What you see with the Pirates rotation on paper right now is what you’ll probably get come April.

After weeks of being in deep talks with the Chicago White Sox about lefty Jose Quintana, the Pirates backed out of trade talks for good near the start of the month [hide] after failing to facilitate a three-way trade with Andrew McCutchen involved.

As pitchers and catchers have reported to spring training, the Pirates are no longer pursuing a Quintana trade.

Pittsburgh’s desire to complete a Quintana trade for the cost the White Sox wanted, was always dictated by the ability to move McCutchen.

Pirates GM Neal Huntington had the appetite to move a premium prospect like Tyler Glasnow but not multiple top tier prospects from the Pirates system.

That’s where the team and even the White Sox tried to get creative and work a three-way trade with Yankees who had interest in McCutchen + have one of the Majors deepest farm systems. The trade eventually broke down due to a number of moving parts.

Here’s what Huntington said on Friday when appearing on 937 The Fan about not mortgaging the future:

[“It’s one of those situations that we are for the mindset that as an organization, the best way to position ourselves to win a World Series is to get to the playoffs consistently and frequently, and we’re not of the mindset that the way to do that is to jeopardize your future for your present or to jeopardize your present for your future. We want to be a good team as consistently and frequently as possible and the only way to do that in a small market is to have a lot of good players, to have a lot of good players in your system and a trade of that magnitude would have been contradictory. We would have either been selling out to the next couple of years at the risk of our future. Instead, we believe we’ve got a good core in place, a core that was essentially predicted to win 88, 89 games a year ago.”]

With the budget maxed out after failing to move McCutchen and no market developing for Antonio Bastardo who the Pirates have desperately tried to move, Huntington has opened himself up for criticism as the Pirates open spring training.

Huntington is also strapped because of the budget which should always be weighted into the discussion.

Nonetheless, the inability to upgrade the roster, no impact starter added and the bench is weaker, has left the Pirates little room for error, especially in the rotation.

After a 78 win season, Vegas has the Pirates over-under at 85.5.

NL Central
Cubs 95.5
Cardinals 87.5
Pirates 85.5
Reds 73.5
Brewers 72.5

Huntington, though, is “essentially” right.

If everything breaks right for the Pirates, the upside is going to be there to potentially be an 88-90 win team again.

With the rotation, a lot of that will be some sort of combination of Gerrit Cole pitching like a No. 2 starter at least, Jameson Taillon continuing his ascend, Ivan Nova not turning back into the pitcher he was pre-Pittsburgh, and Tyler Glasnow taking a major step.

The Pirates are also going to have to bank on no steps back from the likes of Gregory Polanco, Starling Marte, to Andrew McCutchen having a bounce back, to Josh Bell being a consistent impact bat at 1b and so on.

Yeah all of that is possible for them to be a wild card team but a lot of that breaking the Pirates way is also unlikely as it was last season.

Expectations should be an 83-84 win team with upside to be 5-6 wins better but also little room for error where this could easily be a 78-80 win team again.[/hide]

(Photo: David Hague)