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Why won’t anyone take the Pirates’ money?

Feb 10, 2012, 11:19 AM EDT

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Last week we learned that both Edwin Jackson and Roy Oswalt turned down offers from Pittsburgh, and in Jackson’s case he turned down the Pirates’ three-year, $30 million offer to sign a one-year, $11 million deal with the Nationals.

Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review notes that the Pirates also tried to keep Derrek Lee back by tendering him a contract in December via the arbitration process, which would have locked him into a one-year deal worth at least $7 million. Lee turned it down and is still trying to find a home as a free agent.

So why won’t anyone take the Pirates’ money? General manager Neal Huntington tried to explain:

Honestly, we just need to keep playing better ball. When we win, we’re going to see those results change, along with a lot of other things. We have a great pitcher-friendly ballpark. We have a lot of pieces in place. But the winning has to happen first. And it will. We still feel very good about the team we’ll have in 2012.

He’s right, of course, although to some extent it’s a chicken-or-egg situation because not being able to sign veteran free agents they target is, in theory at least, holding the Pirates back from doing more winning. As it stands now, Pittsburgh hasn’t finished .500 since 1992 and last season’s 72-90 record was the Pirates’ best since 2004.

  1. blueintown - Feb 10, 2012 at 11:27 AM

    y’aaarrr..

    • kopy - Feb 10, 2012 at 11:42 AM

      A pirate walks into a bar with a ship’s (steering) wheel in his pants. The bartender says, “Excuse me, sir, why do you have a ship’s wheel in your pants? The pirate replies, “Y’aaarrr! It’s driving me nuts!!”

      • Ben - Feb 10, 2012 at 2:04 PM

        Who the hell would downrate that??

      • drewsylvania - Feb 10, 2012 at 3:24 PM

        I didn’t downrate it, but I’ve also heard it 8000 times.

      • kopy - Feb 10, 2012 at 3:55 PM

        Would you say that the joke is driving you nuts?

    • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Feb 10, 2012 at 2:47 PM

      Exactly. The answer to this post is that it’s never a good idea to take money from Pirates.

  2. Ben - Feb 10, 2012 at 11:35 AM

    At least in Edwin Jackson’s case, he knows the Pirates aren’t contenders in the next year or two. Maybe he simply doesn’t want to just become trade bait (again) in short order?

    • Bryz - Feb 10, 2012 at 12:00 PM

      But with his 1-year contract in Washington, he either will be trade bait this year, or he’ll be looking for another team for the 2013 season.

      • Ben - Feb 10, 2012 at 12:10 PM

        Yeah, I thought about that, but at least at the end of next year at least he has some control over where he goes, rather than being offed to the highest bidder.

      • natstowngreg - Feb 10, 2012 at 5:56 PM

        And in the meantime, Jackson can pitch a season for a team that might contend. If he signed with the Pirates, he would have committed to 3 years for a team that might or might not contend in year 3.

    • mjay424 - Feb 10, 2012 at 3:09 PM

      What the Pirates and their fans may not know is that Edwin Jackson did them a favor by not taking Pittsburgh money because Jackson is highly overrated and won’t be grossly overpaid by the Pirates.

      Oswalt simply wants to play with a team that is contending now so his attitude in Pittsburgh would have been bad. Again, good for the Pirates he didn’t take their money.

      Pittsburgh has to draft and develop, sign the right non-star free agents and the winning will happen with strong leadership.

      I’m old enough to remember the Bonds-Bonilla-Van Slyke-Drabek days. They can do it again if they draft wisely and develop talent.

  3. kiwicricket - Feb 10, 2012 at 11:36 AM

    Because it’s tainted with the foul, inadmissible stench of failure.

  4. billobrienschindimple - Feb 10, 2012 at 11:36 AM

    The losing streak is old enough to vote. Wonder if it has registered yet?

  5. toegoat - Feb 10, 2012 at 11:43 AM

    The answer to that question is: Quality vets don’t wana play for a team that is rebuilding and we all know the Buccos have been rebuilding since 1992. Which leaves one question, Do they have a minor league team or farm system or scouts or anybody to effectively manage a roster? It also doesn’t help that the Nuttings pockets are extremely tight.

    • drewsylvania - Feb 10, 2012 at 11:50 AM

      They’ve spent a lot of money on the draft since Huntington arrived, and as a result, their drafts have been much better. But a number of the guys who were supposed to be contributors by now (Alvarez being the biggest example) have stalled. If Huntington stays the course and keeps building through the draft, they could turn into the Rays. But the Nutters have to be willing to spend a *little* money.

  6. spudchukar - Feb 10, 2012 at 12:04 PM

    Pieces of Eight, and Doubloons just do not go as far as they used to.

  7. randygnyc - Feb 10, 2012 at 12:05 PM

    The Pirates suck, and the city isn’t the kind of place a millionaire ballplayer is going to want to willingly live in either. I have to admit, what’s the draw?

    • yournuts - Feb 10, 2012 at 12:52 PM

      Of course this is a stupid comment. Pittsburgh is a great sports town. The Pirates are a great franchise with a great past. Perhaps the 1960 Pirates played and won one of the greatest World Series ever. The Pittsburgh Penguins, The Pittsburgh Steelers are in the upper tier of their sports.
      The Pittsburgh area is a wonderful place to live in. It is a blue collar town. It’s may not be as entertaining as New York or LA, but it sure is better than some other major league cities.

      • yettyskills - Feb 10, 2012 at 1:31 PM

        1. Great sports town vs great place to live, learn the difference
        2. The Pirates are NOT a great franchise.
        3. NOBODY cares about the 1960 Pirates especially free agents
        4. Free Agents could not care less about the Steelers or Penguins

        And yet you have 5 thumbs up vs zero, despite the fact that your entire posts fails and misses the point.
        Well you Had zero thumbs down

      • kellyb9 - Feb 10, 2012 at 1:52 PM

        I have a few issues with what you said above that I simply won’t get into. I think it would suffice to say Pittsburgh has shown that it will come out and support a good product. The Pirates, unfortunantly, need to grossly overpay for players at this point to get a good product out on the field. It’s a problem that ownership has created by being cheap. I’m not saying it isn’t possible to turn it around. The Penguins were about ready to pack up and move to Kansas City 10 years ago before Mario Lemiuex intervened.

      • florida76 - Feb 10, 2012 at 3:14 PM

        yournuts, you’re right on the money with your comments. Pittsburgh does have a great track record historically across all sports, even college. Unfortunately, the losing streak has definitely tarnished the image and reality about the Pirates, especially among some younger fans. The internet isn’t so great in explaining context. Fortunately, MLB did not begin play in 1980, and baseball relies more on history than other sports. Tradition never dies, and many generations of fans who experienced the great decade of the 70s, helped the club record the fourth highest franchise mark in club history in 2011. If and when the club contends deep into the season for the first time since 1997, it will be a fantastic story, not just in Pittsburgh either. Last season, there was a glimpse into the potential excitement when the Bucs handled the American League in their head to head matchups, including series wins over Detroit and Boston.

        If you’re educated about the history of the game, then you already know the Pirates remain one of the most storied franchises in MLB, without question. Of course, that doesn’t fit into the narrative of doom and gloom, and no hope. You can’t pick and choose a period of time and make conclusions. Using that logic, the New York Yankees were a terrible franchise when they went that 1965-1976 drought without a world title. Context, people.

        So knowledge and a frame of reference are important, do the research if you’re not sure what you’re talking about, or those events happened before your birth.

        Let’s be smart and objectively measure where the Bucs stack up versus the rest of MLB. As it turns out, very highly rated in franchise achievement. Unlike some other teams, the Bucs haven’t been relocated from another city, longevity and tradition are important. Of course, so are World Championships( Brewer fans need not apply ). In fact, only the Yankees, Cards, and Red Sox have won more World Titles for their current cities. To put everything in it’s proper perspective, it took the San Francisco Giants roughly 50 years to finally win their first Fall Classic for those San Fran fans. To equal the Pirates total, it would take San Francisco another 200 years! The Cubs have existed for about as long as the Bucs, and they’ve been in the wilderness since 1908!

        The organization also boasts the most batting champions in MLB history, along with a very high list of Hall of Famers(more primary HOF players than the Red Sox). And the Bucs Hall of Fame players include all-time greats as well. So when you look at the whole picture, this IS a great franchise. In fact, numerous organizations, from the Cubs to Rangers, would love to have this type of heritage.

        So while this tradition can’t physically win games, or pay the money to lure free agents, it’s a part of the mosaic of this storied franchise. Once the winning begins again, that support we saw last season, partly due to the tradition, will make the Pirates a more attractive destination for free agents.

    • stex52 - Feb 10, 2012 at 2:12 PM

      Is there anyone in the world more provincial than a New Yorker? Never even occurs to them that there is anywhere else.

      • kopy - Feb 10, 2012 at 3:06 PM

        I live in New York, and no. I have, on multiple occasions, needed to provide specific examples of things that other large cities have to offer that can’t be found in NYC. It’s quite the secluded, closed existence. But it’s not lonely on this pedestal; it’s expensive, and your neighbors are constantly breathing on you.

      • stex52 - Feb 10, 2012 at 4:04 PM

        Not to be overly critical. I like New York. I read “New Yorker” every week. I have in-laws up the coast in Providence (my home is in Houston). There is a lot to love. But too many New Yorkers seem unaware of the virtues of being anywhere else.

      • kopy - Feb 10, 2012 at 4:27 PM

        Oh yeah, I’m agreeing. And I wouldn’t still be here if it was really as bad as my last post made it seem. I just get frustrated with the people who completely disregard that there are other enjoyable places in the United States. And such people do exist.

  8. APBA Guy - Feb 10, 2012 at 12:07 PM

    Of course the Pirates are Exhibit A (the Royals are B) as to why A’s fans aren’t positive a new stadium is the entire answer to what ails the A’s. Like the Pirates, free agents won’t sign with the A’s because the team isn’t a winner. Unlike the Pirates you also hear that the Mauoleum is filled with giant, man eating rodents who lurk unseen in dark, dank, mazelike passageways beneath the ancient, crumbling structure, their red eyes evolved into lost player detection machines, able to hunt the hapless Athletic player down, then consume him quickly, leaving no traces, save the cleats.

    We’re told free agents don’t much like being chased by giant man-eating rats. Some of us believe that. But the A’s fans are also supposed to believe our GM from Olympus insures that when we get a new stadium, all will be well, automatically.

    For the Pirates, the challenge is to win first with homegrown talent-that will attract free agents, if the owner is willing to spend and if the Pirates can keep that talent in Pittsburgh. If not, enjoy the view into the river from you new stadium. The A’s have to be able to do the same thing. And they aren’t doing it either. The losing streak may not be able to vote yet, but it’s about to go to elementary school. And you know kids, they grow up quickly.

    • kiwicricket - Feb 10, 2012 at 12:20 PM

      Channeling your inner ‘Gator’ on that one? Excellent points made.

    • florida76 - Feb 10, 2012 at 12:50 PM

      APBA Guy, you failed to mention kids also forget very quickly when the situation changes. Players live in the now, not 1992. Money talks, and an improving organization will be more attractive for free agents.

    • ptfu - Feb 10, 2012 at 12:59 PM

      Rodents of unusual size? I don’t think they exist. [ducks quickly]

      The Pirates were decent for half of last season. Karmically speaking, they should be able to sign someone, with both sides knowing the Pirates will trade him halfway through the season. Or maybe they could sign someone who frequently gets hurt, so they get only half a season out of him.

    • yournuts - Feb 10, 2012 at 1:13 PM

      I don’t think you have an idea about the Bay area situation with the A’s and Giants. If the A’s move to Santa Clara or San Jose they will be in an area that has some of the richest corporations in the World right down the street. This will attract corporate sponserships for the luxury boxes. Oakland is where the A’s are now, is the murder capital of America. Families do not attend games because of fear of getting hurt or getting robbed to go to a game in Oakland. Pittsburgh and Oakland are two completely different situations.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 10, 2012 at 3:28 PM

        Families do not attend games because of fear of getting hurt or getting robbed to go to a game in Oakland

        Doesn’t stop people from going to Yankee games, and it’s not exactly in the greatest neighborhood either.

  9. sdelmonte - Feb 10, 2012 at 12:29 PM

    And yet Jayson Werth signed with the Nats in a case where, for the most part, that team is in the same shape as Pirates from what I can tell: lots of young talent coming up, but not much hope of winning.

    • Francisco (FC) - Feb 10, 2012 at 2:39 PM

      Jayson Werth was offered $126 MM smackers for 7 years. Edwin Jackson was offered $30 MM smackers for 3 years… there’s a difference…

      • kopy - Feb 10, 2012 at 3:59 PM

        But when you compare what Werth could have gotten elsewhere with what Jackson did get elsewhere, I don’t know that there is much of a difference.

      • Francisco (FC) - Feb 10, 2012 at 4:29 PM

        I would say that what Werth was offered was just ridiculous in comparison, what Jackson was offered didn’t floor him. We’re talking about the difference between earning 8 figures for 4 or 5 years vs 9 figures for 5 years, it was an order of magnitude higher. I keep insisting that players are more interested in total compensation rather than the AAV. Basically the Nationals gave Werth the moon.

        While Jackson would have earned nearly triple with the Pirates, remember that his primary goal was something Werth-esque: 5 years in the 75-90 MM territory. The Pirates didn’t offer the Moon.

  10. florida76 - Feb 10, 2012 at 12:45 PM

    Not sure what’s the story here, guess it must be a slow news day. Historically, struggling teams in MLB will always face an uphill climb in signing free agents, especially when they don’t possess the money to burn other clubs do. Let’s examine these three free agents and why they chose to decline the money.

    Roy Oswalt: Aging pitcher with back issues who spent much of his career with the Astros. After pitching for the Phillies, it’s natural he wants a better shot at a ring.

    Edwin Jackson: Rolling the dice on a one year deal with a so-so Washington club which will need breaks to make the playoffs. Nats gambled on Jason Werth last year, how did that turn out?

    Derreck Lee: Late season acquisition who became injured soon after arriving in Pittsburgh, and missed significant action. By the time he returned, the injury-plagued Bucs had fallen out of contention. Has a preference for the west coast, or may just retire.

    Let’s calm down and realize this is the classic black or white issue. Progress breeds success, which leads to a more attractive destination.

  11. dw3dw - Feb 10, 2012 at 1:35 PM

    The A’s are a different situation as their rebuilding after the 2006 ALCS reached the point where one or two big free agents might have made a difference, but no one would sign. They had the pitching to contend, but Adrian Beltre turned them down (twice); so did Lance Berkman, and Marco Scutaro (and he had played there) for less money. All cited the stadium as the problem. CJ Wilson last year called the mound in Oakland the worst in baseball (true? who knows). They are the only team to share the field with an NFL team–by mid-August the outfield is a nightmare. I think a new stadium might help in this case.

  12. aaronmoreno - Feb 10, 2012 at 1:40 PM

    Detroit was a terrible team not long ago, but was able to bring in some “name” free agents for the interim.

    The secret? Vastly overpay them.

  13. genericcommenter - Feb 10, 2012 at 1:59 PM

    When one of your top young hitters is a 31 year old with 3 years of experience and only 1 above average season who needs to be platooned, you know your team is just not good. That makes it difficult to attract free agents.

  14. buffalo24 - Feb 10, 2012 at 2:37 PM

    Why in the world would a veteran want to play for a team thats been losing/re-building for the last 20 years or so ? After years of trading good players, now you want to spend money ? The Nationals have no problems ? Can’t change your rep in a year ! !

  15. DJ MC - Feb 10, 2012 at 2:40 PM

    When he was GM of the Orioles, Syd Thrift made a statement that became infamous in Baltimore fan circles. After several free agents turned down larger offers with the Orioles to sign elsewhere, he said that it was like he offered them Confederate money.

    When your team is losing for as long as teams like Baltimore and Pittsburgh (and Kansas City, and likely San Diego and a few other places with more recent success), you really cannot afford the superstar free agents. The next tier down is not necessarily looking at money as the only reason to sign, so you sometimes cannot offset playing for a better organization and a winning club with cash.

    The only way to solve the problem is, as with so many other problems in the sport, to win games.

  16. chiadam - Feb 10, 2012 at 3:17 PM

    I practice so that when I see a pirate, I can kill it!!

  17. buffalomafia - Feb 10, 2012 at 3:29 PM

    Why doesnt the owner quit being cheap & get good ball players?

    I miss the Pirates in the playoffs!

  18. stairwayto7 - Feb 10, 2012 at 4:12 PM

    Derrick Lee can sit at home when no one calls him, Edwin Jackson can go 8-13 with the Nats and Oswalt will be a #4 or #5 on an average team while the Pirates are contending for the N.L. Central title wioth the Reds!

  19. brianabbe - Feb 13, 2012 at 2:34 PM

    Prior to 1993, the Pirates were not all that different from St. Louis. The franchise had five championships , including one as recent as 1979 (We are Family) and had its own Stan Musial-esque icon in Roberto Clemente (Probably more famous).

    It is not unreasonable to assume that had they found competent leadership to draft, develop and pursue the right free agents to fill key holes over the past 20 years, they would be a poor man’s version of the Cardinals at worst, spending $80 million a year or so on payroll and contending often enough to be something other than a black hole. Honestly, I hope they turn it around soon. There are not any fans in any sport that deserve the stretch of hideous play that they have endured for the past two decades. The same goes for the Royals.

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