Kevin Gorman’s Take 5: After the Josh Bell trade, the Pirates need to invest in the future cornerstone


About an hour ago

Ben Cherrington has been consistent with his message that Pittsburgh Pirates “need to focus on adding talent and being aggressive”, which is a polite way of saying that the organization is indifferent to it.

The Pirates ‘general manager also does not shy away from stating that anyone and everyone is available for trade – to accomplish that goal, perhaps, save the third baseman’s’ Brian Hayes.

Therefore, on Christmas Eve for a pair of pitching prospects, the Washington Nationals should have softened the Pirates’ blow of their single-player trade with first baseman Josh Bell, an All-Star appearance.

It certainly was not, even though pirate fans were celebrated around the trade deadline. Perhaps because they still have not overcome the Pirates to deal with their best players the past two winters, trading Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen in January 2018 and Starling Mart in January last year.

Not only did Cherington have to deliver a tough message to Bell, one year removed from the 37-home run, 116-RBI season, but to a fan fan base that would see every deal as a salary dump by a penny-pinching boss Looks into

“Probably won’t be the last one. There will probably be many more. “I’m not saying that predicting anything, that’s the feeling, that’s where we are.”

1. Talking Time: If Trading Bell was unavoidable – and it should be seen the way the Pirates did not sign him to an extension after their breakout 2019 season – the question is whether they took a year too late.

The very question Cherington was asked, given that Bell was entering the second year of his arbitration eligibility and due to an increase from his $ 4.8 million salary. Bell has realized the Pirates’ dire need, but has a career .261 hitter who struggles as a designated hitter and is a defensive liability at first.

“In the last few weeks, of course, our focus has been on examining our current player group, where we are with them, what time we have left and what possible avenues we can take, whether it’s someone Hiring, whether it is looking for business or, in some cases over time, I hope and hope that there will be people involved in expanding. It will also be a part of that, “said Cherrington.

“In this case, we just looked forward. We tried to see, ‘Well, what possible avenues can we take with enthusiasm?’ And compare what was currently on the table. We measure all the factors that we can. We weigh different possibilities, what could be months from now, one year from now, two years from now, etc. Weigh all of them, compare what was on the table now and the best decision we can make. I think I would just say that we weigh everyone. We weighed all those factors and realized that this was the right decision for the pirates. ”

You might wonder if the previous big players are spread across trades. The Pirates traded Marte to a pair of 19-year-old prospects from Arizona, who received low returns when Marte was dealt to Miami in the deadline of last summer.

When the Pirates traded Cole to Houston, they found three players with major-league experience in Musgrove, Colin Moran and Michael Feliz but Astro defended their top prospects. Sending McKitton to San Francisco proved to be a better deal, with Kyle Crick and outfielder Brian Reynolds in exchange.

2. Crow’s Nest: The Pirates attempted to put a positive spin on the trade, noting that Bell received a pair of top-10 prospects from Washington. Flip side? In September, MLB.com ranked citizens with the worst agricultural system in baseball.

If there was an adverse reaction to the Bell trade from baseball fans, it is that one of the prospects in return is a 26-year-old right-hander who struggled in his first term in the Major.

Wil Crowe was Washington’s No. 3 prospect (and a top-six prospect every year after being knocked out of South Carolina in the second round in 2017). But he was 0-2 in his first three starts with 11.88 ERA and 2.64 WHIP last summer, scoring 11 hits, 14 walks and eight walks in 8 1/3 innings with eight strikes.

Cherrington said Crowe would compete for one spot in the starting rotation, not another — a subtle indication that a pitcher would be traded. With Mitch Keller likely to be the lone untouchable in the rotation, that means the Pirates may soon take a departure from Jameson Tillon, Joe Musgrove, Steven Bruult or Chad Kuhl.

All four are arbitration-eligible, and it is difficult to extend any one of them when the last four years have dealt with hand or shoulder injuries.

“We’ve communicated a lot with teams about a lot of players in our roster, not just the pitching, but look, it’s no secret: there are people who are in a different position than us if you’re a team.” Cherington said they were going to be interested in it. “We’ve had a lot of phone calls, and we’ll see where they are, but I would just say that to accomplish our goals, which again is to build a winning team and to maintain it in Pittsburgh, we will be looking for talent There is a need to continue to focus on the accumulation and then the development of that talent, and it all comes from different paths, but business is one of them, and this is the time of year where those conversations take place, so we will Keep them up. ”

3. right tilt: Since joining the Pirates of Cherington, he has acquired eight right-handed pitchers, who are now ranked among their top 30 prospects by MLB.com.

However, the lefties are not in the top 30.

It is not by design.

“I promise you, we didn’t set out to submit right-right pitching a year ago,” Cherrington said. “It is not written anywhere in our plan. We set a year ago to accumulate as many player talent as we can. It just happens that the opportunities are very right-handed atomizer. It has just fallen. ”

Is there a stock of intentional young pitchers, as Cherington said the Pirates want to have 30-40 talented weapons in their system so that the team can be a winner.

The Pirates acquired Brennan Malone (No. 8) in the Marton trade, drafted Carmen Mlodzinski (9), Jared Jones (14) and Nick Garcia (19) in June, Jose Soriano (22) and Luis Ovido (21) Added via Rule 5 draft and Crowe (17) and 19-year-old Eddie Yin (7) in the Bell trade.

This is his top pitching prospect, in addition to 2019 first-rounder Quinn Priester (4), and a pair of righties that would rank as top-10 prospects in Baseball America Cody Bolton (6) and Tahanaz Thomas (7) Is, which was acquired from. Eric Gonzalez in trade Cleveland.

Good News? All are 22 or younger.

Bad news Almost all are at least a few years away from reaching the Major, meaning the pirates are at least a couple years away.

4. Shipping off: For everyone about the Pirates Trading Bell, the harsh reality is that they were the worst team in baseball last season and were not raising payroll after losing millions.

The truth is, their highest-paid players have not performed as expected. Chris Archer was a total bust. Gregory Polanco has been a disappointment. And Bell has been wildly inconsistent in the best season of his career.

Bell batted a monster May 2019 (.390, 12 doubles, 12 homers, 31 RBI). .208 in June, .218 in July and .233 for the second half.

An MLB scout said the Pirates “needed to tear it down for the studs” in October, suggesting the Pirates should all be ready to trade, but Hayes and pitcher Mitch Keller.

Bell was his best item.

The MLB insider said, “Belling, you know what the reaction is going to be because they are wired the way they are, every time they trade, they take on nutrition.” “You have to make this statement for your fan base: We’re doing this and we’re going to do it right. It’s going to be painful but this is where we need to be.”

The Pirates are making that statement. Cherrington is ready to blow it all over, so brace yourself for the traditional trades of Musgrove, Bruelt, second baseman Adam Frazier and others. The Pirates are investing with the intention of producing a winner from within, restructuring the minor-league system with the hirings of John Baker and Josh Hopper in player and pitching development.

“For those of us in the baseball operation who think about us every day, like, how do we build a winning team and one that can be sustainable? Cherington said, because at the end of the day, Pirates fans care about something else. “Of course, to be honest about this and expect a level of effort towards that. For everyone who works for pirates and our players, we certainly expect this. To build the winning team that our fans deserve, they need to make some decisions, the way to give themselves the opportunity to build enough talent to do so. This is one of those.”

5. Key to the future: Cherrington was well aware that Trading Bell would be emotional for everyone involved, especially on Christmas Eve and for a pair of pitching prospects.

Yet when Charingot asked if he was ready for the “emotional downfall” of the pirates, who were prepared for Bell’s wide shoulders, big bat and easy smile. He was the Pirates’ most popular player and only All-Star, a switch hitter who appeared custom-made to hit PNC Park.

“Emotion, yes. The result, I do not know, ”said Cherrington. “Bhavna, yes, because I understand Josh is a likable guy, an attractive player and has done a good job in the Pirates’ uniform. I personally really like and respect him.

“I think what I would say is something else, I think what I think the Pirates fans want is a winning team and more and more they want to root for a single player, even That one who is a very good boy and a good player. If we think about it, we see it. ”

This is why the Pirates, from owner Bob Nutting to the front office, just don’t understand Pittsburghers. Fans are associated with their star players, especially those who embrace the city. The Steelers hired Troy Polamalu and Ben Rothlisberger. The Penguins hired Sidney Crosby and Evgeny Malkin.

The Pirates have not had their entire career since Willie Stargale, as he died on the day of PNC Park’s first home opener in April 2001.

Pirates fans are more likely to wear the jerseys of Roberto Clemente and Bill Mazerowski, investing in apathy rather than players who never make it to a second contract.

If the Pirates are going to tell their fans to focus on the future, then it is imperative that they give them someone to focus on.

He has the opportunity to hit a home run with the No. 1 pick in the 2021 MLB Draft, whether he is a pitcher like Vanderbilt’s Kumar Rocker or a position player like high school shortstop Jordan Lawler, but his influence is far from over.

Signing Hedge to a long-term deal before the season would be an indication that the Pirates see him as a franchise cornerstone and give the fan base someone to rally to as they rebuild.

Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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Pirates / MLB | sport

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