Thursday, June 4, 2009

Warning: Baseball Ahead

This is for my little brother and the three other people who might care.

So I discovered at 4:15 this morning that the Pirates traded Nate McClouth (long story). I was pretty bummed. I like McClouth. I just bought a McClouth jersey tee last summer and now I can shove it in the drawer with the Bay jersey tee. He was pretty easily the Pirates best regular. Kind of a tough pill to swallow.

But I started thinking about it, did a little reading, heard Neal Huntington (Pirates GM) talk about the trade on the Pirates website and I might have come around to being okay with it. McClouth sticks out on the Pirates because well, they're not very good right now. On most teams he would be a nice complementary piece of the puzzle. He definitely has his strengths but he's not a guy you can really build a team around. He's played 1.5 quality seasons and he's already 27. I was actually a little surprised when I checked out his stats today because I thought they were better. Maybe he continues to improve, maybe he continues at the the level he's at right now for a number of years yet. But if he drops just 5 or 6 points from his batting average or 5 or 6 home runs from his home run total, you have a pretty average baseball player and then he's not worth as much on the trade market. If you're going to trade him, now might be the best time to do it. Sell high, baby.

Don't get me wrong, it friggin' blows to watch all the talent get traded off. It's hard to be in a spot where you can't really get that attached to guys. It sucks that there was zero talk about trading McClouth so it was all kind of a nasty surprise. But the best way for a market like Pittsburgh to compete in the Majors - maybe the only way - is with a really strong farm system. When Huntington took over, Pittsburgh's system was in shambles. Easily one of the worst in baseball. He's absolutely right to make fixing that his priority and if you can take a pretty good baseball player and turn him into more than one prospect who you really like and who you think might be better in the long run, well, maybe you make that move. It's light years better than the bench warmer and washed up veteran Dave Littlefield would have gotten in exchange for McClouth. When you have to rebuild to the extent that Pittsburgh does, no one but tip-top prospects and young, established stars should be considered untouchable and I don't think McClouth fits in either group.

I don't know. I do know this: I realized this morning that, even in light of McClouth's trade, for the first time in a really long time, I'm excited about being a Pirates fan. We have a GM who seems to genuinely want the team to be competitive and understands how they're going to do that in today's league. We have a pipeline of talent in the minors, some of it pretty highly rated. We have Andrew McCutchen finally getting his call-up and going 2-4 with 1 stolen base, 1 RBI and 3 runs in his debut. We have reason to believe finally, that better days might finally be just up the road. The only thing I'm disappointed in right now is McCutchen getting the promotion before I got to see him play in Buffalo this weekend and that's a pretty good problem to have. I believe this faint, fluttery feeling in my chest just might be hope. 2011, baby. Look out.


peter-usrt said...

Heather, the Pirates being good would totally suck! That would make tickets to PNC Park a difficult task...booo.:)

Lee Andrew said...

I touched on this in my email but I'll say it here too. I don't buy it.

1. McLouth is on pace for 30 homeruns and 115 RBI. Only five players in the NL did that last year: Ryan Howard, Carlos Delgado, Albert Pujols, Adrain Gonzalez, David Wright

2. McLouth could end up with even better numbers than that because he hasn't even played that well yet.

3. That's a better season than Jason Bay ever had with the Pirates.

4. McLouth is second in the NL in assists and has a 1.000 fielding percentage.

5. All around McLouth could EASILY have a better season this year than Bay ever had and when Bay was freed from Pittsburgh he turned into a player on pace for 49 home runs and 164 RBI. McLouth could make a similar jump when he actually has a good lineup. I find it hard to believe that letting McCutchen and McLouth play together won't at least increase McLouth's pace to 35 HR and 120 RBI, that's David Wright numbers, except lower batting average but better defense.

Heather B. said...

Peter, 16 losing seasons, my friend. I might have to make you fall on the sword on this one :)

Lee, you're just mad because now the Mets have to fight with the Braves too :P

If Natey finishes with 30 HRs and 115 RBI, I'll shake your hand and tell you you're right. (Okay, I'll shake your hand.) He could stay on that pace but he could drop off. He could play better in the second half, he could play worse.

Many Pittsburgh bloggers seem to feel his defensive strength is overrated - his range is lacking, he gets a poor jump on balls etc. I can't really comment since I'm in blackout zone and only see the Pirates when they play the Mets but I do think it's interesting that people who see him regularly aren't overly impressed.

The argument that he's never played with much talent around him is a valid one. That said, I'm not nearly as disappointed as I was this morning. I can't even really say why. I'm just not. If McClouth was going to be the difference between the playoffs and going home early then maybe I would be but the difference between .500 and .450? Pffft. Whatevs.

Heather B. said...

I went back to read some more and a lot of people are actually talking about McCutchen being an upgrade over McClouth defensively. Just FYI. Some ESPN guy who I've forgotten said Pittsburgh got quite a haul for an overrated "Gold Glover." So ha! I'm right! :P

Heather B. said...

About everything! Ever!