Friday Focus – The Rotation is Still Spinning

Friday Focus

In the past few months so much has changed in our world it has become nearly impossible to keep track. Even the Pirate’s rotation has changed as Chris Archer found himself on the IL and the dominos fall from there.

Resist the urge to pretend Archer’s injury somehow makes the Pirates stronger. You may not like his pedigree but at least he has some. One thing missing from this rotation is a meaningful track record.

As Sprint 1.0 opened (I swear we’ll get past this 1.0, 2.0 stuff at some point) the Buccos rotation looked something like this.
Chris Archer
Joe Musgrove
Mitch Keller
Trevor Williams
Steven Brault
Alternates included: Derek Holland, J.T. Brubaker, Chad Kuhl

Obviously, Archer leaves the list and one of those alternates moves up. Just as obviously, this is not a starting rotation for a playoff club. I don’t think it’s as bad as many project but let’s go through what we actually know about each of these players.

Joe Musgrove – A nice 5 pitch mix and a natural leader, Joe needs to lean more heavily on his curveball this season to take a real leap forward, but he is someone that could find a home in most starting rotations, although in Pittsburgh he will need to be a number one. Which means he is destined to underwhelm.
Mitch Keller – Who knows honestly? Mitch could take a big step forward and still only win 10 games in a regular season. He has all the metrics to say success will come, but unfortunately, he has lost 2/3 of the season with which to develop. Bottom line, you’d love to be able to have him fill the fifth starter role, but he falls higher in the pecking order here.
Trevor Williams – Nothing flashy with Trevor, just a decent pitcher. He thrives on pinpoint control and when he doesn’t have it, well he also doesn’t thrive. In-fact he’s downright bad. We’ve seen two impeccable half seasons from Trevor and in a shortened season such as this, that sure could make a difference.
Steven Brault – A lefty. That’s right a lefty starter for the Pirates not named Liriano. He is all about his fastball and ability to throw it anywhere. Last year the Pirates actually allowed him to throw nothing but fastballs for the first 60 pitches of a very successful start. That is not a recipe for success though and in order to take another step, Brault must incorporate at least his slider. Hitters are too smart and his fastball is nowhere near special enough to live and die with it, even out of the pen.
Derek Holland – The Dutch Oven is a journeyman pitcher who has experienced success. He’s a lefty which is a good thing, but he’s been relegated to the bullpen in recent stints elsewhere. He came here with a great attitude that he would fill in wherever needed but if he makes the rotation it will be due to the Archer injury and had we started on time Brault’s injury would be the cause.
JT Brubaker – Injury has hampered his progression. It could be argued he was ahead of Keller prior to his misfortune. JT is a dark horse for a rotation spot, but not forever, his talent is real.
Chad Kuhl – Chad is arguably the best option for number five. He has some good work under his belt and electric stuff. His biggest obstacle was getting left-handed batters to stop lighting him up like a downtown Christmas tree, and prior to his injury was doing exactly that.

OK, all that and we still have more questions and what ifs than is healthy. So of course, the fan base reaches for the free agent market.

Andrew Cashner, Jason Vargas, and Arron Sanchez highlight the list. If any of them were signed they would without question jump right in to the starting five.

Do they make a difference though? Say Cashner signs here, he is healthy and at least what he was last season. He starts 12 games out of the 60 on the slate and wins 6. Now, that’s 10% of the games right there in the win column, so, maybe it’s worth it.

The risk is negligible if we’re honest, it won’t take much as long as he’ll take a one-year deal, and everyone keeps telling me we could just trade him at the deadline anyhow. Well, as I just illustrated earlier in the week, that might not be as easy on August 31st. Unlike the players you may want to move that are already here, signing someone just to move them in less than a month seems pretty silly. And if you don’t realistically think he’s enough to win, yeah you guessed it, silly.

On to the trade market, and while I won’t be listing a wish list of partners, I’ll say this, anyone who would move a serviceable starting pitcher at this point is probably in the same boat as the Bucs and would want prospects. Amassing prospects is kinda our thing right now, know what I’m sayin’? Of course, the high payroll teams could look to move some unwanted salary, but in order for it to help the Pirates they’d have to still have some gas. AJ Burnett’s don’t grow on trees ya know. The bottom line, I’m not sure this 60-game sprint is worth changing the path Cherington has started down. I wouldn’t be mad if they went out and patched the hole, but I don’t expect them to look outside the roster for an answer, and maybe that’s the right play here.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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