With the August 15th draft pick signing deadline approaching, there has obviously been quite a bit of talk about Pedro Alvarez. His drafting represented a change of strategy by Pirate management, being that he has loads of upside, is represented by Scott Boras, and will likely require a hefty bonus to complete the deal. As we near the deadline, many fans are growing nervous that the Pirates may not sign him. If they don’t, much of the luster from the improved 2008 draft will be dulled.
One opinion about this matter really irks me, though. I have heard many people say something along the lines of, “The Pirates have to sign Alvarez to prove to the fans that they are serious about winning.” Wrong. Frank Coonelly and Neal Huntington owe nothing to the fans except sound and rational baseball decisions. That is why they were hired, and that should be their focus.
I understand that we have suffered through approximately 15.5 years of misery. I understand that, for the majority of those years, Pirate management has made countless poor decisions, and often has done so with dubious motivations. I understand why we feel that we deserve more. I understand, because I was there.
But making a decision to send a message to fans is something old management would have done. Remember when Dave Littlefield sent a message by acquiring Jeromy Burnitz, Joe Randa and Sean Casey? The following year he sent another message by trading for Matt Morris and taking on his entire salary. He proved that the Pirates were willing to add salary. But that was a lot of money wasted with the goal being to satisfy the fan base, not to improve the franchise.
Now I am not saying that missing out on Alvarez would be acceptable. The Pirates absolutely need to sign him, as he is a huge ingredient in their rebuilding process. My point is that he needs to be signed to help the team win, not to appease the fans. If he is asking for a $10 million bonus, and the Pirates feel that would cripple the franchise’s future, they should be willing to walk away. Regardless of the inevitable backlash from fans.
As a small market franchise, the Pirates need to make unpopular decisions to remain competitive. The new regime proved that they were willing to do that with the recent trades. They traded away two of our most popular and productive players, because we needed the ability to field a team after 2009. Now there is a chance to do that, even as much of the fan base looks upon those trades as a simple salary dump.
Maybe the new regime has not yet proven themselves to you. Maybe you need them to sign Alvarez to be satisfied. Maybe you need much more than that. I, for one, am convinced. They have done everything they said they would do. They improved international and domestic scouting, went after impact talent in the draft, and dealt the team’s valuable veterans for young talent instead of gearing up for a run at a winning season. That’s enough for me.
But none of this should matter to Coonelly and Huntington. They should not care what you think, or what I think. They need to do what’s best for this team, something they have done time and again. When the Pirates are once again a winning franchise, all fans will be satisfied.