Friday, July 25, 2008

That's what you need, man, and you need it bad

What do you believe at this time of year?

Do you believe Jayson Stark's story about teams getting frustrated with the Pirates high asking prices? That thing might as well be cut and pasted from a story about Dave Littlefield. Do you believe Danny Knobler's story at Sportsline that teams should be knocking down the door for the Pirates' players, if only Neal Huntington and Frank Coonelly could just get along? (Incidentally, do you believe that there's a bald sportswriter named Danny Knobler? Because I'm skeptical) Do you believe either of them? Or neither of them? Is the truth somewhere in the middle? Is it more extreme?

I don't know the answers to those questions. The trade deadline is a fun time of year to be a blogger and a fan, but it's insanely stressful trying to separate the crap from stuff that's useful. I can tell you the following things for sure:

  1. Xavier Nady is the best outfielder that is definitely available on the market
  2. Jason Bay is the second best outfielder that is theoretically available on the market (behind Matt Holliday)
  3. Damaso Marte is the best left-handed reliever available in the universe
  4. The Dodgers are stupid and desperate for a shortstop
  5. Jack Wilson is a shortstop
From there, things get murky. Huntington's favorite bargaining point is that he doesn't have to trade any of these guys. That's technically true, but it's not realistic. Nady's having a great year, but he's got a BABIP of .362 this year and after Coonelly's hissy fit about Pedro Alvarez not signing this week, I'm guessing that it won't be a secret that Frank and Scott Boras are not BFF and Nady's chances of resigning are slim. The Pirates don't HAVE to trade Nady this week, but if they don't then they're not going to get much more than Shawn Chacon for him. A similar scenario applies to Bay, although it's possible for us to resign him (even if it's not wise). Marte doesn't have to be traded since we can pull the draft picks for him, but I'd take two decent minor leaguers over two first round picks and I think a lot of teams would if given the choice.

The problem that we're coming up on for Huntington is this; he's had his job for almost a year and he hasn't done anything. I mean, yes, the draft was better than the previous regime's drafts (assuming Alvarez signs, but not necessarily dependent on anyone else). If Huntington is planning on rebuilding strictly through the draft, he'd better be ready to watch someone else reap the fruits of his labor, though, because that's a process that's going to take years he doesn't have. That's not to say that he should make a trade for the sake of making a trade, of course, but rather that at this point in his career as GM, he should know what his players are worth and he should know what his franchise needs, and the lame answer that, "We'll listen to offers for all of our players and see if there's anything interesting," needs to go out the window. There's a difference between negotiating to get a certain value for your players and being obstinate. Dave Littlefield was obstinate and it cost him. Huntington is treading a pretty thin line right now.

What do I want to see from this time of year? It's simple. I want to believe that the Pirates have a front office in place that knows what they have to do to make the Pirates winners. I want to be able to hope that sometime in the near future, the Pirates aren't going to be a punchline. The only thing that's going to do that is for Huntington to competently navigate this deadline, and that doesn't involve waking up on August 1st with the roster intact.