New Giant Andrew McCutchen

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Fillipponi: 3 Moves the Pirates Should Have Made

Andrew Fillipponi
March 01, 2018 - 2:41 pm

Andrew McCutchen is a San Francisco Giant who is still thinking about his time in a Pirates uniform. He told the Post-Gazette that the Pirates didn’t do enough to win. “If it was making some moves that needed to be made—one or two—I think that’s something that needed to happen. We had that window. I think we had some key moves that could have been made to make the team a little stronger. But that’s something we didn’t do.”

Pirates ownership hasn’t done its part. After a 98 win season in 2015, the Pirates Opening Day payroll for 2016 was 21st in major league baseball.

Neal Huntington is no Jim Rutherford. He’s never traded a top prospect for a player that can provide immediate production. Correction, he did once.  In 2016, Huntington traded Harold Ramirez, his 5th rated prospect (according to Baseball America), plus Francisco Liriano AND his 6th rated prospect Reese McGuire to Toronto for Drew Hutchison. The Pirates needed “financial flexibility”. It was a salary dump. Hey, take Liriano’s contract and we don’t care what we’re giving up or what we’re getting back.

But back to McCutchen “I think sometimes you’ve got to make those moves. You’ve got to take those chances, take those risks. I think that’s what we lacked.”

Here are 3 chances, risks, however you want to put it, the Pirates should have made to win:

Trade for Jose Quintana: In the winter of 2017, the Pirates were linked to the White Sox left-handed starter. From 2014-2016 this is what an average Quintana season looked like: 32 starts, 205 innings, 179 strikeouts, 3.29 ERA, 1.23 WHIP. For comparison sake, Gerrit Cole’s career ERA is 3.50. Quintana is better. He would have been the team’s ace.

The Cubs gave up 1 Top 100 prospect in the deal, outfielder Eloy Jimenez. The Pirates had the prospect capital to make the trade. They could have dealt some package of Austin Meadows, Tyler Glasnow, and Mitch Keller. That’s a fair price to pay for a durable, effective starting pitcher with 3 years and 31 million left on his contract.

Re-sign JA Happ: The Pirates would have sent a strong message to their fans with this one. We like what we’ve seen from Happ and we’re doing what it takes to keep him here.

In 11 starts with the Pirates, Happ went 7-2 with a 1.85 ERA. For 2 months, he was Clayton Kershaw.

Happ signed in Toronto for 3 years and 36 million dollars. He finished 6th in the 2016 AL Cy Young voting. He won 20 games. He’s made 57 starts. He’s pitched well at low cost, definitely in the Pirates price range.

Keep Neil Walker: Or at least trade him for someone better than Jon Niese.

The Pirates didn’t want to see Walker leave without getting anything back. They didn’t need to make a bad deal. They could have waited to the trade deadline. They could have let him play out his contract year. Previously, the Pirates had lost Russell Martin and AJ Burnett in free agency. That was done in the name of trying to win now. The same argument could have been made for Walker.

Since leaving Pittsburgh, Walker has averaged 18 HR and 54 RBI per season. The power is missed. Last year, the Pirates finished 29th in HR.

Niese served up home runs. He gave up 21 with the Pirates. He was traded back to the Mets for Antonio Bastardo.

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The Pirates aren’t the Dodgers, Red Sox, Cubs, or Yankees. But they can be the Royals, Indians, and Brewers, small market teams that have sacrificed prospects and spent more money to try to win a world championship. In Kansas City’s case it worked. They had a parade. Others get credit for trying. The Pirates don’t. Just ask Andrew McCutchen.