Arbitration Tender Deadline Moved Up, Who’s Safe, Who’s Not?

11/27/21 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

Perception of who the Pirates will or won’t tender for arbitration changes as moves are made, with the deadline being moved to November 29th from December 2nd due to the impending expiration of the CBA and the need to have time for physicals it’s time to really take a look at who’s left on the list, and start to make some decisions.

So, first things first, let’s list them out.

Chad Kuhl
Ben Gamel
Colin Moran
Chris Stratton
Steven Brault
Jacob Stallings
Kevin Newman
Bryan Reynolds

Some of these are absolute no brainers, in fact most of them are but some recent moves have perhaps put a few on watch.

Chad Kuhl and Steven Brault are the most tenured pitchers on the roster and the Pirates may not keep both. It’s easy as a long time Pirates fan to look at both, feel they’ve been given plenty of time and want to wash your hands of both. They’ve struggled to stay healthy and even when they have been they’ve been at least a bit underwhelming. Here’s the thing though, experience is something this pitching staff lacks and I’m hardly comfortable with Jose Quintana being the only guy who’s got any.

Of course the Pirates could and I’d argue should bring in more, but as I sit here, I can’t see them cutting ties with both of them before this deadline. None of these guys are a prohibitive number so even if they change their minds, they aren’t going to get stuck with much and it’s highly likely they’d get picked up if waived anyhow.

Now, which one would I keep? Hoo boy, I think I’d have to say Brault if for no other reason than wanting to have more than one left handed option and when healthy he’s got a better body of work.

Since the Pirates owe two roster spots due to the Quintana and Yoshi Tsutsugo signings, non-tendering one of these guys opens a spot, and I think they’ll at least take one from this method.

Speaking of Yoshi, well he potentially changed the game for Moran. If rumors are to be believed, Yoshi is going to play first base, it’s something he apparently wants and a factor in him choosing to re-sign in Pittsburgh.

Now, we’ve talked a whole lot about the likelihood the universal DH is coming to MLB. So it’s not like Colin Moran would have no purpose, that’s still a stick this club could use and I’d also argue outside Michael Chavis they don’t really have anyone else to play over there. Before you remind me of Mason Martin, I’ll remind you they didn’t protect him on the 40-man so let’s at least assume he’s not expected to help this season.

That said, Ben Cherington didn’t make the Gerrit Cole trade, and it’s not on him to make it look ok, if Moran is someone he sees value in either on the trade market or simply thinks he fills a role as a DH, fine, but it won’t be to salvage a win from a years old trade.

Everyone else on that list in my eyes is completely safe and will receive a tender offer. Yes even Kevin Newman, if I have pause at all here it’s because they have so many options to play middle infield. The reason I think he’s safe is they only have a few who are true short stops, and they certainly don’t have anyone who has his track record at the position. That glove is valuable, even if the bat never comes around.

Long story short, there are really 3 guys to watch here, and I expect them to keep 2 of them. The funny thing about cutting Kuhl or Brault would be they are exactly the types of guys Cherington would probably go out and get. When I hear people want to drop Brault because he can’t stay healthy then celebrate the signing of Jose Quintana, it makes me chuckle a little at least. The difference is really that at one point Quintana was a top of the rotation pitcher early in his career, and Brault was almost always begrudgingly used as a starter after someone else was tried in the rotation first. Kuhl is a project, a guy with great stuff who has never found a way to harness it fully. Someone you could see a team like Pittsburgh taking a swing at on a one year deal to see if they can get him right, maybe even flip at the deadline.

So, yes, cut them by all means if that’s how they want to go, I’ll shed no tears, but don’t be surprised when damn near clones are brought in to replace them. It’s this train of thought that gives me pause. If they’re going to bring in more, I’d hope they’re a step above the level I just outlined, because if they aren’t they might as well just keep both.

To a degree, Moran is the same. If he’s right, he’s a decent hitter who’s shown he can handle pitchers from both sides in the last couple seasons, the problem is he sacrificed some power to do it. If he transitions fully to DH, well let’s just say he needs to change his approach a bit. Moran is going to cost about 4 million to retain so I’d have to ask, who can the Pirates get for 4 million who’s going to potentially step in and fill a DH role? If you think that’s reasonable I’d suggest for the production I expect you’d probably have to pay at least 6-8 on the open market.

Now, it’s plausible too that the Pirates would rather see that role filled by someone in the mix elsewhere like Chavis, or even Cruz but if we really want to see some improvement on the club this year, I’d rather not see them move on just to move on. Moran on the bench looks better than Park on the bench.

Interesting times, interesting decisions here.

I write all this by way of saying these decisions deserve a bit more thought than just believing they haven’t been good enough. That’s of course true, but I can’t ignore that replacements might be similar and cost more so I’m not sure I can just overtly recommend it.

Pirates Resign Yoshi Tsutsugo for 2022

11-25-21 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

First of all, Happy Thanksgiving everyone, if this news didn’t break last night chances are I’m writing a longer form message like that, but Ben Cherington seems addicted to making moves on holidays, so here we are.

After a fairly long courting period and a backwards negotiation the Pirates and Yoshi Tsutsugo finally came together on a one year, 4 million dollar contract for the upcoming season.

I say backwards negotiation because if rumors and quite frankly Japanese outlets are to be believed, the Pirates wanted to give him years, but Yoshi was more of a one year mind so here we are.

There isn’t anything wrong with trying to put some players on the field in 2022. I mean I’m not sold that what we saw in Pittsburgh is reflective of what we’ll see next season, but it’s low risk and I’m not about to complain about a power starved ball club bringing in someone who has it in spades.

Craig and I both have told you our concerns here, from feeling the NL Central that the Pirates played at a crazy level down the stretch started to figure out how to get him out, to struggling to hit the fastball, but I can’t deny it feels good to see them identify a guy they want and get him. Can’t say I’ve seen much of that in my time as a Pirates fan so I’ll take the symbolism as a win even if the deal doesn’t work out.

Now, what does this do to the team itself? I don’t think it necessarily spells the end for Colin Moran, if there is a DH it’s not like they won’t need that role filled, but it sounds like Yoshi specifically wants to play first base, and I’d imagine he was at least promised a good crack at it. The only other player who has played first base is really Michael Chavis and I don’t know if that’s enough to cut the only other player who’s handled it, but we’ll see I suppose.

We’re still owed two roster moves with the addition of Yoshi Tsutsugo and Jose Quintana the corresponding removals from the 40 man are next. Now, we should say both of these guys are “in agreement” meaning a signing is imminent, not that they’re signed, so the Pirates don’t technically have 42 guys on the roster as we speak, but with the deadline for tendering contracts moved back to November 29th from December 2nd the decisions loom. Could a non-tender be the route they take here for Moran, Brault or Kuhl?

We also got another move yesterday, albeit under the radar. Michael Perez (to nobody’s surprise) cleared waivers and was reassigned to AAA. Now, you might think this is something I’d get mad about since I called for him to be cut loose well, since August at least, but he’s actually someone that could help in AAA. He’s a good defender and I like having him as cover down there to hopefully help Carter Bins when he gets there at least on the defensive side of the game.

Let’s be real honest here, a move like this is barely a footnote to most teams, but considering I didn’t understand the Yoshi signing last year, at least this shows there was thought paid to the future at the time, and the message it sends to other free agents I like too. It says signing in Pittsburgh for a show me deal doesn’t have to mean you’re gone one way or another, if they like what you show, you might just stick around.

There is still more work to do, clearly, but I can’t see this signing as a negative, even if I try. Let’s say he sucks out loud, hits like .150 and the power just isn’t there when we look up in June, it’s 4 million for one year. I’m just not worried about it. If the worst thing that can happen is the Pirates flush 4 million dollars down the toilet, so be it. Maybe if I felt Colin Moran was on the cusp of putting it all together I’d feel differently. Maybe if I felt Mason Martin was knocking loudly on the door I’d feel differently. But overall, I like this swing, even if they miss.

Thanks to Jason Mackey for breaking the story.

Happy Thanksgiving my friends.

Pirates Fans Are Sold On Suzuki

Obviously this is not universal belief held by all fans of the Pittsburgh Baseball Club; mostly because some people view it as a pipe dream not even worth discussing. However, for the most part, Pirates Fans have taken to social media in order to add recently posted Japanese Outfielder Seiya Suzuki to ever growing list of players Ben Cherington and Company need to acquire for the off-season to be successful.

The Pirates need an outfielder and most believe they will sign a veteran free agent; so why not the recently turned 27 year old of the Hiroshima Toyo Carp of the Nippon Professional Baseball League? The team is interested in him according to multiple reports and they need help in the outfield. Seems like the perfect fit. But, is it really?

Part of me thinks that Pirates Fans are just excited to mentioned in the sweepstakes. Along with this excitement comes hope; that the team may be more invested in improving in the short term. No more gradual growth, as part of their current rebuild. It’s time to make a splash signing to speed up the timeline, which honestly no one has set; except for maybe the fans themselves.

Still, I can’t help but wonder if this is the right move or not.

Sure, you can look at the stats that many publications are spewing to convince yourself of the necessity to acquire Suzuki; however, I’m more apt to look at history for answers. Luckily, we don’t have to go back too far.

During the off-season in between the 2019 and 2020 two Japanese outfielders-Shogo Akiyama and Yoshitomo Tsutsugo-were posted by their respective teams-the Seibu Lions and the Yokohama Bay Stars-following illustrious careers; with each being elected to five All-Star games, while Tsutsugo added two home run derby championships to his resume.

Now, if you listen to the weekly Bucs In The Basement Podcast this is will be a refresh/repeat of the final segment of this week’s show; although if you are like me-a visual learner-sometimes it helps to see the statistics in order to process them fully.

In 10 seasons with the Bay Stars, Tsutsugo totaled exactly 4000 plate appearances, hit .285, owned a .910 OPS and blasted 205 homers; with his last one coming in 2019, during his 27 year old season. That year he batted .272 with an .899 OPS, and hit 28 homers.

Not to be bested-at least in some categories-Akiyama hit .301, earned a .829 OPS and crushed 116 bombs in 9 season with the Lions, across 5326 plate appearances. In the course of his 31 year old season in 2019, he would hit 21 homers and bat .303 with an .864 OPS. For Shogo, his calling card was always his patience at the plate, as he struck out only 802 (17.2%) times while walking 526 (11.3%) times.

Now onto the coveted Suzuki. In 9 seasons with the Carp, Seiya stepped up to the plate 3536 times, hit 182 homers, batted .315 and posted .985 OPS. Just this past season he would hit .319 with a 1.079 OPS and 38 homers. Similar to Akiyama, Suzuki is also known for his K to Walk Rate, which sits at 19.1% to 16.3%; and just like Shogo and Yoshi he is a 5 time All-Star. Although, there are some differences in the three men, in that only Akiyama and Suzuki have won Gold Glove Awards; 5 to 3 in favor of the Akiyama.

Why, I am going through all of this? Well it’s pretty simple, as we all know how Tsutsugo and Akiyama performed after they signed their deals with the Tampa Bay Rays (2 years/$12 million with a $2.4 million posting fee) and the Cincinnati Reds (3 years/$21 million).

Tsutsugo owns a .209 batting average with a .697 OPS and 16 homers (8 in 43 games with the Pirates) over 447 plate appearances, while Akiyama has batted .224 with a .594 OPS and 0 home runs. Combined they have earned .4 fWAR and -.6 WAR over 2 seasons. This hardly makes their collective $27.4 million price tag worth much thus far.

Which ultimately brings me back to the questions I had concerning the motivation(s) behind Pirates Fans wanting to bring Seiya Suzuki to Pittsburgh.

It honestly has to be the excitement of the Pirates actually doing something that could potentially improve the ball club, even if it doesn’t work out; which history tells you is more than likely to happen.

I can’t blame fans for wanting something like this to happen; whether it be Suzuki or someone else. I just can’t co-sign on the idea right now; especially if it means spending upwards of $50 million over 6 years for a total wildcard. That has disaster written all over it.

Two Guys Talkin’ Trades

11-24-21 – By Justin Verno & Joe Boyd – @JV_PITT & Joe_Boyd11 on Twitter

Justin Verno – We are a week closer to the Winter Meetings, Joe!

In this installment we will be taking a look at David Bednar’s trade value. I have to admit, I’ve tried to start this a few times and I just couldn’t get it going, as I just can’t make sense of moving Bednar right now for a few reasons: 

1- There’s just too much control here to move and the cost in prospects would be prohibitive.

2-Bednar looks like a great late inning reliever and they don’t grow on trees.

3-At one point you have to add to the roster, not subtract. I feel we are at that point.

But we find ourselves, once again, having to address a player’s trade value due to his name coming up at the trade deadline. I have to think if his name came up in July that we will surely hear a rumor or three attached to him in December.

Joe Boyd – It doesn’t hurt that Bednar had a fantastic season, either.  I mean, just look at these percentiles from BaseballSavant:

That’s just beautiful.  And couple that with the assumption that Pittsburgh is a fire sale, and you can see why pundits try to create trade rumors here.  But the Pirates are not just churning assets, it would be extremely unlikely to move a piece that came over just last offseason in the Musgrove deal.  

On the other side of the coin, some may say that relievers are fungible, the running backs of baseball.  Or they may say that they are volatile and inconsistent.  So maybe you do make a deal for Bednar and strike while the iron is hot?  Let’s take a glance at the value for David and we’ll go from there. 

ZiPS is in the process of getting updated for the upcoming season, so we will have to estimate a bit on his value.  I’m sure you could push the projection up to something like 1.5-2 WAR if you are extremely bullish on Bednar, and you can use STEAMER’s projection of 0.7 WAR if you think that Bednar regresses.  I’m going to use 1.1 WAR (a very slight regression) to hedge my bets in the middle.  He is a free agent in 2027, so that’s 5 years of service remaining.  Projecting out that value and including an age factor, you get almost exactly $38M in true value.  Then if you subtract his salary (he appears to be Super 2 eligible … if that’s still a thing in the new CBA) you get a surplus value of $23.5M.  This is the value that I plan to use to develop a trade package for Bednar. 

DESTINATION: TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Toronto is a well that I like to go back to just because we know that Cherington and Sanders know the system.  But for the first time (I think, I did zero research) I ask for a Major Leaguer in return for one of our players!

Tim Mayza – LHRP – ETA: NOW – SV $15.8M
Look, if you want one of our prospects that happens to be from Western PA, you’re going to have to send back a kid from Western PA! Mayza is 29, but look at these percentiles, again from Baseball Savant:

He is under control through 2025, so plenty of control and his ability to miss bats and avoid hard contact would be a great addition, especially from the left side.  Utilizing the same projection style that we do for our Buccos, Mayza still produces almost $16M in surplus value. 

Gunnar Hoglund – SP – ETA: 2024 – FV 45 ($4M)

Yup, that Gunnar Hoglund that spurned the Pirates in 2018.  From Longenhagen, “Through 2021 Hoglund was arguably the most polished college arm in the class, sitting in the low-90s, while dotting a plus slider on the corner with remarkable consistency. Healthy Hoglund has the best command in this draft. His fastball’s tailing action garners looking strikes on the glove-side corner and sets up Hoglund’s changeup, which needs to develop.”

Hoglund is recovering from Tommy John, but should be close to returning to the mound if the Pirates were to make a deal like this.  Adding a polished arm like Hoglund would make it easier to move Bednar.

Julian Merryweather – SIRP – ETA: 2021 – FV: 40+ ($3M)

An interesting player that’s 30 years old and yet has prospect status.  Again, Longenhagen, “he has knockout backend bullpen stuff right now, and for a lot of prospects in this and other systems, that would be a great outcome. He’s prominently represented here, despite his age, because of that. It’s also worth noting a fourth option year has been imposed upon Merryweather due to his injury history, which isn’t great for him but certainly buoys his trade value a little bit because teams value roster flexibility.” Adding a player like Merryweather pushes the value to an acceptable level and adds another wildcard piece to the bullpen.  In this deal, we’ve traded a 26 year old with back of the bullpen stuff for a 29 year old lefty w/ control, and a 30 year old with back of the bullpen stuff… and a potential future #3 starter. 

JV – David’s stuff looks like the real deal and someone you can run out there for years, and the peripherals certainly support that. This means that any deal Cherington takes needs to be an overpay. I can even see him asking for a 50 FV player back in any potential deal. But, we’re to offer realistic packages so, here’s mine.

DESTINATION: TAMPA BAY RAYS

JV – With news today that the Rays extended Wander Franco (are you paying attention, Nutting? Get a Reynolds and Hayes extension done, please.) it’s time the Rays went full steam ahead, and the BP let them down in the 2020 playoffs. I think adding a controlled late inning reliever is just what the doctor ordered. 

JJ Gross -SP – ETA:2024 – FV 45+($6M)

The intriguing thing with JJ is his spin rates. In his first year, his FB spin rate was 2250(a solid number) and is now 2600 while his breaking ball rates jumped from 2050 to 2400. These numbers are per Fangraphs. The Fastball sat in the low 90’s. Now it sits 91-94 and as high as 96. The changeup is developing as well to an upper 80’s offering. The results aren’t there yet, but he has the look of a quality starter. Did I mention he’s just 20? SO there’s a lot of development left to play around with here and standing at 6’3” 186 lbs., he has the frame to add some velo. 

Carlos Colmenarez -SS – ETA:2025 – FV 45+ ($8M)

An international signing Fangraphs notes, “He is a caliber of prospect commensurate with a mid-first round pick.”  There’s a lot of development here as he’s just 18, but this is the kind of talent teams hate to give up in a trade. See: Cruz, Oneil. Now, Carlos doesn’t have the frame nor am I drawing a direct comp to Cruz. But he’s raw, highly regarded, and the FV for power is certainly there, scoring out at an FV of 55 for both raw and game power.  He also projects to stay at SS with a solid arm(60 on the scale) and glove FV of 55 and speed(FV 55). 

Chris Wilcox -SP – ETA:2023 – FV 45($4M)

Wilcox was predicted to be a 1st rounder in 2021, but slid due to signability concerns stating he wanted to go back for his last year at Georgia. Got an over the slot deal, and here we are. Wilcox has the upside of good #2-3 starter and the floor of a reliever, making him a good gamble in this deal. The fastball is legit, grading out at an FV of 60 on the scale. Ranging from 93-97 and capable of reaching back to hit triple digits when needed. To compliment the FB is a slider and a changeup grading out at an FV of 60 and 55 respectively. To be a rotation piece, he needs to show the velo throughout his starts and the change up needs to develop. Standing at 6’3” and 230 lbs I think that’s a good bet. Like any other 6’5’ pitcher out there, his command needs work. 

CONCLUSION:

JB – Even as I was writing that trade package I was saying to myself, “I wouldn’t accept this deal.” And I don’t think Cherington would either.  As has been the underlying theme of these first few ‘Talkin’ Meetings’ pieces, Cherington can and absolutely should listen on every player on this major league club.  There’s no reason to say no right off the bat, but creating a package that would be acceptable for both sides makes things difficult, especially for talented young pieces.  So just like Reynolds and Stallings, a Bednar trade just does not make sense to me this offseason. 

JV – Like Joe, I have the same feeling on the deal I built. I just don’t know if I’d accept the deal. If the Bucs were in the early phase of the rebuild, I am likely loving the deal. But does it make sense from where we sit today? At some point, every GM has to put a “target” date on the rebuild where they can say, “we should be winning this year.” They may not tell us this in those words. It’s more likely we notice this when they “add a piece,” whether it’s a free agent deal or a trade piece. We are quickly approaching that.  As funny as this may sound, it’s easier for me to envision a Bryan Reynlds trade than it is a David Bednar trade. If Seattle is willing to part ways with Julio Rodriguez OR Noelvi Marte and Emmerson Hancock, a Reynolds trade is possible and it could help the Bucs stay on their schedule. I just can’t see that in any Bednar trade, five years of Bednar is simply worth more right now. 

Joe, there’s one other thought I’d love to throw your way. If Bednar keeps shoving, the projections are likely to inch up and it’s entirely possible they can keep him for 3-4 years and move him with 1-2 years left and get as good a package for him then as they could today. This is the final nail in the “trade Bednar” thought process to me. If a GM wants him today, I think BC really makes them ante up? 

JB – Sure, the sweet spot to trade a productive bullpen arm would be with 2 years of control left, so maybe he becomes a 2+ WAR reliever and you can cash in on him then.  The Pirates obviously see the value in him as they had just traded for him.  They have reaped a bit of value already, they are not dying to move such a good, promising player. 

We Should Absolutely Expect Improvement in 2022

11-23-21 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

Language is so important, so note I’m not saying we will absolutely see improvement, I’m specifically saying we should expect it.

As fans dug in on what Ben Cherington has been doing, it’s actually a little weird just how infallible some require his every transaction be viewed. Ask a simple question about the motivation behind some move he made and be met with a chorus of “Trust the process”, or “Ben knows what he’s doing”. Listen, I think the guy’s done a great job here, but I’m tired of the endless defense of every single move, we have to have room to discuss this stuff.

Sure, to a degree you do have to trust the process, it’s not like you have much choice anyhow, and yes I’ve seen Ben Cherington’s resume too. That said, I’m more than a little shocked to see a fan base so recently burned by the best management team in baseball to willingly swallow again that these guys are smarter than everyone else.

OK, I suppose I should explain my position here a bit better.

The reason you rebuild is less about the team you have on the field as it is realizing the team on the field in MLB isn’t good enough, doesn’t have the room left in development to get good and furthermore doesn’t have the talent coming from the minors to enhance the product.

That’s what Ben Cherington walked into, an MLB product that had some good players, nearing the end of their time here and nothing (c’mon I know they had Cruz and Hayes) coming.

So the teardown had to happen. What I’ve particularly liked is that this GM didn’t go half way, instead he tore it down, all the way. they needed to do this for draft picks, they needed to do this to bring in prospects, they needed to do this because let’s be completely honest, the guys we called “stars” weren’t stars. Starling Marte, there’s the list of actual MLB stars that were moved from this team. No, not Josh Bell, not Joe Musgrove, not Jameson Taillon, sorry, nice guys, some really nice skill sets, not stars. Add in that this owner, in this market wasn’t going to, and probably wasn’t capable of buying the patches needed.

That’s all been done now. We’re entering the third year with this management group and I’ll readily tell you I don’t see this team improving all that much in 2022, but I think it’s garbage to say we shouldn’t expect some.

Why?

The teardown is over. The payroll is bottomed out. The prospects have been acquired, and in some cases developed. So they’re out of reasons to not add actual players to this roster. There’s no rule saying because they tore it down you have to wait for all those guys to be here before you start addressing needs.

Now here’s a caveat. I’m willing to believe they have more pieces here than most of us are thinking. Meaning, I’m ok with entering 2022 with the current rotation options if Cherington really believes there’s enough improvement coming simply from letting them continue the maturation process, but my point is it doesn’t HAVE to be this way. They don’t HAVE to not spend anything this year or risk screwing up the rebuild. They don’t HAVE to field a team full of prospects and never were’s, or destroy what they’ve built.

To me, I can believe in this GM, like what he’s doing and still say loud and proud if they enter 2022 with the roster looking like it does, it’s been done willingly. There is no mechanism of a rebuild preventing them from doing something as relatively insignificant as bringing in some real live tangible bullpen arms.

I’ve said since 2020, I expect bad in 2020, bad in 2021, “fun” in 2022 meaning we’ll start to see some of the prospects break through, and starting to compete in 2023.

Let’s say via nature they get 10 games better in 2022, well it’s a lot to ask that in 2023 they suddenly get another 15-20 game improvement without some kind of investment. Sure they could do that next off season, but they could do some of it right now too. Basically, just because you don’t expect to compete this year, the fans don’t need to see you compete for a top 5 pick again.

For me, part of the development process is surrounding youngsters with veterans. Having a more steady bullpen is the cheapest and arguably most impactful way they could improve the product and arguably more important, give these kids a better chance to experience winning or dare I say learn to win.

That’s really the point, they could.

People have gotten so defensive of Ben Cherington that we suddenly can’t question his moves or lack thereof. I look at this roster and I can reasonably say, yes, some of the young starters should grow this year. I can look at the fielders and feel there are at least so many options that we could find a decent lineup from the cream rising to the top. That bullpen though, man that’s not good. I’m not willing to believe all the holes will be filled by starters not making the rotation, and quite honestly, if the Pirates do I think they’re fooling themselves.

It’s early, the byline up there says November 23rd, not even Thanksgiving yet, so it’s early to complain about what has been done this off season when it really just started, but I’d rather voice my concern now when there’s still time to address it than complain when they get to Bradenton.

Again, real competitiveness isn’t a thing in 2022, even if they spend money, but I don’t think they’re all that far from a little investment in the right area making this team at least capitalize on the talent they do have. They have to strike a balance as you don’t want to block prospects, but that’s kinda why I identify the bullpen, there isn’t anyone to block. The two guys I’d put in that category Yerry De Los Santos and Hunter Stratton weren’t even protected from the rule five draft, and consequently aren’t on the 40-man so they aren’t being blocked.

To me, go get some guys and at least reward the players you have and consider to be part of the group that you’re building can experience winning more games they played well in. Insulate yourself from the growing pains of a very young rotation by not having them hand the ball to a very young bullpen.

Again, it’s early, maybe they have this stuff in the works, but the point stands, just because Cherington does it, doesn’t mean it’s the only way. Just because the team is in a rebuild doesn’t mean you can’t try to help your youth by providing some north stars to guide them.

Bullpen guys aren’t going to put butts in seats, but bullpen guys might put W’s on the board. David Bednar can’t be asked to be essentially a starter in the back end, get some help.

This GM stuff has almost become like politics. You voted for him and now you suddenly can’t see, or at least publicly admit, that he isn’t doing everything you’d like, deserve or in some cases were promised.

The team, I believe, is on a good path. I believe fully if they do nothing but let everything they brought in grow and develop this team will get back to competitiveness. I just also happen to believe this doesn’t have to be an abomination of a baseball team for the entire ride.

Now, are you mature enough to allow me to offer critique without resorting to calling me a hater of Ben Cherington? Can I say I don’t like a certain thought process without being told I’ll be proven wrong when his master plan comes to fruition? I like to think so with this audience, lord knows you can’t get away with it on social media.

Not accepting that something could be done does nothing but feed the Nutting Nutting Nutting folks that people following this rebuild are stooges. Doesn’t mean you have to think he’s a failure if he doesn’t bring anything else in, as I said there are other ways to do things, up to and including actually adding MLB talent right now.

The stated goal of this website is “Fair Pirates Coverage” so I’ll take being disliked by the extremes on either side as a badge of honor and proof we’re doing exactly what we set out to do. To achieve that goal, I can’t do it without asking questions, calling out what I see and being honest about some things that are uncomfortable. This is one of those realities, they could spend some money here strategically and it wouldn’t hurt this rebuild in any way.

We as fans have to start expecting more. Not the moon, but more.

Five Pirates Thoughts at Five

11-22-21 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

The Pirates finally did some stuff, ok, ok, so the league had a deadline that made it unavoidable, it’s still some stuff right? Point is progress only comes for a team at this stage with change, addition, subtraction, either one changes the outcome, and that’s the best way to look at it. There simply aren’t moves coming that make this a competitive team in 2022, but that doesn’t mean we should bash every move like it means nothing.

Let’s get started, the thoughts are overflowing today.

1. You Realize Some of These Guys Will Actually Improve Right?

I’m all for improving the roster, I think we’ve seen enough of several players to know at the very least we aren’t dealing with a group poised to take one giant leap forward in unison. That said, I’m seeing a lot of takes that basically say “same team, same results”, and honestly, I’m not so sure.

No matter how you look at this roster, I don’t see another season of picking up 10-15 waiver claims, or trying to carry three or even four Rule 5 pickups. I see a more talented group of predominantly young players. Young players who I truly believe have room for improvement, and not pipe dream style.

To assume we’ll see the same results, I’d have to believe Ke’Bryan Hayes isn’t going to push back and creep closer to the consistent hitter we hoped he’d become. I’d have to believe Keller, Brubaker, Kranick and Wilson will all stay right where they are and not take a step.

See that’s the thing that’s different in 2022, They don’t need that entire group to step up or become more than they are, they just need one to become an answer. More would be nice, but one would be one more slot filled. That’s what this is about, filling roles.

The youth pushing from behind is really going to add to the likelihood that the Pirates can be a bit less patient with underperformance.

The funniest thing about advanced stats is just how convinced seemingly everyone is that they are in fact gospel. Every season we see guys exceed their expectation, every season people tear apart the numbers to show why it was suddenly expected. LOL.

I love it.

David Bednar’s 2021 STEAMER projections were 58 IP, 4.17 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 61 K, 26 BB and then he did this in real life, 60.2 IP, 2.23 ERA, 0.973 WHIP, 77 K, 21 BB. It’s incredible how close some of these numbers were, and how far off others were. That’s because it’s an educated guess, not gospel.

I’m not a guy who believes these numbers have no value, I’m just a guy who sees them for what they are, a projection based on what has been seen, with little to no room for actually learning or improving in any one aspect of their skill set.

Let’s do one more because it works both ways, Kevin Newman. 2021 STEAMER projections were .271 AVG, .322 OBP, .706 OPS and in real life .226 AVG, .265 OBP, .574 OPS.

The expectation that you don’t know what will happen is key to sports, and the enjoyment of them. Take these numbers for what they are, and keep an open mind, some will overperform expectation, others will never meet them, that’s sports, and in baseball its really the game within the game. It’s why you can sign a pitcher for 3 million and reasonably expect the possibility they perform better than a guy you paid 25 million on occasion.

When following a rebuilding club, this understanding is essential. It’s so easy to say a rookie stinks, most of the time they do. Start giving up on every one that doesn’t start out like Bryan Reynolds or Juan Soto and you won’t build anything, well, except a bitter fan base watching former players in the playoffs elsewhere.

2. Quintana Isn’t a Savior, and I Doubt He’s Supposed to Be

2 million dollars is chump change, even for a team like Pittsburgh.

This guy is nothing more than a hopeful reclamation project, a barrier to entry if you will. As Craig wrote last night, it’s not exciting, it’s not high risk, but it is exactly what Ben Cherington told us he was looking for.

Fans recognize the name and in the PR game that’s half the battle, no different than seeing so many excited by the signing of Shelby Miller last season. This isn’t to say you can’t see it as positive that they went and got someone with experience. It’s not to say he can’t stay healthy or perform more like the best version of himself, but this doesn’t really move the needle on what this team looks like in 2022.

They have plenty of holes, and the willingness to spend some money just trying to find plugs is exactly what you hope to see here. More importantly, I’d like to see the willingness to see it’s a mistake and eat the money. If things are really different, this is akin to paying 2 million dollars for a tryout. If things are the same way they’ve been, he looks like exactly what his numbers say he should and they hold on with white tipped fingers praying he somehow does 2 million worth of work.

Now, I’d rather see them take 6-10 million and get one pitcher with more reasonable expectation, but consider the possibility they actually WANT him to be beaten out by players they currently have in house.

This happens all the time all over the league, the difference is when the Pirates do it we automatically have what I call the three phases of every veteran signing. First, the overestimations that the player will be that guy you remember seeing do some really good things, even if separated by years of contrary stats. Second the calls to extend the player, before seeing one pitch or swing. Third, the immediate turn to “flipping” the player at the deadline and back to overestimating the haul he’ll provide.

This is just a guy, a guy with history, a guy with talent, but more than anything another option that teams like this take low risk shots on. Hope to be impressed rather than set yourself up to be disappointed.

3. If Guys are Just Placeholders, Why Not Just Cut Them?

Easily the number one question I’ve gotten since the Rule 5 protection deadline. I don’t want to pick on any one player here but for the sake of illustration let’s use Cody Ponce. Cody is probably not a guy who will survive this roster, so why not just cut him right?

Let me try this way, because I’ve tried multiple times to help this make sense. (Which arguably means it just doesn’t actually make sense, ya know lol)

Your lawn mower has a wheel that the post has come loose on. It still cuts grass, but it’s clearly not fun to use and it’s not really doing a good job. You have your eye on a really nice new mower that’s in your price range but it won’t be available in stores until next year, in fact you’re actually a bit torn on whether you’ll like it or not based on the design the company has been touting. You can put your money down on the new mower now and assure that you’ll get one when it’s released or you can get a lesser model to get by for a year now, but you can’t do both.

Now, while you wait to make your decision a deadline approaches for putting money down on the new mower but you just can’t see waiting a year and using what you have so you decide to roll the dice and hope you just don’t have any issues with availability when the time comes. You turn your gaze to shopping for a stop gap alternative, maybe even on Craig’s list.

In the meantime, one thing you absolutely don’t do is throw that old mower away, I mean you might even still be thinking you can fix that damn post and potentially recoup some cash out of it, maybe you can even not get a replacement at all. Once you pull the trigger on the stop gap, your dream of fixing it fades, your need to keep it as a safety net dissipate and it finds it’s way to the curb with a sign saying free.

The new mower is that shiny prospect. The old mower is Ponce in this example and the potential stopgap replacement is someone not unlike Quintana.

The basic principle is that you can’t assume everything you want to get done will happen. You may feel you need 6 players and have 15 identified as filling the bill, but you have to be aware of the realities of competition, and baseball people are especially good at this, you have to realize you aren’t going to hit near .500 in any venture related to the sport.

If you want to take the analogy even further, after a week nobody takes that free mower so you haul it back into the garage and tool on it for a few hours and manage to get a decent backup machine out of it.

Had you just thrown it away on trash day, you miss that opportunity. By waiting and putting it out the day after there were far fewer people looking to pick it up.

All this happens to be is hedging your bet and realizing it’s better to have something that doesn’t work well than to have nothing.

4. Unexpected Allies

The CBA negotiations often are seen as having only two sides, the Owners and the Players, but a more accurate way to view this is really breaking it into 4. On the owners side there are the small and big market owners, for the players the young players dealing with baseball’s rules to keep their salaries in place and the veteran players headlined by the big earners.

Now when goals start to align from these fractions, that’s when I start to pay attention.

On the player’s side of things, the top earners are finally interested in doing something for the young guys, perhaps because they’ve given away so much on this front in past negotiations they know they’ll lose the room if they leave it untouched.

The owners side the major shock was hearing from Hal Steinbrenner from the behemoth Yankees about the MLB proposal to lower the Luxury Tax threshold. Check out this quote.

“All I can tell you is, there’s seven of us (owners) on labor policy: Boston, me, several mid-markets, couple small markets,” Steinbrenner said Wednesday at MLB’s owners’ meetings. “We’re a very diverse group. And when we came up with the proposal, including CBT (competitive balance tax) and luxury tax that we brought to the union, it was a unanimous — on our committee — a unanimous deal.”

First, it’s rare to hear any of the top spending teams admit there is an actual class system at play. We often wonder why these owners can’t look at the other leagues and see what’s missing in this one sport, and this quote shows something we haven’t seen emerge from the shadows before, they’re starting to see it.

No the proposal from MLB isn’t perfect, no it won’t fix everything, but it is very much so a form of salary cap system. It has a cap (albeit faux), it has a floor and it has increased revenue sharing.

To really make this effective the floor needs to be much higher, no more than a 20-25 million dollar spread can exist for true equality but it’s a start, and an admission that the problem is seen.

I don’t expect what we fans (at least the ones who see this as an issue) see as a true Salary cap system but I do expect more movement in that direction. It’s good for everyone, players included, even if they can’t see it right now.

The Forbes numbers for 2021 on payroll don’t come out until December so don’t beat me up Ethan Hullihen , just see this as a math exercise for now.

Let’s say they make the faux cap 200 million and the floor 120 million. The funding mechanism would have to be in place clearly so let’s just assume they handle that aspect as the players don’t need to care how that goes down.

There are 3 teams (again based on the numbers I have at my fingertips) that spend more than that cap. Accounting for close to 80 million dollars ganged together.

So we start the equation.

4.041 Billion Total Payroll
– 80 Million
= 3.961 Billion

Now add up how much every team needs to spend to hit the floor from where they are right now of which there are 14 teams.

3.961 Billion
+ 531 Million in new payroll money to meet the floor
= 4.492 Billion

That’s an overall increase of 451 million dollars infused into the players salaries.

I’m not a math major, in fact I hated doing this extremely basic example. I’m not claiming these numbers are gospel, but I am saying this is a really quick look at why it’s not bad for the players, and I don’t need open books to show it. They’d have to build in natural increases every year just like every other league and open books would probably cause those proposed cap and floor figures to change, but there is a path here to get better, not perfect but better.

It’s starting to be seen, and that’s worth noting. They can also use that ample room built in on the increased payroll dollars to address pay for minor leaguers and young players. It’s certainly more complicated than this, but when the one group I thought would completely oppose this on the ownership side sees and endorses something like this, perk up and listen.

5. Feeling Thankful

Craig and I are closing out our second full season here on InsideTheBucsBasement.com and we couldn’t possibly be more thankful for all of you. We did this with no funding, no advertising and until recently no other writers. Nothing but our willingness to work and your word of mouth has turned us into a blog thousands read regularly. We’re proud of what this site has grown to, and looking forward to continuing next year.

I’m also thankful for our contributors, Anthony DiFilippo, host of the City of Bridges Podcast, Justin Verno and Joe Boyd for all their trade chatter and prospect write ups have been welcome additions.

On the Podcast front, Craig has seen incredible increases in listenership for the Bucs in the Basement podcast and I along with my co-host Jim Stamm have been simply blown away by the response to the Pirates Fan Forum on DK Pittsburgh Sports Podcasting Network.

Absolutely none of this is possible without you. We’ve never aimed for click bait and always tried to shoot you straight, and you’ve rewarded us with tremendous conversation, patronage and in many cases friendship.

This Thanksgiving I simply want you all to know how very much we appreciate you, and make sure you know, we don’t take it lightly in any way. Thank you all, and be blessed.

Let’s Go Bucs!

Ben Cherington Is Gambling With Pirates Young Pitchers

I’m really not much of a gambler. The last time I placed a bet on a game was 21 years ago in college, I don’t play the lottery, the only scratchers I get are from my family for Christmas and I’ve never walked into a casino with more than 50 bucks in my pocket; while most of the time I only use the comp money you get for staying in the hotel. Once the money’s gone I’m done. And actually, if I hit “big” on anything, I walk away too.

Sure, I’ve gotten involved in fantasy baseball and football over the years-spending an insignificant amount of money in order to gain bragging rights with my friends-and went through a stage in my life where I would throw down a 20 spot to play Texas Hold’em at my buddies house, but even that was short lived.

In some ways I always compared Ben Cherington to myself because of the manner in which he stockpiled prospects at nearly every position in an attempt to minimize risk. Obviously Ben has a more daring side simply based on the high ceiling players he has focused on in many of his trades, including some pure lottery ticket acquisitions. However, every prospect is somewhat of a gamble, so it’s not like he’s taking a chance above and beyond what the other GMs around the league do on a fairly regular basis.

Yet, in the case of who Cherington chose to protect-and more specifically who he chose not to-it seems like he is stepping outside of the normal comfort zone he has created by maximizing risk to some extent. As we all know by now Cherington and Company selected the contracts of Canaan Smith-Njigba (OF), Travis Swaggerty (OF), Jack Suwinski (OF) and Liover Pegeuro (SS) at deadline; while doing the same with Diego Castillo (3B/SS/2B) a couple of weeks ago due to his impending Minor League Free Agency.

That’s five position players added into an already crowded bunch, which now totals 8 outfielders and 9 middle infielders. This is something Gary already addressed the other day, and isn’t necessarily something I am totally focused on; although it continues concerns and confuses me to a certain degree. Still, there is a number that worries me slightly more. During this process Cherington decided to protect zero arms.

Immediately you might think about the comments Cherington made when speaking to the media after the final decisions.

He started out by stating, “We’re balancing a lot of things. How do we use those 40 spots to our advantage this offseason, into spring training and during the season? We have to keep in mind that there’s a major league roster to build starting in April. There are 26 spots right there. We try to do the best we can to balance all these things, and our selfish hope is always to keep as many good players as we possibly can.

He went on to say, “We feel really good about the progress that the four players we added have made.”

Clearly this is the goal. Build an Opening Day Roster, AND be able to keep as many good players as you can. Also, you would have pretty hard time proving that any of these players didn’t make progress during the shutdown, as well as in the 2021 Minor League Season. Even with Swaggerty’s injury, that only allowed him to log 48 plate appearances in 12 games, there was a noticeable increase in power; plus it’s not like any of us got to see how he performed at the Alternate Site the year before.

Nevertheless, this isn’t all about performance, as some of those left off the list could have similar arguments made about their worthiness. In the end it is all about risk versus potential reward. The risk of losing players versus the potential of the prospects they protected, along with the hope of retaining those that weren’t.

Now, as far the possibility of having players snatched from the system Cherington said, Sometimes there are good players taken in the Rule 5 draft. But it’s not a real high volume of them. There are also a lot of players taken who don’t end up doing much, so you’re trying to find the needle in a haystack a little bit.”

Even though I totally agree with Cherington’s statement about the Rule 5 Draft, I can’t help but think that maybe Cherington added a few extra needles to the haystack.

Over the past three years a total of 43 players have been selected in the Major League Portion of the Rule 5 Draft. Of those 43 players 33 have been pitchers, which works out to approximately 77 percent of the prospects added to new teams.

This is why it is so curious to me that the Pirates left the likes of Omar Cruz, Yerry De Los Santos, Hunter Stratton, Cody Bolton, Travis MacGregor, Steven Jennings, Tahnaj Thomas, Eddy Yean, Santiago Florez and Michell Miliano off the list; not that they could have protected all of them, nor would I have wanted them to.

The first few guys on this list are ones that I honestly believe could factor into a team’s bullpen from the jump, Bolton is kind of like Soriano in that he could start the season on the 60-Day IL and potentially work his way back when he is healthy-no harm no foul if he doesn’t-and the rest are Oviedo types; who’s necessary service time can be manipulated by phantom injuries and limited/sporadic usage that totals around 30 innings of ups and downs.

Obviously, going back to my own-as well as Cherington’s-overall take on the Rule 5, that not many players will be selected and even fewer work out, the chances of losing a valuable prospect are pretty low. At any rate, by the numbers, the probability of a Pirates Prospect’s name being called is nearly tripled by having it be a pitcher on the block as opposed to a position player. This truth in this assumption is almost undeniable.

So, why wouldn’t Cherington choose to protect at least one arm based on this data? Honestly, I have no idea. Will it matter? Once again, I don’t know.

I just don’t see the reasoning behind the decision; which is ultimately causing a higher level of uncertainty/anticipation than there really needed to be.

Pirates Find Their First Real Bargain Of The Off-Season

In a Zoom call with the Pittsburgh Sports Media, a few days before Halloween, Ben Cherington addressed several topics, including their impending entrance into the free agent market. Prior to the following statement being made on the subject, and even a few times since, Pirates Fans have continually pushed the envelope concerning the types of free agents the team should sign. However, the Pirates plan was pretty laid out for them in black and white, through the voice of the man calling the shots.

“In terms of more general interest and approach, we’re focused on where we have opportunity on the major league team and where can we be opportunistic in the market, players that we think potentially fit on the team and we feel maybe haven’t reached their full potential and/or are coming off maybe a tougher season for some reason or just guys that we think we can connect with on a coaching level,”

Players that haven’t reached their full potential-enter Greg Allen-and/or those that are coming off a tougher season-aka a guy looking to bounce back/prove himself would be there main targets. Once again, the Pirates found their man in the form of Jose Quintana; and on a pretty good deal at 1 year for $2 million.

Of course the immediate reaction from many, including myself, was that this exact signing was a few years too late. This goes without saying, but it’s not like the Pirates would have sprung for Quintana’s $10.5 price tag during his last season as a full-time starter in 2019; or his 1 year $8 price point coming into the 2021 for that matter.

It wasn’t until Quintana tossed only 73.0 innings over the past two seasons, splitting time between the rotation and bullpen, that he finally came into range for the Pirates and Ben Cherington.

During 2020, after he had his $10.5 million option picked up by the Cubs for a second straight year, Quintana managed only 10 innings over one start and four total appearances; all while falling victim to the injury bug, first with a left thumb nerve injury and then with some left lat inflammation. For the year he posted a 4.50 ERA and a 1.300 WHIP, which makes his shortened season all the more disappointing.

Looking to rebound in 2021, Quintana found himself in Los Angeles in a change of scenery. Unfortunately the injuries soon followed him during his time with the Angels. This time it was shoulder inflammation that eventually led to the end of his stint in La-La Land, but not in the Golden State as he was soon claimed off waivers by the San Francisco Giants; although his stay would only count for 9.2 innings towards his 63 inning total.

In between his two stops, Quintana put up a 6.43 ERA, a 1.730 WHIP, 85 strikeouts to 35 walks and 1.7 Homers per 9 innings. In short, mostly not great, but the strike outs sure were nice. Hence the $2 million versus $8 million price tag.

So honestly, what’s the upside for a move like this? Well it’s fairly simple. 1) There isn’t much risk. 2) The cost is only a little more than what they paid for Trevor Cahill last year. 3) There is hope he can stay healthy. 4) He hasn’t been a pitcher that relies on velocity to be successful, and even if he was it hasn’t dipped at all with his injuries. 4) Quintana is a name, which in some ways will appease fans, while possibly increasing the value of a flip at the deadline if he does return to anywhere near his pre-2020 form.

Now, onto the downside. It’s rather straightforward once again in that there really isn’t one, which is the main reason I like this move.

Pirates Need a Catcher….Again; The Future Looks Bright, but the Present, Well…

11-21-21 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

If you close your eyes for a moment and ignore that date in the byline you could easily find yourself transported back to 2019 or maybe 2020. The big difference this time is they aren’t looking for a starter at the position.

In fact the first thing we need to talk about is the reality that this club isn’t going to pay a backup more than they pay Jacob Stallings, he’s projected to make 2.6 Million, and I’m going to be more generous than the Pirates are likely to be and make that figure that came out before he was named the Gold Glove winner 3 Million.

Listen, I could have a lot more fun with this and get your rumor loving minds rocking if I didn’t bother with that stipulation but I’d really rather be realistic, even if it’s not as much fun.

We should also really look at what is being replaced. Perez was a -0.7 WAR player in 2021, He had only 30 hits, 7 of which were homeruns in 210 ABs, good for a .143 Batting Average. Sounds pretty easy to replace right?

Let’s have a look at all the different methods the Pirates could use to source this need and identify some players who might fit the bill.

Internal Options

This shouldn’t be a shock but the Pirates don’t have any ready made backup catching options in their system. They have some very nice prospects but none that are close enough to factor in this April in my mind.

Carter Bins – Acquired from Seattle in the Tyler Anderson deal
He currently resides in AA but I could see him getting a bump to AAA even as early as the beginning of the season, thing is, he just hasn’t been that good here. The bat is one thing, but the defense is what’s scaring me off a bit. He’s not done well controlling the running game and most scouts are underwhelmed by his receiving of the ball. I’m not ready to flush him as a prospect, but I’m not really thrilled to think he’d be the backup all season in Pittsburgh.

Eli Wilson – 2019 16th Round Pick
Eli started 2021 in Bradenton, then got bumped to Greensboro and even got one game in Indianapolis. His defense has been impressive, and the bat showed real promise with the Marauders and dropped off with the Hoppers. Eli is the catching prospect most people ignore, he’s not flashy, but he has shows a proficiency for handling a staff and has done well controlling the running game. Eli’s issue is he just hasn’t had enough experience at higher levels, keep your eye on him though, he may not be a future star, but should some other catching prospects change positions, he’s a nice option to have.

Rule 5 Draft

Before I get too deep here, a backup catcher should probably be expected to play about 25% of his team’s games, so hiding a catcher you select in this process isn’t exactly easy. Think of how bad Michael Perez was last season, he still played in 70 games. I’d also add, the reason you’d use the Rule 5 to pick up a player is because you understand they’re a prospect and have need for youth at the position while acknowledging you don’t have any coming, I don’t see the Pirates in that situation. If you’re expecting to be blown away by these options, don’t.

Michael Papierski – Houston Astros – 2017 9th Round Pick
Michael is a defensively sound catcher who can handle a pitching staff and with the bat he’s been very average. Last season he hit .246 with a .754 OPS.

I’ll be honest, I went through every team, this is the only one I’d really consider. And I wouldn’t consider it strongly.

Free Agent Market

Again, this is a backup position, don’t expect to be excited, and yes, I see a familiar face or two in the mix. The Pirates could even resign Michael Perez to a Minor League deal with no guarantee of anything beyond a shot in camp. This is really where that caveat of not paying more than Stallings is going to get plays in. That rules out your Robinson Chirinos’ of the world and the like.

Luke Maile – 1.5 Million or Less
Luke last played for Milwaukee and they had Manny Pina and Omar Narvaez so suffice to say he didn’t play much, 15 games to be specific, but he did hit .300 in his 30 at bats. He makes this list because they liked him before, was injured and they moved on.

Steven Vogt – 3.5 Million or Less
This one might be dicey. He made 3 Million this year but he also hit .195 and defensively he’s not exactly a stalwart. Could be a good MiLB with an invite candidate.

Roberto Perez – 1-1.5 Million
Roberto has been bought out by the Cleveland Guardians and I’ll be blunt, his stat line looks a ton like Michael Perez. To be blunt, you might want the devil you know here.

The Trade Market

Let’s be blunt, the Pirates have too many Middle Infielders, I mean too many to even realistically give them all good looks. I could see them swinging something to see if they can’t sway another team to give up their underused backup as part of the return. This is a scene I can’t digest yet. Too many variables still hang out there such as the tender deadline, and how the overall scene starts to take shape.

Let’s bookmark this method and revisit it later.

OK, so I told you not to get excited, but this is a quick view of what I see right now, and while I love how many times a day I get the comment “backup catchers are a dime a dozen, they’ll have no issue getting one” honestly, I’d love to see what some of them would say after drilling as deep as I just did on this position. It’s not pretty.

More to come…

Rule 5 Protections Shed Light on Pirates Plans

11-20-21 – Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

The immediate takeaways from the Pirates decisions yesterday are apparent. Choosing to protect only 4 prospects, 5 if you count Diego Castillo, casts light on some other decisions we weren’t sure they’d make.

First let’s start with some stats and a quick view.

8 Outfielders
9 Middle Infielders
1 Catcher
20 Pitchers

Clearly the Pirates aren’t done here as they couldn’t possibly head into the season with this mix.

Today, I want to start on the mound.

Pitching

Safe
Miguel Yajure – Probably will start in AAA, but could find himself in a bullpen role
JT Brubaker – Easy keep, and likely to find himself right in the middle of the rotation
David Bednar – Closer, back ender, whatever, he’s safe
Blake Cederlind – Safe for sure, but most likely headed back to the 60-Day IL
Roansy Contreras – Might not start right out of Spring but he’ll push before long
Mitch Keller – Frustrated fans wanted 2021 to be the prove it year, but that’s 2022
Chris Stratton – Proven bullpen arm on a team with few
Bryse Wilson – Potential opening day starter
Max Kranick – Safe for sure, but unclear if he starts in AAA or MLB, starter either way

Probably Safe
Steven Brault – Starter, Bullpen, even a trade candidate, he’ll be tendered
Wil Crowe – Showed some good and bad, likely in the MLB mix somehow
Sam Howard – Lefty who’s had ups and downs, injury played a role in his struggles
Chad Kuhl – I would have cut him loose, but yesterday showed me the Pirates will tender him, wouldn’t be shocked if he winds up in the opening day rotation
Luis Oviedo – They want him to be a starter, and to get something for working with him all year, AAA or AA start for him.
Duane Underwood Jr. – Ate a ton of innings, and that’s why he winds up here instead of cut watch
Dillon Peters – Showed at least Steven Brault level capability and if he can stay on the mound he might just be a keeper

Cut Watch
Anthony Banda – If they’re going to bring in new blood (and how could they not) Anthony didn’t do enough to hold this spot
Eric Hanhold – The Bucs just picked him up off waivers, so I’m sure they want to see him actually pitch, but until I do, this is where he belongs
Nick Mears – I personally think most fans haven’t properly seen how Nick’s career has progressed, and where exactly he was asked to do most of his development. 2020 in MLB was his AA year, 2021 in MLB was his AAA year. The velo plays, and I think he’ll prove the wrong if he’s cut, but no denying he belongs in this space.
Cody Ponce – He’s had a few good starts, and a few good outings, but hasn’t really excelled at anything. That’s usually a recipe for dismissal, have to show something you’re better than most at

Opening Day Rotation (As it stands now)
Chad Kuhl, Steven Brault, Bryse Wilson, JT Brubaker, Mitch Keller

Yup, that’s right, I see Kuhl going right back to the rotation, the team expressly said his move to the pen (that didn’t exactly go well) was to limit innings, not change his role. I could see either Chad or Steven being traded before camp, but they wouldn’t be on the 40-man now if they planned to non-tender either. I still think they’ll bring in another starter or two and maybe that shakes things up, but unless the CBA changes considerably how prospects are handled, Contreras will start in AAA as will Yajure.

The bullpen is going to change, just will. More options will be brought in, some we see as starters will move there too.

Spare me the “this isn’t good enough” takes, of course it isn’t, but it is where we are.

We’ll keep breaking this down as the days go by. On the list are looking at available backup catchers out there, who goes for Yoshi if and when they get this done (won’t be Moran) and how can they possibly carry 9 middle infielders on the 40.