Based on what many Pittsburgh Pirates Fans have voiced over the past month, since their season officially came to a close on October 3rd, a pretty thorough housecleaning would be preferred over the customary tiding up of the roster that has taken place over the past couple of years; or at the very least making moves that go beyond cleansing the roster of Triple A/Quad A depth pieces, adding low risk/potential high reward waiver wire claims and pretty much letting some guys hang on until the next man up gets DFA’d or non-tendered.
Honestly, it feels like a broken record; but, if I am being fair, so does the constant upheaval on Pirates Social Media. Arguments, name calling, snide remarks and the like being tossed back and forth between fans of the team, as well as at the players themselves on occasion; with one of the latest victims of circumstance being former Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen.
As the battle raged on surrounding the viability of signing the aging veteran, and former Pirates savior, pot shots were hurled in almost every direction; most surprisingly at McCutchen himself, even though no interest was alluded to by either side. Not that I blame them, to a degree, but Pirates Fans have lost their minds.
At least wait for a rumor to surface first before you go postal.
Luckily this recent episode of civil unrest-aimed at McCutchen and each other- wouldn’t last long as a new target soon emerged for fans to assault, with misdirected contempt they almost certainly feel for the owner of the team, along with the current management group. This time around the bullseye was pointed squarely on Greg Allen, but truthfully it could have been anyone.
Each year articles are written, tweets are sent and message boards are filled with potential free agent targets that are clearly contradictory to what can be expected, and in this instance, what the GM has stated. Whether it is based on false hope, delusion, to gain clicks in agreement from the overwhelming group of detractors or just to inform the general fan as to the players that are available, expectations are obviously attached.
The recent McCutchen debacle could clearly be attached to a similar train of thought, although there is some history attached this example. However, if you ignore the ties to the Steel City it is easily to see the similarities between him and any number of free agent scenarios that have been proposed.
Tack on the acquisition of right handed pitcher Eric Hanhold and things really start to boil over. Although, if you look deeper, there are similarities between it and the acquisition of Nick Tropeano or Sam Howard in recent memory; with later being a move made by Kevan Graves as interim GM.
Following these minor transactions, the Pirates finally got around to trimming some of the fat from the roster, and maybe adding a little back on with the addition of six players from off the 60-Day IL; ultimately downsizing to the 40-man before the last minute of the actual deadline, which is progress.
Not too surprisingly Cherington and Company outrighted players like Connor Overton, Enyel De Los Santos, Kyle Keller, Chase De Jong and Shea Spitzbarth to the Minors in order to make space on the 40-man. Sure, I could have made an argument for keeping a couple of these players-especially Spitzbarth, who was named the Indianapolis Indians Pitcher of the Year-however, it’s not like I couldn’t imagine the team without them.
The bigger surprises to me were some of the players left standing; at least for the moment. Taylor Davis was a late season injury necessitated addition, Sam Howard struggled mightily in the second half of the season, Jose Soriano underwent his second Tommy John surgery, Tanner Anderson was utilized as nothing more than bullpen depth and Jared Oliva didn’t perform well, even in Triple A.
As you continue to look over the roster and recent transactions, Chasen Shreve and Wilmer Difo could be added to the list of surprises simply because many, including myself, had both as more likely than not to be tendered contracts in the arbitration process. Yet, if the plan is to keep Cole Tucker, Kevin Newman and Hoy Park, Difo’s role with the team becomes fairly nonexistent. Add in the cluster of middle infield prospects, some of whom are fairly close to cracking the roster on a more regular basis, and Difo becomes extremely expendable.
When it comes Shreve it might be something as simple as the perceived cost-an estimated $2.3 million in arbitration-versus the value of a 31 year-old bullpen arm. Being a lefty made him a little bit more intriguing, possibly as a trade piece, but obviously not enough for the Pirates to keep him around. Still, if you stack him up against say Anthony Banda, the need for him on the pitching staff clearly begins to dissipate.
Now, obviously these moves were just the first of many that will take place this off-season, as the date to add players to the 40-Man to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft (November 19th) and the tender/non-tender-aka Arbitration-deadline (December 1st) will quickly approach. So hang on tight, the Pirates and Ben Cherington are just getting started.