Mid Week – 5 Pirates Thoughts

12-7-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

Ya know, I sat down to try to figure how I was going to cover all the news and notes from the Winter Meetings, and it just made a whole bunch of sense to build it into this format. I’ve easily got 5 thoughts, and none of the 5 are worth a full blown piece on their own.

So, lets go shall we?

1. Pirates Sign Two Arms

We knew the Pirates weren’t done signing free agents, and they continued yesterday. Inking two veteran pitchers is a good thing, one is a sneaky good signing, the other is going to catch me off guard if it goes well.

Let’s start with the one I’m more iffy about.

Vince Velasquez

Here’s the thing, if the Pirates see this as an option for the rotation, I’m not very happy. If they see him as a signing for the bullpen, even if it’s a long man/swing man/spot starter type thing, I’m still not excited, but I at least can get behind it.

Vince will make 3.15 million, which for the Pirates especially compared to what they spent on Quintana (2M), or Anderson (2.5M) makes you think they see him as a 5th starter option. Again, I think he’s better in the pen, and if this is THE starting pitcher they sign, I’m not going to pretend they did something I believe in here.

This is a guy who’s never finished a season with an ERA under 4, and had a few that finished above 5 or 6.

If there’s reason to be open to it, he’s a guy who throws a sinker, although he’s had very little success with it, and the Pirates have done well helping guys discover that pitch and use it to strengthen their overall offering.

Consistency is the name of the game, and it’s also Vince’s biggest issue. He’ll impress you with swing and miss stuff at times, then it’ll just disappear for stretches. He’ll go through periods where he has his control under, well, control and then suddenly walk a ton in a couple outings. Big guy, decent stuff, again, consistency is the issue and at 30 years old, you’d rather identify something mechanical than have to deal with repeatability.

This may be as simple as is he better than Bryse Wilson or Zach Thompson, and the jury will be out on that until we see it.

That’s my opinion at the moment. Keep in mind I was livid Quintana was their starting free agent last year. I’m not always right, just reading the tea leaves as I see them today. Hey, they signed a Boras guy! So there’s that.

Now, they also signed another pitcher and this one, I’m really happy with.

Jarlin Garcia, and the deal is for $2.5 million in 2023, with a $3.25 million club option for 2024.

Jarlin uses a fastball, changeup and slider and he’s a classic one inning lefty with a career WHIP of 1.15. I’ve simply got no complaints here, for any team I’d say this is a nice pickup but for a starved for left handed pitching team like Pittsburgh, he’s important.

Arguably too important. His consistency has been phenomenal, but 55-60 appearances eating 55-60 innings isn’t all this club will likely need from that side of the mound.

His K to BB percentage is fine, he won’t strikeout a ton of guys but he gets the job done, and he’s got a bit of an edge to him too.

Really, and you all know I try, nothing to hate here.

2. Pirates Win MLB’s Inaugural Draft Lottery

The Pirates had a 16.5% chance of winning the number one overall pick, as did the Washington Nationals and Oakland A’s. The Reds who finished with the exact same record as the Pirates but due to tie breakers wound up in 4th place with a 13.5% chance were knocked by the lottery all the way down the board to 7th. The A’s fell all the way to 6th.

Now, if your team gets a really high draft pick, you should be happy.

Dancing in the streets is a bit much, but the alternative is you stunk last year and wound up like the Reds or A’s tumbling down the board and not being rewarded with the supposed “help” that picking high should provide.

When the story of Ben Cherington is written, this stretch of history will probably highlight his story.

He’s now had picks of 7th, 1st, 4th and now 1st again. No matter how you shake this thing up, that stretch should matter, and if it doesn’t, there’ll be nobody else to point your finger at.

Immediately the natural question is going to be so who do they get? Dylan Crews is the consensus number one right now, but folks, you know me, it’s too early to guess. this time a couple years ago it was Kumar Rocker, last year it was Elijah Greene, you know, until it wasn’t. Point is in an era stretching back to 2010 in which the top 6 picks are making MLB at a 90% clip, you can’t afford to miss.

Every one of those 4 picks by Cherington should minimally get here, and with two 1.1 selections, there really should be a star or two.

If not, he’s failed.

We can get into all the after they arrive problems the Pirates contend with like keeping players and whatnot, but before we get there, we first have to see them become players you’d want them to keep.

Happy in the moment, check. But it doesn’t matter if the picks were wrong or the development system fails them. Here’s hoping.

As most of you know, I don’t think this team had to stink this bad in the process of remaking the system, the counter argument to that is you have to have high end talent in order for this to actually work. Well, now they’ve done exactly that, they stunk out loud for 3 years under Cherington and managed to “earn” themselves a stretch of 1-4-1 in the draft.

Nick Gonzales and Henry Davis have a chance to debut this year. Termarr Johnson has a while to go yet. All told, they’ll likely add another guy with pedigree who should absolutely be expected to be a star. That’s what 1.1 should be.

Make it count.

3. The Rule 5 Draft is at 5PM Today

First, lets get this out of the way. The Pirates were at 38/40 on their 40-man, so they have room to add. Yes, they have agreed to terms with two free agents, but both have to pass physicals and sign before the roster has to reflect that. Bottom line, they still have room if they want to make a selection.

And they really should. My target is Erik Miller from the Phillies. A bit left handed pitcher who I believe they could take a shot at, let him compete all Spring to win a spot in that pen and if he fails, return him, no harm, no foul.

If he makes it, you have a high ceiling guy who I personally think is right on the cusp of ready to compete in a valuable need position for this club. The Pirates pick 3rd as the lottery doesn’t effect this draft order, so they’ll likely have choices who are attractive on the board.

As to whom I think they have risk of losing, my list is pretty short.

Cody Bolton, he’s been a starter, had a nice bounce back season in 2022 and could easily survive a bullpen all season somewhere.

Tahnaj Thomas, a guy who can hit triple digits on the gun is always an attractive pick up in the Rule five. His control has been his issue and it’s prevented his promotion through the system. He also moved from starting to bullpen which is ultimately where he belongs I believe so it wouldn’t shock me to see someone take a swing. I also think he’d be a big return to the club candidate if he is selected.

Matt Gorski, much like velocity, power is a draw. He has it, but he might not have enough upper level experience to see someone take a shot. Hard to stash a position player, but his field versatility gives him a better shot than most.

That’s it.

No I didn’t forget Nunez or Sabol, I simply don’t think they’ll be selected.

4. So, Where’s the Friggin’ Catcher?

We all knew they were going to have to get a catcher, and that was before they went ahead and told us in advance Endy Rodriguez, the teams top catching prospect and only one on the 40 man will start in AAA. He has all of 22 at bats at that level and he’ll be this year’s Oneil Cruz for everyone to scream for every time whomever they do bring in strikes out.

Well, the names I’ve heard are of course Roberto Perez, and Tucker Barnhart. Today, Jason Mackey confirmed one of them is at least getting attention from the team.

Think Jacob Stallings here. His offense is just about at that level and the glove is legit. He’s kinda a switch hitter. I say that because he used to be, then stopped to only focus on lefty hitting and went back to it last year with Detroit.

Now, he had a horrible year in Detroit, but going from one of the smallest ballparks in the country to one of the biggest can do that to a fella you know.

Bottom line, whomever they get here is a stopgap for Henry Davis and Endy Rodriguez.

I also wouldn’t rule out a guy like Blake Sabol winning a spot out of Spring. He’s too old to be concerned about super 2 or an extra year, and good enough back there to play second banana to a free agent while filling in elsewhere in the field on occasion. This paragraph probably says I should be concerned about Blake being taken in the Rule 5 but I just don’t think he’s done what he did last year long enough.

I don’t think they’ll get two guys here. They still have Delay if they chose to just go vanilla with the backup gig, and signing two like Barnhart and Perez would be a bit weird. That said, if you can get both for say 4 or 5 million to be a unit, maybe.

5. Now About That Lefty Starter

There are no guarantees they get one.

We keep seeing them fall off the board though, the latest being Jose Quintana to the Mets. Sean Manea is still out there, with minimal rumors surrounding him oddly. He did have an off season but that seemingly doesn’t scare the Pirates off from many free agents does it?

I think if I had to guess right now, Ryan Yarbrough is a guy that seems to fit what the Pirates typically look for.

I’ll say this, if they don’t get one it’s a mistake. Having an all right handed rotation is certainly not unprecedented, but you need in my opinion a lefty to break up the lineup consistency from the opponents.

David Price is too old most likely, but could work. Carlos Rodon I’m not going to waste my time pretending. Wade Miley can’t stay healthy. Mike Minor you wish he wouldn’t stay healthy. Drew Smyly is interesting. Danny Duffy, meh.

The Pirates claim to want to show improvement this year and to me this is a very important component. They may have to consider trading to get it.

6. Reynolds

Mid week, no rules, so I’m going six today.

There really isn’t much on this to add to what I’ve already written.

It’s very much so feeling like the Pirates plan to just keep him, and according to by contacts, they’re probably not even done trying to get a deal done.

I don’t write this to get your hopes up, and someone could certainly come along with a deal they can’t pass up, but just this week at the Winter Meetings Derek Shelton and Ben Cherington doubled down on keeping him, liking him, having a good relationship with him and Cherington in particular went so far as to essentially point a finger at his agent for this becoming a story.

Take from that what you will.

I take from it that for now, he’s going to be a Pirate when the season gets underway if only because they can’t find a way to square “showing real improvement in 2023” with trading their best player and no team can offer a return that accomplishes something that even resembles that.

Stay tuned.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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