As we have arrived at the date many of us looked forward to for the best part of 6 months it seems like a good time to see what the Pirates biggest unanswered questions are at this point, whether caused by the pandemic or not.
Today as I’m sure you’re aware was going to be Opening Day for the Buccos. They were set to face the Tampa Bay Rays on the road and the club was sure to have answered at least a few of these questions. Maybe the extra time or how MLB and the Player’s Union handles some of the league wide questions will help solve them.
These are my top ten burning issues, I’d love to more from you or answers you feel are already there.
10. Chad Kuhl, Jameson Taillon, Edgar Santana – All three are recovering from TJ surgery and this process is closely monitored by training staff. I wonder if this stunts that progress. Chad was starting to throw in games, so was Edgar. Taillon was long tossing. I’m no doctor, but this would seem a bad time for progress to be interrupted.
9. What Do You Do with Chris Archer? – The easy answer is trade him for prospects right? Well, play with me here a bit. Right now, he will net you very little in return and he’s cheap enough that a salary dump (not to mention the already critically low payroll) wouldn’t make sense. So you hold on to him, what if he’s good? Let’s say he’s real good, ok, his trade value goes up, but his salary is a bargain. If you head into 2021 with Jamo, Joe, Archer (good), Williams, Keller and you still have Bell, do you keep him? Archer in general is a huge question and I didn’t even mention his haircut!
8. Will Craig – We weren’t treated to a full Spring so maybe this isn’t fair, but Craig looked awful in his limited exposure this camp. He is blocked at first base, drafted as a third baseman, started playing corner outfield in an effort to find him a place to land. That part of his journey sounds a whole lot like Neil Walker, here’s the difference though, Craig has yet to put it all together. He has crazy power honestly, if you’ve ever seen the guy get into one he has a sweet swing. Will his day ever come?
7. What Exactly Is Ben Cherington’s Vision? – Everyone at this point has heard Ben repeat the mantra that we just want to improve the players we have here right now. Going further he has repeatedly said this is not a rebuild. That’s all fine and I get the rebuild word being overblown, but what are we doing here actually? Coaching can certainly have an impact, but in order for it to be a philosophy for turning this club around, are we to assume Clint and Ray in particular were the worst coaches in the history of baseball and the players on the roster have underachieved due to their incompetence by such a length that there is room to produce a winner? That’s a bridge too far for me.
6. Jarrod Dyson – I get signing Dyson. I don’t get signing Dyson and Heredia and Riddle. When you don’t know how to solve a problem, one way to approach it is to throw as much crap as you can against the wall and see what sticks. I’m not calling any of these players crap, but I am saying if that’s your philosophy, why doesn’t it apply to starting pitching? In a normal year I like the signing if only to have someone to flip at the deadline, who knows if we’ll have that now.
5. MiLB Players – Ton of questions have come up about these players pay and that was even before this shutdown started. My question today is about actual baseball. I wonder if a shortened season would cause moving players you expect to reach the next level up, in that level rather than partial seasons in the lower level. Adjusting to the move is half the battle and it could be all the more difficult in a shortened season.
4. What if Polanco is Good? – Many of us have questions about what to expect from Gregory Polanco this season. What if he is a legit power threat this season? A 3-4-5 of Reynolds, Bell and Polanco could be a tough stretch for any pitching staff to face game in and out. He’s a game changer if he’s a 25+ guy.
3. Did COVID-19 cost Derek Holland a Shot in the Rotation? – He’s had a decent Spring and at the very least could eat some innings. Steven Brault’s injury took a cracked open door and swung it wide. With the delay to the start of the season, I wonder if that opportunity will all but evaporate.
2. Maybe Jacob Stallings is the Catcher? – Surely this season there is no other answer, but many of us spent much of the off season preaching the need to acquire a starting catcher. Jacob could very well be that starter. When the Pirates say they like his game, I think they mean it. 2020 will be the proving ground, his defense is already up there, so is his game calling and framing, if the bat plays the way it did in 2019, we may be watching the Pirates starting catcher for years to come.
1. Will This Shutdown Could Be the Ultimate Excuse? – This is not only a Pirates topic, all across MLB, teams will have this in their back pocket to pull out and excuse under performing, or lack of moves, or whatever it may fit. Others will use it to point out their superior and innovative training methods during the shutdown to explain outperforming expectations. I’d have to imagine an entire new management team would use it in some form or fashion as well. Before they do it too, they’ll all say “We can’t make any excuses” followed by but this was not a normal camp or something to that effect.
Baseball is quite possibly the most intricate game in the world. So many variables create much of what we love about the game and certainly create ample opportunities to examine the game from different angles. This season will be no different but it will have some added caveats from outside the game.