Arbitration Tender Deadline Moved Up, Who’s Safe, Who’s Not?

11/27/21 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

Perception of who the Pirates will or won’t tender for arbitration changes as moves are made, with the deadline being moved to November 30th from December 2nd due to the impending expiration of the CBA and the need to have time for physicals it’s time to really take a look at who’s left on the list, and start to make some decisions.

So, first things first, let’s list them out.

Chad Kuhl
Ben Gamel
Colin Moran
Chris Stratton
Steven Brault
Jacob Stallings
Kevin Newman
Bryan Reynolds

Some of these are absolute no brainers, in fact most of them are but some recent moves have perhaps put a few on watch.

Chad Kuhl and Steven Brault are the most tenured pitchers on the roster and the Pirates may not keep both. It’s easy as a long time Pirates fan to look at both, feel they’ve been given plenty of time and want to wash your hands of both. They’ve struggled to stay healthy and even when they have been they’ve been at least a bit underwhelming. Here’s the thing though, experience is something this pitching staff lacks and I’m hardly comfortable with Jose Quintana being the only guy who’s got any.

Of course the Pirates could and I’d argue should bring in more, but as I sit here, I can’t see them cutting ties with both of them before this deadline. None of these guys are a prohibitive number so even if they change their minds, they aren’t going to get stuck with much and it’s highly likely they’d get picked up if waived anyhow.

Now, which one would I keep? Hoo boy, I think I’d have to say Brault if for no other reason than wanting to have more than one left handed option and when healthy he’s got a better body of work.

Since the Pirates owe two roster spots due to the Quintana and Yoshi Tsutsugo signings, non-tendering one of these guys opens a spot, and I think they’ll at least take one from this method.

Speaking of Yoshi, well he potentially changed the game for Moran. If rumors are to be believed, Yoshi is going to play first base, it’s something he apparently wants and a factor in him choosing to re-sign in Pittsburgh.

Now, we’ve talked a whole lot about the likelihood the universal DH is coming to MLB. So it’s not like Colin Moran would have no purpose, that’s still a stick this club could use and I’d also argue outside Michael Chavis they don’t really have anyone else to play over there. Before you remind me of Mason Martin, I’ll remind you they didn’t protect him on the 40-man so let’s at least assume he’s not expected to help this season.

That said, Ben Cherington didn’t make the Gerrit Cole trade, and it’s not on him to make it look ok, if Moran is someone he sees value in either on the trade market or simply thinks he fills a role as a DH, fine, but it won’t be to salvage a win from a years old trade.

Everyone else on that list in my eyes is completely safe and will receive a tender offer. Yes even Kevin Newman, if I have pause at all here it’s because they have so many options to play middle infield. The reason I think he’s safe is they only have a few who are true short stops, and they certainly don’t have anyone who has his track record at the position. That glove is valuable, even if the bat never comes around.

Long story short, there are really 3 guys to watch here, and I expect them to keep 2 of them. The funny thing about cutting Kuhl or Brault would be they are exactly the types of guys Cherington would probably go out and get. When I hear people want to drop Brault because he can’t stay healthy then celebrate the signing of Jose Quintana, it makes me chuckle a little at least. The difference is really that at one point Quintana was a top of the rotation pitcher early in his career, and Brault was almost always begrudgingly used as a starter after someone else was tried in the rotation first. Kuhl is a project, a guy with great stuff who has never found a way to harness it fully. Someone you could see a team like Pittsburgh taking a swing at on a one year deal to see if they can get him right, maybe even flip at the deadline.

So, yes, cut them by all means if that’s how they want to go, I’ll shed no tears, but don’t be surprised when damn near clones are brought in to replace them. It’s this train of thought that gives me pause. If they’re going to bring in more, I’d hope they’re a step above the level I just outlined, because if they aren’t they might as well just keep both.

To a degree, Moran is the same. If he’s right, he’s a decent hitter who’s shown he can handle pitchers from both sides in the last couple seasons, the problem is he sacrificed some power to do it. If he transitions fully to DH, well let’s just say he needs to change his approach a bit. Moran is going to cost about 4 million to retain so I’d have to ask, who can the Pirates get for 4 million who’s going to potentially step in and fill a DH role? If you think that’s reasonable I’d suggest for the production I expect you’d probably have to pay at least 6-8 on the open market.

Now, it’s plausible too that the Pirates would rather see that role filled by someone in the mix elsewhere like Chavis, or even Cruz but if we really want to see some improvement on the club this year, I’d rather not see them move on just to move on. Moran on the bench looks better than Park on the bench.

Interesting times, interesting decisions here.

I write all this by way of saying these decisions deserve a bit more thought than just believing they haven’t been good enough. That’s of course true, but I can’t ignore that replacements might be similar and cost more so I’m not sure I can just overtly recommend it.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

2 thoughts on “Arbitration Tender Deadline Moved Up, Who’s Safe, Who’s Not?

  1. Taking your point about Kuhl and Brault a bit further. Let’s say none of Newman, Brault, or Kuhl were already on the roster. And Ben has to pick one to two of the three of them as free agents or go with the youngsters on the 40. Which one to two (at their arb salaries) is he signing off the street?

    Brault would be the only one to a major league contract. Kuhl, to a major league contract only if he can’t get another pitcher to sign. He wouldn’t sign Newman at $2M+ to a major league contract, he’s worth what Goodwin was last year.

    There are too many shortstops above AA for Newman and Tucker on the 40. Just pay Tucker a portion of that Newman salary as you defensive safety net.

    And Moran would be a bad sign for his injury history just last year alone. He couldn’t move and his swing isn’t worth the active roster spot, better to give those at bats to Park and Chavis until Frazier is ready.

    Put that money and roster space towards the seeing if Kuhl can find control and seeing if Brault is healthy. The pitching has further to go overall, needs the greater number of irons in the fire.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t think you can make a wrong decision with any of the three because there isn’t a right decision. Are they going to latch on with a new team and make the Pirates regret letting them go? Not likely. Does bringing someone in who is simply different guarantee they’ll be better? Not likely either. I’d not be upset if two of the three stayed simply because they couldn’t get the same production for the same price. But, if they let all three go just to try someone new, I’d feel the same. Until the top prospects start moving in, any moves they make are just hedging bets and hoping for the best.

    Liked by 1 person

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