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.
Trades from 2008 to 2010:
-Freddy Sanchez to Giants for starting pitcher Tim Alderson
-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
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
6) Jeff Clement-1B
7) Tony Sanchez-C
8) Pedro Ciriaco-2B
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
5) Pedro Alvarez
6) Drew Sutton
7) Rod Barajas
8) Clint Barmes
Rotation–A.J. Burnett/James McDonald/Jeff Karstens/Erik Bedard/Kevin Correia
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.
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.