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Pirates Go ‘Opposite Day’ Of Orioles’ Model














Have you ever watched the Seinfeld episode where George consciously thinks what he would normally do and then intentionally does the opposite. This leads him to be much more successful in his day and also makes for a very funny episode.

If you look at some of the decisions the Pirates have made in the last 10 years it ?s almost as if the Pirates asked ?What would the Orioles do and done the exact opposite.

Here are a few examples with some more pertinent now than others.

Pot to Pat to McCutchen Machado

A baseball team does not have star players, let alone homegrown stars, very often. Over the last 20 years the Pirates and Orioles have each had their one homegrown star. The Pirates had Andrew McCutchen and the Orioles had Manny Machado.

The Pirates whole tenure with McCutchen: grooming, playing and getting the most value out of him could be graded at a B+. The Orioles tenure with Machado would be given a D-. Let ?s initially a look at their numbers and timelines:

Manny Machado
2010 17 BAL-min A-,Rk 9 39 0.306 0.359 0.472 0.831
2011 18 BAL-min A+,A 101 430 0.257 0.335 0.421 0.756
2012 19 BAL-min AA 109 459 0.266 0.352 0.438 0.789
2012 19 BAL AL 51 202 0.262 0.294 0.445 0.739 1.2
2013 20 BAL AL 156 710 0.283 0.314 0.432 0.746 5.0
2014 21 BAL-min A+ 3 13 0.667 0.692 1.167 1.859
2014 21 BAL AL 82 354 0.278 0.324 0.431 0.755 2.3
2015 22 BAL AL 162 713 0.286 0.359 0.502 0.861 6.6
2016 23 BAL AL 157 696 0.294 0.343 0.533 0.876 6.3
2017 24 BAL AL 156 690 0.259 0.310 0.471 0.782 2.6
2018 25 TOT MLB 162 709 0.297 0.367 0.538 0.905 6.2
Andrew McCutchen
2005 18 PIT-min Rk,A- 58 254 0.310 0.419 0.433 0.852
2006 19 PIT-min A,AA 134 590 0.294 0.359 0.450 0.809
2007 20 PIT-min AA,AAA 135 570 0.265 0.329 0.388 0.717
2008 21 PIT-min AAA 135 590 0.283 0.372 0.398 0.770
2009 22 PIT-min AAA 49 219 0.303 0.361 0.493 0.853
2009 22 PIT NL 108 493 0.286 0.365 0.471 0.836
2010 23 PIT NL 154 653 0.286 0.365 0.449 0.814 3.4
2011 24 PIT NL 158 678 0.259 0.364 0.456 0.820 3.5
2012 25 PIT NL 157 673 0.327 0.400 0.553 0.953 5.5
2013 26 PIT NL 157 674 0.317 0.404 0.508 0.911 7.4
2014 27 PIT NL 146 648 0.314 0.410 0.542 0.952 8.1
2015 28 PIT NL 157 685 0.292 0.401 0.488 0.889 7.4
2016 29 PIT NL 153 675 0.256 0.336 0.430 0.766 6.0
2017 30 PIT NL 156 650 0.279 0.363 0.486 0.849 1.1
2018 31 TOT MLB 155 682 0.255 0.368 0.424 0.792 3.7
2018 31 SFG NL 130 568 0.255 0.357 0.415 0.772 2.6
2018 31 NYY AL 25 114 0.253 0.421 0.471 0.892

First let ?s look at promotion schedule. The Orioles did what many of us was called ?rushing ? the prospect. They were in a pennant race in 2012 and were not happy with their third baseman (Wilson Betemit). Instead of trading for another player they brought up their own superstar prospect.

The problem was that their superstar prospect was only at AA and had not even taken a single at bat in AAA. This also wasn ?t Vlad Jr. almost hitting .400 in AA who didn ?t need AAA — Machado was hitting .262 in the Eastern League against pitchers like Tim Alderson, Mike Crotta and Nate Baker. Worse yet, after the season he was not sent back to AAA and just remained on the Major League roster for the following season at the age of 20. If you look at his numbers it seems like he did well in that 20 year old season with 5.0 fWAR but ALL of that was defense and seemed to have been driven by the absurdly high 39 double plays he started. He regressed and was injured. It wasn ?t until 2015 when he was playing at a level commensurate with his pedigree and already he was on the cusp of arbitration. At worst the Orioles lost one season of quality Machado due to rushing him, but more realistically it was probably closer to two.

The casual fan would say this doesn ?t matter as you get 6.5 years of control regardless of when he is brought up. But if you contrast with McCutchen, you see that he was much better earlier. His greatness early in his career allowed the Pirates to offer him the extension and gain two more years of control.

Lastly, the Orioles missed their best chance to trade Machado. The Pirates try to trade players at peak value (Cole, McLouth, etc.) The Orioles traded Machado at the last possible minute to a team that didn ?t really need him in a buyer ?s market. If they trade him a year or two earlier, they could have easily gained a Bregman, Gleyber Torres or Victor Robles. While the McCutchen trade obviously brought less return, the scenario is different as McCutchen had an unprecedented fall from greatness in his prime.

Signing the nice guy to the lifetime contract

The Pirates have had their share of players who fans have really liked. They ?ve had the type of players that fans have professed their love for or named their dogs after. These players often seem like the type that deserve the 7 year extension that makes them ?a Pirate for life ?. The Orioles wish they would have resisted.

The most obvious extension candidate for the Pirates was definitely McCutchen. I know I advocated for controlling McCutchen through his early 30s. Neil Walker was one as well that people nominated. The Pirates did the team-friendly extension with McCutchen, but didn ?t follow-up with a mega, Ryan Braun-type deal.

The Orioles…true to this article, did in fact make their now legendary and infamous deal for crowd favorite Chris Davis and has it gone epically wrong.

Chris Davis broke into the majors with the Rangers and had two decent years before being traded to the Orioles due to the Rangers plethora of hitters and not enough pitching. This is where Davis really earned his nickname ?Crush ?. Davis embodied the slugger with crazy high strikeout numbers as well as absurd ISO ?s, with his .353 ISO in 2013 being the highest.

Davis reached free agency after the 2015 season and the likable Davis should have been offered a qualifying offer and given a token 4 year/68Mish offer and allowed to sign elsewhere. But that ?s not what the O ?s did. Seven years/$161M was their offer and Davis gladly accepted.

In 2018 Davis flirted with history (the bad kind) with a -3.1 fWAR. He ?s still owed $23M annually for the next four years. Management says they ?re committed to him but there ?s a chance he ?ll be the next Troy Tulowitski that is jettisoned from his team with hefty money remaining.

Signing Several Subpar Starters

In the past five years the Orioles have inked the following contracts:

Ubaldo Jimenez 4 yr/$50M (14-17)
Yovanni Gallardo 2 yr/$22M (16-17)+18 opt
Alex Cobb 4 yr/$57M (18-21)

While the Pirates haven’t been totally perfect with this, especially after the Liriano trade fiasco, they have a much better track record and have not offered a fourth year to any starter. Dallas Keuchel won’t be the first.

While it sounds good to sign these experienced starters, who would “solidify” the rotation, the odds of them being as good as the current starter is a toss up once you add in injury risk. Great pitching is hard to predict from year to year and the Orioles keep gambling with $12M+ contracts. The Pirates are avoiding 4 year contracts with free agents pitchers, so don’t hold your breath for Kimbrel in the bullpen or Kuechel.

Michael is a Pirates contributor to The Point of Pittsburgh. Michael is former submarine officer and Naval Academy grad. He now runs a small consulting firm and does veteran related job fairs. He is a SABR member and regularly attends Altoona Curve games to scout the Pirate prospects.

6 Comments on Pirates Go ‘Opposite Day’ Of Orioles’ Model

  1. Lest we all pound our chests and roar “At least we ain’t the Orioles!!”, which is not particularly rousing as far as battle cries go, we should reflect on how the Orioles current predicament has came about mainly through a lack of direction, an inability to correctly discern when they should push their chips to the center of the table and when they should step back and re-tool until such a time as a rebuild was forced upon them by the consequences of their indecision, a narrative which is increasingly similar to the one being written by a certain ballclub on Federal Street.

  2. Steven Dimmick // February 8, 2019 at 1:32 PM // Reply

    Year Age Tm Lg G PA BA OBP SLG OPS WAR
    2016 29 PIT NL 153 675 0.256 0.336 0.430 0.766 6.0
    2017 30 PIT NL 156 650 0.279 0.363 0.486 0.849 1.1

    I assume the reason WAR was lower in 2017 was because of his D….all the offensive numbers are better.

  3. clemente_in_right // February 8, 2019 at 8:35 PM // Reply

    Is this statement meant to be a joke? “I know I advocated for controlling McCutchen through his early 30s.”

    That is the opposite of your actual position back in the day. You are on record at OBN with the following statements (among others) in which you clearly were opposed to the idea of an extension for Cutch when he was in the early stages of his career.

    “So if you think like me, that Cutch will be a 4-5 WAR player each year and will eventually get knocked over to LF, making him a 3.5-4.5 WAR player, I don’t think he’s worth a $60M+ commitment. Bruce and Cutch, are OK players but for a small market, you need your big contracts to be superstars (Bruan/Longo/Tulo) to commit that kind of money.”


    “I think I’m one of the biggest proponents of not signing Cutch to an extension”

    But now you are trying to claim you favored an extension? I’m not buying it.

  4. Michael Bradley // February 9, 2019 at 6:51 AM // Reply

    First I didn’t realize that OBN forums were still accessible. I’d love to read what I wrote… 6-10 years ago.

    Second, find the article I wrote where I found the closet comps to McCutchen as Andre Dawson, Carlos Beltran, Juan Pierre… that’s probably the time I was most in favor of an extension vice the two options years.

  5. clemente_in_right // February 9, 2019 at 8:18 AM // Reply

    That’s your defense, that is was 6-10 years ago? March will mark seven years since the extension was signed. So, yes, this was some time ago. You claimed in this piece that you were in favor of a Cutch extension. You clearly were not. Your on-going opinion in the 2011-12 off season was a strong opposition to a Cutch extension. Unless you can come up with an alternative meaning to this OBN comment regarding a Cutch extension: “I don’t think it’s in our best interest. There is too much that can go wrong and not as much upside. And I don’t think Cutch has proven he’s good enough for a full season to warrant that. He batted .216/.330/.392 in the second half.”

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