Hidden Vigorish

Detailed Analysis of The Pittsburgh Pirates

Knowing When to Cut Bait

Rob Biertempfel of Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported yesterday that the Pirates are shopping outfielders Jose Tabata and Travis Snider.

Prior to the 2009 season Snider was rated as the 6th best prospect and Tabata was rated as the 27th best prospect by Baseball America. Neither has lived up to those lofty expectations. Both players will be 26 years old this season. Fans of the club have rather mixed opinions on whether or not to move either of these outfielders. Many people have seen enough from these two players and have no issues with the Pirates purging them from the roster. Others point to the resurgence of Brandon Moss in Oakland as the reason not to give up on talent like Snider or Tabata too early. Moss was also a former top 100 Prospect that the Pirates arguably gave up on too early. Last season he slugged 30 homers and posted an .859 OPS. Did the Pirates give up on him too early? Maybe, maybe not. It did take almost two seasons after the Pirates released him until he resurfaced and established himself as bonafide major league hitter.
 
The Pirates have a history of cutting bait on former highly touted prospects once they pass age 25. Let’s compare what two Pirates from the not too distant past did in their tenure with the team:
 

    Player A – #72 top ranking – 195 games – 569 ABs – .667 OPS – Cut at age 26
    Player B – #09 top ranking – 171 games – 599 ABs – .718 OPS – Cut at age 25

 
Now compare those with Travis Snider:
 

    Travis Snider – #06 top ranking – 161 games – 389 ABs – .627 OPS – Age 26

 

Player A was Brandon Moss. The organization said goodbye to him once and for all following the 2010 season. Player B was Lastings Milledge. He was also released after the 2010 season. Many Bucs fans still lament the loss of Moss, but no one seems too upset that Milledge was let go. Milledge played just two games in the majors after the Pirates released him. The last couple of seasons he has played in Japan. What is interesting is that the Pirates appear to have a longer leash now with these types of players despite the fact that there is much more talent in the organization than when the decisions were made to move on from Moss and Milledge. Maybe what Moss has done in Oakland has taught GM Neal Huntington a lesson on the valuation of former top prospects. Or maybe it is just a coincidence. Regardless, knowing the right time to cut bait on a player isn’t always easy. Getting the decision right 50% of the time will not be good enough to appease the critics. The one that got away will always hurt no matter how many turds were properly flushed.
 

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