Bucs not as likely to deal hot prospects

Commentary

PITTSBURGH — The Chicago Cubs pulled the trigger on a deal a lot of people wished the Pirates had made.

The struggling Cubs acquired left-handed pitcher Jose Quintana from the White Sox for four prospects, including players considered the two best minor leaguers in the Cubs’ system.

So the rebuilding White Sox reload by trading a pitcher who isn’t going to make a difference for them this year. The desperate Cubs get a proven arm for their rotation.

Quintana is not a rental player. He has two years on his contract beyond this season, and the price is manageable by today’s MLB standards. He tops out at $11.5 million. He’s 28 and should be in his prime. Quintana hasn’t had a great season so far, but his track record is solid.

The Cubs are in a position to give up prospects, even if they become stars. The Cubs can go out and buy free agents to fill holes. Before last season started, they spent $184 million on Jason Heyward, $155 million on Jon Lester and, oh by the way, $56 million on Ben Zobrist.

Teams in big revenue markets play a different game. The Boston Red Sox admitted they made a mistake on portly free agent Pablo Sandoval and designated him for assignment last week. They’ll eat the remaining $48 million of his contract, and it’s not like they got much value for the $47 million they’ve already paid him.

Over three seasons, Sandoval appeared in 161 games and batted .237. His OPS with the Red Sox was .646. By comparison, Clint Barmes’ career OPS was .673.

The Red Sox made a $95 million mistake on Sandoval. They’ll probably say a few bad words in the office, but it won’t crimp their payroll moving forward.

It’s easy to trade prospects, just as it’s easy to trade draft picks in the other sports. They don’t exist as real life major league players. They’re abstract. Make the deal that feels good today, and worry about tomorrow when it gets here.

Except when the budget is limited, that’s not a good way to live. It’s like buying with credit cards.

Prospects are gold to a team like the Pirates. They’re dirt cheap (by MLB standards) through their first three years, and manageable for the three or four years that follow before they reach free agency.

That explains their reluctance to trade prospects, and it’s understandable. You can argue that some are face-first flops who never amount to anything (Jose Tabata). But some turn out to be Andrew McCutchen.

Maybe keeping Josh Bell was a good idea. It’s still too early to tell on Tyler Glasnow.

Sometimes trades get reported as “(big name) for (minor leaguer).” Some of those anonymous minor leaguers in the past turned out to be John Smoltz, Ryne Sandberg and Jeff Bagwell.

Maybe the Pirates could have gotten Quintana for this season and two more. But would it be worth trading away six or seven seasons of players who might have a major impact?

They obviously didn’t think so. Were they right? We’ll be back in about six years with the answer.

He’s back

The story of the week will be what kind of reception Starling Marte gets when he returns from his steroids suspension on Tuesday.

If he plays well, people will be forgiving. Fans want to win games. Moral issues are a distant second.

New … but improved?

There was a lot of fanfare about Root Sports switching its identity to AT&T SportsNet, something that matters little to viewers.

It’s a big deal for the company, of course, because the remaining employees get shirts with the new logo. Otherwise, who cares?

So they did the big buildup about how things are new and improved and shiny and bright.

Next thing you saw was Stan Savran and Kent Tekulve sitting at that desk.

So the hoopla was kind of like showing off some detailing on a car that has 200,000 miles on it.

Mehno can be reached at johnmehnocolumn@gmail.com.

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