Are the Pittsburgh Pirates beating the St. Louis Cardinals at their own game? Recent history suggests they are.
In the wake of the big David Price signing nearly everyone saw coming — albeit not for that insane amount of money and years — more interesting (for baseball geeks, anyway) activity is happening within the St. Louis Cardinals division. The Pittsburgh Pirates are building an empire on the cheap.
Yesterday afternoon, Travis Sawchik, Pirates/MLB reporter & enterprise writer for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, posted this:
I encourage you to go find that tweet and read the comments. It’s always so enjoyable to see fans bellyache about a strategy that has actually worked. Steve Adams of MajorLeagueTradeRumors.com expanded on that in a post early this morning:
"The Pirates, who are among the most aggressive teams in the league in terms of infield shifting, Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sportstend to gravitate toward ground-ball pitchers and have developed a reputation for successfully rehabilitating pitchers with diminished value (e.g. Francisco Liriano,A.J. Burnett, Edinson Volquez, Mark Melancon, Vance Worley). While Pittsburgh has a knack for finding fixable talent, some of that strategy is also borne out of necessity, as the Pirates lack the financial firepower to play at the top of the market — or, realistically, even in the middle tiers of the market — for free agents.All of those factors would seem to align to make Masterson a very reasonable target for the Pirates, although there are certainly other “reclamation projects” in which Pittsburgh could look to invest. Doug Fister and Mat Latos stand out as two names coming off poor seasons that could look to rebuild value on a one-year deal, and a more veteran option in the same boat would be right-hander Kyle Lohse."
I’m hoping the St. Louis Cardinals are looking at all these pitchers, too, having just come off a successful relationship with free agent righty John Lackey. Just because the St. Louis Cardinals have money doesn’t mean they should spend it Dave Dombrowski-style, winning the offseason but not necessarily during the season, when it counts.
But I’m nervous. With remaining big fish Zack Greinke poised to leverage the San Fransisco Giants’ interest in him to get the deal he really wants from the Los Angeles Dodgers, that leaves the St. Louis Cardinals with Johnny Cueto, whose camp has been conspiculously quiet after Cueto rejected the Arizona Diamondbacks’ rumored 6-year, $120 million offer.
Several days ago, CBS Sports baseball writer John Heyman listed a bunch of teams in on Cueto. Guess who he didn’t mention? Yep. The St. Louis Cardinals. That silence is deafening.
What the St. Louis Cardinals gain with Cueto over a Fister, Latos or Lohse is some degree of security from Cueto’s recent performances. But they’ll pay millions for it, losing financial flexbility for future deals. Meanwhile, St. Louis Cardinals fans will have to deal with Cueto’s Jekyll-and-Hide act for who knows how many years.
And meanwhile? At least one (and probably more) of those bargain pitchers the Pirates pick up will pay off, leaving everyone wondering how they missed out on them. Hopefully, the St. Louis Cardinals remember they’re good at that, too, and don’t give a guy like Cueto the Dombrowski treatment.