As with Bumgarner and the Giants, move past the broader implications of an 80-game PED ban for Starling Marte, and you’re left with a painful truth: A team is going to suffer greatly. In this case, that team is the Pirates, another flawed ballclub that could hardly afford a loss this severe.
Like the Giants, Pittsburgh also ranks among the worst teams in baseball in park-adjusted offense. Unlike the Giants, the Pirates are a team built for future success. Gregory Polanco and Josh Bell, as well as Jameson Taillon, Tyler Glasnow, Chad Kuhl, and top outfield prospect Austin Meadows, are all 25 or younger.
That youth and upside, combined with Marte’s suspension, creates an opportunity of sorts. The Pirates aren’t the kind of team that can afford to pay for the decline phase of a player’s career. That makes re-signing Andrew McCutchen an extreme long shot. A slow start, combined with multiple offensive holes and the loss of the team’s best player for half a season, thus gives GM Neal Huntington an opportunity to make the move that would be impossible to justify in a contending season: Shop an all-time Pirates great to the highest bidder, and bolster Pittsburgh’s young core so that the next half-decade could produce a sustainable winner.