Ron Cook: Pirates' run at Suppan is just for show
Share with others:
So the Pirates want us to think they're making a pitch for Jeff Suppan and are in the running to get him?
Do they really believe we're that gullible?
Why do the Pirates stop there?
Why don't they let word slip that they've got a shot at Barry Zito? Or maybe that they have a trade going for Ryan Howard? Or Justin Morneau?
Sure, those deals are possible, too.
You won't see anything more ridiculous all year than the Suppan speculation. The man is a free-agent pitcher at that joyous time of year when even mediocre pitchers are getting $10 million per season. The Pirates have offered Suppan two years, according to the news stories. He can get three, maybe four seasons elsewhere.
Beyond that, he is leaving the world champion St. Louis Cardinals. Do you really think he has spent even one second considering coming here and joining Dead Team Walking when there are other organizations that want him and actually are trying to win and have a realistic chance of doing so?
The only interest Suppan and his agent could possibly have in the Pirates' alleged interest is to use it to drive up their price a bit for someone else.
Then again, that thinking is pretty silly, isn't it?
Everyone in baseball -- and even at least one person outside of the game -- knows the Pirates aren't any kind of a player when it comes to spending real money on their product.
How did Mark Cuban put it so appropriately last spring?
"I think one of the reasons [Kevin] McClatchy won't sell is that, if you can deal with the abuse that goes with losing, you can make $15 million or $20 million a year. Would you put up with that abuse for $15 million or $20 million a year?"
You know the answer to that one from Pirates headquarters.
Not only is Suppan not interested in the Pirates, it says here, the team absolutely, positively is thrilled that he's not interested.
Why does it want to take on that kind of financial commitment when it can just as easily have a 15th consecutive losing season and challenge for last place again without Suppan?
Or without Adam LaRoche, for that matter.
The Pirates actually made us take notice of them for a few brief seconds last week when there were reports of a possible trade with the Atlanta Braves for LaRoche, who hit 32 home runs with 90 RBIs last season. It seemed worthwhile giving up reliever Mike Gonzalez and maybe another player -- Chris Duffy or Nate McLouth, perhaps -- to get him. He's a terrific-looking young slugger.
You know, the kind the Pirates never develop.
A trade is the only way that kind of player is going to end up here. The Pirates can't go out and lure an Alfonso Soriano, the way their division rival Chicago Cubs did this offseason. They can't sign a Carlos Lee, the way the Houston Astros did.
A trade is the Pirates' only hope.
That the LaRoche deal fell through and the Pirates left the winter meetings without doing anything was not surprising. It would have been a bold trade for Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield, who just doesn't have the nerve to make them. You never see him take a chance on a big move that would give the team its only shot -- remote as it might be -- of hitting the jackpot and fielding a winning team. He's pretty good at trading for a Benito Santiago or maybe unloading a Kip Wells at the trade deadline, but that's about it. Even his best trade -- the Brian Giles deal to San Diego for Jason Bay and Oliver Perez -- was as much about dumping Giles' salary as anything.
It's understandable to a point that Littlefield has made his four young starting pitchers -- Ian Snell, Zach Duke, Paul Maholm and Tom Gorzelanny -- virtual untouchables.
The way the market is these days, starting pitching is precious. The Cubs had to spend $40 million over four years for Ted Lilly (career record: 59-58). The Kansas City Royals gave underachieving Gil Meche (55-44) $55 million for five years. And the topper: The Boston Red Sox put up $51.11 million just to have the right to try to negotiate a $100 million contract with Japan's Daisuke Matsuzaka.
You wouldn't give up young pitching easily, either.
But there's no guarantee the Pirates' four starters are going to grow up and be Hall of Famers. Remember how Perez was going to be the next Sandy Koufax? You know how that turned out.
Considering the Pirates' sorry plight, none of the pitchers should be an untouchable.
Neither should Bay or Freddy Sanchez.
Not that Littlefield ever would have the strength to move one even if the right deal came along.
The only good news is the Pirates don't have to play their first real game for 110 days.
Not because that still gives them time to make a superficial move. Bulletin: Trot Nixon still is out there. No, it's good news because 110 days seems like a long time before we have to endure another losing Pirates season.
Sadly, it will be here before we know it.
First Published December 13, 2006 12:00 am