I’m making no supposition as to whether Mr. Wright the knuckleballer the Pirates just signed to a minor league deal actually helps the team or not this season, not yet. He’s returning from Tommy John and one would imagine with a guy tossing balls up there in the 60’s his recovery isn’t much of a concern.
I immediately saw fans putting him in the starting rotation and I honestly think we need to just make sure everyone understands how the 40-man works. He’s not on it, which means he would have to displace someone who is in order to be placed on it, and if he isn’t, it means he can’t pitch in MLB.
This is a cheap way to get someone in the fold who could help eat innings. He adds to the layer of protection the Pirates have built.
I mean, let’s really clearly outline what I mean by depth.
Steven Brault, Chad Kuhl, Mitch Keller, JT Brubaker, Tyler Anderson, Wil Crowe, Trevor Cahill, Miguel Yajure, Cody Ponce, Sean Poppen, Luis Oviedo.
Each of these players is on the 40-man. Oviedo will most likely be tucked in the bullpen to survive (hopefully thrive) through his Rule 5 year. Cahill will most likely wind up in the bullpen but could easily start in the rotation if Brault’s injury is a factor.
Of all these players, Sean Poppen is the most likely to find his way out of the 40-man, meaning they would have to waive him and risk having him picked up by someone else, which isn’t the end of the world, but a factor.
Next you have a group of players who are not on the 40-man but provide AAA depth.
Clay Holmes, Steven Wright, Chase De Jong, and James Marvel.
Chase De Jong and Clay Holmes have looked really good this Spring but probably not good enough to force a move on the 40-man. All these players provide depth and if they’re called into action they require more than just a decision that they want to see them pitch or give them a shot, they’ll need to decide if they have a chance to stick. So let’s say sometime in July Clay Holmes is 9-2 for the Indians and Cody Ponce is 5-4. Ponce’s ERA is 2 full points higher, don’t be shocked if Ponce is the call up. Now if the call up is to fill a hole created with a catastrophic injury like a blown out elbow, you might see more of a willingness to pull up and make the appropriate corresponding move with one of those very deep, depth players.
In theory there, the Pirates are 11 deep on the 40-man with 4 more who aren’t. That’s 15 potential starting options and we haven’t even gotten to Cody Bolton who could very well be ready at some point this season or Jose Soriano the Pirates other Rule 5 pickup who currently resides on the 60-man IL and when he recovers the club will have to find a spot for him on the roster.
I fear in some of my writing I’ve talked depth but never really functionally painted the picture. This is a possibly over reaction to the very real fear that pitchers are going to drop like flies as MLB the machine still tries to recover from the COVID caused short season in 2020. The unknown is a scary thing for general managers and much like my wife packing for vacation, they’d rather make sure they have a shoe for every occasion. Much like the 40 man, if she tries to buy another pair while we’re at the beach one pair might not come home with us.
The point of all this is really simple. Not everyone they sign is someone who is pushing your favorite player out of the lineup. In fact at this stage, almost nobody signed will be that.
The other thing we haven’t really discussed that absolutely plays in is the options players possess, but I think I’ve given you enough to digest right now. Suffice to say, this isn’t just about who performed best, it’s about putting the puzzle together in such a way as to keep that crazy depth number as close to where it is as possible.
Start making decisions that chop into that depth and quickly find yourself in trouble. We’ll talk more about the roster as we get closer to the end of Spring but keep this in mind as we do, because most arguments you or anyone will have can be solved by looking at these factors for maintaining depth.
OK, roster geek session concluded for the day…