Pirates must build future around young pitchers

The World Series is over. The Red Sox won, Josh Fogg lost, and we can all return to our regularly scheduled off-season blogging.
Over the past week or so, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the Pirates’ future plans—as I’m sure many diehards have. We hear grumblings about changes in leadership, talk around the water cooler about trading Jason Bay and Xavier Nady, and keep an eye on what our prospects have been doing in fall leagues. Nothing out of the ordinary there; typical October stuff.
What’s interesting, though, is that Pirate pitchers are getting a good bit attention this off-season from non-Pittsburgh bloggers. In the past few days I read two thorough profiles of our aces on highly regarded fantasy baseball sites.
At THT Fantasy Focus, Derek Carty wrote extensively about Tom Gorzelanny’s 2007 campaign and took a shot in the dark at what his 2008 might look like. At Roto Authority, Tim Dierkes went through a similar exercise using Ian Snell as his subject matter.
It’s clear that the baseball world realizes that the Pirates have two special pitchers at the top of our rotation, and I think it’s safe to assume that Neal Huntington will figure out that the Pirates’ only reasonable hope for near-term success lies in the arms of Gorzo and Snell.
Don’t get me wrong: to be even a half decent team in 2009 (let alone next year), the Pirates have a lot of work to do. The majority of our lineup wouldn’t start for more than a handful of major-league clubs; our minor-league system is devoid of impact prospects.
In addition to the meticulous grooming of Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker and Steve Pearce and the selling off of veteran pieces for developmental projects during the winter meetings, Huntington needs to start carefully game planning for his 2009 and 2010 rotations.
Maybe that’s why we hear John Farrell’s name being mentioned as a candidate to succeed Jim Tracy. Our skipper and his pitching coach turned Zach Duke from rookie of the year candidate to Triple-A filler, and their treatment of Gorzelanny, Snell and Paul Maholm in the late summer months bordered on abuse. Farrell, praised for his work with Boston’s staff, might be able to address those problems—if he’d even consider leaving a world champion to take a job with a perennial loser.
In the past few days, Jake mentioned that the Pirates could work out trades of Snell to the Rockies and Bay to the Twins in exchange for a handful of big-time prospects. It’s all idle speculation of course, but I agree with the general premise: Perhaps it’s time to move on from the guys who clearly won’t be Pirates when we next contend for a playoff spot, instead reloading the farm system and building for the long term. Adding Franklin Moraleses, Ubaldo Jimenezes and Matt Garzas would be a step in the right direction; when you have the chance to trade Jack Wilson for Jair Jurrjens, you take it.
While the Pirates lose in 2008, Gorzo, Snell and Maholm will be eating up service time, inching closer to the day when they’ll be eligible to leave Pittsburgh via free agency. Maybe it’s time to get even younger: to tear it all down and start over.
The Pirates aren’t a team to be reckoned with, but if we started a fire sale there would be more than a few general managers knocking on Huntington’s door. Trading our favorite players for elite talent and putting the right people in charge of cultivating our resources may be the only way to stop our consecutive losing seasons streak from reaching 20.

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3 Responses to “Pirates must build future around young pitchers”

  1. Francisco J. Roman Says:

    Cory:
    I am one of those diehard Pirates fans. What you wrote hurts pretty much, but makes sense too. My hope is that they would at least keep a couple of the players that play with heart and enthusiasm (i.e., Wilson, Gorzelany, Capps, and Nady). To me, the rest can go. Pearce should stay too.
    Thanks for your nice writing as it is not as “poisonous” as the guy from the Bucco Blog.

  2. Cory Humes Says:

    Thanks for your comment, Francisco. Your work is appreciated here, too.
    It does hurt, but I think the only way the Pirates can get any better is by first getting worse — or at least staying the same (at about 65-70 wins). It’s hard to envision us competing with the core we have without investing heavily in the free agent market — and that’s not something we can/should do.
    It could be a long off-season…


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