“No matter what happens, this season is a success for the Yankees, in this respect: General manager Brian Cashman’s 2-year-old plan to rebuild the organization’s pitching has taken root, for the foreseeable future,” writes ESPN’s Buster Olney.
As of late, I’ve found it hard to watch the Pirates night in and night out—even during this wacky hot streak the offense has been riding. MLB.TV has spoiled me in that sense, I guess. I tend to try to catch the two best teams on any given day’s slate, and over this past weekend that meant a lot of Yankees and Tigers.
What Brian Cashman has done with the Evil Empire’s farm system is mind boggling. Not even two or three years ago, he was accused of buying his way into the playoffs with overpriced free agents, blockbuster trades and $200 million payrolls. While it’s unlikely that George Steinbrenner’s pocketbook will close any time soon, it’s safe to say that if it did, the Yankees would still be in a position to succeed.
And it’s all in the pitching.
You can blame the system that allowed Cashman to pluck Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy in 2006’s draft. Andrew Brackman, New York’s 2007 first round choice, fell to the 30th pick only because of salary and injury concerns. That didn’t stop the team from paying him a $3.35 million signing bonus to go with his $4.55 million contract.
But it’s not about how the arms landed in the Bronx—it’s about how they stayed there.
Earlier this season, it would’ve been easy for Cashman to trade away his blue-chip prospects in search of another All-Star. Olney praises the general manager for not doing so. In refusing to sacrifice the future for the present, the team has not only set itself up with a filthy rotation for years to come, but it has also climbed back into the hunt in 2007.
It’s a situation not altogether different from the Pirates’. We have holes to fill for 2008, certainly. In the past, Ian Snell’s name has been mentioned in the same breath as Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s and Matt Kemp’s. It wouldn’t be hard for Dave Littlefield to find a taker for any young pitcher on his staff. And undoubtedly, the prospects we’d receive in return for an ace would help a lineup that’s struggled all season long.
But you’d be robbing Peter to pay Paul.
“Cashman’s plan has manifested itself and proved to be the right course for an organization that went more than a decade without consistently developing pitching. This is what officials from the Red Sox, and other AL teams, have feared all along: A Yankees organization that flexed its financial power both at the Major League level and in its player development,” says Olney.
The Pirates won’t be spending with the big-market teams, but it would behoove management to maintain its steady focus on developing and retaining its elite arms. Dave Littlefield has said time and again that he has every intention of keeping his “Big Four,” and the moon must be blue—because I wholeheartedly agree with him.
If the Pittsburgh Baseball Club is to dig its way out of a 15-season deep rut in the near future, it will be behind the likes of Snell, Tom Gorzelanny, Paul Maholm and Zach Duke, and bats acquired from trading unmissable parts and through free agency. With any luck, Brad Lincoln and Daniel Moskos will join that core, and the Pirates will do a better job of selecting top talent in the draft’s early rounds.