Consider: this past spring, Dan Fox introduced a defensive metric on Baseball Prospectus that rated Luis Rivas as one of the worst defensive middle infielders in the last fifty years. Weeks later, Fox was hired by the Pirates. And yet Rivas played over 400 innings at second or short for the Pirates last year, with predictable results.
Like the Rays, the Pirates have some pretty smart people in their front office. They didn’t expect Luis Rivas to turn into Cal Ripken, nor do they think Derrick Turnbow will suddenly become Mariano Rivera. They seem to be purposely filling the margins in poorly, in order to keep picking up high draft picks until the very moment they feel they can compete.
It’s an interesting thought. Sometimes, Huntington and his front office do things that seem incredibly shrewd while sometimes, they plan on heading into the season with Nyjer Morgan as their starting left fielder.
It’s presumptuous to write off all of the bad moves a front office makes by saying, “Hey! They’re trying to lose! Cut them some slack!” but it is true that there’s no inherent value in the Pirates winning more than 67 games at this point unless they’re planning on contending. People can talk about building a “winning culture” all they want, but Tampa certainly showed this year that talent changes everything. You can quibble with Huntington’s moves at the Major League level if you like, but he certainly brought an influx of talent into the minor league system last year and I think that’s the most important thing for a team in the Pirates’ situation.