a weak pitching International League are as follows:
391 ab, .276 avg, .365 obp, .404 slg McCutchen
353 ab, .258 avg, .310 obp, .425 slg Pearce
McCutchen’s production offensively is not surprising during his first full year at AAA. What is somewhat alarming are the 17 times in 43 attempts he has been thrown out trying to steal. Almost as disturbing has been his struggles defensively adjusting to the power and speed of AAA hitters.
Pearce’s first full year efforts in AAA are no more or less alarming than McCutchen’s. Pearce has been over-matched at times as he often faced former MLB caliber pitching working in AAA for a chance to return to the show.
There remains support for the Bucs belief both McCutchen and Pearce have the potential to become big league productive players. That fact admitted, both players will need time to further develop their skills before fulfilling their expectations.
With the exception of Bixler, there remains little if any realistic assistance for the Bucs near future in AAA. Neil Walker is putting up a solid slugging percentage while learning to play third base yet this former #1 pick would be best served to play Winter Ball this season before returning to AAA in 2009 for a full season of work developing a more productive plate approach geared toward his greatest asset, his power.
The short assessment by this Pirate Fan is, Wilbur as usual is correct. The 2009 Bucs are not likely to get much if any help be it from position players or pitchers from their Minor League farm system.
Huntington’s trade of Nady/Marte may have changed that prior assessment.
Much like the Littlefield deal which sent Todd Ritchie to the White Sox for Wells, Fogg and Lowe, Neil’s trade could well net the Pirates two rotation members for the 2009 club.
Consider the possibilities.
Where will the 2009 Bucs be at this time next year if their starting rotation includes the best option of Maholm, Snell, Gorzelanny, Duke and either or both of the newly acquired righties Yankee farm hands?
Consider the possibility the dealing of Nady and Marte could allow the team to seriously consider retaining some combination of this year’s veteran pickups such as Mientkiewicz, Michaels, Gomez and Rivas allowing Bixler a little more time to develop as well as McCutchen and Peace.
Am I going to miss seeing the X-man at the plate in a Pirate uniform, yes.
Will the loss of Marte cost this club potential wins today or in 2009, absolutely.
Reality is though, 1 position players or even 1 excellent lefty relief pitcher can’t turn a team with extremely limited starting rotation production into a .500 club at alone a contender.
Time will prove if Neil’s first big trade is viewed historically as the cornerstone upon which he turned around this club. For now, all we can do is hope the players acquired are the “real deal”, the type of prospects the Pirate Nation will quickly come to enjoy for many years to come.
Were the Bucs Plundered in the Nady/Marte trade, I think not but only time will tell for sure.
Peace be with you.