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.

The Red Sox start is ridiculous

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The red-hot Red Sox completed a sweep of the previously red-hot Angels last night, outscoring them 27-3 in their three-game series. Last night’s game was, relatively speaking, a close one, with the Sox winning “only” by six runs. They did manage to strike out Shohei Ohtani three times, though, so some style points help make up for the “squeaker.” Also worth noting that they held Mike Trout of all people to a 3-for-11 line in their three-game series. He did not score a single time and drove in no runs.

That series win puts the Sox at 16-2 on the year. They dropped their Opening Day game to the Rays, but then won their next six games against Tampa Bay, which I’d say makes up for it. In between those two series they swept a two-game series from the Marlins and afterwards they took two of three from the Yankees and three in a row from the Orioles. The only thing that even threatened to slow this juggernaut down is the weather, resulting in a postponement of Monday morning’s Patriot’s Day game. Somewhere in here we should notice that they’re doing this with their starting shortstop and starting second baseman on the disabled list.

As we’ve noted many times, their 16-2 record is the best start in the Red Sox’ 118-year history. It’s also the best start for any team since the 1987 Milwaukee Brewers began 17-1 (let us just forget, for the time being, that those Brewers lost 18 of 20 in May of that year). They are the fourth team since 1961 to win 16 of its first 18 games.

The Sox aren’t simply getting lucky here. They’ve scored 116 runs and have allowed only 50, which is a Pythagorean record of 15-3. They lead all of baseball in offense, scoring 6.44 runs a game, leading individually in average, on-base percentage and slugging. They are only three one hundredths of a run behind the Astros from leading all of baseball in pitching, allowing only 2.78 runs a game. They’re winning all of these games because, in the early going, they’ve simply been that dang much better than everyone they’ve played.

No, the Sox are not going to go 144-18, as they are currently on pace to do. Yes, they are going to find a lot more trouble in their schedule once they play the Orioles, Rays and Marlins less, play a healthier Yankees team more and face off against the Astros, the Blue Jays, the Indians, the Twins and some tougher interleague opponents. This is baseball, obviously, and no one makes it through a season without rough patches, long, short and numerous.

Still: this has been one whale of a start for Boston. Those wins are in the bank. It’s been quite the thing to see.