Five Pirates Thoughts at Five

7-26-21 – By Gary Morgan

Emotional reactions are the enemy of fairness.

Doing this work I’ve learned that when I’m feeling emotional about a move or a game I have to work extra hard to make sure I’m truly coming from a fair place. To me, our readers deserve me taking the time to make sure I’m not stoking fires or ringing alarm bells where the clarity of thought provided by time might help subside.

1. Have to Start with Adam Frazier

I told you how I felt about this move last night, but a few things I want to reinforce here. Extending Adam Frazier would have been difficult and honestly not the best thing for the Pirates or Adam. Adam will be 30 and the Pirates would surely only want to extend him 2 or 3 seasons. At the same time, this is going to be Adam’s one big chance to get paid and more importantly get length. It’s not unlike Starling Marte’s situation with Miami right now. They’ve offered him 2 more years for like 15 million a year but he too knows this is his chance to cash in.

We have to remember everything Adam has done in his career was to build up to the point he could get himself a really nice payday and just because it’s an inconvenient time doesn’t change that fact.

You can say, oh who cares then, sign him long term he’s awesome! I’d encourage you to take an honest look at his career and really separate yourself from just being a fan. This version of Adam was incredible, but the Pirates (not just Nutting) the actual franchise, can’t afford to have a 35 year old Adam Frazier sitting on their bench.

That’s a big part of the unfair system in MLB that rarely get’s talked about. Small to Mid-market clubs can’t afford to carry a bunch of dead contract. The Yankees can decide Chapman is not what he used to be and just use him in the middle of the bullpen or cut him all together, it won’t cripple the team (their own ineptitude does that just fine). Hell the Dodgers might still be paying Matt Kemp, lol.

Bottom line, he had to be moved, that’s not my contention, I just felt if this was the package, I’d rather wait. Happy to be proven wrong of course.

I’d also say, we all spent a bunch of time praising their ability to evaluate when they grabbed all those draft picks, maybe we should again trust if getting Marcano was so important to Cherington, perhaps he and his team see more than we do. I mean after the reevaluation by Pipeline it would certainly appear that way, but I still have to find how they calculated this increase.

2. They Aren’t Done

I still don’t see more than 2 or 3 deals but I absolutely see 2 or 3 deals. Tyler Anderson is a lock and we’ll know how close they are by whether he pitches on Tuesday or not. If they’re close, zero chance they risk injury, if they think they’re not close he’ll get one more showcase.

Anderson if you pay attention is the only pitcher in their “rotation” and I use the term loosely who get’s to stay in ballgames later and perish the thought touch 100 pitches. Well, there’s a reason, they know damn well he won’t be their concern moving forward.

Chris Stratton is my other pick to click here. He just eats innings and the way the league has looked in 2021 that is an incredibly valuable commodity. Richard Rodriguez is available but I’m less bullish on this one now. Oh I still think he’ll move, but I really can’t say it’s a lock that other teams are as impressed as we thought they’d be say in May or June.

3. Lonnie White Jr. Makes 4

News broke yesterday that Lonnie White Jr. the PSU football recruit would sign a contract with the Pirates rather than fulfill his commitment to Penn State. This means that the Pirates managed to choose and secure 4 of the top 32 prospects in the draft and really speaks highly to the entire team’s ability to negotiate, evaluate and eventually be rewarded for their boldness.

These are prospects, I’m not going to sit here and tell you what this means to the Pirates in what year, but I will say this is about as good as you could have possibly hoped the draft would go. In fact, if you told me this would be the outcome before the draft I’d have told you there was no way they could pull that off.

Have to imagine this signing all but eliminates signing Bishop but I believe he was an insurance policy for White to begin with, so not the end of the world.

There are still some loose ends but this largely puts a bow on the Pirates Draft in 2021. Nothing to hate here, they instantly improve the system and many of these guys won’t even be considered part of what opens the window in the first place. That’s the waves of talent that prevent the window from slamming shut, and exactly what you hope for.

4. None of These Moves Change the Timeline

The Pirates aren’t going to get someone’s MLB top 100 prospect in return for anyone. The Adam Frazier deal confirms that. Short of that, there won’t be any timeline altering events here. Bluntly, even if there were this is largely set in stone. The top prospects are on the path they’re on and unless they targeted a bunch of AAA guys, not unlike Marcano we’re still going to be in a holding pattern to a degree.

I can tell you Adam Frazier never factored into any projection I’ve put forward for the window opening, so it stands to reason his move had little chance of changing my outlook. Oh sure I held out hope that someone in the return would accelerate things and maybe that’s what Ben and crew believe they did acquiring a guy close to ready for the show, but I’ll have to see it and even then, one guy added to a group that’s two away isn’t earth shattering.

The core pieces of this club are Reynolds and potentially Hayes. Those are the two to build around. You can add Stallings if you like, but they don’t need to do anything to have him still here in 2025 and if Henry Davis isn’t at least close to here by then they made a poor pick.

I don’t think this deal was great, but I also don’t think it’ll have any lasting impact on questions like when will this team be good.

5. The Rule 5 Conundrum

The Pirates just yesterday added 3 new players in need of protection from the Rule 5 draft, a big story on the horizon already sure to be wrought with difficult choices. We obviously don’t have a full picture yet, but already the writing is on the wall for players like Cole Tucker. In fact, it’s very possible the Bucs only protect one or two of the players they picked up yesterday, it’s simply impossible to cover them all, that’s a reflection of a deep system and skipping 2020 in MiLB really created this situation for a ton of franchises.

Even the guys the Pirates picked up yesterday, I wrote about how few at bats or innings they have at higher levels, but that’s not really a reflection on how slowly they’re moving as much as everybody lost a year.

Truth is, the Pirates are going to wind up leaving some good players exposed, it just can’t be helped. That said, should they so choose opportunities will be there for them to again score someone they like from another team in the same position.

What you want to avoid is having to protect guys still 2 or 3 years away from the bigs, because the more of those you have the harder it is to have easy call ups to the MLB club with real help.

Yes, yes, the Pirates have plenty of people they can cut and those decisions will come, but this starts to present diminishing returns at some point.

What you want are close to 20 pitchers while the other 20 or so play positions. Ideally 35 or so would be viable for promotion to MLB at least in the near future, otherwise you get the DFA game we’ve seen play out and at some point the Pirates are going to start caring about losing players.

See, Crick was an easy decision for them, but they weren’t trying to lose Geoff Hartlieb.

After the deadline and we have a clearer picture of all the pieces in the box, we’ll start putting this puzzle together, but trust me, the team is already very much so thinking about this and don’t be shocked if you see some current 40-man members that don’t figure into the future moved out themselves.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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