Pirates' rebuild picking up steam after Musgrove trade

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Ben Cherington is tearing everything down. All of it. This is the only way for the General Manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates to see a way forward.
The process, which Cherington began over 15 months ago, picks up pace after the pirates sent the starting pitcher Joe Musgrove to the San Diego Padres as part of a three-team deal that brought five prospects to Pittsburgh.
It's a process that is likely to have little short-term impact in the big league for a club that ended the shortened 2020 season with the worst record of the majors. However, Cherington believes that this is the surest way to achieve sustained success for a franchise that has had tough times since reaching the playoffs for three consecutive seasons from 2013 to 2015.
The pirates need young talent. Lots of it. And while Cherington recognizes that betting on teenagers and early 20s doesn't necessarily guarantee anything, the more of them the club has under its roof, the greater the chance that some will become big players in the big leagues.
"We're going to come to a time when our focus is shifting, but we really need to be committed to building that talent base first," said Cherington.
A base that Cherington believes is in better shape today than it did when he acquired Neal Huntington in Fall 2019. While the pirates have gained a foothold in the international free agent market - including giving away $ 2.35 to the 16- year-old outfield prospect Shalin Polanco Last week they often relied on the team's few proven players in the big league to replenish the small league system.
Last year outfielder Starling Marte, first baseman Josh Bell and Musgrove were sent elsewhere in exchange for the Pirates' hopes that the players would eventually be able to bring the team back to NL Central.
Musgrove includes 19-year-old outfielder Hudson Head (a selection from the third round of the 2019 first year draft, which has since grown), pitchers Drake Fellows and Omar Cruz, and catcher Endy Rodriguez of the New York Mets. All three are 22 or younger.
"The younger they are, the further away they are," Cherington said. `` There is no doubt that there is some risk involved. There are risks, there are talents, there is a subjective assessment on the scouting side, there is performance analysis, there is character, there is health. There are only general benefits to this risk. We try to stew it all together and see where it takes us. ''
Even if the way could take a while. Cherington firmly believed that the decisions to ship Bell and Musgrove were not financially motivated. Musgrove, Pittsburgh's inaugural 2020 starter, earned a raise to $ 4.45 million in 2021, while Bell, an All-Star in 2019, will make $ 6.35 million this season in Washington, after both players signed one-year contracts last week.
“It wasn't necessary to move payroll to move payroll,” Cherington said. `` There was no request to do that. ''
However, the departure of Musgrove and Bell means that only two players - outfielder Gregory Polanco and second baseman Adam Frazier - will make more than $ 4 million in 2021. Cherington hinted that the pirates will use some of the money released by the trades to get a veteran or two before spring training begins next month. Musgrove's absence creates a hole near the top of the rotation behind Jameson Taillon.
"We have oars in the water, so to speak, both in the free hand and in trading," said Cherington. 'We'd like to add. As you all know, at least the free agency part was slower to some extent I would say in the off-season. So we'll see someday. I expect that will accelerate after we are through the arbitration.
Nevertheless, the pirates, with the exception of Taillon, the third baseman Ke'Bryan Hayes and the left field player Bryan Reynolds, will enter 2021 very young and largely anonymously. Cherington stressed that he and manager Derek Shelton need to continue building a positive culture while accepting that there could be more ups than downs in big leagues in the near future.
"To some extent, it is up to both of us to lead us into the environment I was talking about, even if we get tougher results in the short term," said Cherington. 'That would be the easy thing. We need to keep working towards being great at the things that we control and that we can trust, if we do this over time, so that talents develop, keep getting better, we can complement it at the right time and that will victory help us. ''
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