Hump Day Pittsburgh Pirates Q&A

2-22-23 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

Ok, I think week one of this feature went pretty well. Ton of great questions, and I wasn’t disappointed again. It’s the final “dry” week for those of us who’ve been dying for some Major League Baseball, so let’s dig in.

Question 1

Do you think that Robert Nutting has gone through a change of heart this year, and really wants the Pirates to actually compete with his helping the Pirates team financially the best he can? – Bill Kolbe

Such a sneaky loaded question this is. Here’s the truth, he’s never, ever, going to spend enough to compete. Even that is a false statement, because if the prospects develop and they “compete” in 2025 and the payroll is 95 million or 105, whatever, did he spend to win? Technically, yes, but will you still call him cheap, yup. The Pirates are not going to be one of the top spending teams, in fact, they’ll likely not crack 15th place. Not under this system. This might seem a bit snippy, but I truly don’t mean anything more than to be as blunt as possible. If and when this team wins, it’ll be because they developed it, not because they bought it. All of us “bootlickers” or “apologists” we all know this sucks, but we also know a different owner and maybe we’re Milwaukee, at best. So even if Nutting had his road to Damascus moment, trust me, he’s gonna get tired of spreading the gospel before he gets too far down the road.

This is why teams in this position, tend to go the route of blowing things up and trying to build it. While that’s entirely frustrating for fans and everyone involved, look around this league, it’s not just “bad” owners, it’s any owner who doesn’t think they can simply join the arms race and win it.

That’s not to give cover to Nutting, it’s just to say, the league is a much bigger issue. If you want to hate him for being cheap, hey, I’m not gonna disagree or argue, but just know, even if he were the most altruistic owner in professional sports, maybe 180 million for stretches? Maybe. There are teams that make more from their yearly cable deals than the Pirates could dream of as a max payroll, see more in question 3 about this.

Question 2

Hi Gary, I never hear anything about Brendan Malone. Do you know if he’s still injured? I keep holding out hope for him. The Starling Marte trade isn’t going to look good without him unless Peguero really surprises everyone. Definitely not giving up on either of them. -Don Jacobsen

I wish there was more Don, I really do. Picked 33rd overall in 2019, he’s thrown a grand total of 27 pitches since. Injuries have entirely derailed him. The saving grace, he’s only 22. The last I’ve heard is he started throwing balls in December, and was on track to start throwing plyo balls in January. Recovering from shoulder injury, I doubt he has much of a go before summer really, and at that I’d imagine they’d want to start him in Bradenton. If he can stay healthy, the stuff was really good, but he’d have to rocket through the system at this point or transition to bullpen. Cody Potanko, Anthony Murphy and Craig Toth could all do better with this one potentially, but most of this information came from them and it’s dated.

Question 3

What’s your thoughts on the current state of RSN’s? Balley considering filing bankruptcy, AT&T missing a payment too the pirates? Too some this might not mean much but , it’s a big deal IMO. Cable is a dying technology & tv viewing habits are changing big time.

I think the product coming too the consumer via apps are going to happen sooner that later & blackouts will be ending. ESPN is also working on taking its Networks directly to the consumer in app form. – Jason Downing

First of all Jason, I’m not going to do this question justice in this answer. Meaning, my answer will struggle to properly illustrate the importance of this developing story. I’ve had an eye on this for a little over a month as the Sinclair story broke first out in California. First, I saw from Dejan Kovacevic that technically the Pirates payment hasn’t come due yet, not that it means whey won’t get shorted, but as of right now, seems it’s just expected.

Also, this has been building for a while, the number of people cutting the cord reached 10% of all cable and satellite subscribers in 2022 and it’s expected to climb to as high as 16% in 2023. So even if your provider is safe now, chances are they won’t remain there.

This won’t change much for fans, yet. MLB has a tentative plan for how to handle this that involves them taking over the production and selling the broadcasts back to the cable and sat providers, plus In some ways this is welcome for baseball, one thing it’ll destroy is the blackout problem that MLB has been trying to find a way around for years. By owning the broadcasts, they can simply do away with the blackout restrictions. The other and far more controversial thing this could bring, in a very roundabout way, a cap system.

A vast majority of baseball’s acknowledged disparity in payroll and financial resources has been largely driven by these RSN’s. Ever since the Yankees way back in the early 90’s signed a 50 million dollar per year cable rights deal, the game has been on a have and have not trajectory. Add in the owners being angry about Steve Cohen thumbing his nose at their silly faux luxury tax threshold penalties, and well, I’ll just remind everyone, the CBA expires in 2027, the owners who wanted to get a more balanced spending league done at the last one held that process hostage for a month.

Much much more to come. I’m working on a couple great guests for my podcast the Pirates Fan Forum to help work through everything this means and doesn’t mean in the very near future.

As to my thoughts, well, change is often needed, but rarely comes without necessity.

Question 4

Do you see the projected AAA starting rotation being the actual MLB starting rotation at the end of the year aside from Keller and Contreras, injuries aside.

Falling on my sword here, forgot to copy your name. Whomever you are, Sorry.

I think overall, most all of us need to pump the brakes a bit with all of this. I get people are excited to see some of these kids, but let it play out. It’s going to be less of a wave and more of a sprinkler. And that’s not directed at you person who’s name I forgot to copy, just a general statement.

Now, Ortiz, Oviedo, and Burrows all have a very good chance to get some significant time in MLB. Beyond that, you’re looking at cup of coffee or injury driven.

Ortiz will get some time to develop his changeup, as good as he looked he simply has to have it or he’ll be a bullpen pitcher at some point. Oviedo, by far the most proven, and I can make an argument he should make the rotation out of Spring but he too still has periods where he couldn’t hit Beyoncé’s backside with a fly swatter. Burrows was brilliant in AA, and in AAA he was, well, ok. He clearly has some things to clean up. Priester’s only “crime” is not being on the 40-man. We’ve seen that not matter in the past due to performance (Cal Mitchell), but for pitchers, especially pitchers who you can assume they’d probably manipulate service time with a bit, well, cup of coffee see what I mean? Also, don’t rule out my dark horse Carmen Mlodzinski.

2 or 3 of them have a shot, yes.

Question 5

Gary, Is there a way to compare the Jason Kendall 2000 contract to what Reynolds agents are asking for? A few of us are worried it could be the albatross that Kendall’s was. I’m actually hoping the Pirates sign but am worried about a financial albatross too. Thanks. – Jim Maruca

Kendall signed or 6 years 60 Million. And Reynolds camp reportedly wanted 8 years 135 Million. Kendall clocks in with an AAV of 10 Million per and Reynolds (who hasn’t actually signed this) would be 16.875 per. Adjust for inflation, meh, they’re comparable. Albatross huh, well, I doubt it. For one thing, back in Kendall’s day teams typically signed deals that were cheap up front and costly in the back. Today, teams have gotten much more clever. For instance, the Pirates payroll will likely only be 75+ million by the end of the season, so if they were to say, give Bryan a deal where in year one he gets 18 million, and then have it end with two more reasonable numbers for years 7 & 8, it makes him movable, and or he makes more of an appropriate wage for a bench role.

Look at Ke’s deal. 10, 10, 7, 7, 7, 7, 8, 8, Option for 12 Club. See what they did there? That first ten was last year, the second is this one, and so on and so on. You can get even more creative than that if you like, and it helps you deal with unexpected things. See all those 7s, guess when they expect to be spending the most on this window. Right. That stretch from 2024 through 2029 the Pirates expect to pay their starting 3B 7 or 8 million per season.

I’d really boil all this down to this though. Bob worries enough about his money, we don’t need to help. lol

Question 6

It does look like many of the Pirates came to spring training in great shape. But I ask you if any of the Pirates are not in good physical condition this spring. For instance, I saw a photo of one of my favorite players, David Bednar, that seems to indicate a lot of added weight. Your thoughts? – Dale Merchant

He’s not quite Bartolo Colon, but when a guy has lower back issues and he’s also carrying some extra weight, well, most of us can say from personal experience that’s not a good combination. I am not down there, but I’ve also seen photos and videos and have to admit, I had the same thought. That said, he’s been present all year around Pittsburgh so I wasn’t really caught off guard by it. Dunno brother, I hope he is just one of those dudes who just carries it and does his thing, but if he breaks down again this year, I’d have to imagine people more important than us will be asking the same thing.

Question 7

I think Endy will be a very good major league hitter but he hasn’t shown eye popping exit velocity in the minors what kind of hitter do you think hell be in 23 and going forward? Thanks – Adam Yarkovsky

Well Yark, I think when guys get up around the AA to AAA level, the scouts are right more often than not, and he’s certainly caught the eye of scouts damn near universally. I think ultimately he’s going to hit, and I think he’ll grow into his power a bit. I’d also say, he’s more of a line drive hitter and it may not get to the wall in 3.1 seconds, but it lands in the gaps often enough he can blaze around the bases. The bat speed is there for that metric to turn around too. One thing I can say, I trust most metrics measured in Indianapolis much more than Greensboro.

I think he’ll hit his way onto this team, and overall I think that metric goes up before he does. Now, does he catch? Remains to be seen.

Question 8

Will Henry Davis start the season in Altoona or Indy this year? Does he have a shot of being a September call up? -Alan Bellomo

I’d bet AA Altoona. He can work through that relatively quickly but with AAA looking to have as many as 3 or 4 catchers, even after Spring, just makes sense to start him down there to me.

I do think the Pirates could take a guy like Delay and have him be the MLB reserve catcher but still, they likely won’t want him to compete for time with Endy. If the bat is ready, and if he’s healthy, I truly believe it will show itself to be exactly that, they’ll have to make room, maybe even consider letting Endy play elsewhere or Henry for that matter. Catchers are tough, gotta get at bats and defensive reps so there is much more to consider.

Much like Priester, his biggest “crime” might be his not being on the 40-man. Cup of coffee is certainly on the table though.

I could have written almost the exact same answer for Nick Gonzales although I do believe he’ll start in AAA. He’s still got some guys to jump and again, not on that 40-man.

Thanks everyone, lets do it again next week!

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

One thought on “Hump Day Pittsburgh Pirates Q&A

Leave a Reply

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

You are commenting using your 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: