Pirates Q&A with Dejan Kovacevic

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Changed my mind about waiting until this afternoon to run this, mostly because exactly zero of the Qs that arrived over the weekend had anything to do with minicamp.

On to those Qs ...

Q: Why would the Pirates' brass not want to sign Freddy Sanchez to a long-term deal? All the guy has ever done is succeed while disproving his critics. Do you think a deal gets done with Sanchez?

Dave Courtney of Nashville, Tenn.

KOVACEVIC: Well, a deal of some sort must get done because Sanchez is an arbitration guy for the next two years. But a long-term deal sounds quite unlikely, from all that I heard over the weekend.

To see why, it is fairest to look at it from both sides ...

From Sanchez's perspective, to do anything longer than two years is to give up free-agency years. That is something any player is reluctant to do, particularly if he has confidence that a very large payday is coming. I have zero doubt that Sanchez would like to stay in Pittsburgh, but getting market-rate pay is a very big deal for exactly 100 percent of all Major League Baseball players.

As a result, Sanchez has little to lose by simply going year to year through arbitration and letting that process work for him. He certainly has the numbers to back up his argument.

From the Pirates' perspective, the financial commitment to keep Sanchez would be very large, I think, surely dwarfing the contract Jack Wilson got. The new management very, very clearly is determined not to spend until it is convinced the team can contend - although that, obviously, must still be proven - and it might not see fit to invest a huge chunk of its payroll in one player at this particular time.

At any rate, I do think it bears stressing here - though it brought no email in my direction - that the team's bid to lock up Capps' salary for the next three or four years is very much in tune with what successful, low-spending teams do. And it is precisely what previous management almost never did with young players.

Simply put, the best way to create a window for young players to succeed is to make sure as many of them are affordable for as long as possible. Getting Capps and others under control makes sense even if one or two flops, as the math will show.

Q: Hi, Dejan. What's your take on the Nick Swisher-to-Chicago trade? Swisher's numbers compare pretty favorably to Xavier Nady's, though he's a switch-hitter with a higher OPB and is possibly more durable. That would have been a great trade for the PBC, no?

Two top young prospects to help stock a thin farm system as well as a position player who could compete for outfield time or spend a year in Class AAA.

Were they even talking to Chicago?

Brant Janeway of New York

KOVACEVIC: Got a lot of mail about Swisher, which kind of surprised me. Many readers wondered, too, why the Pirates could not deal Jason Bay to Oakland and get Swisher.

The simple answer to both issues is this: The Pirates did talk to the White Sox about a month ago regarding Bay but, as was made clear at the time, the White Sox wanted no part of the Pirates' asking price and never took anything seriously beyond that. As for Oakland, all indications, including this comment from Kenny Williams, are that the White Sox unilaterally went after Swisher because they really liked him. No other teams were involved, and Swisher was not being shopped.

Anyway, regarding Nady and Bay getting dealt ...

The Pirates feel at the moment that the view around baseball of Nady is that he is still seen as a platoon guy, and they clearly are hoping for a better return than offers they have heard. I still see Nady as most likely to be dealt, if only because of the outfield depth and the team's fervent wish to begin replenishing the minor-league system. (Be fairly sure that prospects will be the return.) But it is no given.

And Bay ... well, we have been over it here time and again, but trading any player at lowest possible value - barring another team willing to pay peak price, anyway - is not what successful franchises do. I never heard names regarding the Chicago prospects they might have sought in their limited talks, so I cannot know how that might have compared to what the Athletics ended up getting for Swisher. But it surely was in line with what the Pirates - right or wrong - felt was Bay's peak value.

I expect Bay to be wearing a Pittsburgh uniform at Turner Field on the last day of March.

Beyond that ...

Q: Dejan, as a long-time Pirates fan and season-ticket holder, I just don't understand why the Pirates signed Elmer Dessens and Masumi Kuwata. The lack of action in the offseason troubles me greatly. I cannot believe that they think the current team will improve significantly under a new manager.

I also read in one of your articles that, contrary to popular belief, the Pirates' scouting staff has not really changed that much. I just don't understand their strategy of collecting players on waivers and signing old washed-up players. Maybe you can shed some light on this strategy.

Dave D'Antonio of West Mifflin

KOVACEVIC: Taking those separately, even though they might be related ...

Dessens, Kuwata and a whole bunch of other right-handed relievers clearly are being thrown against the wall to see who sticks and who fills out the four glaring vacancies in the bullpen. (Or three, if you happen to believe, as some do, that Franquelis Osoria, is going to take a spot.) The Pirates are taking, no question, a really, really big gamble if they go into spring training with this group, but they seem to know that and sound determined to make it work.

As for the staff staying, if you are referring to the special assistants, that was what I wrote about back in late November. Most of the scouts are staying, too, as is much of the minor-league staff. At the major-league level, the team doctors, trainers, equipment and conditioning staff are back, too.

That could be a reflection of the inherent difficulty in finding, oh, 100 new people in one offseason. But what I have heard is that everyone at every level was evaluated and that those who were kept did so because the new management liked what they saw or heard. It remains to be seen how long the commitment lasts, though, as management could change minds on various matters once they actually see gears in motion.

Until tomorrow, when I hope to keep the focus on the minicamp being covered ...


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