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Pirates Having Success Without Following Original Blueprint From 2008

general manager Pirates Neal HuntingtonWhen a new General Manager is hired, he has a fairly good sense of what direction to guide his major league roster.  Whether that be making minor adjustments or a complete overhaul of a roster.

The strategy adapted at the time is normally dictated by what kind of market a team is in and how the farm system is at the time.

Small market teams must build from the draft and developing their own players.  Large market teams can get away with going out and throwing money at free agents in most cases.

When Neal Huntington took over as GM for the Pirates in 2007, it was obvious that he was going to entirely dismantle the current roster and that even a complete overhaul of the farm system was needed.  

Huntington shipped out fan favorites Freddy Sanchez, Jack Wilson, Jason Bay, Nate McLouth and Nyjer Morgan  among others and started the development process of younger players.

Trades from 2008 to 2010:

-Freddy Sanchez to Giants for starting pitcher Tim Alderson

-Jason Bay to Red Sox for Brandon Moss, Andy LaRoche, Craig Hansen, Bryan Morris

-Jack Wilson to Mariners for Jeff Clement, Ronny Cedeno, Aaron Pribanic, Brett Lorin and Nathan Adcock

-Nate McLouth to Braves for Charlie Morton, Gorkys Hernandez, Jeff Locke

-Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett to Nationals for Lastings Milledge and Joel Hanrahan

-Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte to Yankees for Jose Tabata, Jeff Karstens, Daniel McCutchen and Ross Ohlendorf

-Octavio Dotel to Dodgers for James McDonald and Andrew Lambo

Through the draft, the other avenue for small markets teams, Huntington has acquired some major talent in Pedro Alvarez, Jameson Taillon, Stetson Allie, Gerrit Cole and Josh Bell among others.

High Impact Draft Picks from 2008 to 2012:

-Tony Sanchez, Catcher

-Pedro Alvarez, 3B

-Chase d’Arnaud, SS

-Jordy Mercer, SS

-Jameson Taillon, SP

-Stetson Allie, SP–now turned 3B

-Mel Rojas Jr, OF

-Robbie Grossman, OF

-Gerrit Cole, SP

-Josh Bell, OF

-Mark Appel, SP–not signed yet

*Luis Heredia and Starling Marte are both international free agent signings.

Only one of these high impact draft picks is making a difference for the Pirates major league roster in 2012 (Alvarez).  Only three of the trade aqcuisitions are contributing to success in 2012.  (McDonald, Hanrahan and Karstens)

Bottom line is this–the Pirates were not suppose to be this good in 2012, but they most certainly are.  If you were to say the Pirates were going to be this successful in 2012, most would have predicted that the lineup would be shaped up similar to the following:

1) Jose Tabata-OF

2) Chase d’Arnaud/Jordy Mercer-SS

3) Andrew McCutchen-CF

4) Pedro Alvarez-3B

5) Brandon Moss/Lastings Milledge-OF

6) Jeff Clement-1B

7) Tony Sanchez-C

8) Pedro Ciriaco-2B

BenchGarrett Jones/Andy LaRoche/Gorkys Hernandez/Jordy Mercer/Lastings Milledge

RotationBryan Morris/Tim Alderson/Charlie Morton/Ross Ohlendorf/James McDonald/Brad Lincoln

The majority of the young, thought-to-be-high-ceiling talent Huntington acquired through trades has failed to make an impact at the major league level.

Lets go through the current lineup and see what their standing with the organization was in 2009.

1) Alex Presley/Jose Tabata

2) Neil Walker

3) Andrew McCutchen

4) Garrett Jones/Casey McGehee

5) Pedro Alvarez

6) Drew Sutton

7) Rod Barajas

8) Clint Barmes

BenchJordy Mercer/Josh Harrison/Matt Hague/Michael McKenry/Casey McGehee

RotationA.J. Burnett/James McDonald/Jeff Karstens/Erik Bedard/Kevin Correia

Bullpen – Juan Cruz, Jason Grilli, Tony Watson, Brad Lincoln and Joel Hanrahan

Pittsburgh Pirates playersMcCutchen, Tabata, McDonald and Karstens are the only true pieces in that lineup that were originally part of the big-picture-rebuilding process.

Most are going to say, what about Neil Walker?  Walker was drafted by Dave Littlefield in 2004 as a catcher, then was moved to third base.  In a desperate attempt to make it to the show, Walker added second base to his arsenal.  

After much second debate by Huntington, Walker finally got the call-up as a utility player.  The rest is history with Walker, as he is now very much part of this core moving forward, but to say he was part of the plan from the get-go would be a stretch.

Almost the same exact story could be said for Presley, a 2006 draftee of Dave Littlefield.  

Presley seemed to be much overlooked as a prospect until the 2011 season when the Pirates finally promoted him after he scorched the International League for an entire calendar year.  

Presley was not a part of Huntington’s original plan, but forced the GM’s hand with strong play.

After getting nowhere in the Minnesota Twins organization, the Pirates took a waiver on Garrett Jones and has worked out nicely.

Jones has been a solid source of power since coming to the Pirates in 2009, totaling 70 home runs in that span.  But yet again, to say Jones was part of the plan Huntington had is a stretch.

The rest of the 2012 Pirates roster is compiled of free agents and waiver claims, with the exception of A.J. Burnett and Casey McGehee whom both were traded for in the past offseason.  

The success for half a season in 2011 gave Huntington confidence in the core group of players and enabled him to go out and sign veterans such as Rod Barajas, Clint Barmes and Erik Bedard.

None of this is to say what the Pirates are doing is not legitimate in 2012, but simply to point out that this success is molded much differently than how it was originally planned in 2008.

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, John grew to become a serious sports fan in a serious sports-town. While John is still a fan, he now puts his views into an objective and straight forward manner. John graduated from Pennsylvania State University in 2011. In addition to his work at Baseball News Source, John covers the Pittsburgh Pirates for SlewFooters.com, a Pittsburgh sports website that covers the Pirates and Penguins.