Five Pirates Thoughts at Five

11-1-21 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

Good afternoon everyone and Happy November! The News is slow, kinda like we’ve been saying it would be, so I certainly won’t sit here and pretend it’s a shock. Still plenty to talk about so let’s get started.

1. Expanded Playoffs a Good Idea?

On the surface it seems like an easy way to get more teams, and let’s face it, more teams who have to play the window game, into the dance where anything could happen.

Hard to not be for that right?

Well, here are a couple counterpoints. First, It’s November 1st, and tomorrow will be game 6 of the World Series. There was a time when going up against an NFL regular season matchup made sense, today, the NFL is king. Now, if you’re reading this, chances are you either really like me, or really love baseball so I could see this point not really landing with you, but think about it from a much bigger scale.

The World Series was on last night and I’d bet more people saw a backup starter for the Cowboys than Adam Duvall hit that Grand Slam in fact most saw it on Twitter rather than live.

The point is, I’m not sure intentionally making this go even deeper into the year is wise. We also shouldn’t discount how poorly baseball translates to cold weather.

No, not that Fall crisp in the air, I’m talking cold. Snow, wind, hoodies, numb fingers. Every contact with the bat stings. These aren’t baseball concepts, certainly not where you want 162 regular season games and 3-4 rounds of playoffs to determine a champion.

The other counter is it’s an obvious mask. An attempt to placate the little guys and keep them quiet for a bit longer.

And don’t get me wrong, if the Pirates are in it, we’re all watching. Again if you are reading this on a Steelers Victory Monday after beating Cleveland, you aren’t someone MLB should be worried about losing as a viewer, but look at the national media. Baseball largely ended to them 3 weeks ago.

To me, I’d like to see the regular season cut back by 10-12 games in exchange. If pitcher health is really as big a concern as we’ve had portrayed, this should be an easy negotiation.

Where do you all come down on this? I think this is priority number one for the owners so it’s pretty safe it’s going to happen.

2. Holy Hell! You Mean Other Teams Want Bryan Reynolds?!

Since last Spring the baseball world has believed the Pirates were looking to, or more accurately, should be looking to move Bryan Reynolds.

Let’s say Ben Cherington just got the job, like right now. The minor league system is still somewhere in the mid to high teens. They’ve had some draft picks so it improved a bit but most of the moves we’ve seen were either not made or made for less prospect return.

Maybe.

Maybe then the Pirates would look to move a player like this. Not now.

These stories come from a couple places. One, Teams of course want a player like Bryan, he’s awesome. If you read most of these stories they’re little more than someone reporting that Team A checked in with the Pirates about what it would take to get Reynolds. In most cases you won’t hear who the Pirates said would have to be included, in some cases you’ll hear an outrageous ask that essentially says NOPE.

The other place it comes from is the national baseball writers who honestly have no understanding of what is happening in a market like this. To them (and sadly some of you) this is nothing more than an assumption that the Pirates want to trade everyone who makes any money. No regard for years of control. No regard for intention to extend. No regard for the building swell of prospects behind him. Just a belief that he’s good and should be on one of their preferred teams.

I don’t blame reporters for reporting it. It’s a story when this stuff leaks. Just don’t jump up and down worrying about it. Of course teams want a good young player. I bet they asked about Hayes too, probably Jake. Hey, I bet teams have asked about Wander Franco too!

This team has let you down, I get it, me too. This just isn’t a thing, not yet. If he isn’t extended by next off season, ok, open your ears.

3. What’s Going on With the NL Central?

Every team has questions, let’s look at some of what these teams face.

Cardinals – For arbitration they don’t have much drama, Jack Flaherty is projected to pull in 5.1 million, Harrison Bader around 3.7. On the surface I’d say that’s more than I’d want to pay for Bader on the open market but maybe I’m thinking like a Pirates fan. Flaherty they actually took to arbitration last year and he by all accounts won. They clearly can’t afford to lose him, this could be the year they shoot for an extension. The other main concern is does Nolan Arenado use his player option for 35 million? I can’t see a world where he doesn’t, but until he does it’s a question. I’d imagine Matt Carpenter and Carlos Martinez at 18.5 and 17 respectively on club options will be allowed to walk.

Cubs – Wilson Contreras is in the last year of arbitration, projected to get around 6.65 million. Being the team just moved toward a rebuild, you could see them potentially moving him or being that he’s still relatively young they could work out an extension and build around him. Might be a tough choice here, but this decision will tell whether the Cubs see themselves as at the beginning of the rebuild or still in the tear down mode. Ian Happ has two years left of arbitration and at 4.1 million he’s eminently affordable which again, makes him an attractive movable piece.

When it comes to pending free agents well, they traded all of them that really matter. Finding someone to take Jason Heyward and his 24.5 million both in 2022 and 2023 off their books simply isn’t going to be an easy sell, but they could find a buyer for Kyle Hendricks at 14 even though he’s signed through 2024 where it rises to 16, might be a bit rich but doable. I don’t see them trying to buy their way back into contention this season, but stranger things have happened.

Reds – For arbitration they have a laundry list. Luis Castillo is in year 2 of arb and he’ll net 7.6 or so, Amir Garrett will require 2.2, Jesse Winker at 6.8, and on and on. Most of these they almost have to pick up. Now here’s where Cincy get’s interesting. Nick Castellanos has a player option for 16 million, and man, after the season he had, I don’t know how he could not execute his out. He could get far more on the open market, it’s just not even a question. Wade Miley has a 10 million dollar club option that they really should pick up if only to trade him. Tucker Barnhart at 7.5 on a club option is another they simply don’t have a better answer for. This is really going to come down to can the Reds sustain that payroll again in 2022. That question not only answers who they retain it answers how much they can add. To me, best case scenario they’re a similar team to 2021.

Brewers – Arbitration is going to hit hard this year. Josh Hader (super 2) is in year 3 of 4 and scheduled to get around 10 million. No brainer they have to tender him, but I could see them deal him too. Brandon Woodruff sits at 7.1 and he’s kinda a lynch pin. Omar Narvaez took a pay cut to avoid being non-tendered last year, and he answered the bell in 2021, this year he won’t be taking a cut, expect him to net at least 4 million.

Corbin Burnes is just entering arbitration and he’ll net around 4. Willy Adames who the Brewers acquired from the Rays and really played well for the Crew hits his first year of arb and already will require around 4. Eric Lauer is one of the most trusted arms on the team and and probably makes the rotation next season, he’ll get around 2.7. There are still so many more, this could get messy.

Free agent wise, they’ve got a couple player option guys, Avisail Garcia and Jackie Bradly Jr., now if I’m Mr. Bradly, I take my 9.5 million and smile. Garcia on the other hand at 12 at least has potential to be a bargain.

It’s a team that legit spends what they can, and raises for this many players simply can’t happen. Expect some moves that have folks scratching their head, I’d start with a Hader move.

4. Fix One Problem, Cause Another

This is largely what happens with every CBA negotiation. Here’s an example.

Stated Problem: Service Time Manipulation

Offered Solution from Players: Just stop doing it, eliminate the Super 2 clause.

Offered Solution from Owners: Let’s change this to 29.5 being the free agent age with a capped pool for arbitration figures league wide (aka cap)

The most concise way I can put this, Arron Judge would be a free agent now, and Vlad Jr. would be stuck for 10 years.

Simple example of how these things work.

When you hear leaks from these negotiations, be very aware of the subtle differences in language. A proposal isn’t a real proposal unless it’s a final offer. These are all just things being floated, usually by one side or another to make a point about the intensions of the other side. For instance, this one almost assuredly came from the players, because it’s so far off the mark it easily paints a picture of owners trying to keep cheap players cheap.

The young stars that hit free agency in their 20’s are the best way to raise the salaries across the league, this proposal would take that sort of thing off the table.

Nothing remotely close to this will happen, but you’ll hear things like this for the next month or two. I say this so you don’t waste time doing a bunch of math to see what the Pirates would look like in 2028 under this system.

5. Why Aren’t We Covering the Arizona Fall League?

Man, for one thing, others will do a much better job covering the day to day of games I can’t watch or stream. I’d also say I’m much more interested in the complete work than the day to day.

Canaan Smith-Njigba, Ji-hwan Bae, Nick Gonzales, Carmen Mlodzinski, Bear Bellomy, Michael Burrows and Roansy Contreras are all playing for the Peoria Javelinas.

We’re talking the smallest of small sample sizes here, nobody on the club has even reached 50 at bats, 11 innings is the team lead. The numbers for Pirates prospects overall look great, but there just isn’t much to be read into here.

Sometimes you’ll hear about a guy playing a position he never has, or a starter being used as a reliever but nothing earth shattering. This is simply a good place for players who were nicked up and need more innings or at bats to “complete their course” if you will.

I’d say when it’s over we’ll have some observations but right now they’d just be reactionary takes based on a good or bad game here or there. Stay healthy, keep growing, put in the work, that’s really what this is not a proving ground to ensure a promotion.

For instance, Carmen Mlodzinski has pitched in 3 games, totaling 4.1 innings with a 2.08 ERA. That doesn’t do anything for me, and it isn’t to diminish what he’s done, it’s just to say this isn’t something I personally think needs broken down into even smaller bite sized morsels. If you can’t help yourself and really need that type of coverage, none better than John Dreker, check out his work.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

One thought on “Five Pirates Thoughts at Five

  1. Much of MLB “Reporting” has become regurgitating things from other sites. I don’t always agree with your thoughts but I enjoy not seeing the same things rehashed and a decent quality of writing. Many of the other sites make you wonder about the ability of our public schools to produce literate grads.

    Liked by 1 person

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