Sometimes the best way I can think of to kick off another week of Pirates coverage is to get some topics off my head and out to you. The conversations we have really give me insight into what you want to read about, what interests you and the topic format really get’s us talking.
Today, I’ve got some rather interesting topics floating around my head and I’d love to talk about it with you all evening.
1. Bye Bye Burdi
I was a little taken back by the news Nick Burdi selected free agency rather than accept the assignment to AAA and recover from his recent procedure under the banner of an MLB team. I guess I could see a team picking him up and taking a chance, I mean his stuff was electric, but I can’t see it being too awful committal. I really am pulling for the guy, and I also hope he doesn’t read this because I just can’t see this as a smart path. I think the Pirates were more than happy to keep him on the club and worked to rehab with him, in fact Ben Cherington said just that, I can’t see him finding another, at least not until he’s started rehab on his own with an independent trainer for a few months.
2. I May Have Pronounced the DH Dead Too Early
Early into the playoffs Rob Manfred said in an interview the only rules that looked to return for 2021 were the runner at second in extras, and the three batter rule for relievers. I took that to mean the DH was going to hibernate until the CBA negotiations following next season (more likely middle of the season), but recently MLB offered the DH to the players in an effort to get the players to approve extended playoffs again for 2021. As a fan, sounds nice to me, but to the players, a very unequal offer. While the players do get an extra player on just about every roster and some other fringe benefits they also don’t get an extra slice of pie for all the money MLB will rake in for extended playoffs. That doesn’t mean it’s dead though, it just means the players want either a bit more money for the playoffs or MLB will have to toss in something else the players like and MLB doesn’t really care about. This could get done.
3. Keone Kela Could be the Pirates Top Free Agent Pickup
For all the options on the table for Ben Cherington, perhaps this environment could create a situation where Keone Kela could become an affordable keep for the Pirates. Now, part of me thinks, here’s a guy who hasn’t stayed on the field but when he has there hasn’t been much to complain about. The back end of the Pirates bullpen needs addressed, and I mean even if they plan to just seemingly let it ride and see how close they can come to a second consecutive number 1 pick. Heading into 2021 if they do nothing we’re looking at Edgar Santana, returning from Tommy John, right into a suspension being almost counted on as at least a set-up guy. Kyle Crick who has lost velocity regardless of whether the Pirates will admit it or acknowledge it’s importance. He lacks control of his most effective pitch unless he reduces the spin rate of the slider which renders it ineffective. Michael Feliz who many have on their short list to not receive a tender, had his own injury concerns and is very hit or miss otherwise. Blake Cederlind is a rookie with all of a handful of appearances under his belt one of which was a blow up. He’s talented, has a wicked fastball and looked poised out there. I don’t have anything negative to say about him aside from the fact he’s very young.
What I’m saying here is, who do you TRUST from that list? Any one or two of them could wind up killing it this year, sure, but there is no lynchpin, I’d be tempted to see if Kela is interested in sticking around for at least another year to give the Bucs some stability, potential big time upside if healthy and himself a chance to increase his value.
4. The Farm Director Hire
Jason Mackey reported this week that John Baker had emerged as the front runner for the position. He’s been a player in the league and after his career he transitioned to Operations Assistant for the Cubs. The Bucs also relieved Dave Turgeon from his post at AA Altoona. Player centric is still the focus from Cherington on down according to Alex Stumpf of DK Pittsburgh sports and you have to imagine Cherington is really wishing he was here slightly earlier to save Michael Ryan the man Turgeon was brought in to replace because Ryan was one of the few in the system who actually fought to become more player centric. He was very successful too, he just made the wrong suggestions to the wrong people. Ryan was hired to coach AA Tennessee in the Cubs organization in 2020 which obviously didn’t happen. If he is available I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Pirates go get him back.
On the Farm director hire, I’m not sure I’d go with a first timer here but it speaks to how involved Cherington is with this particular area of the system. He has a vision and whomever he brings in will implement it, perhaps a young guy is best suited for that type of project.
5. Extending Josh Bell, the Good, the Bad, and the Possibility
Now, let me start by saying plainly, I think this is unlikely as of right now. There I said it. But you have to give it some weight as Cherington has mentioned it twice and Scott Boras mentioned the conversations taking place as well.
If potential were currency Bell would already be a very rich man, but he hasn’t put it together and had a complete season yet. For many players this would be the story of a guy who gets hurt every year and never has a full season, for Bell however it is the story of a guy who sometimes looks like he’s trying to swat bees with his bat rather than baseballs.
When he’s good, he’s the Pirates best player, when he’s bad he becomes instead their biggest liability. Risk is its own reward at times and while Boras typically takes his clients to free agency, he could be open to an exception in this case. For instance, Bell has two years of control left and the Pirates could offer to buy out those years and offer a third. This would buy both player and organization time to increase his worth while only sacrificing one year of his free agency.
It would almost immediately increase his value in a potential trade should he start to perform and obviously help the team as well. If he doesn’t improve, hey, it’s one extra year, the value problem isn’t much worse really and you’ve essentially created some good will with the fans for a minimal expense.
With the CBA silliness and agents getting a bit shaky on what the future market might look like, the Pirates could have a chance here to get something done. At the very least I went from dismissing this off hand to believing it might be a good move. Don’t stop with the word extension, it doesn’t mean you’re getting married, sometimes you are just buying time.