Reality Bites Back Hard!
One thing we can say for certain is that the current Pirates brass definitely did not intend to do another Aramis Ramirez deal when they traded Jason Bay and Xavier Nady during the 2008 season.
In one sense you could say those were "salary dump" trades, because the club had obviously decided it wasn't going to pony up to re-sign Bay and Nady long term. I have no problem with that decision in principle.
It would be different if the club was closer to contender status, but unfortunately our pitching staff went completely off the deep end this season, and that is not likely amenable to a quick fix. Plus, we would have lost significant trade leverage by hanging onto Bay and Nady until next season, at which point opposing GMs would be lining up for the fire sale.
I will add that our front office also made a clear and powerful statement by doling out large sums of money for our amateur draft picks this year. We can expect that that policy will continue into the next couple of seasons at least.
Bottom line: I have no problem in principle with what the Pirates chose to do, ie, to spend their money on drafting and developing young players en masse as opposed to committing perhaps $15 million per on Bay and Nady for the next 3-4 years. That is a wise move as far as I am concerned.
However, the hard reality is that there is always risk with this strategy. No matter how well the Florida Marlins, Minnesota Twins, and Oakland A's have sailed this course themselves, there simply is no guarantee that young players acquired in trade will equal, replace, or exceed the production lost when the veteran(s) leaves town.
So far, the Nady trade still looks at least respectable, while the Bay trade looks disastrous. If Brandon Moss is permanently affected by what looks like a serious if not catastrophic knee injury, we're down to Andy LaRoche, Whatsisname Hansen, and A-baller Brian Morris. It is quite possible that NONE of these players will ever be a significant contributor in a Pirates uniform.
That's the nature of the necessary risk a team like the Pirates must take from time to time. And oh by the way: re-signing your veterans to humongous long term deals doesn't always work out, either. Look at the Yankees with Jason Giambi (yes I know they got him as a free agent, but my point here has to do with his bazillion dollar contract).
Yes, we'll miss Jason and "X" and maybe even Damaso Marte---assuming he doesn't come right back to Pittsburgh this offseason as a free agent, a move I would welcome. But the Bucs still did the right thing, no matter how this all turns out in the end, and they must continue to do the right thing in the future. That's small market reality.