Sunday, July 11, 2004

Turning Nothing Into Something

ESPN's Jayson Stark's new column has a bunch of Pirates rumors. The Pirates are asking the world for Kris Benson, who's being pursued by several teams, and are talking with the Marlins about Jason Kendall.

Stark also reports that the Pirates will almost certainly trade Jose Mesa. If Dave Littlefield can get a prospect or two for Mesa - and I think it's very likely that he will - he'll have made a very good move. Because of Mesa's terrible year in 2003, Littlefield was able to get him for virtually nothing. He picked up Juan Acevedo, too, hoping one of them would perform well.

Well, one of them did. Mesa, a Proven Closer if there ever was one, was given the closer's job, and he's posted a 2.45 ERA so far. Now Littlefield is on the brink of turning thirty good innings of Mesa (and his newly polished gold "C" medallion) into an interesting young player or two. If Littlefield wants to continue to play this three card monte game of picking up veterans cheaply and then dumping them on contenders for prospects, this is the way to do it.

If the Pirates' veteran signings block talented young players, they usually won't be worth the Pirates' time because the return they'll fetch on the market isn't likely to be worth more than the playing time needed to allow their young players to develop. That's one reason why it wasn't a good idea to acquire Randall Simon either time (the other main reason being that Simon's awful) - Ray Sadler wasn't worth the playing time Craig Wilson missed when Simon was around.

In this case, though, Mesa didn't block anyone, and the Pirates never had to commit much money to Mesa, so Littlefield is now on the brink of turning nothing into something.

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