With the World Series more than halfway over, the Pirates will quickly be moving to make the final decisions on the team options that they hold on Paul Maholm, Ryan Doumit, and Chris Snyder. The Pirates previously said that they wouldn’t pick up Maholm’s option. It had been safe to assume for some time that they wouldn’t pick up Doumit’s option (because it’s for two years) or Snyder’s (because he’s somehow even more injury-prone than Doumit) and now that’s pretty much a sure thing.
We’ve been over these decisions ad nauseum in the Pirate bloggerverse and so I don’t really need to tell you that what the Pirates are doing here is removing one of the more reliable starters from an already-shaky staff and turning one of their more productive spots in the lineup into a black hole. They’re the sort of moves that you look at and say, “Well, none of these guys really weren’t that great …” without remembering how little the Pirates have to fill these particular holes at this point in time.
Now, it’s possible that Neal Huntington has a trade in mind. He’s spent four years in pure talent-stockpile mode and that’s created a few areas of strength in the system: they have a bunch of speedy outfielders with a decent amount of pop, they have a bunch of decent young catching prospects at Double-A and below, and they have a ton of projectible young arms that are a long way from the Majors.
This is what bugs me about the Pirates willingly opening these two holes up for 2012: they can’t really swing a trade for a player in either of these positions. The Pirates are getting closer to something and they do have organizational strengths they could use to swing a productive trade this winter, which is something that they haven’t really been in a place to do in the past. The problem is that pitchers and catcher are two of the team’s organizational strengths in the long-term. If the Pirates are going to swing any sort of trade in which they give up prospects, they’re going to be looking for a several-year solution to their shortstop problem or some actual power to play at first or third base. If they trade a good young outfielder for JP Arencibia this winter, they might have a problem in a year when Tony Sanchez is ready for Pittsburgh. Trading for a pitcher would be slightly less problematic in those regards, but it’d also be less helpful because the pitching staff is likely going to be a disaster either way.
In the long-run, you can say that this wouldn’t matter because the Pirates aren’t all that likely to be good with or without Doumit/Snyder and Maholm. You can say that there’s a full off-season left and that someone like Doumit or Snyder might accept arbitration. Those things are true and I’m not arguing them. But Huntington could’ve had some leeway this winter and it seems to me that he’s painting himself into a corner again.