Pirates shed payroll, re-invest in draft picks

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Much was made of the Pirates dumping a bunch of salary at the trading deadline, as they parted with relatively high-priced veterans Freddy Sanchez, Jack Wilson, John Grabow, and Adam LaRoche after previously dealing away Nate McLouth and Eric Hinske. Together those moves saved the team $7.3 million from the Opening Day payroll of $55 million, which didn’t sit well with some fans.
Pirates president Frank Coonelly even felt the need to defend the organization by explaining that “the savings are not nearly as large as some believe.” By itself slashing payroll is something that fans should absolutely question, particularly when the team involved is in the midst of a 17th straight losing season and has a nine-year-old ballpark that in theory was created to help support larger salaries. However, in this case the Pirates turned the money saved by dealing veterans into bonuses for hard-to-sign draft picks.
After paying the MLB-recommended slot price of $2.5 million for No. 4 overall pick Tony Sanchez, the Prices went significantly over slot to sign sixth-round pick Zach Von Rosenberg for $1.2 million and eighth-round pick Colton Cain for $1.1 million. In all they handed out $3.4 million to four high-school pitchers who dropped to them because of concerns about their bonus demands and ended up spending a grand total of $8 million on this year’s draft class.
Obviously only time will tell whether those above-slot signings will pay off, but investing $8 million in a bunch of high-upside prospects has a much higher likelihood of turning the Pirates into a long-term winning team than spending the same money on guys like Sanchez, LaRoche, Wilson, and Grabow. If the goal is to build a consistent winner rather than simply snapping the streak of losing seasons, Pirates management made the right call.

There’s no one to blame in Yankees’ loss

Joe Girardi

You’re going to boo All-Star Brett Gardner for striking out against a Cy Young contender?

You’re going to bash Alex Rodriguez for going hitless in another postseason game, three years after his last one?

Maybe you’d prefer to put it all on Masahiro Tanaka for giving up two solo homers to a lineup full of 20-homer guys?

The truth is that the Yankees were supposed to lose tonight. They were facing an outstanding left-hander with their forever-lefty-heavy lineup, and they simply didn’t have anyone pitching like an ace to set themselves up nicely for a one-game, winner-take-all showdown. The 3-0 result… well, that’s how this was supposed to go down.

It didn’t necessarily mean it would; what fun would it be if the better team always won? And the Astros might not even be a better team than the Yankees. However, the Astros with Dallas Keuchel on the mound were certainly a better team than the Yankees with whoever they picked to throw.

I just don’t see where it’s worth putting any blame tonight. Joe Girardi? He could have started John Ryan Murphy over Brian McCann against the tough lefty, but he wasn’t willing to risk Tanaka losing his comfort zone by using a backup catcher.

The front office could have added more talent, perhaps outbidding the Blue Jays for David Price or the Royals for Johnny Cueto, and set themselves up better for the postseason. However, that would have cost them Luis Severino and/or Greg Bird, both of whom went on to play key roles as the Yankees secured the wild card. Would it really have been worth it? I don’t think so.

Tanaka gave the Yankees what they should have expected. Had Keuchel’s stuff been a little off on short rest, Tanaka’s performance would have kept the Yankees in the game.

Keuchel, though, was on his game from the first pitch. The Astros bullpen might have been a bit more vulnerable, and late at-bats from Gardner, Carlos Beltran, Rodriguez and McCann definitely left something to be desired. Still, on the whole, the lack of offense was quite a team effort.

The Yankees got beat by a better team tonight.  I’m not sure the Astros would have been better in Games 2-7 in a longer series, but they had everything in their favor in this one.

Keuchel, Astros cruise past Yankees in AL Wild Card Game

AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Dallas Keuchel faced the Yankees two times during the regular season and was fantastic in each outing, striking out 12 in a complete-game shutout on June 25 and whiffing nine batters over seven scoreless frames on August 25.

The 2015 Cy  Young Award candidate continued that trend in Tuesday night’s American League Wild Card Game, limiting the Yankees to three hits and one walk over six innings of scoreless ball as the Astros earned a 3-0 win and advanced to a best-of-five ALDS with the top-seeded Royals.

Keuchel was working on three days of rest but didn’t show very many signs of fatigue, whiffing seven and needing only 87 pitches to get through six. He sure looked like he could have gone an inning longer, but Astros manager A.J. Hinch decided to turn the game over to his bullpen and they added three more big zeroes to the scoreboard at a very loud then very boo-heavy Yankee Stadium. Tony Sipp worked around some early jitters to throw a scoreless seventh, Will Harris kept the Yankees off the bases entirely in a scoreless eighth, and closer Luke Gregerson went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth.

Impending free agent outfielder Colby Rasmus provided the first burst of offense for the Astros in the top of the second inning with a leadoff homer against Masahiro Tanaka. And then deadline acquisition Carlos Gomez, who missed a bunch of time down the stretch with an intercostal strain, got to Tanaka for another solo shot in the top of the fourth. Houston scored its third run on a Jose Altuve RBI single in the top of the seventh.

This is a young, talented Astros team with an ace at the head of its rotation.

Kansas City could have a problem.