The Youth Movement Won’t Stop, Even if Veterans Slow it Slightly

7-3-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

This team isn’t by any stretch of the imagination a finished product. They haven’t fully moved on to youth, nor have they entirely decided that veterans have no place. When the team brings up players from the IL this week, it’s gong to come at the expense of young players.

Temporarily.

Oh, it’s gonna melt the minds of a bunch of fans. Maybe even mine, but it’s also not going to last, and maybe that’s the most important takeaway. This isn’t forever.

As most of you know, my style is all about looking at problems from every angle I can think of. I miss some, and sometimes I don’t even believe entirely in the angle I’m trying to illustrate, but to me, if you don’t try to see both or all sides of an issue, you have no business pretending you have a well rounded and thought out position.

So folks, that’s what we’re going to do today. We’re going to take a look at each of the players who are potentially coming back. What they could bring to the table, why the team could benefit from returning them to the club. We’ll also look at why bringing them back could be a mistake, or at least talk to the detrimental side of each one.

It’s easy to say trade him or DFA him, but it’s another thing entirely to have really looked at each of these players thoroughly and still feel that way.

Let’s go.

Kevin Newman

For one thing, love him or hate him, let’s be real clear, Kevin Newman is a major league baseball player.

He may never be a starting player again, at least not on this baseball team, but he belongs in the majors.

I said before this season started, this would be Kevin’s final season as a Pittsburgh Pirate, and I still believe that to be true. His injury made me even more confident.

For one thing, he’s no longer going to be the starting short stop, that belongs to another right now, and even if he loses his grip on it, another will come behind. Entering arbitration, Kevin is going to cost more, even if only a little, than someone like Diego Castillo, or Tucupita Marcano. And I could go on, replacing him won’t be hard.

So why bring him back at all?

For one thing, he’s a major leaguer. I think I covered that. But a baseball team has a certain responsibility to their players. A former number one pick, even one that wasn’t this administration’s doing, earns a certain level of respect, and professionalism. He’s been a good actor on a bad team from the day he finally made the team and his exit will be handled as gracefully as possible.

They’ll do this for Kevin, but they’ll also do this for other players watching how it’s handled like Michael Chavis, or even future free agent signings. The message is, you may lose your position, but we won’t forget that you earned your way here. Essentially, we want to help you land.

The club will try to move him. He’ll do himself no favors if he doesn’t hit. Everyone knows he can field, but if he hits, there could legitimately be interest, especially with all the control he still has.

Now, how much is too much? Let’s say he comes up here and rakes. Plays a really solid second base too. Right handed bat on a team that simply doesn’t have many. Could he talk this team into maybe going one more season?

That’s a legitimate question. No matter how you feel about Newman. I already told you my preseason thoughts on that, and I’ve personally seen at least comparable talent replace him. I’ve also seen that there’s a place for someone from the right side who can hit over .250. Even if it’s only to hold a place for Liover Peguero, Nick Gonzales and more.

All this boils down to, he’s going to return, and I for one am going to welcome back someone with a bit more experience. Someone that took his inferior skills and sculpted them into a gold glove caliber defender, should be able to help a young potential superstar learn how to maximize his talents into simply being the very best defender he can be.

This could last all of 3 weeks, but it’s gonna happen.

Jake Marisnick

The first thing to mention here, Jake Marisnick did nothing wrong. The Pirates knew two things when they signed him, Jake was arguably going to be the best defending outfielder on the team, and he also wasn’t going to help much at the plate.

That’s what he delivered, a tremendous glove, and a bat that still really didn’t play often enough.

This was before the Pirates discovered, or more aptly, were forced to discover what they had in the minors. Jack Suwinski, is of paramount interest. He’s hit for power, he’s hit for drama, and he’s played a very clean outfield. Canaan Smith-Njigba didn’t get much time before breaking his wrist but he paved the path for Bligh Madris. Travis Swaggerty got 9 at bats, but he too is primed for a shot.

Tucupita Marcano has shown a real ability to play corner outfield too.

Reality is, Jake was a pick up out of necessity and a big part of me thinks he’ll be set free to be someone else’s necessity pick up. Not via trade, but from being turned loose by the Pirates.

He’s different than other players because he has no team control beyond this season, and more than that, he was likely never under the impression he was more than a stop gap to begin with.

We already mentioned how few bats the Pirates have from the right side, but they have plenty who can’t hit above .225. If I had my guess, Jake is not returning, and our next contestant sews that up in my mind.

Ben Gamel

Ben was a waiver wire pickup for the Pirates in 2021. A badly needed injection of professionalism and veteran presence. He’ll try anything the team needs.

Want a leadoff guy? Well, Ben can take a crack, hell he’ll even change his typical approach at the plate to make sure it fits there. Need a guy to get that big hit, Ben isn’t the most talented player on the roster but he knows how to work a pitcher. He’ll use that ability to wait out the guy and get a pitch he can use.

What if you need him to play first base? OK coach, I’ll give it a shot.

He’s been cut. He’s been told he wasn’t good enough. He’s felt the pain of seeing kids take his job, in fact he’s seen it happen after pouring his advice and guidance into them. He’s done it with a smile.

This is a guy that a team like this needs. Personally, I’d make his expiring contract look more like a 2 year extension, but that topic is for another day. For now, suffice to say, I want Ben Gamel on this team, in fact I think they desperately need the leadership.

That’s not to say the team lacks any, but Ben provides a different kind of leadership. He’s not quiet about it, nor is he shy about showing players what leaving it all on the field looks like.

They have to bring him back, and while I think there will be takers at the deadline, I highly recommend the team think of how the value won’t touch what he provides.

Yoshi Tsutsugo

Yoshi burst on the scene after the Pirates acquired him in 2021. He hit some thunderous homeruns, but after his initial burst, he cooled.

There were immediate questions about what exactly the Pirates were doing.

They picked him up and he had no team control. He was immediately going to be a free agent and after hitting 8 bombs, well, it seemed like he was just going to price himself out of town.

He appreciated the opportunity Ben Cherington gave him, and signed with the club for a one year contract, even while he wanted 2 or more.

The Pirates simply don’t have a lot at first base. Mason Martin has shown his warts and he’s only 22 so it’s not time to force him up regardless. Michael Chavis has proven himself capable but that certainly wasn’t a given.

Yoshi did nothing at the plate. A .177 batting average, with only two homeruns. It started looking like Yoshi thought he was brought here to draw walks, instead of hit homeruns.

He’s raking in AAA and to be frank, that’s what he did last season before the Pirates picked him up.

I personally think the Pirates would be best just letting him go, if only because I can’t see where he fits. Even if he is successful, is there enough time left before the deadline to convince someone he’s worth trading for? Even if he does, is he going to return anything worthwhile?

If it’s just about getting a lefty at first base who isn’t super good or experienced at the position, wouldn’t Ben Gamel or Bligh Madris fill the bill?

The team is hitting homeruns at a pretty good clip as we speak, so maybe they aren’t as desperate for power in any package as they were when they signed him.

This is a no for me, but every indication is the Pirates don’t agree.

Conclusion

There is value in returning veterans to the lineup and indeed the mix of this roster. Some will help more than others, and some the team should just choose to move on from, but when you look at the Pirates current set up, a couple things are very clear.

Too many kids is too many kids. And very few have put together a complete showing.

Diego Castillo for instance, he’s found his power, but he’s hitting below .200. He’s done ok in the field, but he has also faltered at times to get the job done. I’m picking on him, but look at the roster, just about everyone has something that isn’t clicking. Power, contact, fielding, approach, hustle, almost all of them have something that can be worked on.

That can be done here, right here in MLB. Sometimes though, the lesson that being called up isn’t always the beginning of the rest of the story is an important one. Ben Gamel knows that first hand, and even when he replaces someone after his rehab he’ll never forget how that goes, nor will he miss an opportunity to teach exactly how it’s not the end of the world. It’s not the end of your journey, your story, and you don’t have to take some GM’s word for it, here is this bearded, long haired, grizzled kid at heart to show you one day they’ll be moving kids aside to get back to the league themselves.

I don’t expect fans to be happy about all these moves, I probably won’t be myself. But do try to understand it. There simply is use and reason at play here and it won’t be long before things swing back in the other direction.

Baseball and the path to becoming an MLB fixture is never a guarantee. It’s rarely easy and sometimes it simply doesn’t make any sense. Above all though, just about every thing that happens on that path is valuable.

Just like some of these veterans still are.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

One thought on “The Youth Movement Won’t Stop, Even if Veterans Slow it Slightly

  1. “As most of you know, my style is all about looking at problems from every angle I can think of. I miss some, and sometimes I don’t even believe entirely in the angle I’m trying to illustrate, but to me, if you don’t try to see both or all sides of an issue, you have no business pretending you have a well rounded and thought out position.”
    I couldn’t agree more. Gamel is a prime example for me: If a good trade offer comes along, then absolutely make the deal. If not, then we get more Gamel until such a time comes. It feels like a win-win scenario, however small. There are only five spots for outfielders at most, and it feels like there’s just not going to be any vacancy. Maybe that means trading from a position of surplus for one of need or something like that.

    Yes, yes, yes on how you treat each player, including the exit. That reputation matters. Dodgers had zero plans for Michael Morse but assured him, “Don’t worry–we’ll find a good fit for you.” I didn’t get the impression NH was great at this. For the test case of Newman, just be real with him: “We want you to play so well that you force us to make more difficult decisions, but the likely outcome is trading you. If we have two deals we like equally, would you prefer to go somewhere you can play more or somewhere you might play less but are likelier to win?”
    I know they have a peculiar lack of right-handed batters, but I also struggle to see Newman sticking around. They simply have too many players to sort through at positions 4-9, and the year in which he hit well continues to look like a one-hit wonder. If he hits well, then I don’t look a gift horse in the mouth on the trade market.

    Marisnick I like in the outfield, but yeah, tough to see keeping him with that bat.

    Tsutsugo I guess they’re hoping someone will give a lottery ticket for, not much sense in keeping.

    Liked by 1 person

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