Hump Day Pirates Q&A

4-26-23 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

The Pirates are 16-8. They just lost 8-7 to the Dodgers and the team is in such a good place, go ahead and be mad about it. The players are. They know they gave one away last night, and man what a difference that is from “shower it off”.

Lots of good questions this week, let’s go…

Question 1

So is Andy Haines still a terrible hitting coach? Has he changed his philosophy? Does he simply have better players? The Pirates seem to be having better at bats. The question is why? #LetsGoBucs – Scott Nelson (@Piratefan1970)

All of the above? Honestly, it’s always a little about talent, a little about philosophy and a little about the ability to instruct.

I can only look to a couple things to really say Andy Haines himself is doing a “good” job or “bad” job. For Good, I’ll look at Bryan Reynolds, who chose even with everything going on around him to work with Andy Haines all off season.

On the bad side, I’m still seeing the youngsters, the actual prospects called up seem to struggle to adopt much of what is being taught.

So here’s where I land and it’s much like what I went through with Oscar Marin, when he gets talent, as he clearly has this year, does he know when to get out of the way? Does he know when to step in? Is he helping guys adjust when they’re called up?

I’d say right now, he’s doing more good than bad, but veterans who don’t have a ton of need for him to help them find a swing they’ve come to embrace as an old familiar friend help pull the spotlight away from a struggling Ji-Hwan Bae for instance.

Question 2

This one’s short and sweet. Isn’t it time to promote Davis to Indy? Even if Endy gets cleared 🙏🏼, it seemed much deserved. – Michael Kalafut (@Foot33)

If Endy gets cleared, no. If Endy doesn’t get cleared and it’s just going to be a week or two, no.

Couple things here. AA and AAA in the eyes of this management group are both considered to be a step away from the Bigs. Second, both of these kids legitimately need to catch, not just play, a lot.

Catcher is just not like everywhere else and every pitcher on the Pirates staff will glow about Austin Hedges for 20 minutes if you tee them up. There’s a reason, because all of that stuff most fans don’t care about because they just want a guy who can hit in the lineup, matter far more to everyone who pitches.

That stuff is simply not going to be mastered before either of these kids is called up to MLB. Endy will get the call first, and when he does, expect him to catch maybe 2 times a week, if that. In fact they might carry 3 when he comes up. They’ll work his bat in, allow his play to dictate how much more time behind the plate he gets, but they’ll let his bat decide how much he plays elsewhere.

Davis won’t be much different in 2024.

IF everything goes well and they stay healthy. I’m not saying neither of these guys can catch, but I am saying if you like what this pitching staff has been doing, do understand how much the catcher has to do with it, because they sure do.

Bottom line, the level isn’t as important as what they need either of these kids to do, catch.

Question 3

Any news on the TV deal? That seemed to just disappear. Also who’s next from an extension front? Cruz is obvious but what about Keller or Roansy? LH reliever and RH bench bat seem to be gaps for now. Any thought on how those care addressed? – BishopMemorial (@BishopMemorial)

Will be see more extensions this season with the young core? Or will the Pirates remain in wait and see with some of them? – MZylinski (@MZylinski)

TV Deal is easy, for this year ATT Sportsnet will stick around. I don’t necessarily understand why or how, but that’s what I’ve been told and have seen reported. As to next year, I simply don’t know, but if I had to guess, they will work out something that has no blackouts on the MLB dot com site and find a way to make it so non techies will be able to just plug in a channel and turn it on. Either way, MLB will likely take this over. Regional cable is as dead as disco for sports.

Now, to answer both of your questions about the next extension. Keller is the biggest danger, unless you want to get into JT Brubaker who’s TJ procedure knocks him off the list for now. Keller has 2 years of arbitration left, he’d be my absolute unwavering target. Whether you believe him to be an ace or just a good starter, the Pirates can’t afford to lose something they’d eventually have to go get anyway to make a run. He’s struggled here, he’s learned here, and more than anything, he hasn’t been really good for most of his career. Get in now and get it done would be my advice. 5 years and I think you can feel a lot better about their chances to make this window count.

I’d be fine with anyone else you mentioned there, but Cruz for instance might take it as taking advantage to approach him while he can’t walk, although I already heard rumblings the team was planning to open discussions with him prior to the injury.

Roansy, I’m not sure. Frankly, I’m not even sure he’ll be better than Ortiz or Oviedo by the time all is said and done. And you can’t keep them all. Probably a bit early there, but again, I wouldn’t flip tables if they wanted to.

A little story to help illustrate what educates my thinking here. I was at the game yesterday, waiting in line with a bunch of Dodgers fans. I was talking because I’m that weirdo, and when I said how much the Pirates signed Reynolds for, most of these guys were like “good for you, gotta keep those mid level guys locked up too”.

I mean, there I was beaming with pride that my team finally handed out a 9 figure deal and I was quickly reminded, that’s just called Tuesday to some fan bases.

Bob Nutting has started spending, but there is a limit. We don’t know what it is yet, but reality dictates, you aren’t keeping every player who looks good. Think about it, we don’t even have 1 of Ben Cherington’s number 1 picks on this team yet, in fact, Ke’Bryan Hayes is the most recent top pick on the team. If you spend everything now, what happens to them?

I believe they’ll get some more done, but I also believe they know they have to, and will pace themselves.

Question 4

What’s the outlook on Smith-Njigba? I noticed the late game substitution for him in games he’s been playing. It feels like a message is being sent to him. Is there a chance that the lack of performance leads to a demotion and brings up another OF? – Paul Swan

Should Canaan Smith-Ngiba spend some time at Indy so he can get some AB’s? – Brian Croasmun (@briancroasmun)

Honestly Paul & Brian the message being sent is that he’s the 26th man as soon as Drew Maggi isn’t there anymore. In fact, a small part of me wonders if they might keep Maggi when Reynolds is reinstated and send Canaan down.

I don’t think this is reflective of what they believe he can be as a player, but go ahead, play manager. Where do you get him at bats? He can only DH or play corner outfield. Connor Joe is hitting the hell out of the ball. Bae might be their best CF option so that pushes Jack to a corner. They can get him in games once, twice a week. They can get him PH opportunities, but most of the time, that would be for who? Cutch? LOL. Joe, again, he’s killing baseballs against right and left handed pitching. I do think for his development, yes, I’d send him down, he simply isn’t playing enough here to pretend it’s good for him.

Question 5

Will they get to a point in this rebuild where they sign a veteran pitcher to anything more than a 1-year deal? I’m thinking of the Nova, Liriano and even Burnett signings. Could Velasquez be that guy if he has a good year? – Patrick Bradford-Kenney (@PRyKenney)

I think next year makes a lot of sense. I also think they’ll go about getting it in a similar way, Nova and Burnett in particular were trades, who turned into signings. Liriano was a flyer most of the league thought was all done.

As to Velasquez, first, I’ve never seen him pitch this well, and even with that, the best he has maybe gets you an exhausted 7 innings. I’m not sure I’d want to make a 3 year commitment to a guy like that, especially since I’m quite sure we’ll see just as many struggles as we see successes with him.

I will say, the free agent market doesn’t look great next year. For the Pirates to go get one of the guys everyone talks about, you’re likely talking more than it would take to extend Keller or Roansy.

It can’t be ignored though, this team has no lefty, and they may need to go get it. Either way, and as fun as this year has begun, next year starts the “expect to win” part of this rebuild and it should last for a while, why not get a piece for a few years?

Question 6

How can the Pirates possibly add more bullpen depth? When do they get rid of Crowe? Why couldn’t they find just one at bat for Maggi? – James Littleton

On Maggi James, winning is, was and will be more important than a feel good story. I’ll also say, his story might not be over as I mentioned above talking about CSN.

Crowe has an option, I think they’d for sure use it before getting rid of him. Bullpen depth for now, will come internally, and they still have quite a few options on the way there. Colin Selby, Carmen Mlodzinski, Cody Bolton, hell, Ortiz could force his way up here and shove Velasquez to the pen.

Come deadline time, if this team is in the conversation, I’m sure they’ll find and execute a deal for someone. It’s just so early.

I’d love Brent Suter from the Rockies. He’s a lefty who can handle just about every position in the pen and he has 1 more year of arb. I’d be all over that already.

Question 7

It appears as though the pitching philosophy has changed with the pirates. It used to be pitch to contact . This staff seems to be striking opposition more. Your thoughts? – Butch Holt

Something has changed, and it’s stuff. This pitching staff has a ton of it. The overall philosophy is to accentuate the strengths of each individual. For instance, Rich Hill is always going to be a pitch to contact guy. Vince Velasquez is always going to be a pitch to contact guy who has some strikeout stuff in his back pocket if he needs it.

I can honestly say, Mitch Keller sometimes needs to and does pull back on his pitches because striking out 11-12 guys might only get him through the 5th, and he wants to be more of a work horse than that so he’ll hunt contact.

Lastly, Hedges. Austin Hedges is a master at calling games, and when the team needs a K, he knows how to go after it.

Marin is all about mechanics, technique, shape, tunneling, speed changes, command, all that stuff, but the talent has to be there to decide you want more K’s.

Question 8

Are there any lineup tweaks you would like to see to manufacture more runs? Bae’s singles always turn into him landing on second and putting hedges right after him seems less than ideal. – Brendon Gallagher (@BrendonGallagh8)

I’ve said before Brendon, I’d have Bae at either leadoff or bat him 9th. Thing is, Ke’Bryan Hayes is kinda killing it at leadoff for now, so I’d pop him at 9th.

Now, Hedges is going to have to hit somewhere, so if you put him 8th, we’re probably complaining about how Joe keeps hitting and then it stalls on Hedges.

Part of me gets the logic, Hedges can bunt, but Bae hasn’t really needed help getting to second so maybe it doesn’t matter.

Aside from that, Shelton has done pretty well, I just don’t think there’s ever going to be a “great” place to stick Hedges.

Question 9

Thoughts on Dauri Moreta – Caitlin (@CaitlinTracy16)

I like him. Next question. LOL

Honestly though, we haven’t heard about an injury, yet Dauri hasn’t pitched since April 19th. So they’re either working with him to see if they can’t get him to cut back on the wildness a bit, or he does have something going on physically.

He’s walked 7 and struck out 8, and while he’s gotten the job done when called upon but that split isn’t sustainable.

I’ll say this much, they can’t just keep carrying a guy if they’re either afraid to or unable to use him.

So I expect to hear something soon. I was asking where the hell he was 2 or 3 days ago, and now here you are wondering. Something doesn’t smell right in the state of Denmark.

Question 10

What do you think will be the move when DeJong comes back? – PGHcommenter (@412pghcommenter)

If I had to guess, and honestly, I do, I’d think either Crowe is sent down using his option, or the team sends Moreta to the IL/down to AAA.

I suppose they could just decide to DFA DeJong, but I do believe they think this injury had something to do with his performance.

Personally, I think they have better options, but either way, we’re talking the fringes of the roster here.

Question 11

What r some realistic pitchers they could get at the deadline – BigE97 (@E97Big)

To know this, we’d have to know who’s in and who’s out. That’s super hard to say in April. I already mentioned Brent Suter as a relief target earlier, but man I’m not even sure they’ll think they need one.

Another factor, they could very well still look to ship Hill or Velasquez themselves.

Jose Leclerc from Texas might be available, but they’d almost for sure want MLB help in exchange. I’d imagine Aroldis Chapman will be available, but I’m not sure I’d want him in the room.

Brad Keller will for sure be on the block, but ‘m not sure he helps all that much. Complete rental and he’s really only had one good season.

Andrew Chafin makes a ton of sense, a veteran lefty who’s been one of baseball’s better left handed set up men for a while now. He has a club option for 2024 too, but the Diamondbacks would need to start losing.

And I’ll wrap up here, Paul Blackburn is a 29 year old starter with Oakland, they’ll trade him, but I’m not sure he’s more than depth on this Pirates team. The upside is, he’s been an average starter and has 2 more years of arb, so he could be a 5th starter type for a few years.

That’s what I got, let’s see where we are come July…

Question 12

Can you draw some parallels between Cheringtons’ worst to first Boston Red Sox of 2012-13 to today – Chuck Shubat

This is tough Chuck, for one thing Cherington made them worst by dumping 262.5 million dollars from their payroll in Boston, and was overruled on his choice of coaching hire which made 2012 predictably awful. They were also close to getting some youth infused and he signed some relatively low level free agents and his acquisition of John Farrell from Toronto might have been the best one.

It was a special team, and their whole was greater than the sum of their parts. If you want a parallel, that might be the closest one you’ll get.

Let’s just hope when and if he gets to sign big money free agents, he chooses more wisely than Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez.

Question 13

Why the urgency to extend Shelton now, after a 20 game run of good play? That seems like an overreaction to the dreaded “small sample size” no? I mean, why not at least ride through the All Star break and see just how permanent this improved play really is. – Ed Fleming

The 20 games had nothing to do with it.

Bluntly, they put him through the wringer, and asked him to shepherd a team through what was sure to be awful baseball. If there was a feeling he’d be a starter coach for this club, Cherington saw everything he felt he needed to see in those three years to at least not have him coach all year as a lame duck.

The players love him, and he’s done everything the team asked him to. I think that’s about all you’re going to get. In fact, you might not even get details about how long he’s been extended. MLB clubs don’t have to disclose that stuff, and many don’t.

Question 14

Most surprising player so far?- James Moorcroft

I’ll give you a good one and a bad one.

Good – Connor Joe, I truly didn’t know this was in there. It’s not just a hot streak either, he’s pounding the baseball all over the field. I never thought he’d make it hard to take him out of the lineup, but he’s doing exactly that.

Bad – Wil Crowe, he had me convinced that slimming down would give him the stamina to make his start to 2022 stretch into a longer spell in 2023, but he looks out of sorts in just about every way he could.

I have a bunch more, but gotta stop this somewhere. So if you asked one and it didn’t make it, you can expect it next week.

Thanks everyone.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

One thought on “Hump Day Pirates Q&A

  1. Quite a list here, wow!

    2. For me, catcher might be even more important than pitchers to get time in AAA. There’s such a difference to handling guys who’s been there, veteran hurlers who might be trying to hang on and the like. You get plenty of those types of hitters too, including “Quad-A” guys you’re just not going to see in AA. So on both sides of the matchups, I think that can go a long way in proper catcher development.

    3. Yep, and this isn’t likely to change soon. Also, I know it was just an anecdote to illustrate firsthand experience of haves and have-nots. But in my experience, Dodgers fans are … pieces of work. Yankees fans have the excuse that they’ve always been spoiled; Red Sox fans have the excuse that Boston is a pretty caustic sports culture. But man, it wasn’t too long ago that Los Angeles had significant stretches of mediocrity (albeit often on the good side of 81), most of 1989-2007. Dodgers fans feel like they’ve really taken a turn across the last 15 years, collectively lost perspective–even if they were always top 10 in spending along the way.

    4. I know it’s easier said than done to find playing time for all these prospects, especially when many vets are playing well. But I still can’t help wondering whether they see the AAA guys (and conceivably occasional AA guys) getting starter reps more highly than guys riding the bench in MLB. Time is ticking on these guys, but I hope CSN can make that next step or leap.

    5. It feels like the GM has gone by his pace, 2022-23 free agent market vs. 2023-24 market be darned. That is a good point. There comes a time when a coaching staff can’t just pitcher-whisper a bunch of one-year reclamations indefinitely.

    6. Agreed, premature to just dump Crowe, but now that can’s kicked with the 60-day IL. They have too many guys right now (I know, long after this was published) they’re not willing to give anything but low leverage. I get easing guys in, for sure, but push comes to shove eventually, and I’m waiting to see mid-leverage work for some of the most recent debuts, as well as more regular mid-leverage and maybe some high-leverage work for Hernandez. Suter is a good call, wouldn’t mind that, depending on the price.

    7. I’ve always said the best coaches tailor their coaching to each player’s makeup, not the other way around. It amazes me that we still see coaches at the highest levels–in all sports–try to make fish climb trees and turtles fly. The diversity of pitcher types will always bode well in a league structured in series, making it harder for batters to find rhythms game to game. Glad that’s how things seem to be developing for the Bucs at all levels.

    8. Minimize Hedges’ PAs. I think it’s that simple, though I understand the thinking of Bae ninth. As someone who fit Bae’s profile as a high school player and was deployed as the nine hitter (for other reasons too, including underestimation from coaches who hadn’t really seen what I could do), I understand the thinking but would’ve preferred more PAs and chances to drive in teammates more often. My pal hitting eighth was slow as molasses too, which really limited me–and Hedges is tree sap at absolute best. With him on first, Bae’s speed gets neutralized from the batter’s box and first base anyway.

    9. I agree with that ratio he’ll get burned eventually, though it looks like 10:3 in the few appearances after the day you published this, so it’s possible he’s turning a corner. But man, it’s hard not to like him as the fireman they’ve clearly pegged him for more than anyone else so far, from what I see. Nine inherited runners, NONE scored, and that’s in only 13 appearances. Not to mention two holds and a save, and he’s shown the flexibility to pitch anywhere from two innings to two pitches on one batter. It’s always one of the most underrated and unsung roles, but every team needs that guy. Hughes was possibly my favorite pitcher on the team primarily for that reason 2013-15, just fantastic IR-IS numbers, always prepared to be that cavalry for his teammate.

    11. Eh, we’ll see. Team executives are generally savvier now, but Huntington did a great job soft-buying in 2011 and 2012, getting players who truly did help the remainder of the season without giving up almost any value in return. This feels like that type of territory if we’re looking at five-plus wins over losses come late July.

    12. Valentine, Sandoval, Hanley Ramirez, man, what a debacle. That cannot happen in Pittsburgh. That did bring back some good memories of those days, though, thanks.

    13. Good points. The timing was just odd, would’ve made more sense before the season, in my opinion, but this is very much molehill territory. Cot’s will have his contract info soon enough, I’m sure.

    14. Dead on, especially Joe. He’s one of the players I just struggle to think can sustain this. He got some tough-luck strike three calls tonight, but in whatever case, through 18 games he was .357/.455/.643. In 10 games since (excluding tonight, which would make 11), .162/.225/.460, an expected regression to the norm indeed. That’s not to discredit those first 18 appearances, just saying I expect closer to the career .252/.349/.410 the rest of the way.


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