Mid-Way Point Pirates FAQs

7-17-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

I love doing these. First of all, answering these types of questions on social media, well, it’s just not possible. Sure on Facebook I can write as much as I like but it’s hard in the moment to write enough for an audience of one yet still adequately illustrate points.

So let’s do this.

Is 2023 the Time to Finally Spend Money?

Short answer, they certainly should spend some.

Longer answer, I’d imagine it won’t be much more than they’re currently sitting at. They’ll sign a pitcher or two. I’d advise they aim a bit higher than Quintana, but let’s be real honest, they were lucky to get what they have out of a 2 million dollar salary.

They need a catcher of course, but they spent 5 million on that this year, even if they sign the same guy it’s going to be around the same cost.

Just because some vets they signed didn’t work out, the money they put forward still counts. Yoshi for instance cost 4 million and he assuredly won’t be back.

The point of all that is to illustrate between arbitration awards, and the money they already showed a willingness to spend in 2022, the team will add but not see the payroll go up all that much if at all.

So yes, they will spend, but with where they are in on boarding youngsters, I think we’d be foolish to expect they’ll suddenly drop 30 mil in free agency. A starter, maybe two. A reliever, maybe two. A first baseman, catcher, maybe another vet outfielder, but I don’t see them at a point where trying to make a splash makes a whole lot of sense.

I’m aware it’ll be all about how cheap Bob is, and he surely is, but this is more about needing to make sure there is room to land for prospects. Another rather large wave is headed our way in 2023, and while the team needs to add, they need to add intelligently.

I always like to say, which one of their young cheap talents would you like replaced? That’s what every signed veteran will ultimately cause.

Frankly, if you ever expected this rebuild to culminate in a Padres like spending spree, you haven’t been listening to reasonable people.

After 2023 the base will have been given opportunity to solidify a bit and then it’s time to make a go of it, to whatever degree this team will do so anyway.

Now, if it were me, I’d add in 2023, and I’d lock up even some of my middle of the road talents like Brubaker and Keller. I’d get something serious done with Reynolds. But even I wouldn’t go insane. I want Burrows to have a spot, Gonzales and Peguero to not have to beat out a 10 year vet. I’d like Davis to be able to come up and learn. Filling the roster with pricey free agents might make the 2023 team better, but it’ll slow down the overall progression of building the homegrown core.

That’s just my opinion.

Why Do the Pirates Keep Playing Josh VanMeter?

Let’s start with honesty, I don’t know.

I’ve looked at his AAA numbers and seen the power potential that I’m quite sure the Pirates saw, but I’ll not act like I’m privy to statistics of his 700+ MLB at bats since I’m sure they have that as well.

He’s not particularly good on defense either. Sure he’s versatile, but so am I. I’ll happily tell people I can play hockey, baseball, golf, bowling, basketball, football, thing is I can’t play any of them with any real level of competence, and I’m afraid Mr. VanMeter has the same issue, to a much lesser degree.

More than anything, you’d think if looking from the outside the Pirates have no other options. Fact is, they have several. Several with upside.

OK, more honesty, I don’t know for one simple reason, there isn’t a good reason.

If you want to pile Yoshi Tsutsugo into this conversation, I completely understand, but even him I can reasonably say while I think he isn’t an answer, at least there isn’t a Ji-hwan Bae waiting to get a crack. Mason Martin certainly hasn’t put a shine on his apple.

Neither player really has a place here any longer, but I’d be shocked if it goes on beyond the trade deadline which in and of itself is asinine.

I like the plan, but I haven’t enjoyed much of these types of decisions Cherington and company have continued to make. I’ll never begrudge the team for trying to find talent, but that comes with a caveat, they must be more inclined to move on when it turns out to be a mistake, and we shouldn’t have to be treated to watching it for 6 months first.

What are the Biggest Positives to Take Away from 2023?

Before we get into this too much, it’s hard to say before the season is over, so bear with me, some of these are going to have ifs attached.

The Starting rotation is where I’ll start. Thompson, Keller, Brubaker and Contreras have all shown they have a good shot to return and start again in 2023 if need be. They have some backing coming and they’ll sign another next season. I expect this trend to continue and each and every one of them is under team control for some time. It’s a positive to me that we’ll head into Spring of 2023 without 5 big question marks. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t improve, or couldn’t sign more competition, but it does mean if they don’t, I feel the position will be well manned.

The Outfield mix entering 2022 was at least seen as a weak spot, now it’s an area where we probably feel they have enough to trade from. Reynolds, Suwinski, Smith-Njigba, Mitchell, Swaggerty, and if I had my druthers, Gamel is a really nice group to grow from. And I still don’t rule out one of Cruz, Peguero or Gonzales ending up out there. As I said earlier, I think they’ll have to go get a veteran, if only to ensure steadiness, but even if they don’t, I feel ok about the outfield.

Bryan Reynolds isn’t an every other year performer, at worst he’s a slow starter. That’s good news for many reasons, but none more so than knowing this management team needs proof more than they value faith. Proof is expensive, and a team like this can’t often afford waiting for the luxury. This one will find that fact to be true as well, let’s hope they don’t learn it from slow walking Reynolds.

Hayes, even hitting as underwhelmingly as he has in 2022 thus far is still a positive WAR player, and I mean to tell you he’ll wind up around 4.5-6 even if his batting stats don’t change course. His glove is that valuable. Now, that may never have you terribly excited, but he’s shown flashes of ability to improve at everything he struggles with, and the point is the contract he just signed will more than prove itself a solid signing. He may never hit like Arenado, likely won’t in fact, but he is a very valuable asset, one worthy of being locked up.

So Gary, What Do You Really Think of This Coaching Staff?

Well, I’m not impressed. This came from my friend Bobby, and he’s the reason I promised to write this piece. First, I really needed to think about it, and second, how could I fit this on Twitter?

Derek Shelton was a worthy candidate for a Manager spot in the league. He’d paid his dues, and coached under some of the best management teams in baseball. I say that because he wasn’t some reach of a hire. Now, many teams going through what they are, well they like to hire an older guy, maybe someone who deserved a shot and either out of loyalty or just lack of opportunity failed to ever get it. Sometimes that looks like our dear old Mr. Russell.

Derek was a hot name on the market.

Another question people ask is what kind of coach would accept a job knowing what he was walking into? To that all I can say is there are only 30 of these, and that matters.

The reason to ask that question tends to be a fishing exercise designed to see if you’ll say even Shelton knew he wasn’t good. LOL, yeah, it’s not that folks.

You get a guy like this to take on the challenge by promising you won’t allow the outcomes to reflect on them poorly. That can mean taking blame when it was clear the coach was doing as he was directed or when not providing enough tools. It could also simply mean we’re going to give you time after feeling we have enough to compete.

All that explains a little background on why he’s here, and why he’s absolutely not getting fired. I explain all that because regardless of how or what I feel, I’ll not join some passionate call for his head, it’s simply a fruitless effort. He’ll at least get next year, and then I truly do believe there will be enough talent for his bosses, and him for that matter to believe he should achieve something.

Now, as to how I feel.

I legitimately feel he is a bit in over his head. A bit too trusting of his pitching assistants. A bit too untrusting of his hitting assistants. Struggles to make in game or one off decisions. Believes in analytics to a degree that can render you blind to visual evidence. And more than anything that effects we the fans, a bit arrogant about the rightness of their plan.

I believe he’s a good man, and I know for a fact his players love playing for him. In fact they love him for how much he cares about them and protects their health. That includes resting Bryan Reynolds on occasion despite our fervent belief that Bryan would be mad. That includes pitch counts. That includes sticking to the pitching plan even if it looks really historically stupid to pull a rolling Thompson in the 5th.

This simply can’t be denied. The players love this stuff, and they all say it. The game has changed, and folks, more than anything the modern athlete has changed. They’ve evolved much more quickly than those of us who watch the sport and pine for the beauty of the game we watched as children.

Additionally, this is how this management team wants the manager to do his job.

They could be wrong, but I can also state with no hint of irony that they think he’s doing a great job.

So, no, I don’t care for what I’ve seen from this coaching staff, but I don’t feel like he’s held anything back of much note. Maybe a win here or there, but maybe they ran extra hard for him and won a game or two because of him too. Next year, the talent takes another step forward, and many of the benefits of doubt provided start to be met with expectation. Assurances aside, it’s not like Cherington is going to fire himself if signs of life aren’t apparent when they should be.

Here’s hoping they don’t think it’s a light switch they can just flip.

None of this means he can’t screw up royally. He did so on a couple occasions this year. One was allowing David Bednar to throw 50 pitches in an outing. David wants the ball, there’s no denying that, and it showed some much needed evidence that the team actively is trying to win, but it was short sighted, outside of the plan, and potentially has set the player back, this has yet to be seen play out entirely. Another was the treatment of Cam Vieaux. He was simply treated in a way that no pitcher should be. That can’t have been ok to the pitching coach, the GM, the coaches that worked with Cam every step of his journey, hell it couldn’t have been a nice thing or a waiver claim to see.

Those types of things, those can really derail Shelton, and where learning on the job really smacks you in the face. Mistakes are one thing, now see them repeated and you have a real problem. Eyes open, cause I’m positive these happenings were discussed.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

3 thoughts on “Mid-Way Point Pirates FAQs

  1. “A bit too trusting of his pitching assistants. A bit too untrusting of his hitting assistants. Struggles to make in game or one off decisions. Believes in analytics to a degree that can render you blind to visual evidence. And more than anything that effects we the fans, a bit arrogant about the rightness of their plan.”
    This reminds me of Clint Hurdle, although the meaning in the penultimate sentence would be different.

    When you talk about treatment of Vieaux, do you mean leaving him in during the blowout when he was getting crushed, throwing way too many pitches? In any case, I’ve consistently found Shelton’s pitcher management odd, especially the bullpen.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. i’ve tried to give shelton the benefit of the doubt every which way i can. he’s been a lot of garbage players, dealt with covid, and had big time players traded away. that being said, i can’t think of one single game that we won becuase of his decision during the game.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com 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: