By Jared Lankes
The Pirates are off to a pretty horrific start in 2017. This has prompted folks to already begin looking at what the July trade season may look like for the team. Among the ideas being bandied about is the thought of the Pirates going through a rebuild. Well, I’m here to explain why that shouldn’t and won’t be the case.
Firstly, I like to clarify what the meaning of a rebuild is as it relates to this. Often, a rebuild in the MLB signifies when a team feels they need a big organizational cleanse at the MLB level. This includes trading away almost everyone, dispensable or not, to stock up young talent, and even firing some folks from top to bottom. Usually, it results in the organization bringing in fresh faces that don’t have any sort of chance at first but eventually, when the pieces align correctly, the team can compete again; a process that can take anywhere from 3-8 years generally.
Knowing that meaning of a rebuild, I don’t think the Pirates are in any sort of situation to tear it up and restart the organization.
One reason for this is because they’ve been slowly setting themselves up to prevent a full-scale rebuild by transitioning into a young core. Notice how the Pirates have strategically chipped away at the roster in the recent years by losing Melancon, Walker, Alvarez, Martin, Morton, Locke, Liriano, etc, with McCutchen, Watson, and others soon to follow suit. To transition, they went with the younger guys like Marte, Cole, Polanco, Taillon, Glasnow, Bell, Kuhl, Rivero, Frazier etc, with Meadows and others on the doorstep. This plan is looking like it has been in place this whole time, right beneath our noses.
Looking at the Pirates purely by what they have, you see that Marte and Polanco are under great extensions for the next handful of seasons, Cole is around through 2019, Taillon, Glasnow, Bell, Rivero, Frazier, and Kuhl all are not even close to being free agents yet, and the Pirates even have solid veterans such as Nova, Cervelli, Harrison, and Freese under contract for a bit as well to help the young core.
Looking into the prospect side of the equation, the Pirates have many prospects coming through that are ready to make an impact, and none are more notable than Austin Meadows (projects to be in MLB in 2017), Kevin Newman (projects to be in MLB in 2018/2019), and Mitch Keller (projects to be in MLB 2019/2020). These guys are 3 of the MLBs top 50 prospects and all figure to be a major piece to the puzzle as we go along. Adding these three, and some others, into this mixture will make the young core all the more better, especially considering much of the young core will be well-developed and hitting their stride, even before these other guys get there, so the string of talent won’t cease.
Why do I mention all this? Well it’s because the evidence would lean towards the thought that the Pirates have already had this plan in their sights as early as about 2013-2014 and knew just what was coming. They may have known that 2013-2015 was a great time for them to compete, while also knowing that it actually wasn’t the best time for them to compete for a championship. Rather, 2018-2021 are their best years to compete if everything goes right, even at the sacrifice of 2016 and/or 2017.
With a roster with all the talent they have and a roster that will inject even more talent into it in the very near future, it’s easy to see that the Pirates are nowhere near rebuilding time yet. If they blow it up now, they jeopardize wasting years of blossoming young talent and players in prime years because they were underachievers for a year or two. Granted, a slight reload may be necessary to usher in this young talent a bit more, but that’s about the extent of what should be done.
In the end, a rebuild, by basic meaning, is not necessary for the Pirates. The roster is about to have a bunch of young talent blossom all at once, and there will be fireworks when it does. I know it’s hard to see now with a team decimated by injuries, suspensions, and anything else, and just a team that is struggling in general. But I can assure you that this Pirates organization has something great brewing, and a rebuild would put that plan in grave danger.