No matter what he does, the Pirates’ general manager can’t win.
Dave Littlefield, winter 2006: We’re not going to make a big splash in the free agent market; Jose Bautista and Jose Castillo will battle for the third-base job, Freddy will play second, Chris Duffy will be the savior in center field and Ronny Paulino will follow up his freshman year with a strong second season. The addition of Adam LaRoche should help the offense tremendously. If all goes well, we could finish around .500—enough to win the division.
Pirate fans: You idiot! Spend some money! Why didn’t you bring in Aubrey Huff! He’s a real stud!
Dave Littlefield, six months later: It’s pretty clear that our offense may need an upgrade, but I’m hesitant to trade any of our young starting pitchers without a better alternative ready to go. Ian Snell, Tom Gorzelanny, Paul Maholm and Zach Duke are at the heart of a talented rotation we can build around.
Pirate fans: Darn right! Don’t go trading anyone good! But you’d better make a move, and make it now! Go get A-Rod for a package of Romulo Sanchez, Marty McLeary and the Pirate Parrot! That’ll help the offense! Yeah, do that!
Dave Littlefield, present day: “Hey J.P., we have a shortstop that we’re looking to trade, and I know you need some infield help next year. I’ve heard too that Troy Glaus might be available. Both have contracts that are a little expensive. Can we build a deal around Wilson and Glaus?”
Pirate fans: You idiot! Quit trying to add talented players without giving anything up! Let us sulk, enjoying our miserable Pirates as-is! Acquiring players of a major-league caliber, what a silly thing to do!
Maybe it’s time to give it a rest. Littlefield finally had a plan entering the off-season, and he’s executing it now. Can’t we accept that as a legitimate start and move on?
Going into the hot stove, DL knew he needed a big, left-handed bat. He got one. DL knew he had a young core that had the potential to develop into something special. He didn’t bring in any Joe Randas to block the Freddy Sanchezes. DL knew that he had a decent starting rotation and a fair amount of depth at Triple-A, but he still needed one more cheap piece to buy some time for Burnett, Van Benschoten and Bullingon. He picked up Tony Armas.
After not inking Jeff Suppan to a four-year deal, DL knew that he had an extra $5-10 million in his bank account for a situation just like this. That cash was earmarked for a mid-season move, and now he’s trying to make one. Littlefield seriously believes that the Pirates are only a piece or two away from being a competitive ballclub in 2008, and I’m willing to give him a little rope (which, I’ll allow, he’ll probably use to hang himself).
I have no problem with Pittsburgh calling Toronto about Troy Glaus. Contrary to what’s being said on the message boards, Littlefield didn’t offer a straight-up deal. No way. Not even our remedial GM would believe that a defense-first shortstop could fetch a powerful third baseman with a career OPS of .860.
I wouldn’t be surprised if I heard that Littlefield had in mind something like Duke and Wilson, or Burnett and Wilson, or a similar deal involving another of our young arms that Toronto is known to covet in exchange for a bat they’ve been actively shopping.
The fans were annoyed the Pirates bought Cesar Izturis for a pittance as an upgrade over Don Kelly, and now they’re annoyed that Littlefield’s actually looking at bringing in a middle of the order presence that everyone admits we need.
DL’s not perfect—far from it—and he’s not a baseball genius. But at the same time, can someone please explain why the fans are so upset that Littlefield’s trying to make a move in the direction of winning?
I wasn’t always a Pirate apologist, but someone has to stand up for the team when most of my favorite Internet stomping grounds are throwing the team under the bus every chance they get.