Guest Writer: How to build a contender

How to add $12 million to current payroll and build a contender

To build a winning small market team, one needs big winning maneuvers. Simply nibbling at the team chemistry and makeup will not build a contender. Instead, it will modestly improve a loser. Instead, significant change should be pursued, but rather than gut the team, here is how I propose Pittsburgh accomplishes it with realistic financial constraints.

Step One: Address a weakness boldy.
     This should be done through a free-agent signing that will 100% solidify a position while giving us an influx of players at the position to deal over the winter. I will concede Pittsburgh may have to pay more than market value for the signing, but it will be worth it. I propose Aaron Rowand. Who wouldn’t want a gold glove centerfielder who hit above .300 with close to 30 home runs? Pittsburgh would have to act serious to get him, it would be difficult, but now would be the time to strike. Get him for $12 million, and let the remaining steps fall into place.

Step Two: Deal the influx.
     After signing Rowand, the Pirates would clearly have a more than enough capable outfielders with other team weaknesses. This is where Xavier Nady comes into play. I would package Jason Bay with Ian Snell and go after a third basemen. There are plenty of teams who would take Snell and Bay for a third baseman. The one that comes to mind for me…the Colorado Rockies and Garret Atkins. Sure he had a slow start, so his value is slightly down, but a torrid second half maintained decent value for the young, cheap third-basemen.

Step Three: Trade the deadweight and fill the holes.
        This includes trades for anything from low-level prospects to proven, veteran, utility men for the likes of Chris Duffy, Jose Bautista and Ryan Doumit or failed pitchers…we all know who can go. Beyond that, the pitching staff needs finalized. Go for Kyle Lohse, Carlos Silva, Jason Jennings and Matt Clement. Use the savings from Bay’s salary to pay for a combination of these pitchers. Finally, get a few relievers to fill out the pen. Now look at the team:

C – Ronny Paulino (gotten count on Russell)
1B – Adam LaRoche
2B – Freddy Sanchez
3B – Garrett Atkins
SS – Jack Wilson
LF – Nyjer Morgan
CF – Aaron Rowand
RF – Xavier Nady

Steven Pearce – can get plenty of time at First and in Right
Andrew McCutchen – unless he wins the LF job in ST
Jose Castillo – good for IF backup
Nate McLouth – will help smooth the learning curve for M&M – could also earn the job in LF
Utility IF of your choosing

Tom Gorzelanny
Paul Maholm
Carlos Silva/Matt Morris
Kyle Lohse/Matt Morris
Duke/Silva/Matt Morris
Bullington/Burnett/whoever else wins a job in the pen

Is this team young? Yes. Is there risk? Yes – any small market team must assume that every year. We as fans must understand some years will be a hit, some a miss. But you can’t continue to attempt the same thing over and over again to no avail. Does this team lack the one big bat we may need? Maybe, but I see four guys in that lineup who would easily project for 30 HRs each.

Add to that some other pop and speed on the field and on the bench. Is the rotation unproven, yet again? Yes, but the likes of Silva, the potential of Lohse or any of our other young starters to hit their stride are there. We know we have enough young arms that at least one will work.

Is this team deep? No, but a small market teams should not be. A small market team must be very willing to hold commodities and move goods, and be fearless of being a constant participant in that cycle. If Atkins goes down, plug in Walker. If Rowand goes down, plug in McCutcheon. If Nady goes down, plug in Pearce. If Morgan goes down, plug in McLouth. If a pitcher goes down, reach down into the farm until the cream rises to the top.

Yes, this is a bold plan. Yes, it would push the financial constraints of the Pittsburgh Pirates. But it would certainly be fresh faces with the potential to compete. If this plan doesn’t work, rewrite a new one next offseason.

However, my number one concern is the new management does not have a plan, bold or not. I would prefer a bold plan, but I am hoping management sat down, figured out what they needed to legitimately compete, and mapped a way to get there. Any team can do it, but they have to focus on building a team within financial constraints, not being financially constrained while building a team.

I encourage the new management to think bold. But more importantly, I encourage them to have a plan. Something that appears to be desperate lacking at this point.

-Joseph C.
Harrisburgh, PA