Five Pirates Thoughts at Five 1-25-21

Another eventful week has passed in Pittsburgh as we say goodbye to Jameson Taillon quickly following Joe Musgrove’s exit. It’s hard to get excited about seeing Jamo head to the Bronx, but for what the Pirates are trying to get done, it also makes sense.

Let’s talk about some things I’ve been thinking about and don’t forget to ask me questions for the weekly question of the week. Find me on Twitter @garymo2007 or on Facebook @InsideThePiratesGary

1. Signing Free Agents Will Happen

Now, as you’ve seen me write in the past, they aren’t in on Bauer or anything. But they won’t go into this season relying solely on what we see right now. Part of it is about protecting the prospects a bit, giving them some insulation to make the team on merit, versus overt necessity. For instance, If Wil Crowe wins a spot in the rotation, that’s great, but if he’s given the spot because they didn’t bother to bring in any competition, not so great.

Bottom line, while this team isn’t going to go from where it is to ‘good’ they will most likely add a couple players to the mix, even if only to eventually flip them too. One thing that shouldn’t be discounted is that young players, especially when you believe some are part of your future, don’t need an absolute beat down for 162 games. It’s bad for their development and ultimately keeps you from being able to properly evaluate them.

2. Are We Finally Done With Trades?

Well, maybe. Ben Cherington said they have some other players they’d be willing to trade, and one could easily decipher who, Chad Kuhl, Steven Brault, Adam Frazier, Colin Moran, a host of relievers. He also said while they’ve had talks, nothing that really gained traction. I wouldn’t rule out another move, but it seems at least from a Pirates perspective they plan to start to shift focus to 2021 at this point.

I have to say, I fully endorse the moves they’ve made and believe it to be the right path, but even I’m getting fatigued. Certainly nothing as big as what we’ve seen is on the horizon if for no other reason there are no bigger chips left.

3. If Adam Frazier Stays, Does He Play 2B?

He’s been a gold glove finalist at the position each of the past two seasons, but the Pirates have a real need to start figuring out who can do what in the middle infield. As an observer, it’s pretty clear to me that Kevin Newman is a Second baseman, not a short stop. Now another option for him is to consider putting him in a utility role where he bounces around the infield and plays the outfield. They could do the same with Frazier. There are options here, but of all the things they might do, Cole Tucker needs to get a shot at short stop. It’s time to find out what he is. Is he just a glove, or is the bat going to come along?

We’ll never know if they don’t let him play and pretending Erik Gonzalez is anything more than a competent glove is getting old, exit velocity be damned.

I still think the team would be best served to move Frazier, but if nobody wants to pay for him, make the best of it and use some combination of he and Newman to address another hole in the outfield, rather than hold back another player entering his third year of MLB.

4. So What’s Left for the Rotation?

Oh, it’s not pretty. And it’s also the most common question we get now that Taillon and Joe are gone.

So let’s just leave it here for now. No new signings, this is what they have.

Chad Kuhl, Mitch Keller, JT Brubaker, Steven Brault, Wil Crowe, Cody Ponce, Luis Oviedo, Miguel Yajure, Sean Poppen and Clay Holmes.

I still think they’ll sign someone, maybe a couple, but that’s 10 deep on the depth chart. They’ll get more if only because there will be injuries, none of these guys past Brault (meaning past him on the list) really deserve to walk right in to the spot and they need to fill a team on the Indianapolis Indians too.

This rotation isn’t built to get you excited, certainly doesn’t excite me but it is what they’re working with as we speak.

Replacing Taillon is easy, we rarely had him.

Joe will hurt. He ate innings and while the Pirates haven’t assembled the most talented group in the world for their rotation this season, the thing that worries me most isn’t their overall skill level, it’s their ability to eat innings. It’s been a shortcoming of Kuhl, and Brault for sure. I expect Brubaker to take a step this year and Keller while impressive in his last few starts walked a ton, struck out a ton and didn’t last long as a result, he’ll need to work on that to become more than a starter who get’s you into the 6th.

Of all the reasons to bring in a veteran, eating innings is number one.

5. Why Didn’t the Pirates Get Anyone to Help Now?

Well, maybe they did. We just got done talking about a couple of them in point number 4. Wil Crowe, Luis Oviedo and Miguel Yajure are truly all viable options for the rotation or the pen. David Bednar will almost assuredly step right into the bullpen, but the focus has absolutely been on young talent.

By design that won’t by in large help the current squad, but some of these guys could absolutely be contributors in 2021.

Of all the names up there, Yajure probably has the best chance to make it at some point and stick but Crowe is easily better right now than Trevor Williams was last year. Take that for what it’s worth, but that’s the very definition of addition by subtraction.

Question of the Week

This week’s question comes from Michael Hall on Twitter @MhallVA79, Here’s one. Do you think PNC favors LHP for the Bucs and LH pull sluggers on offense? If so, why haven’t the Pirates used this advantage? Do teams still do this? Half the games are there.

Great question. We tend to spew out these ‘facts’ about PNC without even thinking anymore, but asking about it really made me think.

I’d say first, it sure was designed with those two things as a quirk of the park.

So let’s start on the mound. Since that time the best lefty the Pirates have had on the mound is undoubtedly Francisco Liriano, Happ wasn’t here long enough to really count. I often say it’s a crime they’ve not had a crop of lefty’s to really capitalize on minimizing the affect of left handed power hitters crushing the short porch in right, but the Pirates through the years have instead tried to focus on pitchers who keep the ball down therefore the overall cumulative effect should be keeping the ball in the park no matter from what side.

There are a ton of teams who would love to have more left handed pitchers, problem is there aren’t a ton to go around. Take the upcoming draft for instance, and let’s ignore that the number one pick isn’t a foregone conclusion for a moment. If Kumar Rocker is the guy and there is a lefty pitcher also first round quality but for sure less than Rocker, you take Rocker right? How about when they drafted Cole? Taillon? Sometimes it’s just luck of the draw, and which side they throw from can’t be the determining factor.

In other words, if Rocker is what they think he is, he’ll minimize EVERYONE from taking advantage of anything in that ball park.

There are also times when this club has not been on the same page, like when Neal Huntington had a deal completely done and agreed to with the Indians to bring in Cliff Lee but Coonely shut it down in the middle of the night. We have no idea how many times things like this took place but let’s just say the priority hasn’t always been important to everyone. This nugget comes from Dejan Kovacevic.

All that being said, even Ben Cherington has mentioned it was not purposeful that almost every pitcher he’s brought in was right handed.

At the plate, well, they’ve done better there. See the thing is, Pedro Alvarez didn’t need help, when he got into one, it was going out of every ballpark in the galaxy. Same with Bell. Even Polanco. Now who it should help, it hasn’t really. A guy like Adam Frazier should be able to hit more than he would elsewhere because of the short porch, and jeez, maybe he does, but he’s the wrong type of hitter for it. He sprays the ball around, which I actually appreciate.

Say the Pirates went and got a guy like Derek Dietrich, now that’s a guy who swings for the moon and he could easily take full advantage of that short porch. Flyouts to the track become homeruns.

So, all that being said. It’s built to give advantages to certain players, but I don’t think it makes any decisions for the team, even if potentially it could make an average hitter with the right approach a scary hitter.

Great question Sir.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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