I had the Pirates game on last night and was dozing off throughout the whole game, but my one main takeaway was this:
Of course, hours after the Pirates fail to trade for pitching help, Jeff Locke gives up a game-breaking home run to Andy Marte.
Andy Marte, you might recall, was once the successor to Chipper Jones in Atlanta, then was dealt to Boston for Edgar Renteria, then was dealt to Cleveland. The Indians finally gave up on him after five years in 2010, he spent 2011 with Indianapolis, didn’t play in 2012, spent 2013 in independent ball, finally made his way back to the big leagues yesterday, and then promptly homered off of Jeff Locke. Locke really just did not look good at any point, from what I could tell, last night after retiring the game’s first eight batters, and was probably lucky to only give up the six runs that he did (though two runs were unearned, thanks to Ike Davis failing to catch a low Pedro Alvarez throw).
Watching Locke struggle last night really crystalized the sense of frustration that standing pat at the trade deadline created, I think. The Pirates are going to go into a stretch run with a team that is probably 80% of the way to being legitimate contenders, but with Jeff Locke and either Edinson Volquez or Vance Worley making 40% of their starts. They didn’t do much to change the team over the winter, which you could argue was fine from the perspective of, “Let’s see what we have and adjust as the season goes,” but obviously that’s not what happened, either.
This is an very difficult tightrope to walk; the Pirates as constructed are hoping to be contenders through at least 2018 because they have an incredibly talented young outfield in place at least through then. It seems to me based on trades that other teams made, that they would’ve had to break that outfield up to improve their starting pitching in 2014. I think it’s awfully understandable why they didn’t want to do that.
Here’s the thing, though: while it’s easy for me to sit back and say, “Those were pretty unique deals, I don’t know if the Pirates could have matched them based on their own system,” the Pirates minor league system is capable of creating their own unique deals from points of strength for good players that no other franchise would be capable of matching.
Of course, it’s hard to answer the question of whether this Pirate team was the one worth doing that for, particularly because they’re still enough on the playoff brink that they could make a trade, play well down the stretch, and miss the playoffs or lose a one-game playoff without ever really having a chance to contend. And by the same token, this group of players is capable of getting hot enough to blast through the final two months of the season, win the NL Central, and make a deep playoff run as is.
It’s fair to ask, as a Pirate fan, though, when now really is. The Pirates were a really good team last year that wasn’t quite good enough. They look pretty similar this year. Between last year and this year, the two biggest outside additions to the team were Edinson Volquez and Vance Worley. I don’t know whether the Pirates could have done anything differently this off-season or yesterday (and neither do you), but it’s hard not to be frustrated by that.