For the 2012 season, 'OK' will not cut it.
That was the message conveyed to fans Saturday at the "Ask Pirates Management" portion of PirateFest.
When asked why the Pirates declined to exercise Ronny Cedeno 's $3 million club option and paid more ($10.5 million over two years) to sign free agent Clint Barmes , manager Clint Hurdle said that though Cedeno improved, the Pirates needed to look elsewhere.
"My wife puts things in perspective," Hurdle said by way of example. "We go out to eat at a restaurant, and at the end of the meal I ask her how the meal was, and if she says it's OK, we don't go back. At the end of the year, for me, Ronny was OK. As we try and develop a championship club, I expect more out of my shortstop than what Ronny was able to bring."
Cedeno hit .249 with a .297 on-base percentage and had 93 strikeouts compared to 30 walks in 2011. He tightened his formerly erratic defense for most of the season.
"I recognized Ronny's improvement," Hurdle said. "Ronny and I spend many days in the office challenging one another about the best way to get the best out of Ronny."
General manager Neal Huntington told fans he was "optimistic" the Pirates could reach a long-term agreement with Andrew McCutchen .
"When you enter a negotiation, you're at X, the player's at Z and you work awfully hard to try to find Y," Huntington said. "There has to be a compromise, there has to be a shared risk on both sides."
McCutchen will be eligible for arbitration after next season and will be a free agent after the 2015 season.
Huntington cautioned that teams rarely retain all their players the way they used to and that maintaining a competitive club required more than one good player.
"I know fans love to root for players," he said. "We believe they want to root for a winning team."
Huntington said the new labor agreement's constraints on draft spending will hinder the way the Pirates approach talented players outside of the top rounds.
"It takes away a little bit of the safety net for clubs like us that have been aggressive in paying guys in the sixth round second-round money because we think they're a second-round talent," he said.
Huntington said the Pirates must out-work other teams in areas such as statistical analysis and scouting to overcome the new rules, but that the system was fair.
"Now it gives us access to the best talent, in theory, regardless of signability, regardless of the player's demands," he said.
Huntington said 2011 No. 1 overall pick Gerrit Cole will most likely start the season with Class A Bradenton, Fla.
Huntington also said former first-round pick Tony Sanchez will probably start the season with Class AA Altoona.
"We've got to get Tony back on track," he added. "The best way to do that may be to have him start in Altoona."
Second-round pick Josh Bell has the chance to start in low Class A West Virginia, Huntington said.
Bill Brink: email@example.com or Twitter @BrinkPG.