While the management of the Pittsburgh Pirates is not saying the club has gone into full rebuild mode, the Bucs have traded pitcher Gerrit Cole and the face of their franchise, outfielder Andrew McCutchen, in recent days.
The Pirates dealt Cole, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft, to the Houston Astros for four players on Saturday. They dealt McCutchen, a Pirate for nine years, to San Francisco for two players on Monday.
You have to wonder if the Pirates have not gone in the last few days where the Orioles may be going in the future - whether that future is days away or a year or more away.
There are certainly some similarities here. Pittsburgh went through 20 straight losing seasons from 1993 to 2012 and then made the playoffs three straight years from 2013 to 2015. But the Pirates failed to win a postseason series over those seasons where they won 94 games in 2013 and then 88 and 98 in the next two seasons. The Pirates went 78-83 in 2016 and 75-87 last year, the same record as the Orioles in 2017.
The cities are also close in television market size with Pittsburgh coming in at No. 23 and Baltimore at No. 26. They have been very different recently in payroll, however. The Pirates have not gone over $100 million and were at $95.8 million on opening day last year, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts. The Orioles have been over $100 million for four straight years and were at $164 million on opening day last season.
Did the so-called window close on the Pirates and now they are rebuilding, whether they actually call it that or not? I guess that is reasonable to say, although they may point out that four of the six players they acquired in those two trades did see at least some major league time last year. They acquired mostly major league and/or major league-ready players in the deals. They acquired more than prospects who have yet to see the majors.
Said Pirates general manager Neal Huntington in this article: “In our minds, a rebuild implies you’re looking five years down the road. This team is going to show up ready to go in spring training, ready to compete, ready to defy odds, just like that 2013 Pirates team did.”
Some have looked at these deals as more than a club rebuilding. They looked at the Pirates parting with assets and getting something before they could leave via free agency. Cole had two more years of team control and McCutchen just one.
One comparison from a Baltimore standpoint might be if the Orioles traded Kevin Gausman and Adam Jones within three days of each other. Although Gausman, a first-round pick like Cole, has three years of team control left and not two. Jones, like McCutchen, is a previous All-Star and face of his franchise. Like McCutchen, he has one year left on his current contract. Pirates management on Monday spoke of how difficult it was to make a deal involving McCutchen.
But the Pirates turned two quality players into six, instead of getting a compensatory pick for each if they left via free agency. No doubt, there are many Orioles fans that feel their club should make a deal or deals for its own pending free agents. Jones, Zach Britton, Brad Brach and Manny Machado have just one year left before they can become free agents. Jonathan Schoop, Mark Trumbo and Darren O’Day can be free agents after the 2019 season.
In the last few days, did the Pirates make moves similar to some that the Orioles may need to make? And make perhaps sooner than later?
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The Orioles will continue the autograph policy which debuted in 2011, designed to support youth charitable endeavors through OriolesREACH and reduce fan disappointment by shortening wait times. Children 4-14 will have a specially designated Kids Only player autograph station presented by ESSKAY that is free of charge and will operate continuously throughout the day. Click here for more information on the autograph stations.
Since instituting the autograph policy in 2011, FanFest has raised more than $835,000 for the Orioles Charitable Foundation.