Readers ask Jake

"Deal Snell? You must be out of your mind!" — JT, Verona, PA

I’ve received more email the last few days on the Snell subject than any I can recall. Clearly, the fans don’t want to see Ian Snell dealt (5-1 margin). But they also didn’t want to see Giles dealt either and are now thrilled with Bay.

"Are we retooling, rebuilding, or recharging our batteries?" — "Helplessly confused" HY, Freeport, PA

The Pirates haven’t made their intentions known yet so your guess is as good as the next person HY. Those around the industry believe the Pirates are going to somewhat reload, the fans are split on what they should do it seems, and sabermetric types see only one prayer – gutting it.

There was a great post on the Bucco Blog forum which sheds some insight on this subject I think is worth repeating here:

"But I also believe that a bit of the delay is caused by the uncertainties of the F.A. market on other teams. Teams that believed they were in the hunt on Hunter had little desire to take a chance on Bay. Once Rowand, Fukodome and Jones are settled the trade market should pick up.

"The Pirates have three choices: (1) stand pat and look at 95-100 losses, (2) wheel and deal, (3) make one "impact" type trade and hope for improvement. There is also some hope from the F.O. on adding some better players through the non tenders. If there’s not some movement by the 10th or so, I think choice (1) will happen.

"As far as the org. not knowing what direction it’s going in, no less of an astute GM than Beane is in the same boat. So, IMO, all is not lost." — salempirate

There seems to be some hesitation around the ownership group (namely Robert Nutting I would assume) that Neal Huntington might need to get his feet wet for a period of time before turning him loose on gutting whatever part of the franchise he’ll be allowed to remodel. There also seems to be confusion in the front office, but I suppose that’s justified considering it’s a whole new team feeling each other out.

salempirate’s comment about the non-tenders merits consideration because there’s no question teams like the Pirates could pick up a few worthy pieces. But at best they will be marginal role players who aren’t going to dent the improvement of the club. We need impact players.

Lastly, I think the ownership group honestly believes this roster can compete in the central division. Not challenge – just compete. A tweak to the batting order here, starting pitcher rotation schedules there, timely hitting and wham.. 80 wins.

So salempirates #3 choice of the Pirates dealing for one impact player and beefing up the pen would allow Huntington to get his feet wet, stretch out the fire sale so pieces could be dealt incrementally saving the fans from running like PNC has the plague, and ownership allowing Russell and his group one last shot at trying to improve the team in the win column just because they think it’s possible.

That’s probably why we heard all the "we can compete now" rhetoric.

"Buzz on the ‘Burg is reporting the Dodgers and Reds are interested in Snell. Fact or fiction?" — JW, Uniontown, PA

And they also reported the Pirates responded saying they wanted back an MLB ready 3B and prospects.

Puh-lease. Here’s a better set of predictions for you to read.

"So what happened to the Perry Hill signing?" — KN, Houston, TX

I don’t know. One day my source said he was locked, the next day the source said he wasn’t going to return this year. I do know his wife had been ill and he wanted to be by her side and perhaps he still does. I don’t know.

From the tidbits I got back on the rumor, I gathered he was still under contract with the Marlins and it would require the Pirates satisfying the Marlins first to be able to bring him into the fold. Now it could be negotiations are still ongoing and that’s why we don’t see a 1B coach yet. Personally, I’d be tickled pink to see Hill in Pittsburgh.

Hopefully the Pirates can satisfy Hill’s needs as well as the Marlins to get him employed since he was targeted. But the last I heard he was no longer a candidate this year. We’ll see when the Pirates announce the position.

"For the love of God, please tell me that the Pirates won’t be forced to take a LHP with the #2 overall pick. If it happens, I am almost sure I will hang up my black and gold jersey for good. Don’t the Rays have a ton of hitting prospects but are paper thin at pitching?" — JS, New York City

JS is taking about this post where I mentioned University of San Diego southpaw Brian Matusz had become the #2 prospect on the board and a likely target for the Pirates.

It’s going to be hard for the Pirates to pass up on Matusz unless the Rays skip on Alvarez. Matusz throws mid-90’s comfortably with great late break (think Mike Gonzalez without the maximum effort delivery) and already has a highly rated change and curve.

There is some speculation that he may slide in the draft next year because his innings worked in 2007 was fairly hefty over 2006 which may cause some dead arm periods in 2008. We’ll have to watch how he does next year.

Here’s a little bit on Don Long who is said to be the Pirates next hitting instructor.