The support for this weekly feature has been incredible. Thank you all for taking to it as it’s super fun to write and the conversation that follows seems to last all week.
We are here, one more pre-season game tomorrow and we’ll be ready to officially start the show. Most of the questions have been answered and Craig and I will both have 2021 season previews ready for Wednesday.
Let’s dig in on a busy news week.
1. Questions Answered
One of the biggest questions hanging over the heads of everyone trying to figure out the roster was do any of the other NRI veterans have opt out clauses like Todd Frazier did. As cuts have been made and reassignments have taken place the answer is becoming clear, No.
Sending Goodwin, Difo and likely Wolters to AAA means experienced depth will be there when and if the club need it. It’s possible Chason Shreve joins them. These players making this club in years past would have been an almost sure thing. It speaks to the depth and it also speaks to the very real competition the club said we’d see.
They’ve made choices that make sense for now, but also not made choices that simply feel good. It’s been about myriad aspects but one of them wasn’t worrying about paying MLB salary to MiLB players, something the previous regime would never have accepted.
The Pirates value players who can handle multiple positions and as you really look at what they’re trying to put together it makes sense. Phil Evans for instance can play anywhere but Catcher and Short stop, and I bet he’d happily try if they let him. Just today the Pirates put Erik Gonzalez at first base, Erik can quite literally play anywhere but catcher. Even Dustin Fowler has worked out at first base in an effort to give him another arrow in his quiver.
The Pirates value this, well, at least they do now and we would all do well to recognize it because as frustration has started to mount about Oneil Cruz still playing SS it’s important to understand they may simply not care about where he plays if the bat does. In fact he may make it for the bat and have no regular position. This is modern baseball and for ten plus years the Pirates have not participated.
3. The Eye Turns to Development
Now that the season is just about to start, the focus needs to shift to development. Sure, much of that focus will be in the minors but the club needs to develop those who are on the MLB roster as well. Nobody who made it should rest on their laurels, these were close decisions. Time to make what was good, really good. Time to make what was below the line, hit the mark.
Individual growth will be the measuring stick by which this season is viewed and while everyone who made the club earned the opportunity, they need to keep in mind for the first time in quite some time this club has very real talent working to supplant them.
4. Adam Frazier is Still Here
No trade happened, and while all that means is he will start as a Pirate he also may have shown why Cherington valued him higher than any offer he may have received. I still believe if a good deal comes along they’ll pull the trigger but Frazier’s usefulness on the club is more important moving forward if Cole Tucker never gets where they need him to get.
Yes it’s true, Nick Gonzales and Liover Peguero will someday push to take over those positions, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a need for players like him or Kevin Newman. A big no no in team building and roster construction is pretending everything will go as planned and forecasting who will be here and who needs to go to enable it likely creates talent voids more often than it makes the puzzle fit.
This isn’t a prediction that they’ll extend Frazier or something silly like that, they could of course, I’m just saying it doesn’t need to be taken to that level. That said, eliminate no possibilities and understand fully that Cole Tucker opened this window. If he was performing as a number one pick, Frazier would have no place now or in the future here in Pittsburgh.
5. Record Prediction
Just about everyone in my business will do it, Craig and I included, but it’s important to remember there are no members of the media and probably very few team employees who can honestly say they know who might be traded or who has a nagging back problem, or who will perform well or badly.
It’s a guess, an educated guess but a guess nonetheless, but will they have a .316 win percentage like last season, no, I just don’t see it. Many saw Bell and Musgrove head out of town and automatically assumed they’d stink worse, but the depth is truly not something we’ve seen here and it will have a cumulative effect. The high might not be as high as a fully peak Bell or Musgrove could provide, but the lows won’t be nearly as low.
That said, when you see my prediction on Wednesday, feel free to beat me up about it, that’s part of the game I’m in and I get it entirely. As I’ve said countless times, I’ll be right sometimes, I’ll be wrong sometimes, If I’m right enough, you’ll keep reading.
Have a good night everybody, it’s going to be a busy week here at Inside the Bucs Basement, tons of content headed your way.