The blueprint is out there for how to build a competitive team in a small market, and yet the Pirates continue to ignore it. At this point, there is absolutely no hope in the foreseeable future for this team because the talent at the major league level is minimal, and at the minor league level, its average at best.
So what do the Pirates need to do to fix this? Well, they've dug a hole now that, sadly, I dont see them being able to climb out of for another 5-7 seasons. Thats depressing, but the realistic truth in my opinion. Truly sad considering we're already in season 15 of our rebuilding effort.
At any rate, here is what they need to do, which will also explain why its at least 5-7 years away from coming to fruition. The Pirates need to trade any player they have come up that has a great season or 2. Every single time. Its as though they think they need to prove something to the people of Pittsburgh by trying to keep guys around when they're good. I know the initial reaction of fans when they see the Bucs trade away their great players every time they have a good season will be "great, we finally get a good player and we just trade him, I hate baseball, etc, etc". And believe me when I say I understand this frustration. I have come to accept, however, that it is the only way for a small market team to attain any level of competition.
Here is why it works. Take a look at what just happened with the A's trade of Haren. They picked up 5 of Arizona's top 10 minor league players, and at a variety of positions. So while it will hurt the A's this year, in the next 2-3 years, they'll likely have gained 5 good Major League level players in return for one. And a couple of them may even end up great.
What the Pirates do instead is get good players like Bay and Perez and try to keep them. What exactly happened with those two? Bay just had a down year and now the Pirates are struggling to try to trade him. Perez had an amazing year, then fell apart on us and we ended up getting nothing for him. We should have seen what trading Giles did for us...we traded one good player and got 2 younger ones in return....hmmm, maybe we should trade those 2 then and have 4+ good players, and so on and so forth. I know every prospect wouldnt pan out, but many would, and we need many more real MLB talent level players than we have.
The Pirates are and were more than 1 or 2 players away from competing in the playoffs, so we should have been realistic about that and traded them immediately following a great season when their value was highest. Instead, to appease the fans, we keep them, we continue to lose, then we get rid of them for nothing. And do we really need to appease the fans at this point? There's nobody coming to the games anyway, so sacrifice 1000 people a game now in order to have 10,000 more a game 6 years from now when we're actually competitive. The fans will forgive you then and understand and accept your madness in the future.
If we had just traded Oliver Perez following his great year, who knows what we could have gotten for him. He was a top 3 left handed starter that year throwing in the upper 90's. You dont think they could have got 3 potential stars in the minors from someone for that? Just look what Haren pulled in following a season of similar #'s. Same goes for Bay. When he hit .300 with 30 HR's and 20 SB's, you think there wasnt a team out there desperate to add that kind of bat to the lineup for a playoff run? One that would give up, again 3 future stars for 1 now. Of course they would, it happens every year. Instead, we did nothing. We kept them to appease the fans and show that we would keep our stars, and now here we sit, 3 years later, with one of those players being gone with nothing to show for it, and the other coming off a bad year who we cant unload. If we did what I suggested, we would have at least 6 players with major league level talent, a couple of which would probably have panned out very well since we would have been getting top-end prospects, and there would be hope. And when they came up and had great years...trade them too, and let the cycle continue.
I know it would be frustrating seeing them constantly come up and leave, but in reality, its the only choice. We need more than 1 or 2 guys to compete. We need a minor league system that we constantly restock with great talent that can come up, and the draft is not sufficient to accomplish this.
If they Pirates dont start doing this now (which is actually very difficult now since we dont have any great talent), I fear we are more than 5-7 years away. I would suggest we trade Sanchez, Bay, and Snell now and try to load up on talent for the future. In the meantime, fill in with some aging veterans we can get below market value for only a few years (ala the Reggie Sanders, Kenny Lofton type signings of the early 2000's). I know it will be frustrating for the next few years to deal with this, but the payoff would be worth it in the long run. At least with this plan there would be hope.