12-6-21 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter
Oh No! Baseball is locked out, what will we ever do for content? Oh my, there’s plenty to discuss from today, and with 132 seasons under our belt as a franchise, we won’t struggle.
Even if this thing eats MLB games, we’ll likely have minor league baseball to discuss and let’s face it most of us can’t stop doing that to comfort ourselves that better days are coming anyhow.
1. A Very Not Huntington Tender Deadline
One thing I took from the Pirates non-tender decisions on Steven Brault, Chad Kuhl and Colin Moran in particular is how very much so this would have never happened if Neal Huntington were still the GM. He’d have held on dearly to the year(s) of control and prayed for performance in the hopes of moving them for more than nothing.
Chad Kuhl wanted to start, the Pirates wanted him in the bullpen, maybe this one came down to simply a Mike Tomlinism, We want volunteers not hostages. Thing is, for all his talent, he just didn’t perform, at least not with consistency, and let’s be honest here, don’t we want this team to start making decisions like this?
Steven Brault has struggled to stay on the mound. When he was good, he was very good, when he was bad, he was disastrous. The funny thing is he’s easily in the same class as Jose Quintana at this point, with the exception of Quintana having actually done really well at some point. Brault has been a borderline starter his entire career here in Pittsburgh, and I feel could have been a nice bullpen piece, but the Pirates weren’t willing to see what this year would bring, and I honestly can’t argue the decision.
Moran just wasn’t good enough, and while I don’t think Yoshi is a locked on upgrade, I don’t think he’s a step backward either. We’ve waited for him to perform defensively, we’ve waited for his power to develop and show up in games. Instead we’ve seen him adjust his approach to hit lefties and turn into the slowest singles hitter I’ve ever seen. I’m ok with feeling we’ve seen enough of that too.
The initial shock of names we recognize being cut loose is worse than it’s bite here in my mind, but the real totality of the story here will be shown when the Pirates finish making this roster. If the Pirates add more to the roster I think we can really see the vision, right now it’s just little more than letting go some guys who didn’t help enough to pretend they’d find it suddenly in 2022.
2. The Danger of a Lock Out
I understand the lockout, I knew it was coming, but as always there are side effects beyond potentially losing baseball games that concerns me.
None bigger than injured players being barred access to team doctors they’d been working with. Someone like Blake Cederlind is recovering from Tommy John, and the recovery is almost more daunting than the procedure itself. One misstep on the road back to competitive pitching and he could be right back to square one. You’d ideally like this process to be under the watchful eye of team doctors and trainers but because of the lockout he’s literally on his own. His recovery goes as he and whomever he finds to help him want it to go.
Ask anyone who’s been through the process and they’ll mostly tell you they didn’t see eye to eye with the training staff throughout the entire path. I’m concerned about prematurely pushing himself, or the alternative, not pushing himself and trusting the arm will hold up when he should. I worry about things like this far more than missing a couple weeks of baseball.
I’m sure he was given a plan to follow, and I’m sure they gave him suggestions of who to see and when, but at the end of the day, he and he alone controls this process as of right now, and that’s something to consider.
It’s not a Pirates problem alone of course, but it’s a nasty side effect of disconnecting your most important assets from your franchise for an extended period of time. Even during the COVID shutdown the teams were in regular contact and plans were at least run past the team before heading firmly into any direction. For young men used to the structure of professional sports, the wild wild west of a lockout could really hurt the progression that a typical off season can provide.
3. Sign a Kid, Become a Parent
One thing most people don’t consider when teams sign 16 year old prospects in the International market is the very real extra responsibility the team inherits. They become the teachers, the guardians, the mentors and have to balance all that with teaching them to become baseball players.
This stuff doesn’t get advertised often, but it happens. We forget both what the team has to tackle when these guys are signed, and we also forget that these kids are asked to do much more than simply learn to play a position, or swing a bat.
They have to learn to eat right and take care of their body. Learn that raw athleticism will get them exactly as far as they currently are and still set aside time to learn how to go from kids to adults while in many cases not even being in the same country as their parents.
I get asked for updates on players like Solomon Maguire and Shalin Polanco pretty regularly because it feels like they’ve been part of the organization for a while, but reality is much of their time is spent still doing what most 16-17 year olds do, learning. The International market is the ultimate test of patience, and things like this are exactly why this team has invested so much in the Dominican Academy.
Good stuff and I’m happy to see the team promote the “life” aspect of what’s going on down there.
4. The More I Think About This Stallings Deal…
The more I think about it, the less I like it. Typically that’s not how these things go for me, I’m usually able to think myself into at least ok, and I’ll readily admit any of the returned players could wind up being a huge plus for this organization.
Here’s where I get hung up. The Pirates took a position that was solidly filled and instead of letting it play out as a perfect bridge to Henry Davis, Endy Rodriguez or Abrahan Guttierez they’ve created a hole that isn’t going to close until one of them gets here.
I understand the very real need for arms, and I can’t sit here and tell you acquiring them in this fashion is an awful decision, but I can say we can’t act like the team had no options to bring more in. There is this crazy thing called free agency and with payroll where it is, I’m kinda not interested in hearing they had to trade one of their few answers for more question marks.
Again, this deal might work out well, and Roberto Perez might end up filling the role well, but they’ve created a hole in 2023 that wasn’t scheduled to be there. To me it was an unnecessary step back on a club that can’t really go much further back. Maybe it works out, but one of those prospects better be ready next year.
Same could be said for first base. While I just talked about all the reasons Colin Moran probably wasn’t worth getting angry about, he was still under control for another season and now 2023 will be filled by either another free agent, or a prospect like Mason Martin needs to be ready.
They moved on from two safety nets, and that’s ok if you felt those nets were full of holes, Jacob was not, and that’s where I am on this whole thing.
I get it, I leave room for hoping it winds up being a good and overall positive situation but as it stands right now I feel they’ve built unwarranted pressure into two positions.
5. The Rotation is Deeper, Will it Be Better
Well, let’s start right here, nobody knows for sure obviously, and Ben Cherington says he’s not done adding to it, so there’s that.
As we sit here right now it’s hard to see the rotation being anything other than Quintana, Thompson, Keller, Wilson and Brubaker. I know some of you want Contreras or Yajure but even if the CBA makes it a painless decision to bring either up, I think it would be prudent to give them a bit of time in AAA.
I have to be honest, those five look a hell of a lot better than last year already. Quintana is obviously a reclamation project, Thompson and Wilson are essentially the same player at different ages. Both have shown enough in MLB to believe there’s more there. Keller is a step behind both of those, with arguably more pedigree and firmly planted in a show me year. Brubaker showed enough last year before his arm fell off to believe he has more to give.
I like that as a starting point, and I like it a lot more than the mix they entered last year with. That’s about as far as I’ll take it though, I like the look a little better.
I also like the backing better. Having Roansy Contreras, Max Kranick, Miguel Yajure, Dillon Peters, Cody Bolton and Wil Crowe all right there too is certainly better than what they started with last year. Some of these could become bullpen options, and I’m sure some of them simply won’t make the decision hard, but if you believe in a culture of competition you kinda have to have competition don’t you?
I don’t think there is enough here to pretend this unit is going to spell a tremendously improved record, but I do think there’s enough here to potentially head into 2023 feeling like the rotation isn’t devoid of answers. The prospect system taking a step forward is great, it’s the goal of any rebuild, but when it comes to the fans starting to believe things are trending in the right direction at some point tangible evidence has to start reaching MLB, and I believe there will be more than a few instances of that in 2022, not least of which will be the mound.