8-13-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter
So I’m sitting here, trying to make sense of what the team is doing with Roansy Contreras.
I can’t. That’s the simple answer, and the more I think about it, the more I realize what set us on this confusing path really started way back before the season even began.
The Pirates simply left themselves far too short for arms on the 40-man roster and it immediately impacted the choices they’d have to make, even for opening day.
Recall, an injury to Duane Underwood Jr. sustained on Opening Day cause the Bucs to callup Roansy Contreras and use him in the bullpen, mainly because at that early stage, the club only had Roansy to offer on the roster. This followed an injury to Max Kranick that nagged and nagged before ultimately being determined to require surgery. Point is, they left themselves with little alternative.
This isn’t a discussion about the wrong and right nature of service time manipulation, or the very real need to limit his workload in 2022. No, this is all about giving yourself no choices that are ideal.
To make sure they looked as dumb as possible, Roansy went right ahead and performed well in the pen, only to be demoted when Underwood’s hamstring healed up.
Next up, Bryse Wilson spent the beginning of his season not only stinking but stinking so bad the team couldn’t even consider plopping him in the pen. He’s rebounded and been at least acceptable since his recall but once again, lack of choice forced the Pirates to call on Roansy.
Not that he was the wrong choice either time he was called up mind you. He’s been the most effective starter not named Quintana or Keller, but being that this team had to pay attention to the number of innings he was asked to give, and decided they were going to manipulate his service time, making those decisions earlier than they wanted to has created this strange season for one of, if not THE, most important prospects in the system.
Now, MLB helped create this problem. When they decided that rosters would be expanded to start the season, then allowed it to go on all the way into June, the already thin pitching depth on the 40 was doomed to not be enough. Leaving it thin however, well that was on the Bucs.
It caused them to blow through pitchers who might have actually helped like Beau Sulser, Cam Vieaux, Cal Aldred. The former claimed by the Phillies, the latter two clearing and being retained. A game you play with those you consider fodder, not those you call the future.
What this is, really more than any other description, is sloppy.
When building a pitching staff, you have to have the 13 obviously you plan on rostering, but in today’s game, it’s really hard to enter with less than at least a handful of options you feel at least OK about using. Preferably arms with options. A few starting options, a few more you think can just deliver innings.
You struggle with a pitching staff all season, everyone does, even the big spenders. You struggle more when you rosters guys who don’t help you much due to your own self inflicted restrictions.
The 40-man roster is a difficult thing to navigate, I’m not here to tell you the Pirates are unique in hurting their own cause. I am here to start a conversation, one that we all need to be mindful of as we head into 2023. This time when they make decisions on their roster, the things they have to factor in remain the same. Rule 5 protection, actual belief that the player can reach MLB and stick on a roster, and providing plenty of options to enable depth. Specifically, interchangeable options that could bolster the overall staff. This accounts for injury, poor performance, inning restrictions, hey, it can even account for youngsters overperforming, in which case you might want options so you can adjust in the other direction.
When they make this roster, there will be names that we all can’t understand leaving unprotected, lord knows there were last year as well, but if it’s done in the name of providing options for the pitching staff, at least we could take comfort that this aspect is better prepared for.
In the greater scheme of things, in a season like this, it largely doesn’t rise to the level of mission critical. It sure does rob your top of the rotation stud rookie of his opportunity to have a continuous and progressive first season in MLB. Next year players like Michael Burrows, and Cody Bolton are likely going to experience some of the same things, Bolton to a much lesser extent.
As we approach December this year and people like me or Craig start making out are suggested lists of guys they need to protect, I for one am going to focus much more on this area, even if it means suggesting someone be left unprotected to pull it off.
When we write about things in December, we often don’t consider how the topic will effect the team in August. We certainly don’t think about how it will or could drastically alter the path of an important player.
Here’s hoping Cherington does in fact think of this stuff, because results certainly weren’t ideal this year.