7-4-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter
Happy Independence Day!
It’s super weird that the Pirates aren’t playing today. They used to play double headers on the 4th, and this year for some reason they don’t play at all.
Hey, it is what it is. Watching baseball and specifically the Pirates is just, kinda part of the tradition to me. We used to have to eat a piece of watermelon every time someone hit one out.
So, without that part of this holiday that celebrates the birth of the greatest nation in the entire world, I’ll just move on to today’s five thoughts.
1. Gamel & Yoshi Tomorrow
For better or worse, tomorrow the Pirates are returning two vets from the IL. Ben Gamel who I think is pretty universally going to make fans happy will return and should fit right in as the 4th outfielder on this roster. That makes me believe an infielder is on his way down. Could be Park, Marcano, Castillo, maybe even VanMeter, but Yoshi will require another as well.
I’ve said multiple times what I’d do, but Ben Cherington’s comments yesterday sewed up that Yoshi is indeed going to get another look. This is at least 95% an attempt to get some kind of market for trading him, and as I’ve told you, that’s not a good enough reason. He’d have to absolutely rake for 3 weeks and still wouldn’t return much more than a low level lottery ticket.
To be fair, that’s all Oneil Cruz was at one time too, but so be it.
If we really boil this down, it’s not like some of these kids are lighting the world on fire, or we can’t fathom replacing them on the roster, it’s that we’d rather watch these kids fail, or learn, than to watch someone who has very little chance of playing for the Pirates in 2023 take at bats or innings away from them.
A good for instance, if the Pirates were to trade all 4 of the guys I mentioned up there for a right handed second baseman with a proven track record and 3 or 4 more years of team control, most people would probably be fine with it.
Replace them with veterans who were reclamation projects and or never had any track record to begin with and well, you get what we have here today.
2. Ke’Bryan Hayes is Struggling. . . but He Won’t Always Be
Hayes overall is still one of the Pirates better pure hitters. He has a .256 average even if his power numbers remain disappointing to both he and the team. His June though, was a real low point, hitting .198 and in general looking less than what Ke’Bryan looks like when he’s on. The way he hit in April and most of May, well, he was the offense some nights. Period.
You can tell the fan base is almost afraid to mention his struggles. I get it, the kid signed an 8 year extension worth 70 million and that fills you as a fan with so much gratitude, who wants to actively poop on the kid right? Players don’t sign here, and while in today’s game that’s relatively light, a record for the club can’t be ignored. For context, Kolten Wong is making 8.5 million this year and I bet even though he’s destroyed the Pirates through the years, I’d be hard pressed to find a single fan out there who would tell me Hayes isn’t better than Wong. I wouldn’t even say that, but the price tag for Hayes is very in line with what a good player makes, not great. We can hope he outplays his contract, certainly, but we shouldn’t expect it.
To his credit, he hasn’t taken it into the field. He’s committed more errors than ever before, but he’s got 15 defensive runs saved, which ranks first in the league.
All in all, he’s a good player. That’s right, good. Happy they signed him, think he still has room to grow, certainly hits the ball hard enough to grow into impact power, but for right now he’s not someone that on a very good team is going to hit in the top third of the order.
That’s more than ok. In fact, that’s kinda the rate he’s being paid to be honest. If he evolves into the power, even if it never grows beyond doubles, and winds up being a killer number 6 hitter, hey, I’ll take it, and be quite pleased with the signing.
For now, patience. He just played in his 191st ball game, and folks, that’s over parts of 3 seasons but it still adds up to just a little over a full season. There is still room to grow, and that’s a good thing because while I never expected him to develop into a guy who single handedly carries an offense, I do expect him to be a leader on the defensive side. I do expect him to be a table setter, capable of driving in runs, getting on base and popping the occasional dinger.
Fairly evaluating and laying out realistic expectations is so important, and the more evidence provided the closer to locking in a real estimation you can get. Well, with almost 200 games logged, I feel pretty good saying what I think we’ve seen, what I think we can expect to see, and that’s healthy.
You can keep expecting him to become Arenado if you like, but I’d rather just allow that he’ll be easily as good a defender if not better, but he’s just never going to be a bat that threatening.
Again, that’s ok, few are. He’s still a cornerstone piece of all this, just maybe not THE guy.
3. There’s Really Nothing to this Peguero Stuff
Earlier today it broke from someone surfing TikTok that Liover Peguero had hit on some underage girl.
He asked her age, really shortly into chatting. She answered. He apologized and stopped.
He’s already publicly spoken about it being a mistake. She’s already publicly spoken to it as having ended as soon as he asked her age.
And it was back in May.
It’s over, and it really never started.
Gee, I can’t imagine why this fan base has their bristle up super quick on something like this. LOL.
Listen, kids are dumb. I’m glad he asked, I’m glad she was honest. But this was just nothing. Certainly not enough to have half of Pirates Twitter ready to jump off the Clemente Bridge.
4. Chicken on the Hill
The Pirates have hit 86 homeruns this season, good enough to be tied for 14th with the Marlins in MLB. The Yankees have hit 133 for the top spot and the Tigers live in the basement with 46.
So, the Pirates have managed to add power to this lineup, while currently having nobody even in the top 10 for dingers.
Bryan Reynolds is tied for 28th with his 15 and Jack Suwinski pulls in at a tie for 39th with his 13. Very nice numbers to be sure, but they’re not exactly the bash brothers either.
They’ve gotten power from just about everyone in the lineup who plays regularly, well, with a few notable exceptions, see above.
Problem is all of this has come with ranking 28th in baseball batting .221.
Think back to the Milwaukee Brewers teams that Andy Haines coached. For average in 2021 the Brew Crew hit .233, good for 27th in the league, but homeruns, well that was 18th with 194.
This year, the Brewers already have 113 dingers and their team average has risen slightly to .238.
This is too little to really state something concrete or draw conclusions, but it sure smells like this hitting coach is really good at drawing power out of hitters even if it sacrifices batting average.
5. 2 Must Haves for 2023
The Pirates will continue developing youth next season, and success is going to come more often in 2023 than it has in 2022, but they simply have to address two key areas. They could certainly do more than this, but I consider these to be bare minimum investments.
Sign or acquire at least one starting pitcher, and this needs to be relatively proven commodity. I’m not saying an ace, quite frankly they wouldn’t pay for that at this stage (if you believe they ever will) and further, there won’t be any of those available. Just someone that you feel really confident can hold down a spot in the rotation for a few years.
They also have to get a catcher. Preferably one who can hit. The free agent market is literally going to stink again. Roberto Perez was the best available last year, and he’ll be the best available next year unless you believe Tucker Barnhart to be better, which I could see if only from a health standpoint. Facts is facts.
So either get him, or trade some of this surplus talent you simply can’t dream of getting MLB at bats for in exchange for someone else’s catcher.
Henry Davis despite his injuries and sluggish start in AA is still very much so on track to make a 2023 debut, but you and they simply should not count on him being part of the contributing story next season. If he does, that’s really nice. If he doesn’t, OK, that’s fine too.
Either way you’re signing a qualified backup for when he does get here or your signing someone who can hold down the fort in case he doesn’t.
If they do those two things, I’ll call over .500 loud and proud right now. If they don’t, they’ll struggle to hit the figure and only flirt with it.
I’m talking 12-14 million for both players. That’s it, not 35 a year for a pitcher. Not a 14 million dollar deal for a starting catcher who rakes. That, given the fact the rest of the team for the most part will be on entry level contracts is easy enough to expect and realistic, yes, even for Bob.
Don’t go crazy with wanting 4 or five guys signed, look how much trouble we’re having fitting a few back from the IL, that’s not exactly going to go away in 2023. A whole new batch will be making their case and debuts next year, so artificially blocking them will only gum up the works.