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 Post subject: How would you build the Pirates?
PostPosted: Fri Jul 10, 2009 2:56 pm 
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Alright, so there is clearly a group of people that think that Bob Nutting should just spend more money, and that will buy us a winning team. So, why don’t we do a little math to see if that works? I’ll keep it to simple arithmetic so that our friends who have yet to take an algebra class can follow along. (All of the figures and facts for this argument can be found at THT, the Biz of Baseball, Cot’s, or mlb’s own site.)

First comes the question of how much we can spend without putting the team into bankruptcy. I’m pretty sure everyone can agree that there is a limit to our spending, that we will never keep up with the Yankees, Red Sox, etc. So, let’s go back to 2001 when the Pirates had a payroll in the low $50 mil range. At the time, the conspiracy theorists claimed McClatchy was pocketing money, some claimed as high as $21 mil in profits. Okay, so that puts the amount of payroll at around $72 mil. But I’ll be even more generous and say that the limit is $80 mil, comparable to teams like Cleveland, Milwaukee, and SF, and higher than the Reds, Rays, A’s, etc. We will assume that Nutting can spend this much without impacting other budgets such as Latin America, draft, development, etc. And you know what? I’ll be even more generous! “Payroll” generally includes all players on the 40 man roster who have major league contracts, as well as prorated shares of signing bonuses, incentive bonuses, non-cash compensation, buyouts, and cash transactions. But because I want to give the “spend money” group EVERY SINGLE BENEFIT, I won’t even count that stuff. Let’s say that we truly can afford $80 mil just for the salaries of 25 people on the active roster.

Ok, so first a little division. If you spend $80 mil on 25 guys, that averages out to $3.2 mil per player. One way we could build the team is to immediately go and sign 25 players for $3.2 mil. Well, perhaps this is just coincidence, but do you know what the average 2009 annual salary is in the big leagues? $3.24 mil. So, we can field a team of 25 ever-so-slightly-below-average players. Somehow, I don’t think that will excite anyone though. We need some good players, and heck, it’d be nice to even have an All-Star or two, right? Well, just keep in mind that for every player that gets a $6 mil contract, another player has to make minimum wage ($400K).

So for the sake of accounting, let’s break players up into 3 distinct categories:
0-3 players: these guys, we will assume, will make the league minimum (even though in reality they generally get a tick more, or are signed to extensions before the third year and make significantly more, but let’s assume every 0-3 player only makes the minimum)
Arbitration eligible: there is no way to properly estimate the value of arbitration eligible guys. Perhaps the most difficult part of this analysis. For 2009, the average salary of arbitration eligible players was $2.7 mil. But, as we all know, players in their first year of arbitration make less than in their second or third years. Also, team friendly contracts such decrease this average.
Free Agents: This includes guys signed out of free agency, as well as players from your own system that have more than 6 years of service time, and therefore need to be paid like free agents. The average 2009 free agent annual salary was $4.68 mil. But the problem with using the average is that includes guys such as Henry Blanco and Norris Hopper, guys that we wouldn’t want to sign anyways, because, presumably, we could find a guy like that as a minor league free agent. So, let’s instead look at the top 100 free agents (according to ESPN)- even that list includes several guys who signed minor league deals, retired, didn’t get signed, or are just terrible, such as Luis Ayala, Emil Brown, etc. The average contract for the 75 guys that signed a big league deal in free agency this year was $5.2 mil. So, to get an “average” player through free agency, you’d have to pay about $5.2 mil. That will get you a Braden Looper or a Jason Giambi. You want someone better, you’re gonna have to pay more.

Ok, so where am I going with this? Well, using those numbers, its time to go spend our $80 mil! First, let’s start with our best players. How much do you guys want to spend on our best player(s)? Well, we could have a Manny or a Texiera guy at $20 mil +, but then we only have $60 mil left for 24 players, so that seems like a bad idea. What does $10 mil get us? Well, this past offseason, it gets us the likes of Rafael Furcal, Adam Dunn, Milton Bradley, or Raul Ibanez. And, since so many around here thought Dunn was a good guy to go after at that price, let’s throw a $10 mil guy in our cart.

And what about a Jason Bay? After all, NH was an idiot for dealing him away. He looks to get at least $15 mil a year after this year. So if we want a player like Jason Bay, I guess we better budget for a $15 mil player. So, now we have 2 players and have spent $25 mil. That gives us $55 mil for the remaining 23 players. So far, so good, but we are burning through our budget pretty fast.

What if we made those two our only free agent signings? The rest of the guys will be guys from our system that we either traded for or developed. Of course, we have control over guys for 6 years, so if we need 23 players, that means we essentially have to promote 4 guys from the farm system EVERY SINGLE YEAR, on average. Boy, I guess the first step to this plan better be to get our farm system in shape, or else our model won’t work, huh?

Ok, never mind that plan then. We don’t want to be stockpiling prospects. Let’s get some more free agents. We obviously can’t build a team with 25 average free agents. The average free agent price is $5.2 mil, and 25 of those guys would cost $130 mil. Not only is that out of our price range, but it also results in an average team. Not gonna win championships that way!

Hmmm…let’s go back to our original plan then- two good free agents at $25 mil, and then a couple “slightly above average” guys to supplement them. Well, in the $6-7 mil range you get your Casey Blakes and your Jon Garlands. So let’s add take two players in this range and call it $13 mil. That seems pretty fair. Now we have 4 players and have spent $38 mil. That leaves us $42 mil and 21 players!

Well, if we have to develop 21 players, with control over them for 6 years, now we only need 3.5 players each year from our farm club. So 3 players one year, 4 the next. Uh oh, that’s still gonna require a strong farm system. Now we have 4 players in the free agent category making $38 mil, 10 “average” players in the arbitration eligible category making $27 mil, and 11 players in the 0-3 category making $4.4 mil. But again, it seems the first step will be to get our farm system to the point that it can produce that amount of talent! But, wait a minute, we are still only at $69.4 mil. We still have $10.6 mil left. Let’s get us some more free agents!!

Let’s try this then: our 2 great free agent players at $25 mil and our two above average free agent players at $13 mil. Now let’s take that $10.6 mil we had left over from our last idea and get two average free agents ($5.2 mil each). So now we have 6 players under contract for $48.4 mil and only have to develop 19 players! Hmmm…let’s go a step further and say we can sign a utility guy or mop up reliever for the major league minimum! Now its 7 players at $48.8 and we only have to develop 18 players! Um, of course, that still means we need to have 3 prospects come up each year on average. That’s STILL going to require a very strong farm system. Sheesh, this stuff is hard.

And I just noticed something. If we add any more free agents, it’s going to make it so that we are unable to afford our arbitration eligible guys anymore! That’ll be a problem, huh? We’ll have to bring up MORE guys from the farm each year and trade some of them away before they even reach arbitration. I don’t think that’s a good plan!

So, that only leaves us with a couple solutions. First, we can replace some of our prospects that we need to call up each year with some free agent scrubs that will play for the minimum. Guys who signed for <$500K last year include Mike Lamb, Norris Hopper, Trevor Miller, and Tom Gordon. Somehow I don’t think that’s going to help us though.

Or, we could not sign any great or above average free agents. Of course, that also means that any great or above average players that we develop all leave by free agency, because we can’t keep any of them.

Or, here’s a concept: WE BUILD A STRONG FARM SYSTEM SO THAT ANY OF THE ABOVE SCENARIOS ARE FEASIBLE!

Honestly, I would challenge any of you to try this exercise for yourselves. With an $80 mil budget (I think that’s a number on the generous side of fair, most REASONABLE people would agree that they would be happy with that sort of a payroll), build a winning team that DOESN’T need a good farm system. I’d love to see it done. Yes, there are ways to save money that I didn’t include here (locking players up before arbitration, getting lucky on a scrap heap free agent signing like Carlos Pena), but I also made a number of conservative estimations (ie based all my averages on a “down year” for salaries, assumed that all players that we develop are merely average and therefore will only command average salaries in arbitration). And I admit this is a hugely flawed model. But it proves the point that even if Nutting opened up his wallet today and spent as much as he reasonably could, we would STILL require a strong farm system to produce prospects year in and year out. That is just simple math. And, so far as I know, math is not an apologist.

Listen, NH is doing what HAS to be done for the Pirates to be successful. He may fail at it, but that would be due to poor player evaluation, poor trades, etc. It would not be because what he is doing is a bad idea. Obviously, it will require that payroll be raised when we get to the point that it will make a difference, and there is no evidence that will occur. But that doesn’t make it a bad strategy or mean that NH and FC are doing the wrong thing! The reason we are losing right now is because DL DIDN’T build the farm system.

Unless, of course, someone else can show me how to build a good 25 man roster without the farm.


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 Post subject: Re: How would you build the Pirates?
PostPosted: Fri Jul 10, 2009 3:37 pm 
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Excellent argument, BBF. I'm just afraid that it will sail well over the heads of our less-understanding fellow posters.

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 Post subject: Re: How would you build the Pirates?
PostPosted: Fri Jul 10, 2009 4:07 pm 
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I fully understand the limitations our GM faces. Being a Pirates fan is frustrating for that reason.
MLB is too much like the real world. The socialist NFL is a lot more fun to follow.


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 Post subject: Re: How would you build the Pirates?
PostPosted: Fri Jul 10, 2009 4:33 pm 
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Ok BBF-- time to fess up -- your real first name is Neil isn't it?

Beat ya to it Ryann

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 Post subject: Re: How would you build the Pirates?
PostPosted: Fri Jul 10, 2009 4:58 pm 
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BBF -
Nice try. Really nice try.
Don't hold your breath.
I've made similar efforts and gotten a grand total of 0 (that's "zip," "nada," "nuttin'," "zilch") responses. Simply put, there are those that love to be critical because it is easy. It is vogue. Listen to talk radio. It is what we are bombarded with every day. Its easy to sit in a radio booth, go on TV or be on your computer and be critical of others when you have no accountability. Why offer anything other than the "mob mentality, talking points" mantra of "Nutting is rich, he's fleecing you, he has to spend more money to win" when there is a crowd who will listen to you and chant along.

I still say they need to bunt more and to shorten up with 2 strikes. If they'd only do that, then they'd win 120 games a year.

Dear lord, I hope people know that the last sentence was facetious and making fun of myself. :lol:

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 Post subject: Re: How would you build the Pirates?
PostPosted: Fri Jul 10, 2009 5:12 pm 
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Boy, when you come back, you don't f### around, do you? I nominate this as best,most logical, well-thought out post of the year and BBF as comeback poster of the year, which means we won't be able to afford him next year.


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 Post subject: Re: How would you build the Pirates?
PostPosted: Fri Jul 10, 2009 5:13 pm 
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While I was at Dick's I started talking to a guy who was also looking at Pirates caps (I couldn't find a cap big enough for my head, but I digress!)

He told me that his friend worked for Nutting somewhere in PA and he was the worst possible owner you could imagine. I wish I'd written down what this guy said.. he told me the city and the company. Says Bob didn't want to give raises to anybody.

Who knows.. he could've been playing with me. On the flipside my cousin's hubby's boss was Ross Perot (in Dallas) and supposedly he was the best owner you could ask for.. huge bonusses, etc..


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 Post subject: Re: How would you build the Pirates?
PostPosted: Fri Jul 10, 2009 5:19 pm 
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BBF wrote:

Obviously, it will require that payroll be raised when we get to the point that it will make a difference, and there is no evidence that will occur.


I don't exactly agree with this. "Market" salaries were paid - at the same time - to Benson, Giles, Kendall, Young, Ramirez and Meares. If management thinks that the talent on the field will compete at a higher level, payroll will go up. NH has concluded that the talent on the field is not there yet and - even on the remote chance that a run can be made this year - the farm system is far from where it needs to be and cannot be further decimated to make a remote run.

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Reflexively, obsessively and tastelessly submitted,
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Obsessive proponent of situational bunting and 2 strike hitting approaches, reflexively pro-catchers calling good games and tasteless proponent of the value of a RBI.


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 Post subject: Re: How would you build the Pirates?
PostPosted: Fri Jul 10, 2009 5:24 pm 
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I would love to get to that point and find out!


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 Post subject: Re: How would you build the Pirates?
PostPosted: Fri Jul 10, 2009 5:43 pm 
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No. 9 wrote:
Nice try. Really nice try.

Yeah, right. He's obviously a moron.


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 Post subject: Re: How would you build the Pirates?
PostPosted: Fri Jul 10, 2009 6:45 pm 
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Very well written. I have been saying the same thing for years. A strong farm system is the only way a team can compete year end and year out. Unless you are the Yankees and Sox's.


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 Post subject: Re: How would you build the Pirates?
PostPosted: Fri Jul 10, 2009 8:59 pm 
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bradf wrote:
Boy, when you come back, you don't f### around, do you? I nominate this as best,most logical, well-thought out post of the year and BBF as comeback poster of the year, which means we won't be able to afford him next year.



He must have been working on this the entire time he was 'gone'...

When does the trade deadline end on the board? We got to get prospects for him...

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 Post subject: Re: How would you build the Pirates?
PostPosted: Fri Jul 10, 2009 9:36 pm 
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How is the post all mighty written? It is basicly a thought out extremely theoretical bullshit post.
Here is something that is NOT theoretical.
The Pirates have had 17 straight losing seasons.
Trends throughout those 17 seasons were low payroll, and trading the best players on the team.

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 Post subject: Re: How would you build the Pirates?
PostPosted: Fri Jul 10, 2009 9:40 pm 
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Ryann wrote:
How is the post all mighty written? It is basicly a thought out extremely theoretical bullshit post.
Here is something that is NOT theoretical.
The Pirates have had 17 straight losing seasons.
Trends throughout those 17 seasons were low payroll, and trading the best players on the team.



Well then Ryann, why don't you enlighten us as to how you would build a winning franchise on $80 mil WITHOUT first building up the farm system. We are all waiting.


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 Post subject: Re: How would you build the Pirates?
PostPosted: Fri Jul 10, 2009 9:52 pm 
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Burghereister-
Are you being serious?
No. 9

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 Post subject: Re: How would you build the Pirates?
PostPosted: Fri Jul 10, 2009 10:09 pm 
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I understand the need for a strong farm system. Only problem is that for us to have a strong farm system...it takes a nearly perfect draft...and success from just about EVERY player involved in the recent trades. Even then...it appears that we have areas that are a long way from being manned at the major league level. Let's take a look at the upper levels real quick...and the number of honest to goodness prospects at each level.

Indy...prospects...Brad Lincoln (and that's it). Major league experience guys that may eventually help the Pirates or bring a good return...Snell...Gorzo and Milledge. 3 pitchers and 1 OF.

Altoona...prospects...Alvarez and Tabata...maybe Gorkys...suspects...the rest of the roster. There's a reason this team is 20+ games under .500. 2 outfielders and a 1B or 3B.

Full Season Class A...some middle infield prospects and a couple of pitchers. Full season A is generally 3 years away...figuring a full season at AA and AAA.

At this point...we are not deep in anything...except maybe light hitting fast outfielders...and power pitchers with no control.

The more I look at the system...the more frustrated I get...as it is obvious that our system is SO FAR away from being able to provide major league capable players at most positions. Three to four years...at least...considering the speed (or lack thereof) that the Pirates move players through the system. Short of trades for major league...or close to major league ready...players...it's going to be at least 2013 before we have a prayer of being perennial contenders...and by then...most of the current team will be gone. To this point...the only acquisitions even close to this level would be Andy...Moss...Milledge...Morton... Karstens and Ohlie. With major questions on most of those. Players on the 25 man Pirates roster of 07/10/09 likely to be on the roster Opening Day 2013...1...Cutch.

By 2013...if the bad baseball continues...JR will be gone (more likely the end of 2010)...and NH may be gone as well...as the 5 year plan will have expired with little or no success. With all the current starters gone...we may be in the first or second year of the next rebuilding plan. We have to hold on to SOME of the talent we develop. Listen to the trade talk...just about any talent we have...or have developed...is involved in trade rumors. No indications of keeping anyone...other than Cutch...and I am sure his name will come up in the next 3 years. We cannot continue to trade everyone for prospects...as it becomes a never ending cycle.


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 Post subject: Re: How would you build the Pirates?
PostPosted: Fri Jul 10, 2009 10:23 pm 
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No. 9 wrote:
Burghereister-
Are you being serious?
No. 9

I think there may have been a miscommunication there. Yall can figure it out on PMs.

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 Post subject: Re: How would you build the Pirates?
PostPosted: Fri Jul 10, 2009 11:16 pm 
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Thunder wrote:
I understand the need for a strong farm system. Only problem is that for us to have a strong farm system...it takes a nearly perfect draft...and success from just about EVERY player involved in the recent trades. Even then...it appears that we have areas that are a long way from being manned at the major league level. Let's take a look at the upper levels real quick...and the number of honest to goodness prospects at each level.

Indy...prospects...Brad Lincoln (and that's it). Major league experience guys that may eventually help the Pirates or bring a good return...Snell...Gorzo and Milledge. 3 pitchers and 1 OF.

Altoona...prospects...Alvarez and Tabata...maybe Gorkys...suspects...the rest of the roster. There's a reason this team is 20+ games under .500. 2 outfielders and a 1B or 3B.

Full Season Class A...some middle infield prospects and a couple of pitchers. Full season A is generally 3 years away...figuring a full season at AA and AAA.

At this point...we are not deep in anything...except maybe light hitting fast outfielders...and power pitchers with no control.

The more I look at the system...the more frustrated I get...as it is obvious that our system is SO FAR away from being able to provide major league capable players at most positions. Three to four years...at least...considering the speed (or lack thereof) that the Pirates move players through the system. Short of trades for major league...or close to major league ready...players...it's going to be at least 2013 before we have a prayer of being perennial contenders...and by then...most of the current team will be gone. To this point...the only acquisitions even close to this level would be Andy...Moss...Milledge...Morton... Karstens and Ohlie. With major questions on most of those. Players on the 25 man Pirates roster of 07/10/09 likely to be on the roster Opening Day 2013...1...Cutch.

By 2013...if the bad baseball continues...JR will be gone (more likely the end of 2010)...and NH may be gone as well...as the 5 year plan will have expired with little or no success. With all the current starters gone...we may be in the first or second year of the next rebuilding plan. We have to hold on to SOME of the talent we develop. Listen to the trade talk...just about any talent we have...or have developed...is involved in trade rumors. No indications of keeping anyone...other than Cutch...and I am sure his name will come up in the next 3 years. We cannot continue to trade everyone for prospects...as it becomes a never ending cycle.

Good post!
I wonder if these people will steal be worshipping the NH shrines after that?

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 Post subject: Re: How would you build the Pirates?
PostPosted: Fri Jul 10, 2009 11:28 pm 
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I would start by NOT trading Wilson or Sanchez, and go out and get Roy Halladay or Jake Peavy for starters, then pick up a big bat, like the one that they traded away for almost nothing last year (Bay)


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 Post subject: Re: How would you build the Pirates?
PostPosted: Fri Jul 10, 2009 11:30 pm 
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piratefan1970 wrote:
I would start by NOT trading Wilson or Sanchez, and go out and get Roy Halladay or Jake Peavy for starters, then pick up a big bat, like the one that they traded away for almost nothing last year (Bay)


So you would spend your $80 mil on 3 players and hire 22 scrubs at minimum wage for the rest of the team. Ok, I guess I can't argue with that. :roll:


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