In a seemingly never ending search for a future the Pittsburgh Pirates seem intent on spending the second half of the 2009 season rebuilding, restocking and resetting the organization in the hopes that this will be the five year plan that bear fruit.
Pay no attention to the fact that the club has shown flashes of competency this season. General Manager Neil Huntington and President Frank Connelly have decided that they can sacrifice this season and large chunks of the team's present roster in order to build a better ball club.
Fans need look no further than the Nate McLouth deal to see the future. Last year's All-Star representative and home run leader was sent to Atlanta last month for three prospects who have yet to have any impact on the Major League level. The deal was made to add depth to the organization and is just the first in several that will see experienced players moved for a brighter future.
Next on the list is first baseman Adam LaRoche who is finally recovering from his annual Spring swoon. LaRoche and his occasional power will be out the door to a contender because his contract value just doesn't add up for the Bucs.
Despite being the occasional left handed power the club desperately needs, a team with a $48 million payroll isn't going to part with $6 million next year who can't break the Mendoza line until the kids are out of school.
Steady Jack Wilson is next. The 31-year-old shortstop would be owed over $7 million to stick around next year. The Pirates almost moved him at the trade deadline last season and again in the offseason but balked because there is no one in the organization who can even imitate a major league shortstop in the system. Look for Wilson to be headed to contender for a shortstop and another bat.
Don't be surprised if Wilson's high school buddy Freddy Sanchez joins him on the list of ex-Pirates before the end of the season. The former National League batting champion seems to have finally overcome last season's shoulder and eye issues and is once again a solid bat in the lineup. His price may get steep for a contender who is in need of a second baseman with a solid stick.
On the bubble this year is left handed relief ace John Grabow. Lefthanders are still a premium and the only reason the club held onto him at the trade deadline was that nobody was willing to part with a number one prospect in return. If that changes at the deadline this year, color him gone.
The only Pirates not on the market are pitchers Zach Duke and Paul Maholm and center fielder/phenom Andrew McCutchen. Duke appears to have conquered his demons this season and is back on target to be a top of the order starter and Maholm, despite a pair of recent bad outings, is the solid starter the team could build the remainder of its rotation around.
McCutchen is the future of the Pirates.
The former first round pick entered this weekend's action with a .323 batting average with five triples and 18 RBI in just 21 games. Comparisons are already being thrown about between McCutchen and another young skinny outfielder of the Pirates past named Barry Bonds. Those comparisons are not out of line.
The second half of the season is going to be painful for Pirate fans for the second year in a row. Players they have become comfortable with and have grown to respect on the field and in the community are going other places.
What the team receives in return will not immediately fill that void, but management hopes that soon enough the new pieces but an end to a decade and a half worth of futility and put the club on the road that leads to the parade route down the Boulevard of the Allies most recently taken by the Steelers and the Penguins.
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