When Pirate fans were finally able to peer through the smoke from the ashes of their recent fall from playoff contention, one certain observation stood quite evident: a division title won't be won with this current group of players.
The Pirates' weaknesses are many, and they will be addressed in the offseason when general manager Neal Huntington will likely pluck some free agents from this year's bumper crop to plug some gaping holes and allow the prospects more time to develop.
It may take a few more years before the Pirates are true contenders, but when it happens, which of these current players will still be a Pittsburgh Pirate?
Surely not many.
Here are the current Major Leaguers on the roster or disabled list who have the best shot of being on the Pittsburgh Pirates 2014 Central Division Champions team.
The talented 24-year-old All-Star center fielder is a keystone building block for this team.
Cutch was the Pirates' 2006 Minor League Player of the Year.
Since his major league debut in 2009, McCutchen has hit .286 both of his first two seasons and is as about as solid an all-around player as you can find.
Blessed with speed, power and a great glove, McCutchen is already considered one of the best center fielders in baseball.
McCutchen will be one of the most important components of the Pirates' next division champion team.
Outfielder Jose Tabata, who is about to return from an extensive stay on the disabled list, was acquired from the New York Yankees in 2008. Tabata was very highly rated in the Yankees farm system at the time of his acquisition by the Pirates.
Tabata made his major league debut on June 9, 2010. By the time that he ended his rookie season as a Pirate, he was batting .299, and excelling in the role of leadoff hitter.
Tabata and Andrew McCutchen are armed with similar qualities. In fact, some baseball people feel his potential exceeds that of McCutchen.
Regardless, he will also be an anchor in the outfield on the Bucs' next division champion team.
Alex Presley has been a pleasant surprise. He is another catalyst at the top of the order and hit .333 over the 20 games before his hand injury.
Presley is comfortable at the plate or on the bases, and his steady performance has convinced the Pirates that, with him on the roster, they have a well-rounded, extremely talented outfield.
Though the left-hander is likely to be platooned in matchup situations, he will be an important piece of the next division champion Pirate team.
Hometown-native second baseman Neil Walker rapidly became a fan favorite with his dependable bat and glove and his passionate playing style.
Walker is consistent at the plate for the Pirates and is their best infielder. He is a career .280 hitter and has some power.
Walker may be the only current infielder to still be around to celebrate winning that division title.
Jeff Karstens is the ace of the Pirates pitching staff.
Karstens was among the league leaders in ERA when he suffered an uncharacteristically poor outing against the San Diego Padres in early August, giving up nine runs that ballooned his numbers a full half-point to 3.04
Otherwise, Karstens has excelled with good rhythm, great control and superior efficiency, to the point of tossing an 83-pitch complete game in July.
Karstens will be important to the Pirates' success for many years to come.
Right-handed pitcher James McDonald has made tremendous strides as the 2011 season has unfolded, showing steady improvement over the past couple of months.
McDonald has shown passion and poise and figures to get even better with more experience.
McDonald will be there celebrating the next division title, and deservedly so.
OF Xavier Paul: Could be a platoon guy with Alex Presley or fill in on off days for McCutchen or Tabata.
SS Chase d'Arnaud: Lots of potential but little of it has been shown as of yet at the Major League level.
IF Brandon Wood: Has shown improvement at the plate and versatility in the infield that makes him a valuable utility man.
RP Daniel McCutchen: Needs to show some improvement in walks allowed, but opponents are hitting a stingy .207 against him.
P Ross Ohlendorf: Must fulfill his potential. A little run support along the way would help him.
RP Chris Resop: Solid middle man. He's still improving.
C Ryan Doumit: He's 30 now, but he hits for average and is solid behind the plate.
C Mike McKenry: A big part of the Pirates' resurgence. He needs to contribute a bit more offensively.
A few names that one might expect to be prominent assets on the list are not likely to survive for various reasons:
3B Pedro Alvarez: Certainly the biggest question mark. The Pirates could become frustrated with his lack of development and ship him to another team, where he will promptly become a star. Alvarez may simply flounder to the point that he needs a change of scenery and a new start. Hopefully, he may yet fulfill his potential within the next two years and remain a Pirate.
RP Joel Hanrahan: The Pirates will be forced trade him for some kind of return before they lose him to free agency.
P Paul Maholm: Aging pitcher will get traded for a return.
P Charlie Morton: Too inconsistent over the years. Will be traded.
P Kevin Correia: Can't pitch at home. Traded.
RP Evan Meek: Traded.
SS Ronny Cedeno: A liability defensively and below average offensively. Traded.
IF-OF Garrett Jones: Squeezed out of outfield by Presley/Paul platoon. Traded.
Several catchers were used this season, the remainders being Jason Jaramillo, Chris Snyder, Eric Fryer: Very hard to call. All have trade potential.
Say goodbye to:
RP Jose Veras: Struggling in his bullpen role. Badly.
OF Mike Diaz: Powerless power hitter. Will be DFA.
OF Ryan Ludwick: The Pirates might get one more year out of him as a platoon OF, then he's gone.
1B Derrek Lee: Rental player.
IF-OF Steve Pearce: Very little contribution. DFA.
RP Jason Grilli: The Phillies released him for a reason. The Pirates will find out soon.
P Joe Beimel: Aging pitcher fades away by the time the Pirates contend.
Two-way pitchers Danny Moskos, Brad Lincoln and Tony Watson could very well be on that roster.
Prospect pitchers Rudy Owens, Stetson Allie and Jameson Taillon have a shot.
Minor Leaguers C Tony Sanchez, OF Sterling Marte and 1B Matt Hague could all be in Pirate uniforms in three years.