A Pirates Slasher on Friday the 13th

5-13-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

For many fans, what the Pirates organization has put this city and base through is much like a horror flick. Everyone seems to see the guy hiding in the bushes with his machete, and yet every time, the characters just charge right into the one area they shouldn’t. At some point after countless bloody ends a select few members of the cast survive the onslaught and win the day.

Now if you really follow this analogy out, you already kinda know Jason, Freddy, Michael, typically come back for more and another bite at box office fortune.

The Pirates as we sit here aren’t a good baseball team, breaking news right? Much like the movie though, let’s be honest, you knew before it started who was going to meet their fate and who was going to survive to ultimately take down the killer.

Look at this team and sort out the survivors. The SURE survivors. Ke’Bryan Hayes, Bryan Reynolds, David Bednar, and then be real honest, those three are THE ONLY sure survivors.

Now you may like the comic relief character but rest assured, he’s going to die. All his character assures is that he’s going to die hilariously.

OK, you get the point, this team was built to be slashed.

That doesn’t mean everything is preordained but let’s be straight here, if Jack Suwinski becomes a staple in right field for the next 5-6 years, it wasn’t assumed. Hoped for, absolutely, but not assumed.

If Bryse Wilson somehow figures out how to stop alternating bad and meh starts or works his way to the pen and makes himself worth keeping, well, that’s great, but it wasn’t something the team pinned their success to.

I could easily go on. This club is almost entirely built on guys who have enough control left to matter if they catch on, but not the expectation they would.

OK, it’s not a slasher but maybe more like Stranger Things, the In Between.

The Pirates will find some guys from this group that stick and last. They’ll also find some guys who do nothing more than prove themselves worthy of being here as a measuring stick. Of course they’ll also find some of these guys simply get slayed early before you’ve even gotten to know them.

I often hear things while fans watch this happen that for the most part I just ignore. Like yesterday when Rodolfo Castro made his debut at short stop, I was hit with a barrage of “what about Castillo?”, “Great another guy who’s going to block Cruz”, my favorite “Peguero is the future, why waste time on any of these guys?”

Well, because next year Kevin Newman hits Arb 2, and the Pirates will face a decision. Do they ignore his bat and keep the sure glove around another year? Do they try to move him to someone who wants a sure glove? If they do, who plays there?

Kevin is a guy that this team has to prepare to move on from, and that requires trying who you have. Bluntly, they have no equal for his defensive prowess right now. Castillo, Cruz, Peguero, Castro, Bae, all would be a definitive step back defensively, yet you just can’t ignore each and every one of them has the potential to outhit him. Potential is a key word there, because honestly, Kevin hit better than almost everyone on that list on the way up too, at least for average and it’s obviously struggled to translate consistently to the majors.

That’s why you try guys like Castillo and Castro now. They’re ready to try, while Peguero isn’t. Soon Cruz will get his shot as well but for right now they have to answer a couple big questions, do we have anyone ready who we feel can handle SS and can anyone’s bat help us ignore the defensive deficiency?

First base is a mess. They have Yoshi who was never going to survive this year one way or another. He’s either going to get traded or he’s going to get cut. Michael Chavis has done some good things at the plate but he’s not an ideal 1B with his lack of size. Daniel Vogelbach can handle the position in a pinch but he’s not someone you want to play long term in the field. Mason Martin has looked pretty good and his defense is above average if only slightly. All of this will be sorted this year. They’re set up to have Chavis and Vogelbach return in 2023, potentially even as just insurance for Martin, but you can see how they could really go nuclear if they so chose.

The starting rotation clearly needs to evolve. Quintana certainly won’t be here so take everything he gives you as a plus. Anyone else is free to step up and take a spot, but push is coming. Roansy Contreras, Max Kranick, Cody Bolton, Omar Cruz, and now Tyler Beede will all get shots and that’s going to come at the expense of players like Wilson or Thompson, Brubaker or Keller, thing is, that’s a good problem. You want that, and so do the Pirates.

I keep hearing people say the Pirates will trade all these great players as soon as they get good, but really, that ignores what has actually happened here. Josh Bell was traded because his control ended in 2022, because of his agent, age and inconsistency they deemed him a poor investment. He’ll be 30 this year and while he’s finally looking more consistent at the plate all that means is they could have waited, had a decent bat for 2021 and most of this year then moved him at this deadline.

Reality is once they decided to slash Marte, who wanted no parts of living through a rebuild in Pittsburgh, the other dominoes were going to fall.

You don’t have to like it. They didn’t have to do it in the fashion they did, but here we are and after suffering through two of the worst seasons of baseball we’ve seen in over a decade, we’ve arrived at a point where real talent is right there. Guys you’ve waited for, guys you didn’t see coming, some you wrote off, others you built up and are currently underwhelmed by will all come together to remake this roster as the year pushes on and for a guy like me, man that’s fun.

I sat here in 2020 writing about a team that really had no alternatives. If Tucker stunk (Yeah I know the if is gone now) well what were you going to do? Nobody was ready, and the guys who were, well, they proved quickly they weren’t really options. Will Craig, Jose Osuna, you remember.

2021 saw an onslaught of Rule 5 pickups and waiver wire claims intended to stem the tide more so than fill a role long term. Ben Gamel came from that group, Chase DeJong, Anthony Banda as well. This year Greg Allen was claimed, Tyler Beede was just grabbed, but for the most part the team has come from who’s already here. A few low risk signings, a low impact trade here and there, but primarily, this team is internally built. It’s still not good, but every member of this team not named Bednar, Reynolds, and Hayes is now a measuring stick.

Want to crack this roster? Be better than this guy. Can’t be better than this guy, well, maybe you aren’t good. Who’s “this guy” well, take your pick. Chavis is a measuring stick, and his versatility makes him one for multiple spots. You want his at bats, you have to show you’re better and more than that, you have to do it when opportunity knocks.

We all got frustrated and continue to be by seeing guys like Josh VanMeter or Cole Tucker get starts, but it leads to finally deciding Tucker isn’t it. My guess is that soon it will lead to the understanding VanMeter isn’t either. Castro gets the opportunity when the Tucker decision came. Cruz or someone else will get one when VanMeter is done with his audition.

Sometimes a guy can force it from below. In Castro’s case, Tucker was just that bad and Castro was just ok. Cruz may just take it from VanMeter. Point is, that’s what a bunch of these guys are here for, to get beaten. If they perform and never get beat, great. If they don’t and it meant all they were happened to be a hurdle to jump, so be it.

This team by the end of 2022 will look different. I’m not here to tell you this is a caterpillar into a butterfly situation, but I will say the measuring sticks will keep getting stronger. Castro will be harder to beat than Tucker. Castillo is harder to beat than Evans was. So on and so on.

This group of prospects that are close to or actually ready, they for the most part aren’t the exciting guys, but that doesn’t mean they won’t find answers in this batch. Adam Frazier was a guy like this, a measuring stick who was ready before highly touted prospects like Kevin Kramer or Alen Hanson, thing is, he became much more than that. Jordy Mercer, Josh Harrison, Jacob Stallings, these guys sometimes stick.

The Pirates greatest sin was having nothing else coming behind those guys, that is no longer the case. And friends, whether you got it at the time or not, that was the point of all of this.

People love to point out that not all these guys will make it, and they’re completely right. Mass them up and make some positions look like a complete logjam, pray one or two emerge. That’s stacking, and over time it leads to sticking.

None of that happens without slashing.

Take the cuts in stride, and understand every time you watch a guy you find less than desirable, a question is actively being answered.

Again, I’m not blind, there are other ways to skin this cat. They could go out and get MLB proven and polished players to man positions and fill out the rotation, and honestly, that makes sense to most fans. From the start though, that has not been the intention of this club.

I actually get it if you can’t deal, but when you tune in and catch a poor performing player realize that unlike 2 years ago, there are alternatives now.

I’ll leave you with this. The Pirates in the past couple seasons decided that former number one picks Cole Tucker and Will Craig aren’t answers. They are still trying to see if Travis Swaggerty is going to meet the same fate. Quinn Priester has started the year on the IL and has stalled a bit beside. Carmen Mlodzinski is back on the IL. All these high draft picks might never make it, and no, I’m not giving up on any one of them quite yet, just illustrating, this is why you can’t sit here looking at your system pretending everything is going to pan out.

More than anything it’s why you hedge your bet. In fact look back in history, if Tyler Glasnow doesn’t look like a complete disaster in Pittsburgh that whole Archer trade never happens. That’s what the panic of realizing you don’t have more options coming does to a team, and that’s why a team like this had to build the system up in the first place, to avoid repeating history.

Slash away Buccos, and on this Friday the 13th remember that at some point, you make your own luck.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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