The 2012 Major League Baseball season is a few months away so I have been writing about some of the changes the Pittsburgh Pirates need to consider making this offseason. So far my first two suggestions were probably not popular with Pirates fans but were decisions I thought needed to be made. If you disagreed with me on not signing Neil Walker to a long-term extension or trading Joel Hanrahan, then you may also not agree with me on this: The Pirates should trade some pitching prospects.
The thought of the Pirates trading some pitching prospects will probably result in two different reactions so let me tackle each of those first.
"The Pirates are finally headed in the right direction. We don't need to be trading away our players again!"
First of all it's not like I'm suggesting trading Andrew McCutchen. We aren't talking about trading proven players like Jason Bay and Nate McLouth-and even calling McLouth "proven" is a stretch-but players that may not turn out to be anything. I'm also not saying forget about building from within the franchise through the farm system. Building up a good farm system is the best way-the only way-for the Pirates to compete with the big wallets of some of the other teams.
"But pitching prospects are the biggest commodity in baseball"
It's true. Having too many pitching prospects is like having too much money or having a girl that's too pretty (although I would argue both of those things are absolutely possible). Pitching prospects are a great commodity in baseball because A) You can be a great addition to your team B) other teams are always looking for pitching prospects so you can get a lot for them.
While B is a good argument for keeping pitching prospects, B is also a good argument for getting rid of pitching prospects. After all that is what I'm proposing, trading pitching prospects to get as much in return as possible. There are a few reasons why.
Baseball America recently updated its top 10 prospects rankings for each team and the Pirates had six pitchers in their top 10: 1) Gerrit Cole 2) Jameson Taillon 5) Luis Heredia 6) Kyle McPherson 9) Stetson Allie 10) Jeff Locke
Plus they still have Bryan Morris, Rudy Owens and Zack von Rosenberg from last year's list.
So let me ask you a question. What are the odds that all nine pitchers are Major League Baseball players? What are the odds that just the six from this year's list are? What are the odds that even two pitchers from that list turn out to be worth anything?
Pitching prospects can be valuable but they are also the most fragile commodity and the most difficult to predict. If the Pirates have six pitching prospects that are pretty good then why not trade a few? There is no way that they are all going to turn out.
This is what I would do. Decide how much you like each player and rank them 1 through 6. Keep the first two hoping that they turn out to be the stars you think they will. Trade the third guy because the odds of him also being a star are slim but he's still good enough that he should garner a lot of attention on the trade market. Keep four and five in case the first two guys don't turn out. Then also trade the sixth pitcher.
Also, let's be brutally honest. The Pittsburgh Pirates still finished close to the bottom of the National League last year and they haven't improved a whole lot since last year. The Pirates will probably be one of the five or six worst teams in the Major League Baseball again this season, ensuring high draft picks for the next two Amateur Drafts. That means the Pirates will have plenty of opportunities to draft some more pitching prospects.
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Pittsburgh Pirates Top 10 Prospects at Baseball America
The last several generations of Lee Andrew Henderson's family were Pittsburgh born and even though he was born in Alabama he has been a long time fan of the Pirates, Steelers and Panthers. Lee Andrew Henderson can be found on Twitter at @LeeAHenderson