Monday, April 13, 2009

Pittsburgh Pirates: Navigating Through Respectability and the Future

When the Pirates made the decision to trade Jason Bay last July, they were hoping that the package they got in return for their best player was enough to help turn around the struggling franchise as they strive towards respectability.

However, just one week into the 2009 season, the centerpiece of that deal, 3B Andy LaRoche, is struggling....big time. At one time, LaRoche was viewed as one of the top prospects in baseball, but he seems a long ways away from that status. LaRoche has not yet registered a hit so far this season and has been a disaster defensively at third base. Simply put, LaRoche isn't doing anything good right now.

If LaRoche continues to struggle, this could put the Pirates in an awkward situation. They want to give LaRoche every opportunity to succeed and show the fan base that trading away star player Jason Bay for LaRoche was a justified move. Plus, because the Pirates believe that LaRoche has immense talent and a future with the organization, they will give him every opportunity to right his wrongs and succeed at the major league level.

As manager John Russell stated today,"We're going to give Andy every chance to work through this."

And let's be frank here, the Pirates are going nowhere this season. They play in a very competitive division and do not have the talent to compete with the big guys. There is every reason for the Pirates to be patient with LaRoche and give him all the time in the world to figure out.

But for Pirates fans, this has to be both concerning and annoying. The Pirates have obviously invested a large portion of their future in LaRoche, so it has to be nerve racking to see this young player struggle in both facets of the game. The judgement of upper management once again must be questioned, but this is nothing new for Pirates fans.

And just for once, it'd be nice to see the Pirates actually be respectable in the NL Central and not be eliminated by the beginning of May. There is no doubt that Ramon Vazquez is the better player right now, but does it actually make sense to start Vazquez over the struggling LaRoche? With the future of the franchise in does not.

Hopefully LaRoche can turn it around and become a stud on the Pirates because Lord knows, they need him to be a very good player.


Jonathan Etkowicz said...

Despite what John Russell said, the Pirates are wearing thin on LaRoche. Things could get tougher for him if his brother is traded during the season. Then the Pirates have no real reason to just let him hang on. They could use Vazquez or Neil Walker, although they project Walker as a middle infielder, before calling up Pedro Alvarez. Pirates fans have already chalked the Jason Bay trade up as a loss since LaRoche and Craig Hansen have both failed to live up to expectations.

Josh said...

I think it's too early to write off Hansen and LaRoche, but initial reports have not been good. If Tabata doesn't pan out either, these two deals will have been an absolute disaster and should cose Huntington his job.

Jonathan Etkowicz said...

Out of those three, I think only Tabata will work. But that's based solely on his spring numbers. He's still really young, so they'll probably treat him very cautiously. As for Hansen, I think being demoted from Boston's "closer of the future" role by Jonathan Papelbon and then traded to Pittsburgh destroyed his confidence. Or he just wasn't as good as the hype. Even if the trade doesn't pan out, I doubt it will cost Huntingdon his job because he's still signing the core players like Nate McLouth and Ryan Doumit. Plus, there's no way he's screwed up as badly as Dave Littlefield did before him.