In an Insider post, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney provides some worthwhile perspective on the Pirates’ recent moves, arguing that the organization would be perceived much differently had its 2013-15 postseason appearances gone differently. Some may scoff at the idea that this excuses anything: had the team been better, perhaps, it might’ve achieved playoff glory; that it did not does not bear directly on present decisions. That’s true enough, but it’s also valid to note that a few moments in a few games drastically altered the bigger picture of Pittsburgh baseball, which in turn has impacted the way many will now view the trades of key veterans Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole. Olney’s juxtaposition of the Bucs with the Royals — whose own postseason successes followed lesser regular-season accomplishments than those of the Pirates, and turned on some magical moments — seems largely apt. Of course, that doesn’t really reduce the sting for the fans. (It’s also fair to note that, for better or worse, Kansas City mostly kept its best veterans around through the ends of their contracts.) It’s an interesting piece worth a read for subscribers.
Let’s check in on the latest from Pittsburgh and elsewhere around the game:
- As Olney notes in his column and tweeted yesterday, many in the industry expect the Pirates to continue working on trades for veteran players. In particular, Josh Harrison could be on the move — a possibility that has been talked about for much of the winter. The versatile utilityman will surely hold appeal to numerous other organizations, though the full scope of his potential market is not entirely clear at this point.
- Whether or not Harrison is also traded, the Pirates are expressing confidence that the roster can be a factor in the near term. As Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes, the organization’s higher-ups stressed yesterday that parting with McCutchen and Cole does not equate to a full-blown rebuild. Hearkening to the club’s breakout 2013 team, the Pirates’ top executives all put a positive spin on their reloading effort. “We need to remember what put us in playoff contention in 2013,” said owner Bob Nutting. “We had an infusion of talent, young talent, and played effectively, outperformed. We’ve done that before. We need to put ourselves in a position to do that again.” Likewise, GM Neal Huntington called the Bucs “a young, talented team … that is going to be fun to watch.” Needless to say, those words aren’t exactly falling on universally receptive ears. Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, for instance, blasted the organization and called on fans to express their disappointment with their wallets.
- The Tigers remain open to dealing Nicholas Castellanos this winter, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press reports. Castellanos is slated to earn $6.05MM in his second-to-last season of arbitration eligibility — a campaign in which he’s expected to undergo a full-time move to right field. Previously, we’ve heard that the 25-year-old had drawn some interest after he and the team failed to see eye to eye on an extension. That said, GM Al Avila has made clear the Tigers are not committed to trading Castellanos, whose glove hasn’t kept pace with his otherwise promising bat.
- Though the focus still seems to be on the rotation, the Cubs arguably also need another significant reliever, Patrick Mooney argues in The Athletic (subscription link). Chicago might conceivably go bigger with a bullpen addition if it settles for more of a depth starter, says Mooney, who notes that GM Jed Hoyer acknowledged recently that the club could still add to the relief corps.