On Saturday the Pirates GM Ben Cherington confirmed that we weren’t just seeing Cole Tucker shag flies for fun, instead the club plans to give him some time out there and more so this isn’t some long-range project, they plan to use him there soon.
This caught me flat footed if I’m honest but almost every comment on the subject immediately, and rightly in my opinion, suggested Frazier would be the guy to move out there if we needed to use an infielder to fill in for Polanco.
I mean that’s how I’d go right now, but thing is I’m not even sure you need to play with it at all. Let’s look at the options here, and keep in mind the actual season doesn’t start until Friday. We found out about Polanco had tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday and he is in quarantine for 14 days, if you don’t count Thursday that means he’ll already be on day 8 by the time Friday rolls around.
Of course there is no telling if he’ll be healthy right when his 14 days are up, but a good guess is that he misses about 7 -10 games, no joke in a 60 game season but surely not the crippling blow you’d assume would necessitate a drastic move like this with a young prospect.
Before we get to off the wall options for filling in, lets begin with what is already available and has played the position professionally. Heredia who actually started there last night is certainly an option, but I could see wanting to keep him away from right-handed starters as often as possible. Osuna actually moved there from DH at some point during the game as well, he has an underrated arm and his lack of range won’t hurt much with the Clemente wall out there. He can handle the position. Martin was called up from the Altoona squad for last night and he actually handled center for a while as well as right field. His question is the bat but defensively he can handle it. Of course Frazier is in the mix, I know he was a finalist for the gold glove at 2B but he’s a pretty good fielder everywhere.
How about another last-minute call up from Altoona, Will Craig? The club started toying with him there last season and then you’d still get to get a young guy some looks.
So, why am I against Tucker getting the shot in the outfield? Well, I’m not entirely, I’m against the timing of this for the potentially very small window in which you’d want to use him there. We know Tucker is an above average fielder at short or second, we’ve seen nothing else from him. Hell, we’ve even seen Newman handle the corner outfield, he’s no Parker but the guy held his own.
I just don’t see the urgency to do this, if it’s about Cruz, ok. If you’re worried about Peguro or Gonzalez already, well, don’t be, slow down with that, they have nowhere to really progress this season and are a couple away anyhow.
Nope, I just can’t make sense of it. So, it put me on a different track, what if organizationally, Cherington wants position versatility as a theme? What if his goal is to have a roster with 4 or 5 players, 4 or 5 athletes who can bounce wherever the skipper wants to allow lineup construction based more on matchups and analytics than position need?
Toss in the DH variable and you could have a lineup with 3 or 4 rocks who stay put positionally and hold their spots in the lineup while maximizing what all the other roster components do well. Some guys can’t hit off speed, so they don’t face the crafty vet starter. Some lineups could be generated to combat a sinkerball guy with speed.
Do I know any of this to be true, no, but it beats the hell out of thinking the new GM has already lost his damn mind? We’ll have to wait so see what his vision really is for more members of the club to be his decision, but for right now, my guess is he’s trying to get creative with the mix he inherited and chose not to improve.