First, news broke yesterday that Edwin Jackson turned down a three year deal from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Then just a couple of hours ago today, the story came out that Roy Oswalt said “thanks, but no thanks” to the Pirates approaching him wanting to talk. So why don’t players want to play in Pittsburgh?
There’s a culture of losing in Pittsburgh. The streak is at what, 19 straight losing seasons? If you’re under 25, or hell, even 30, when you think of Pittsburgh baseball, you think of them being the doormat of the National League. During these players’ careers, Pittsburgh has been a wretched team. The players are likely overlooking the surplus of young talent that the Pirates have built up, and instead looking at the here and now, which is a rebuilding, young team.
Oswalt is nearing the end of his career, and he’d like a ring. Pittsburgh won’t be ready for the big time for another couple of seasons, regardless of the wealth of talent they’ve built up right now. The Pirates brought in just four free agents this offseason: Erik Bedard, Nate McLouth, Rod Barajas, and Clint Barmes. Barajas and Barmes will be starters for the team and Bedard will slide into the rotation, while McLouth will be a bench player. Each of the three starters they signed replaced a departed starter; Bedard replaces Paul Maholm, Barajas replaces Ryan Doumit, and Barmes replaces Ronny Cedeno. None of these guys is a dealbreaker, they’re really just filling holes right now.
The Pirates have a pair of young, budding stars on offense in Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker, but the only other potentially above average regular on offense is Jose Tabata. The rest of the offense is a steaming pile of doo. Bedard is probably the best starter in the rotation now, which makes the team’s pursuit of Jackson and Oswalt makes a little more sense, but why would either of those two want to slide into the second slot of a rotation and have guys like Charlie Morton, James McDonald, and Jeff Karstens behind them? These guys may be fine regulars one day, but right now, they’re back-end rotation filler.
Pittsburgh has a ton of young talent in the minors, with guys like Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, Josh Bell, and Starling Marte in varying degrees of closeness to the majors. Mark ranked their farm system eighth in his rankings, and while they do have a ton of talent, much of it won’t be ready for the majors for at least another year. While Jackson could have been in it when they were ready, Oswalt wouldn’t have been, and his logic for not wanting to talk to Pittsburgh makes sense to me. As for Jackson, I guess he wanted to play for a contender, even if he had to take a one year deal.