I'm not a massive Pittsburgh Pirates fan. They would be my number three Pittsburgh franchise behind the Penguins and the Steelers, in that order. I like baseball as a whole, the game is interesting when you're there but slow enough so that when you watch on tv, you can do something else. The reason they're my number three Pittsburgh franchise is because of ownership and the front office.
It all started before the 2016 season. The Pirates had just come off a 98 win season, good for second in the entire league. Instead of adding pieces like common sense would dictate, the Pirates traded Neil Walker for struggling pitcher Jon Niese, confident that they could fix what was wrong with him like they had done with many others before. The problem with this is that Neil Walker was an above-average hitting second baseman while Niese needed work. Walker was also vocal in his displeasure with the front office not making the correct transactions in order to place the team in a better situation to win. Speculation is that this was shipping out someone that didn't agree with the front office's philosophy, though it's never been confirmed. They also didn't re-sign J.A. Happ, who had pitched lights out when he was acquired at the 2015 trade deadline. Signing Happ would have made the pill of a terrible bottom two starting pitchers more bearable. Instead, the front office cheaped themselves out of a great player.
Throughout the 2016 season, the Pirates struggled compared to recent years, being under .500 at the time of the trade deadline. The true problem was that for roughly two months, they had a terrible starting rotation, with only two legitimate starting pitchers. Instead of acquiring starting pitching help at the trading deadline, they trade away their closer for a prospect and Felipe Rivero, who admittedly looks like a legit closer. Francisco Liriano and top prospects were sent to Toronto for Drew Hutchison, who has since been released by the Pirates. Jon Niese was sent back to the Mets for reliever Antonio Bastardo. Ivan Nova was acquired for players to be named later, however he was considered a reclamation project. The Pirates punted on a season just because they weren't certain they'd make it to the playoffs, despite being within reaching distance. That's not the mentality of a winner.
The 2017 season wasn't much different. Matt Joyce and Sean Rodriguez left during free agency. Joyce would have been an expensive fourth outfielder at the time but with hindsight being 20/20, keeping Joyce would have helped with the Starling Marte PED suspension. Rodriguez is a super utility player, who is able to play five positions on the field, including being able to play third base. The Pirates regular third baseman, Jung-Ho Kang was banned from entering the United States due to his third DUI arrest in his home country of South Korea. However, this situation isn't very clear cut. Rodriguez would be involved in a motorcycle accident after he signed a two-year, $12 million deal with the Braves earlier in the offseason, with the accident forcing him to miss two months of the season. That said, the Pirates did reacquire Rodriguez so this may be a moot point. The 2017 season went similarly to the 2016, with the Pirates being on the outside looking in for the playoff picture. Tony Watson would be traded to World Series finalist LA Dodgers. Andrew McCutchen, face of the franchise since his call-up from the minor leagues in 2009, was the rumor of trade discussions due his contract expiring after the 2018 season. The Pirates would once again finish below .500, their 22nd losing season in 25 years.
Which brings us to now. Top pitcher Gerritt Cole has been traded to the World Series champion Houston Astros. Face of the franchise Andrew McCutchen has been traded to the reloading San Franciso Giants. In the returns for both players, there were exactly ZERO Top 100 Prospects according to Baseball America. For a team that claims that they want to compete and won't shell out the money to do so, getting high end prospects and building through the draft are extremely important. Yet, this front office doesn't seem to understand that concept. The only young player acquired in the last two seasons by this front office that seem to be a good player is Felipe Rivero. And unfortunately for us, he'll likely be gone from the team in the next couple of years, making us wonder why should we even bother.
Why should I care about an organization that refuses to put the best possible product on the field? Why should I care about an organization who ships out their stars on a regular basis? Why should I care about an organization that does all this when they have broadcast rights negotiations coming up soon and stadium naming rights coming up in eighteen months? The simple answer is that I can't. I can't care about this organization as long as Neil Huntington is the General Manager, Frank Coonelly is the team president, and Bob Nutting is the owner.
The most frustrating thing is that we get four more years of these con artists. I'm tired of being told there is a plan when clearly the plan doesn't appear to even exist. Huntington said that they didn't expect the team to be winners in 2013-2015 so they didn't alter their plan. What a crock. Over in hockey, the Vegas Golden Knights expected to be bad enough that they could sell off good players to other teams near the trade deadline and build through acquired prospects and draft picks. As of writing this, the Vegas Golden Knights are atop the NHL league standings. Yes, they are the best team in the league. So has Vegas General Manager George McPhee altered his plan to sell off premium assets? As of right now, not one player has been traded from the Golden Knights. When the situation dictates a change of plans, you need to go all in on the new plan.
Unfortunately for the Pirates players and the team's fan base, this front office is incapable of doing that.