GM for a Day: Pittsburgh Pirates

The fans in Pittsburgh deserve to have a winning team (drocpsu/Flickr).

The fans in Pittsburgh deserve to have a winning team (drocpsu/Flickr).

Now in no way can I turn almost two decades of failure around in one day and make the Pittsburgh Pirates a contender, but I can get them on the right track to finish at the .500 mark this upcoming season. Many of you have seen my genius (humble, I know) on my previous two “GM for a Day” articles where I tried to get the Atlanta Braves and Chicago Cubs into the playoffs, but this time I just want to get this historic club back to respectability. Wish me luck.

The Pittsburgh Pirates’ fans have been in an abyss of disappointment and losing for coming up on 20 years. Almost 20 years. I couldn’t imagine that kind of suffering for an organization that has had so much success over the generations. I’ll admit, I’m a Pirates fan from afar but not nearly hardcore enough to claim to have suffered along with the masses. But with a newish stadium (one of, if not the best in baseball) and a hungry fan base, it’s now time for Neal Huntington to step up and stop the madness. Hopefully he takes this advice on how to start patching the wounds:

1.) Sign free agents Adam Dunn and Kevin Millar to contracts.

Hey, you want to fix your problems, throw some power at it. Not only would this help legitimize your lineup, it would make a huge splash and get your fans excited. Could you see the left handed monster Adam Dunn hitting with that short porch of 320′ down the right field line? Can you say 50 homers? Here’s a quick peek at how Dunn has fared over the past few years:

+------+-----+--------+-----+-----------+----+-----+-----+------+
| YEAR | AGE | TEAM   | AB  |  AVG/OBP  | HR | RBI |  R  | OPS+ |
+------+-----+--------+-----+-----------+----+-----+-----+------+
| 2004 |  24 | Reds   | 568 | .266/.388 | 46 | 102 | 105 | 146  |
| 2005 |  25 | Reds   | 543 | .247/.387 | 40 | 101 | 107 | 141  |
| 2006 |  26 | Reds   | 561 | .234/.365 | 40 |  92 |  99 | 114  |
| 2007 |  27 | Reds   | 522 | .264/.386 | 40 | 106 | 101 | 136  |
| 2008 |  28 | CIN/ARI| 517 | .236/.386 | 40 | 100 |  79 | 129  |
+------+-----+--------+-----+-----------+----+-----+-----+------+

Dunn and former teammate Griffey (Erik Eckel/Flickr).

Dunn and former teammate Griffey (Erik Eckel/Flickr).

After looking at those stats you can see what a huge upgrade Dunn would be to the middle of the Bucs lineup. Sure Dunn will strikeout 160+ times in a year, but he will also knock out 40+ homers, score and drive in 100 runs and give you an OBP in the .380’s. He would be the perfect name to legitimize this lineup and would help make everyone better around him.

The Kevin Millar signing on the other hand would help the Bucs in a completely different way. Millar not only would give the club a much needed right handed bat to either come off the bench or to spell Adam LaRoche at first base who struggles against lefties (.241/.298/.467, 6 HR, 24 RBI and 42 SO in ’08), but he would give the young club a much needed veteran presence in the clubhouse. While his numbers have been on the decline (although still posting power with 20 homers and 72 RBI in ’08), Millar has always been a great clubhouse leader and could really help in the rebuilding of the team and at a cheap price.

2.) Sign free agent starting pitcher Braden Looper to a two-year, $12.5 million deal.

Why Braden Looper you ask? I thought about Jon Garland as he’s an innings eater and would help the Bucs bullpen out a lot. But Garland’s WHIP and hits allowed has gotten a bit out of control posting a WHIP of 1.51 last season and hits of 247, 219, 237 the past three years. Then I thought about Pedro Martinez. He would bring an enormous amount of knowledge to a very young rotation. But Martinez’s age has caught up to him and he’s only good for about five innings a night now and this would be extremely taxing for the bullpen and all of this at what most likely would be at a very high price tag.

Looper however has put up some fairly good numbers since converting to a starter back in 2007:

+------+-----+-----------+-------+-------+------+-----+------+----+
| YEAR | AGE | TEAM      | IP    |  W-L  | ERA  | SO  | WHIP | GS |
+------+-----+-----------+-------+-------+------+-----+------+----+
| 2007 |  32 | Cardinals | 175.0 | 12-12 | 4.94 |  87 | 1.34 | 30 |
| 2008 |  33 | Cardinals | 199.0 | 12-14 | 4.16 | 108 | 1.31 | 33 |
+------+-----+-----------+-------+-------+------+-----+------+----+

While his numbers don’t blow you away by any means, he has posted 12 wins each of the past two seasons and has logged just under 200 innings pitched as well. Plus the drop of his ERA down to 4.16 was also a nice sight to see and could be a sign of things to come. Either way you could get an innings eater for about $6 million per year and you always have the option if he does struggle to move him back to the bullpen without batting an eye.

3.) Give the keys to centerfield to the long awaited future, Andrew McCutchen.

Its McCutchens time to shine (trigger25/Flickr).

It's McCutchen's time to shine (trigger25/Flickr).

Some of you may disagree with me on this but I feel it’s time to cut Andrew McCutchen loose and see what he can really do. Some scouts argue he needs more seasoning at the plate in the minors and needs to iron out some things on the base paths, but I see a kid who posted a line of .283/.372/.398 with 34 stolen bases last season in Triple-A. Most notably is his huge jump in OBP from .329 in 2007 thanks in large part to him learning more patience at the plate and taking more walks. This is crucial for him as a lead off hitter and given the fact that his power hasn’t developed (yet) like many had hoped. Regardless of the reasons, I think McCutchen has the chops to cut it in center for the Pirates and now it’s time for him to prove it.

While I do have other items in mind that could help the Pirates begin steering the ship in the right direction (no pun intended), these are the big items to get things going. Here’s how these moves will help the lineup and rotation:

1.) Andrew McCutchen, CF
2.) Freddy Sanchez, 2B
3.) Nate McLouth, RF
4.) Adam Dunn, LF
5.) Ryan Doumit, C
6.) Adam LaRoche/Kevin Millar, 1B
7.) Andy LaRoche, 3B
8.) Jack Wilson, SS

Paul Maholm, LHP
Braden Looper, RHP
Zach Duke, LHP
Ian Snell, RHP
Jeff Karstens, RHP
(Tom Gorzelanny as a sixth option)

I believe that these additions would go a long way in starting the turnaround process in Pittsburgh. My only concerns are that the lineup may be a little left-handed heavy. That’s why a trade to bring in another right handed hitter would be helpful as there really isn’t too much left in the free agent market. One possibility would be to try to bring Xavier Nady back to Pittsburgh as the Yankees are shopping him around. The only thing that would hamper this deal would be the Yankees unwillingness to give up Nady for less than they gave up to get him, especially with the team they got him from.

Regardless of what the Pirates decide to do, the bottom line is it’s time for Neal Huntington to stop screwing around and start building up this organization back to what it once was.

Because what it has become now is a doormat in the National League Central and that is unacceptable.

By Matthew Whipps
The Diamond Cutter
Major & Minor League Baseball Columnist
mlbdiamondcutter@gmail.com | Facebook

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11 Responses to GM for a Day: Pittsburgh Pirates

  1. Now I know this seems a little extreme for a club that is notorious for sitting on their hands, but I really think they need to do something big like the Adam Dunn signing which will both help the lineup as well as instill some confidence in the fans.

    They need something to cheer for!

  2. E K says:

    I like the Dunn signing but only if he plays first and they trade LaRoche. Dunn would be a huge liability in left field for them.

  3. I actually like your idea a lot better and thought of that too. When writing it I racked my brain to think of who to trade LaRoche to, but couldn’t think of anyone legit. So my thoughts is keep LaRoche for now and move him before the trade deadline and hope to get a bit more for him from a team that either is in need of another bat or to fill an injury need.

    Ultimately Dunn should move to first to limit his damage in the outfield.

  4. E K says:

    The Angels could still use a firstbaseman unless they decide Morales can be an everyday player. They have plenty of young players the Bucs can choose from. Not sure who Arizona is using there, but I think they could use him. San Fran can definitely use a firstbaseman.

    LaRoche still has decent enough value that they should be able get something in return for him.

  5. Those are all good options.

    The Angels have always been so stingy with their young players and the D-Backs have slim pickins for their minor league prospects and San Fran is pretty dried up too (aside from the super prospects they won’t trade anyway).

    I could see the Angels being desperate and giving up some talent as with the Giants. I think they could probably work something out.

    Good suggestions!

  6. Mike says:

    If you move Dunn to first, though, does that negate the Millar signing? Hard to see Kev navigating the outfield at his advanced AARP age.

    I think Gorzelanny’s going to turn it around, though. I was right about Maholm last year- I get one Pirate correct per season- and this year my money’s on Gorzelanny. Of course I’m broke, so take it as you will.

    How about my main man Neil Walker??

  7. Mike says:

    Oh, and go Bucs!!! I bleed Kelly Green and Gold, but I am officially naming the Bucs as my National League team. I’ve got my sleeveless Pirates jersey and I’m ready to root. They still have Dave Parker, right?

  8. Yeah if Dunn moves to first, Millar might be out unless used as just a pinch hitter. Depending on the price tag that might be way too much to ask.

    Well I’m holding you to the Gorzelanny pick and putting all my money on him. SO help me if you are wrong…

    As for your boy Walker, unless LaRoche plays horribly out of the shoot, his time may be running low in Pittsburgh. With Alvarez on his way up eventually, whoever is there is only keeping the hot corner warm for him.

  9. Yup Dave Parker and Dough Drabek.

    Go Jim Leyland!!!

  10. Patrick says:

    Although Dunn’s already signed with the Nationals, this was an interesting read. I’d have to disagree with putting Dunn at LF (imagining for a second that Dunn is still a FA) in PNC, as he would definitely be a butcher there on defense. Nate being the better defensive fielder, and the fact that there is more field to cover in left than in right in PNC, I would switch Dunn and McLouth’s position.

    I agree with letting McCutchen learn on the fly this season, as he should be fine to start in the majors (Bruce is already up here, and Maybin/Rasmus as well). That would definitely improve their defense (I believe that very good D in the middle – second, short, and center – would definitely help the team win some games.)

    Of course, this argument has become a moot point as Dunn’s already been signed, and McCutchen has a good chance to break camp with the starting CF job.

    With the way the economy is running though, and with an ownership group that is reluctant to spend big money to win now, I think this could be a 17th straight losing season. Next year might be more different though, as Walker might already be up with the club (hopefully at 2B, as he’s pretty nimble for a player who was once a catcher [ie. Craig Biggio comes to mind), as well as McCutchen. Sanchez would be gone, and maybe the SS hole already plugged.

    Good article though.

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