Here is a question from Dejan’s Q&A yesterday:
Q: Dejan, with all of the dumping of players over the past two seasons, would it be safe to say that the Pirates are not a Major League Baseball team but a developmental team for the rest of the majors?
This is a typical question from the general fan base these days. “The Pirates are a minor league team posing as a major leag…blah blah blah.” I won’t get into how bored I am with the worn-out jokes about the Pirates being a minor league team. Instead, I want to focus on the notion that the Pirates continuously dump good players. It simply isn’t true.
Tim Williams at BuccoFans.com broke things down pretty well this morning, using Wins Above Replacement (WAR) from FanGraphs. Let’s focus on the players we gave up, sorted by each player’s WAR since leaving the Pirates.
Let’s go through the list.
Nyjer Morgan has been playing out of his mind this year. There is no arguing that. But I question whether this will continue as he enters his thirties. Virtually his entire game is based on speed, which is likely to slip as he ages. This trade was the definition of selling high.
Jason Bay has been solid since leaving the team, but not nearly as good as some seem to think. His poor defense drags down his value considerably, essentially making him an average player. He has been a middle-of-the-pack outfielder this year. In addition, he is aging and is a free agent after the season.
Adam LaRoche is heating up in the second half, just as he always does. However, he has fully established himself as an average-ish first baseman over the past few years. The Pirates were not going to resign him this offseason, so there is no reason to keep him.
And just like that, we have gone over every player that has made any somewhat significant contribution to his new team. Nady has done nothing with the Yankees after a short hot streak last summer. McLouth has struggled since joining the Braves. Torres gave the Brewers a solid year of relief before retiring. Marte and Bautista have not been factors. It is too soon to judge most of the other players based on their performances with new teams.
Here’s my point, and it’s not exactly an original line of thinking. Why are we so concerned with giving up players who, when joined together during their peak years, could not even sniff .500 baseball? Why do we continue to complain about breaking up the “best outfield in baseball?” Bay is the 38th most valuable outfielder in the game, Nady has a grand total of 29 plate appearances this year, and McLouth has a .762 OPS since leaving the team.
Dejan mentioned today that the Pirates are pace to match their 2008 record of 67-95. In 2007, they were 68-94. In 2006 and 2005, they were 67-95. The major league team is no worse than it has been for the last several years and the minor league system is greatly improved. That is how you rebuild a franchise that was in complete disarray, from top to bottom, just two or three years ago.