Five Pirates Thoughts at Five

6-13-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

Rough series in Atlanta, and lets be honest, it was always going to be. Atlanta has caught fire, and gotten healthy. Even given that reality, the Pirates were in many of those games which on the record sheet looks exactly the same as last season when the Braves boat raced the Pirates and set a homerun record against them.

Ugly moments like that, yup, gonna happen. There will be nice moments too, and while those tend to be easier to forget when the overall picture is gross, I still tend to enjoy them, as I’m sure most of you do.

1. Trades are Going to at Least be Tried

I word it that way because folks, some of what they got, well, it just isn’t going to be wanted.

One of the funniest things for me personally is when I discuss things like whom should the Pirates move to return injured vets to the roster. The go to answer I get from most is “TRADE HIM”, and man, all I can say is, sure, but guess what has to happen first? They have to come back up most likely, and then they, maybe, have a chance to move them.

Some guys, I just don’t see so much as an opportunity. That said, lets go ahead and list off who the team is likely going to put on the block.

Cherington trades guys, and always will, but it’s not just whoever, especially as the team enters a new stage in this effort.

Chris Stratton – I was shocked he wasn’t moved in the off season, and I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t get moved at the deadline. The return isn’t going to be great, because honestly, Stratton isn’t great. He has moments, and if Cherington can find someone who really values the hell out of spin rate and peripheral analytics, maybe he gets something of value. I’ll say this, he’s not the answer to Bednar’s back end partner. Oh, and he has no more arbitration.

Ben Gamel – Again, last year of team control. I personally think there is more value in keeping a guy like this around, but this is about who will likely be on the block, not about who I want or don’t want them to trade. Now, I don’t think he returns anything exciting, and based on where they are it can’t be a Hoy Park or Diego Castillo type, they either need a true lottery ticket, Low A with a ton of time left, or MLB ready piece like a backup catcher or reliever.

Yoshi Tstutsugo – First, this can only happen if he comes back from the IL. If this decision were mine, he never would. If he does however, I believe it will be for the express purpose of trying to move him. Now, by the time he comes back, and he does have a legitimate back issue by the way, I simply don’t think there’s time for him to show enough to build a market. Even if I thought he was capable, which I don’t.

Duane Underwood Jr. – I know Pirates fans generally don’t care for him but I’ll just say this, he’s better than his numbers. He has 3 years of arbitration in front of him and relief pitching is at a premium at the deadline. Normally when a guy has this much control left I wouldn’t suggest he should/would be on the block, but this team knows how much of his arm they’ve used up. They also have a bunch of guys who could figure into this bullpen that aren’t here yet. I think they can deal from strength here, and he’s easily worth a decent returned prospect, but nothing close to MLB.

Kevin Newman – I said before this season that one way or another, I see this being Newman’s last year as a Pirate. Well, this is one way. First, he needs to get healthy and much like Yoshi, there isn’t time for some grand turnaround, but if you move Newman to someone that wants him, chances are they want a glove, which he still has. I could argue the Pirates themselves need it too, but his days as a starter ended when he went on the IL fair or not. Ton of control here, just don’t see this as a needle mover type transaction. The other alternative might very well be non-tendering him after the season, so might as well move him.

Jose Quintana – Now, Q is the lone vet in this rotation and despite his start to the season, water tends to find it’s level. I expect him to continue to pitch well some starts and get knocked around in others, but there is always value in pitching, especially left handed pitching. What’s hilarious is the Pirates offense is very left handed heavy, and the pitching staff, well it’s not ok. As I’ll mention in a little, this team will need a vet again next year (preferably a guy with a bit more to offer) so maybe they can just see if he’s willing to accept a small extension. This return won’t knock anyone’s socks off and unless Cody Bolton or Michael Burrows are going to come up and get a shot in 2022, he probably does us more good than what he could return.

Now, if you want to make a case for some other reliever, have at it. I’ll say this, Bednar, Crowe and probably Dillon are gonna stay. This isn’t a super prospect hungry team right now and most moves are going to be made to make room for younger guys or to just recoup something rather than lose someone for nothing. Maybe Bryse Wilson is a guy someone else might want to take a swing at for instance. You want to discuss Heath Hembree, have at it. He’s right in the wheelhouse of someone this team would and should try to move, but as with others, he has to actually play first, and I think based on what we’ve seen that has a better chance of resulting in DFA than trade.

On the other side of the coin, there are a bunch of bad teams this season, and most of them aren’t on the way back up, that could lead to some interesting opportunities. I’m not prepared to suggest something serious yet, but figuring this club has to sign at least one veteran starter next year anyhow, maybe they can eat some salary in exchange for something they need anyhow and some low level prospects.

All that said, the big theme this deadline to me, I think we see they aren’t as prospect hungry as they’ve been. And if they are, it’s on the very very young end of the spectrum.

2. Small, but Potentially Important Change

Mitch Keller recently added a 2-seam fastball into his mix and as a result is throwing fewer 4-seamers.

Whatever you think I’m going to talk about here, it’s not going to be Mitch Keller, as much as the willingness to change course with a player.

Think back to Tyler Glasnow and if at all possible drop the trade whining for a bit too, it’s irrelevant to the discussion, or actually maybe it isn’t come to think of it.

Tyler was constantly told to throw a 2-seam fastball. He didn’t have a handle on it, he didn’t really control it well and in an effort to stop walking 1 out of every 3 guys he faced he would throw it more as a get me over offering. When he went to Tampa, he was allowed to throw what he was comfortable with.

That path doesn’t work for everyone. See Mitch is quite happy throwing his 4-seamer, but the lack of movement is virtual retardant for the velocity.

It took a bit too long, but the fact that the team implemented a change here instead of just scrapping him for someone else to unlock, hey, isn’t that what we need and expect to see from a pitching coach?

It’s 2 outings, and Mitch has reached out to former teammate Clay Holmes for advice about the pitch, but just getting him to embrace the change and work it in this quickly is a bonus. More of this please and less of beating our heads against the wall.

3. The Perpetual Search for Good At Bats

As a general philosophy, the Pirates are all about taking a bunch of pitches.

It’s the real reason they signed Daniel Vogelbach this off season, he literally led the league in number of pitches seen.

It’s cool, I get it, you want patient at bats and all, but this club has taken it to an extreme. Every hitter in the lineup is actively hunting walks and I mean if you aren’t going to murder the ball, I guess that makes sense, but situationally, it’s making an already putrid offense even worse.

You have a runner at 2nd or 3rd with one out, I’m sorry, I don’t want to see Bryan Reynolds step up there to try to work a count. Of course a pitcher is going to prefer walking him. If you want to score more runs, at some point the hitters in this lineup need to get the bat off their shoulder and try to you know, drive the ball somewhere.

I say this because it’s universally applied and preached from the top down. Take that walk! There are times where that just should not be what the guy in the box needs to be hunting. Runner at 3rd with 1 out, I don’t need a walk Ke’Bryan, I need contact.

The run producers (or those we’re at least batting in those spots) need to produce runs. I’d also say, much of this work on the pitch count stuff, well the league has kinda moved on past it. Everyone has built bullpens to negate the effect you desire. Even if by some chance you run into Adam Wainwright on a rare poor control day, he’ll still carve you up and ooooh, maybe you get him to leave the game in the 6th so you can face 3 flame throwers.

A bit of a rant but I’m overall not pleased with the hitting approach. To me it is geared toward the average players and retards the excellence of those capable of it.

4. More Promotions, More Debuts, More Questions

News broke today that Canaan Smith-Njigba and Hoy Park are making their way to the big club tonight.

Now, I’m sure you have some questions here, lord knows I do.

One thing I don’t question is whether Canaan deserved the call up, he absolutely did, simply been raking. Reached base in 40 of his last 41 games. There is just no real reason to keep him down beside no room.

Clearly they’ve decided to make room by demoting Travis Swaggerty.

I’m not sure I get this entirely. Swaggerty hasn’t really had much opportunity up here and it’s not like Smith-Njigba just started hitting, been going on for over a month now. This is a strange way to treat a number one pick honestly.

If they were only going to give him a cup of coffee, I’m not sure why they didn’t just call up CSN in the first place? Bluntly, He was given no opportunity to change his fate, felt like the Pirates decided for him before he got here.

As a person who isn’t a Swaggerty believer, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but man, Tucker got a longer look than that? Park is on his third crack and he has a ceiling of bench at best written all over him.

Again, not complaining about getting some more offense up here, but what did you see from Swaggerty to say he didn’t deserve more opportunity? The hitch in his swing? Well that’s been there since college, if that’s the issue they should have beaten it out of him before a call up ever occurred.

I mean this is a team that called up Jack Suwinski from AA and proceeded to let him start almost 2 consecutive weeks without a break. Watched him hit under .200 with precious little sign he was breaking out of it and finally go on a tear that has him at least for this early stage getting talked about as one of the best rookies in the NL.

Where was that love for Travis? Don’t get me wrong, you have to do what you can with whatever opportunity you get, he didn’t.

That’s embarrassing. He, his wife, his family, none of them could have expected he’d be back to riding busses in just over a week.

Life, and baseball aren’t fair. I just want to understand the rationale, and I’m quite sure when we hear it, we’ll be no more clear.

Regardless, I wanted to see Canaan, so here we go. Good luck kid, hope you get more than 9 at bats.

As to Park, who cares. This isn’t long term I’m guessing. Pirates had to cut the pitching staff anyway unless MLB extends the deadline again so Fletcher headed out isn’t all that earth shattering, although I’m a bit surprised it wasn’t Yerry De Los Santos who they scarcely use since he was called up.

I can say I know the team is really concerned about the 100+ degree weather expected in St. Louis (some of us should remind them how bad astro turf used to be there huh?) so it’s likely about an extra body with (ducks) versatility.

Finally, it’s also been reported that Bryse Wilson will get the 27th man call to start one of the Double Header games. Makes sense if only because anyone else would require a 40-man shuffle. Makes no sense if you’re looking for happy viewers, lol.

5. Two Trailer Park Girls Go Round the Outside…

Yup, guess who’s back? Bryan Reynolds

Looking every bit the player he has already proven himself to be. The month of June has been kind to him in his career, and this one has been no different.

I don’t blame anyone for questioning him, after all, we’re Pirates fans, if we aren’t programmed to be at least a bit pessimistic I don’t know who is. I was starting to worry personally, if only because I’ve seen him struggle, I’ve just never seen him wear it on his face the way I did this year.

I mean, it’s what he does. That said, it sure does hurt when he isn’t right. Good teams survive things like this because they have other guys who can pick up the dead weight. The Pirates largely only had Ke’Bryan Hayes and while he’s been good, he isn’t good enough to replace or prop up an underperforming Reynolds.

This team needs both, and hopefully when Cruz gets here they add another to that mix. Some of you are going to yell that Suwinski has been there too and yes you’re right but it’s hard to look at two months of performance, heavily weighted by the past 3 weeks and declare him a breakout. Sure looks like he’s trending that way, but he could just as easily regress.

If this team can add more runs per game and the pitching stays where it is, which I think we’re already seeing it won’t by the way, they could do some damage to anyone looking past them.

Every time a player who actually matters performs, it’s worth noting. Now that this team is composed of 90% guys who matter or at least could, well, individual performance means more than it used to.

Lose 4-3 but Reynolds drove in the 3 runs, it sucks but ok at least a guy who matters hit. Lose 4-3 but Vogey hit a 3 run shot, it sucks and Vogey won’t be here when it matters so who cares we lost. Feel me?

Last season if you got some pop from someone like Phil Evans, c’mon, you knew he didn’t matter.

Bryan matters.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: