COLUMN: Before Pirates make moves, they must decide on a direction

With the Winter Meetings underway, the Pittsburgh Pirates still have one major question that they need to answer.

Before the Pittsburgh Pirates sign any players.

Before they make any trades.

Before any of that happens, the Pittsburgh Pirates front office needs to look in the mirror and decide whether they are going for it or rebuilding.

Truthfully there is no wrong answer here, but ultimately a decision must be made and Neal Huntington and company must commit 100 percent either way.

As the Pirates, and plenty of other teams before them, have found out the past couple of years, a team in baseball limbo simply has no place to go except tread the line of mediocrity.

That’s simply not good enough.

You can’t have it both ways.

You’re either making moves to improve the club with the intention of winning and returning to the playoffs or you are in full rebuild mode and acquiring serious assets for the future so this franchise can get back to where they were just a few short seasons ago.

Huntington and Frank Coonelly continuing to say that the goal is to build a winner in Pittsburgh simply isn’t good enough anymore.

We reached the stage where it has become show me and don’t tell me.

Instead of treating people, including the fan base, like idiots with their tired out phrases like “We will do everything in our power,” actions need to be taken.

I’m not one that really associates spending with winning, although it would be nice to see the franchise be willing to add a quality player or two from time to time.

At the end of the day, payroll isn’t really the big issue here.

It’s direction.

And the Pittsburgh Pirates right now don’t have one, plain and simple.

Make a decision.

You can’t be buyers and sellers at the same time.

Huntington tried that the past couple trade deadlines and it has gotten the organization nowhere.

If the organization is serious about being a contender then they need to show it.

Get a third baseman. Improve the bullpen and bench and maybe add a quality starter and let’s see what happens.

Anything short of that though and it’s just the same old tired words coming out of Huntington and Coonelly’s mouth.

If they look in the mirror and decide that given their financial constraints that they likely can’t compete then they need to become sellers.

And they need to do it 100 percent.

Start with Cole

Gerrit Cole, who has been linked to teams such as the New York Yankees, Minnesota Twins and Texas Rangers so far, can fetch a nice return of prospects that can make an impact in the next year or two in Pittsburgh.

What Huntington must decide is the value of two more years of Cole compared to possible six or seven years of potential in guys like Nick Gordon, Tyler Jay, and Zach Granite from the Twins or Miguel Andujar from the Yankees.

Not that Huntington may be able to acquire all of that, but you get the point.

If the organization doesn’t commit to winning this season it is a no-brainer.

Re-build for the future.

And rebuilding doesn’t mean just dealing Cole and calling it a day.

It means getting value for the likes of: Josh Harrison, Francisco Cervelli, David Freese, Ivan Nova and sadly Andrew McCutchen as well.

At the end of the day, the Bucs are going to continue to tread water until the front office figures out which direction they want to head.

Can’t do both

You can’t turn left and right at the same time.

Holding onto players with the approach of trading them at the deadline can backfire in a major way, especially if guys struggle. The return is obviously going to be much better for a 4-5.0 WAR guy than a 0.5-1.0 player.

That’s where coming up with a solid direction comes into play.

Just look at last season.

For most of the year, no one wanted to win the National League Central, but the Pirates didn’t go for it. There was a trade that sent out Tony Watson that could work out down the line and a trade that brought in Joaquin Benoit that made little sense.

That’s because Huntington has no clue if he wants to be a buyer or seller. The same thing occurred the year before.

It’s time for Huntington and Coonelly to make a decision. Go for it or commit to a youth movement and stock the cupboard back up with talent.

Believe me, knowledgeable baseball fans will at least show respect for being honest.

If Huntington would come out and say something along the lines of “Our small window has passed and we feel we can still be competitive for the next 5-7 years by selling off assets with large contracts to bring back legitimate controllable talents. So we are in a small  rebuilding phase.”

And it would be small if done right. It wouldn’t be a 20 year rebuild. If done right the Pittsburgh Pirates could be contending again in 2-3 years.

But to do that that, they need to pick a direction and commit.

Sitting in baseball purgatory is not the place any franchise wants to be.

Matt Shetler

Matt is a life long Pirates fan with both a newspaper and radio background. Before coming to Pirates Breakdown he was most recently the co-owner and lead columnist for Pittsburgh Sporting News. He has been a credentialed writer for all four major sports and also has written for plenty of other sports and fantasy sports websites.