Trying to navigate a city is sometimes a downright mess. Trying to navigate a city during rush hour adds to that maelstrom, and having somewhere to be, having a deadline, is about as stressful as it gets — right? Nope, it can get worse. Like, for instance, if you’re without a car and have to rely on outward sources to get to that all important destination, to meet your deadline. Waiting for the bus during rush hour trying to get to work, which is a good bit away from the city, is possibly as frustrating and tense a moment as it gets in traveling.
You strut to the bus stop, knowing there’s some time before your shift starts. But, you foolishly don’t realize that lightly jogging, or wind-sprinting, to the bus holds more value than looking like a normal part of society. That is, you don’t until the bus you need whizzes past just before you arrive.
That’s a missed chance, and now you wait and wait, but each bus that passes is going a different route than the one you need. Stupid port authority; I’ve got places to be. More busses crawl up to the stop and blows of air sigh out from, like, every part of the vehicle. Then people get off the bus, smiling because they’ve reached their destination and you’re standing, pouting. And now you’re the one sighing because you happen to work at this distant location, with the chances of you reaching there in due time now thinning.
So now you ponder your options since you’ve been waiting so long, way longer than you could’ve even estimated accounting for rush hour. Look, you begin rationalizing to yourself. If I just take this next 61A to Main Street, then I can get off at 2nd Ave. and hop on the 71C. Then you see that 61A and begin to shuffle towards the stop — but so does everyone else. You’ve been squeezed out of a spot for your back-up plan.
That’s it. I’m calling a cab. I don’t care how much it costs, as long as I’m on time to work.
And this all relates your Pittsburgh Pirates… how? The trade deadline. The tease of past two seasons. The depression of the previous 20. The trading market.
Look, I shouldn’t even have to discuss the Bucs’ deadline doldrums. As far as the trade market goes, the Pirates are in the same spot as the other contenders in baseball. And there just so happens to be a misconception among the teams themselves who is really in good position to make the postseason. With the addition of a second wild card, now one-third of the teams in a league make the playoffs. There are five teams within nine games of the second AL wild card spot; four within nine games of that last life in the NL. So add that total (9) — and nine games is an admittedly large gap to overcome, but a big trade can cut a couple wins off that deficit — to the four wild card teams and six division winners across baseball: 19 teams. There are 19 teams who can conceivably, at least in the eyes of their front offices, make a run for the playoffs. Obviously, clubs like Philadelphia, Kansas City, Seattle, Colorado and even the Yankees should rebuild. But they have life… they think! Then you have pre-season darlings like the Angels and Blue Jays, who went all-in for 2013 and have completely sunk so far, but won’t throw in the towel quite yet.
What we’re left with, on July 31, is a weak talent pool of limited sellers, from which legitimate contenders should be plucking for legitimate runs to the World Series. The deadline allowed for too much leverage for the few clubs committed to selling, which is why the Alexei Ramirez-es of the league demanded such overblown return.
Now look at this with blinders on. The kind of blinders that have essentially been bolted on to a fan base with no success in the past two decades. The kind of blinders that have nearly been pried off the past two years, but such an effort went for naught.
Do something! Anything! Prove that we’re about to run away with the division, Pirates fans and local media have been begging.
Because you’ve been waiting for so long, way longer than you could even anticipate with years of enduring a dreadful ML team and farm system, you want to see your wishes come true. You want to see Neal Huntington and the Pirates pull the trigger at the deadline. There are two escape routes: 1) don’t be patient! Take the next guy on the block; 2) mortgage more value than necessary and get the premium player.
The best option in a seller’s market, like this year has proven to be so far, is standing tall with what you’ve got. The Pirates hold baseball’s best record not completely out of thin air — though some luck has helped. Pittsburgh has masterful pitching and solid depth. That’s usually a formula for a playoff club, which is represented by the Pirates’ 98.9 percent chance of making the postseason (by Baseball Prospectus odds) — the highest such odds of any team in MLB.
But this isn’t going to be the best team Pittsburgh fields in the next four or five years. The farm system is among the best, and even the unheralded prospects are proving to be great depth, solid role players. So why should Huntington make this year’s club the best team in the near future by tacking on a win from Alex Rios in exchange for prospects and way more money than deserved? Remember that the top talent to be moved this deadline was Jake Peavy or Matt Garza. The Rangers paid pretty heavily in prospects for Garza, and the Red Sox, who surrendered less talent for Peavy, paid heavily in actual dollars (about $15 million). And remember that the Cardinals, Reds and every other buyer is right where the Pirates are, which is without room to afford a significant upgrade in this season’s market without sacrificing too much.
Back to the city/travel/bus analogy: Trading for Alex Rios is like taking the next bus and rerouting later, while acquiring a Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins for Jameson Taillon or Gregory Polanco or Tyler Glasnow or whomever is overpaying for a taxi. It’s rush hour. It’s hectic, and generally everyone is trying to go the same place.
Chances are you’re going to wind up in the same place that you want. You didn’t arrive at the stop soon enough, so you had to wait. That doesn’t justify sacrificing an asset or creating some convoluted alternative just to end up on time or barely late to work.
There are going to be plenty of opportunities for trades to be made via waiver claims. There are going to be very big trades executed in that time frame. I don’t know that Huntington is going to sell the farm, but he’s certainly still looking to marginally upgrade the Pirates. The lack of moves had less to do with clubhouse chemistry than it did the state of MLB’s trade deadline and playoff setup.