After the 2008 baseball season the Pittsburgh Pirates tied the record for most consecutive losing seasons in the history of any pro sport. Even though it looked likely that the Pirates were going to be a losing team again in 2009, some fans in Pittsburgh at least had hope there the new general manager was going to begin to rebuild and turn the Pirates around. With the trading of Nate McLouth to the Atlanta Braves the Pittsburgh Pirate fans can stop hoping. The Pittsburgh Pirates will be losing their 17th consecutive season and many more after that.
At the beginning of the 2008 season the Pittsburgh Pirates outfield was actually playing better than any outfield in the National League, maybe in all of Major League Baseball. Jason Bay, Nate McLouth and Xavier Nady were all having All-Star worthy seasons.
Then the trade deadline came around and Huntington decided he had to part with two of his outfielders. Xavier Nady was traded to the New York Yankees and Jason Bay was traded to the Boston Red Sox (because the Yankees and Red Sox sure need more help.) I was okay with both trades. I wasn’t convinced that either trade brought the Pirates very much but honestly Nady was having a career season he probably wouldn’t repeat and Bay was just to expensive to keep around.
The Pittsburgh Pirates plan was to keep Nate McLouth and build around him. The Pittsburgh Pirates have some good young pitchers if they can just get them to play well. Adam Laroche is a solid first baseman, Freddy Sanchez is pretty good at second and the Pirates had prospects like Andy Laroche and Brandon Moss that they hoped were going to break out.
Then completely out of the blue Huntington trades Nate McLouth. Why? The Pirates are only four games under .500, it’s only May and McLouth is the only player making a lot of money. I know that the Pittsburgh Pirates don’t like to spend money but they have to pay somebody a salary the size of McLouth’s or they are never going to have any All-Star caliber players.
Some might justify this trade by saying, “now we have room for Andrew McCutchen on the roster.” That’s true, and I’m excited to see how McCutchen plays, but he shouldn’t be playing in McLouth’s spot, that’s the last person he should be filling in for. Nyger Morgan got off to a great start but are we really expected to believe that he’s going to be a great every day outfielder? Brandon Moss on the other hand has been a complete bust so far.
What I don’t understand is how come McCutchen wasn’t brought up to play with Nate McLouth. The Pirates pitching staff got off to a good start and remains in the top half in the National League in ERA. The Pirates also have the third fewest errors and the third best fielding percentage. With a little bit more offense the Pirates could actually be a competitive team. So why not bring up McCutchen, let him play in the outfield with McLouth and Morgan. Bench Moss and hope it motivates him. Adam Laroche is good, Freddy Sanchez is good, Andy Laroche is heating up and eventually Ryan Doumit is coming back from injury. All the Pittsburgh Pirates have to do is keep this team they have and if they don’t win this year, they could win by next year.
Instead Huntington decides to trade Nate McLouth. I don’t want to make McLouth sound like he’s Manny Ramirez and he’s just so awesome the Pirates can’t win without him. The point is not that Nate McLouth is the MVP of the National League or anything. The point is what trading McLouth signifies. The Pittsburgh Pirates are completely okay with just giving away their best player and if they aren’t willing to stick with McLouth for even one more season then they’re never going to keep players long enough to compete.
The main prospect the Pirates got for McLouth was Gorkys Hernandez. Hernandez could be good but he’s 20 years old. By the time he is any good all the current Pirates will be shipped off somewhere else too. It is possible to win with a small budget. The Minnesota Twins did it. The Oakland A’s did it. But you do have to pay somebody at some point. The Minnesota Twins were paying Johan Santana $4, $8 and $13 million his last three seasons. Torii Hunter was making $8, $10, and $12 million. If the Pirates are ever going to compete they have to pay one or two players in that $8 – $12 million dollar range and try and find bargains at all the other positions. If your entire team is made up of players not getting paid a lot then your team is probably made up of players that aren’t good enough to win.