Tonight, the Pirates head to Cleveland for the second tune up game and we just found out we’ll see Cole Tucker in the outfield for at least part of this contest.
Heading into this restart the Pirates had a laundry list of questions to answer, that doesn’t make them unique, most teams face plenty of unknowns and position battles, but the Pirates list seems to be growing rather than coming to resolution.
What do I mean? Well, let’s start with what we knew the Bucs would face once we were sure they were going to try to play this season.
Would Hayes start the season with the Pirates?
How healthy is Polanco?
Who fills the holes in the Bullpen?
What are they going to do with the DH?
Who’s the fifth starter, for that matter who’s the fourth?
Oh, I’m sure there are more, but suffice to say we’ve done nothing but add to it and here’s the kicker, some of the new questions are longer range.
The most recent of which is what exactly are the Pirates doing with Cole Tucker? Versatility? Really see him as an outfielder long term? Not part of the future Pirates infield?
Hey, maybe we’re overreacting here, it’s just an answer to finding at bats for the guy and filling a hole at the same time, right? If I knew what they were up to this column wouldn’t be littered with question marks. But maybe we’re asking the wrong questions.
See, we all heard Ben Cherington say he wanted to evaluate what he had here before diving headfirst into making moves, but we all heard it as we wanted to. We didn’t hear the actual words. For instance, I saw it as, ok, lets see what these guys can do with a new coaching philosophy before I move on from anyone. Maybe he meant it even more literally, maybe nobody is a lock, maybe our preconceived notions of who was the future and who should be traded, who was a starter and who is a bench piece were all, well, off.
Perhaps hearing Colin Moran is going to continue to see a lot of playing time is only a surprise to us. Maybe believing the Pirates have an absolute glut of middle infielders isn’t exactly how the front office sees the organizational depth chart. Perhaps despite our own individual visions for who will and won’t be here moving forward won’t line up with what the new management team is doing.
It would be fair to say I’m making too much out of one move with one player, sure, but regardless of that fact, one thing has come from it that can’t be denied, none of us know what to expect and honestly after 12 years of Neal Huntington, it’s kind of refreshing.
With Huntington you could plot his moves from a mile away, maybe not the exact trade partner or return but you knew who was going and when, so did everyone he traded with. Being less predictable alone could make Cherington more successful in that arena.
Think about how we discuss this team, be honest with yourself when you do so. We aren’t like other markets for reasons I’m not going to bog down this piece with, but you all know the economics of baseball and Bob Nutting play a role.
A great for instance is Adam Frazier, personally I’ve had him listed as trade bait number one for over a year now. Not because I dislike Adam or think there are better candidates stuck behind him begging for playing time, no, I put Adam on the block because with what’s in the system I don’t see him being extended. Waiting until he has less control would net less in return, so I figure, why wait?
I’m sure a lot of you are with me there, it’s what we’ve seen and it’s what we expect so we start to push out what the roster looks like in the future. We put maybe Tucker at short and we move Newman to second, and some of us don’t settle there, we look past those two and onto the Peguero and Gonzalez era. You know, the guy the Bucs just traded for and the guy they just drafted number one. Ok, some people leave room for Cruz in there too. But maybe, just maybe we don’t know what Cherington has planned for any of them. Maybe they’re just athletes and their current positions mean a whole lot less than we believed.
Maybe the Pirates will start handling youngsters a whole lot more like the Cubs and Cardinals than, well, the Pirates. Positional flexibility allows those clubs to fast track players to the majors when their bat looks ready. In fact some of them stay that way, if superstars like Kris Bryant can be at third base or a corner outfield spot to make the lineup work of course Ian Happ would have the same expectation. Kyle Schwarber was a catcher who’s defense wasn’t coming along as the Cubs wanted, but the bat was there, so what do they do, play him in the outfield. He’s not a bust, he’s just a guy who changed positions.
I’m still guessing to be sure, but you know what, its kinda nice to wonder. We just haven’t had cause to do so in such a long time it feels foreign.
Tell you what I’ve learned, we’re going to have to be patient to see how Cherington handles this roster and leaving a little room for how it happens could make this a whole lot more fun and interesting than we’re accustomed to.