Last week, The Pirates had one available outfielder, Ka’ai Tom. I called it Outfield-A-Rama, and it looked like they had no idea how they’d ram together an outfield for the foreseeable future.
Well, Ben Cherington must have felt the same, because he took action.
He activated Troy Stokes Jr from the Taxi Squad, went out and got Ben Gamel who was DFA’d by the Indians, then Gregory Polanco and Brian Reynolds were both back, Polanco from a COVID related IL stint and Reynolds from the bench after experiencing lower body discomfort.
Hunter Owen was DFA’d so there goes one but the Pirates are now sitting on five outfielders.
That can’t last.
Right now they have 5 outfielders, none of them with flexibility unless you count Ben Gamel and all of his 4 innings of experience at First Base.
Wilmer Difo can back up almost anywhere, but man it’s not comfortable.
The truth is someone will have to go. Troy Stokes, Ka’ai Tom, and Ben Gamel would all have to be DFA’d to be moved off the roster. Of those three, Gamel has by far the most experience as an MLB player but even if he’s great, he won’t be a Pirate beyond this season.
Ka’ai Tom and Troy Stokes are both out of options, but each also come with roughly 5 years of team control. Meaning, if either can perform and stick the Pirates could have them for a while.
Troy Stokes immediately made an impact in the field, making fearless plays near the wall in Wrigley and in general looking like a professional fielder out there, then last night he brought the wood, although he had been making great contact from game one.
Ka’ai got off to a rough start. Making aggressive mistakes on the base paths and the field, but he’s been an OBA machine, maybe to a fault. Hunting walks but seemingly swinging with no purpose. He hit a homerun in Chicago and even that didn’t appear to be a full swing. Aside from that he walks a ton and pitches in the occasional single.
We haven’t seen Gamel play much yet aside from a two inning stint at first base and some pinch hits, but he’s an excellent defender and an established MLB player.
Should I waste space telling you that Bryan Reynolds is going to keep playing?
Then we have Polanco. He’s back, and I’d imagine he’ll play, but let’s be honest, he’s in the same territory as Gamel. He won’t be here beyond this season.
So, here’s the challenge. The Pirates need to balance evaluation with the idea that one of them sticks.
If you don’t like what Stokes has shown, I’m not sure you like baseball. Now I’m not saying that makes him an All Star or someone who will anchor a spot for 5 years but he’s at least shown that he has some interesting tools. In his minor league career he stole bases at an almost 80% success rate, and with his speed and patience at the plate, he’s going to get opportunities to use that speed.
Tom has obviously had to take time to recover from his start, but he’s easily bested Alford and Fowler in their time here.
This will have to play out relatively quickly, they won’t be able to go long with only one backup infielder, Wilmer Difo.
I’d imagine it sticks until Colin Moran is healthy.
That’s obviously not going to be fair to everyone, but it’s not going to stop the very real decision that will need made.
Who would you keep? More importantly, who would you DFA?
Right now, my brain says Tom but maybe the Pirates will decide they’ve had enough of Polanco and shock us all. Hey, if Albert Pujols can get released…