First Pitch: What Do You Think Ben Cherington Should Accomplish?

Today, I’m going to follow up on my article from yesterday by highlighting a comment from the article. The comment comes from NMR, and has a lot of great points, but one point that left me questioning what is ultimately today’s discussion topic.

The comment:

My only minor rebuttal to the “talent”-based argument is that it’s not only completely academic, we also suuuuper suck at actually knowing what that even means.

The system left for Huntington was basically a caricature of the systems the Washington Nationals tend to run. Always ranked low due to lack of depth, but also pump out more actual big league value than the overwhelming majority of their peers. The reason is because now more than ever, the only dudes who really matter are the exceptional ones.

Vets have been devalued to the point that you can roster 1-1.5 WAR guys relatively cheaply just as easily as you can develop them. The only dudes who really end up mattering are the above average ones.

I could not possibly give a shit if your system’s #10-#30 prospects are “more talented” than another’s unless any of those guys actually end up providing big league value. That’s the entire point of having a system in the first place. The rest is nothing more than fodder for us nerds to argue about.

And this is where the current argument comes into play.

It’s dumb to look at the results of the talent left for Huntington and conclude that what Huntington left for Cherington isn’t much better, but that’s not comparing apples to apples. Terrible argument.

It is, however, extremely possible – if not expected – that the production gained from the system left for Huntington will be better than the system left for Cherington on account of basically the only decent prospects turning out to be really good.

Would that make a failure out of Cherington? I’m not even sure I’d say yes. You don’t just “develop” an Andrew McCutchen. It’s an exceptionally high bar.

NMR brought up some good points about what farm systems should produce. I wrote an article recently detailing how Erik Gonzalez could be a 1.5 WAR starting shortstop, and I think we all agree that this isn’t enough. Gonzalez was acquired in a trade for Max Moroff and Jordan Luplow, two players whose upside was average at best as starters.

The key to that trade is Tahnaj Thomas, who is the only one from the group who could have impact potential. After seeing the results under Huntington, I didn’t trust the Pirates to develop Thomas to that impact upside in the majors without some major changes. We’ll see if Ben Cherington can implement those changes and get better results.

Here’s where NMR’s comment left me with a major question: The idea that you don’t just develop an Andrew McCutchen.

The Pirates can’t win without an Andrew McCutchen. They can’t win without a star in the majors.

They’re not getting a star through free agency.

They’re not going to be able to trade for some other team’s star player, unless that star is like Chris Archer, on the downswing of his star days.

No team is going to trade their budding star prospect that they’ve developed, no matter who the Pirates are offering in return.

The only way the Pirates can get a star is if they develop that star.

The only way the Pirates are going to win again is if they can get a star.

I agree with NMR that it’s a lofty expectation to put on Ben Cherington to develop the next Andrew McCutchen. That’s not easy.

Then again, there are also only 30 Major League Baseball General Manager jobs in the world.

There is only one such job in Pittsburgh.

The person holding that job should be someone who can leap over the exceptionally high bar that NMR lays out.

Otherwise, what are we doing here? What do we expect from the Pirates going forward if we treat their only path to winning as something extremely difficult to accomplish? What do we expect from Ben Cherington if we’re routinely giving him free passes by lamenting the lack of proven talent that he has to work with, or pointing out the difficulty he faces in turning the raw talent in the system into a winning team?

My discussion topic for you guys today: What are your expectations for what Ben Cherington should accomplish? And what are your predictions for what he will accomplish?

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