For anyone that has seen the movie Elf with Will Ferrell, you will probably recall the scene where he runs around in the revolving doors, comes out to the trash can, throws up and proceeds to go right back for more. If you haven’t, you can probably just imagine the times you have gone in a set with a sibling, friend or cousin, and they stopped it on purpose to make you slam up against the glass in front of you or pushed it so fast that it’s hard to keep up.
To me these few scenarios are a perfect analogy of what is happening in discussions about roster decisions for the Pirates right now, with very little of it being caused by the injury of Ke’Bryan Hayes. Much of it stems back to lack of depth at the outfield positions, including the trading of Starling Marte without a clear plan to fill the void in center or left if you moved Bryan Reynolds.
Don’t get me wrong I still believe that trading Marte was the correct decision, it’s just that this move led to some pretty precarious situations in the short term; the Jarrod Dyson signing with the Pirates because their isn’t much out there and failed Cole Tucker Outfield Experiment. Even after a full off- season Pittsburgh has been left with the current Alford/Fowler situation; although I don’t totally blame Cherington for this because I believed that Brian Goodwin would perform better than he did or at least well enough to make it more of a competition. Nevertheless, it is the situation that he and the Pirates are left with; and one that fans like to try to solve, while just putting a similar bandaid on the situation.
Since Phillip Evans had started hitting many people, including myself, have tried to find a full time landing spot in the lineup. Left field is often thrown out as the easiest solution, even though it is a well known fact that this is one of the toughest positions to play at PNC Park; and guess what Phillip Evans isn’t, an outfielder. Neither is Wilmer Difo for that matter. Sure they have that ability in their toolbox, but it is one that is to be used in a utility, not regular, role; although it’s one of the reasons why they are on the roster over other players like Troy Stokes Jr., who actually is one. Right field is the more obvious answer and it has been since little league. Where do you hide your worst defensive outfielder? Right field of course. But, there is a guy there already, who shows us glimpses of why the team isn’t ready to give up on him just yet.
But wait, now Jared Oliva’s back on the scene, fresh from Florida, new swing in tow and on the taxi squad for the nine game road trip. Is he the immediate answer? I would go that far just yet. As a fan of Oliva’s I would like nothing more than to see him jump in and take the position, however I don’t think I am wrong in being concerned about his current abilities. It might serve him better to get back up to speed at the AAA level, rather than being thrown into fire immediately. He does have the benefit of being on the 40-man, a spot that isn’t in any danger, even if centerfield at PNC isn’t in the current plans. No reason to rush the decision, unless he is fully ready to take the field everyday, because right now the active roster has enough fourth outfielders and utility men; including the previously indicated options of Alford, Fowler, Difo and Evans. And not to mention Eric Gonzalez, or even Brian Goodwin.
With all of these names being thrown around and in the mix, it really confuses me that some are still bringing up Todd Frazier as an option on the bench. No one is arguing that Difo, Alford, Fowler and the like are better than Frazier, and honestly none of that really matters. Frazier plays two positions, ones already held down; especially with Hayes almost fully recovered and ready to return from his IL stint. How many at bats could one reasonably expect him to get once Hayes returns, as Moran has shown the ability to hold down first base on more than a platoon basis? His signing was a nice insurance one, in case of a more long term injury or poor play, but it doesn’t really seem necessary to keep holding on at this point.
Also he doesn’t play the position they really need help at; in the outfield.