8-23-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter
I’ve heard everything from they should spend 30 million more to not expecting them to spend a dime. Predicting that is just a waste of time, so instead, let’s really sit here and try to figure out what the team could look like if they don’t add from outside.
Take this for what it is, I’m not telling you I see them choosing to go get nothing, I’m simply eliminating a variable so we can have a rational discussion somewhere short of suggestions they go get Tim Anderson.
Good place to start because the field is competitive to say the least. In our little petri dish we’ve created for this discussion, we have to assume Ben Gamel is gone. Technically a free agent, I can’t consider him “here”.
That leaves Bryan Reynolds, Greg Allen, Tucupita Marcano, Cal Mitchell, Bligh Madris, Canaan Smith-Njigba, Matt Gorski, Matt Fraizer, Travis Swaggerty, Jack Suwinski and Ji-hwan Bae.
That’s 11 players, all with a real shot. I can rank them I suppose, but the best thing to do really is say, Reynolds is a lock and all the rest are fighting over at best 3 more spots, 4 if you count DH as a spot.
I think it’s really easy to say they could upgrade the position via free agency, but it might be hard to do so and get enough at bats for the players who still make it from this list.
If I were forced to guess about opening day, and why not, let’s go ahead and make this a 26-man guess shall we? I’d go with Reynolds, Marcano, Swaggerty, Suwinski.
If you want a 5th, I’d have to go Bae, if only because his versatility could get him more ABs.
If we just look at defensive prowess, Reynolds, Marcano, Swaggerty, Suwinski, Bae all have a nice track record.
That’s the list. I mean technically they could go with Bligh Madris and in the spirit of this piece, that’s who we’ll go with too, but it’s such a clear spot of need it’s hard to do this with a straight face. But I’m typing not talking so you can’t see me smirking.
In all sincerity though, Michael has been very good at first base. He has physical limitations but he’s learned to do more with his frame than I’ve seen countless 6’7″ behemoths do.
I’m pulling for Madris to prove he can be a real option, but the longer he goes the more he looks like a borderline MLB player and at 26, his audition isn’t going well. If he’s 22 you probably view him through a different lens.
You of course have Mason Martin and Malcom Nuñez but its hard for me to know how much they should be taken seriously heading into next year. I certainly think either or both could get a look in 2023, but again, if I’m the Pirates I’m not leaving this position up to chance.
Ke’Bryan Hayes is one of the only truly rock solid members of the Pirates after signing his extension this year. We’ve also yet to experience a season in which we didn’t have to have someone else play there for a stretch.
So we’re going to name the next options if only because it’s going to factor in on who gets the nod to make the club. Rodolfo Castro and Diego Castillo are the most likely for extended lost playing time or rest.
I’d elaborate but there are like 70 million dollars that make me not bother.
If I overthink this I could come up with some whacky combinations, but I’m going to go with what I think makes sense as the starters. Oneil Cruz and Kevin Newman.
We already spent considerable time talking about the outfield but there is some crossover for options. Bae, Marcano, Castillo, Castro, and a chance at some point Nick Gonzales and Liover Peguero will make their case.
They have Hoy Park but I believe they’ll move on. I think they’ll keep 4 or 5 of these guys so for me it would be Cruz, Newman, Castro, Marcano, Castillo.
If they fill the outfield and middle infield with guys like Marcano, Castillo, and Bae they can almost get a 2 for 1 deal and that’s good stuff.
As with first base, not getting one in free agency would be lunacy, but that’s not our task so let’s move on.
Jason Delay, Tyler Heineman, Carter Bins, Blake Sabol, and yes I’m gonna do it, Endy Rodriguez, he’s been that good.
Again, even if I thought Endy or Henry Davis for that matter were a lock to make it, I’d still recommend getting a veteran, and I absolutely think they will. I also think by mid season they might be hard pressed to keep Endy from making his debut.
This is another area where the team could and should spend.
Roansy Contreras, Mitch Keller, JT Brubaker, there, those are the 3 I think we should be fairly confident will be back and starting. Beyond that you have Bryse Wilson, Zach Thompson, Johan Oviedo, Tyler Beede, Miguel Yajure backed by Mike Burrows, Cody Bolton, and Quinn Priester.
Some of those guys are more mid season dreams, some of those guys are more bullpen options if you ask me. Either way I see them having little choice but to add here.
Still, feeling pretty good about 3 of the starters is a bit better than I felt heading into this year, so all in all, they’ve done some heavy lifting in 2022 to build some semblance of a competent rotation.
I really do think Beede, Thompson, maybe even Wilson could all end up in the pen, but I’m confident they’re all MLB pitchers.
David Bednar, Manny Bañuelos, Duane Underwood Jr., Dillon Peters, Yerry De Los Santos, Nick Mears, Blake Cederlind, Colin Holderman, Wil Crowe, Jeremy Beasley, Yohan Ramirez, outside shot at JC Flowers, Joe Jacques, Tahnaj Thomas.
Bullpens evolve, I have every confidence they’ll go get more, and as we see year over year, they’ll need more.
All in all, the makings of a decent pen are there. A lefty who can get leverage outs is a big need I’d say, but aside from two poor outings, Bañuelos has made a case for getting a shot.
There are areas where the team should spend money, but more than anything they need to keep developing and infusing more talent.
For instance, the team could certainly improve if they went and got a solid right handed outfield bat. If they went and got someone like AJ Pollack for a year or two I wouldn’t be up in arms, but man, I don’t know how you get at bats for all these kids. Maybe you assume injury or poor performance, but if that poor performance is Reynolds or Pollack let’s be real, they aren’t sitting.
First base on the other hand, well who are you blocking? Malcom Nunez or Mason Martin? Well, they have some work to do before that matters and even if they make it and push aside Chavis and whomever you sign, ok.
Look, all I’m saying is add, but be smart about where. I can’t sit here and tell you playing Oneil Cruz at SS is going to win you more games than signing Trea Turner, all I can say is you’ll never know how close Cruz can come to that level of play if he doesn’t play.
The best way this team can truly take a step forward is to add starting quality players, but it’s a balance, and they’ll need to be agile should someone from the system overtake whomever they signed.