Snakes Sweep the Pirates, and the Pitching Led the Way

7-21-21 – By Gary Morgan

Bad teams can jump up and bite you. The Pirates have done it themselves to some of the best.

When two bad teams play each other though, all bets are off.

See, bad teams sometimes will play better baseball against teams they have no business beating because everyone gets there bristle up, everyone pays extra attention to situations. Sometimes at bats are taken with just a touch more seriousness.

One thing a bad team can’t afford to do is drop their guard. Playing a fellow bad team sometimes does exactly that.

All that being said, the beat to hell bullpen is the biggest problem right, well, that and hitting with runners in scoring position.

Today Max Kranick was back on the mound and only lasted 3 innings, giving up 7 hits and 4 runs. Spare me the he stinks stuff, one thing many of you need to get through your skull is that rookies often stink. The few who come up and look like the best version of what they’ll become are the exception, not the rule. And in case you weren’t aware, you better get used to watching youngsters find their way up here, because that’s kinda the plan.

It’s why I always caution people to look at the ETAs for prospects in the system and circle the date as when the Bucs will win it all. That’s not when many of those players will be what you’d call good. If every rookie was cut when fans thought they stunk, it would become physically impossible to field a 26 man roster.

No matter how you look at it, a sweep at the hands of the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2021 isn’t acceptable. No matter how bad the Pirates wind up being.

Rant over.

The Bullpen just can’t keep this workload going. The effort to save starters from throwing too many innings has caused the opposite in the pen. I understood the concern. I never liked the plan. I like it even more now that I’m watching my worst fears play out.

Bucs lose 6-4 and are mercifully off tomorrow. I’ll say this, they won’t look this bad against the Giants, for the exact reason I mentioned above. Well, depending on departures of course.

News & Notes

  • The Pirates have had 10 hits or more in 7 consecutive games. The offense, unlike early in the season, isn’t the biggest issue currently.
  • Steven Brault will take another rehab start in Indianapolis next week and it could be his last before returning, hopefully just in time to replace Tyler Anderson.
  • Chris Stratton is the best reliever the Pirates have on the market, not Richard Rodriguez. That’s a valuable arm there, one that will hurt to lose, because they have nothing ready to replace him. This is a role I’d really like to see Cody Ponce fill.
  • Jacob Stallings had a bunt hit today. The first bunt hit by a Pirates catcher since Cervelli in 2017.
  • Believe it or not this isn’t Arizona’s First sweep of the season. That honor goes to the Reds back in April.
  • Bryan Reynolds went 3 for 4 today, he’s just locked in. Fun to watch when a player get’s like that and as bad as this team has been we’ve had two most of the year.
  • Tough series to watch. They had chances, they had leads, they had home runs. They also had a totally exposed pitching staff.

The Pirates Lose Another One In The Desert, But That’s Far From The Entire Story

7-21-2021 By Craig W. Toth (aka @BucsBasement)

The Pittsburgh Pirates, as a whole, are not a good baseball team. The same goes for their current opponent in the first three games of this West Coast Road Trip, the Arizona Diamondbacks. As it stands currently the Pirates are the fourth worst team in all of Major League Baseball with a record of 36-59 and a run differential of -125, while the Diamondbacks are dead last with a record of 29-68 and are 147 runs in the red.

Statistically speaking these are relatively inferior ball clubs, to say the least. And one plays in arguably the toughest division in MLB at the moment. Hint, it’s not the Pirates or the NL Central. However, I would like to see what the Pirates record would be if they had to play the likes of the Giants, Dodgers and Padres on a regular basis.

It’s a battle of the bad. There’s no other way to put it. But please, let’s get upset about Derek Shelton removing a fatigued Tyler Anderson-one of your main trade chips-after 77 pitches in a meaningless game at the end of July. Or, better yet, let’s debate whether or not Clay Holmes or Austin Davis should have been DFA’d instead of Kyle Crick, because I’ve got some news for you…none of these guys, including Crick deserve to be on a Major League roster with the way they are performing. And in all actuality there are still about another seven or eight players that could be jettisoned of the 40-Man today and I wouldn’t even bat an eye.

I mean honestly, what are we even doing here?

There is so much more to be focused on.

How about our All-Star Centerfielder that learned how to fly last night?

Or, maybe that when Nick Mears finally got to pitch on his fourth call up-the third in July-of the season, and proceeded to strike out two in a scoreless eighth. He’s only 24 by the way.

Or maybe, just maybe that Ke’Bryan Hayes has leveled out a little bit after his mid-season funk; slashing a solid .288/.362/.423 in his last 15 games. Although, I have to say that the 9 Ks vs. 0 BB over the last 7 don’t give me the warm fuzzies.

Sure, the Pirates fell to the Snakes 11 to 6; thanks to an 8 run bottom of the 7th. However, as the title states, this is Far From The Entire Story.

News and Notes

  • Tyler Anderson has posted a 3.89 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP over his last 3 starts. He now has 7 quality starts on the season; including the one last night. Now, I am not saying the Trade Value/Return for him is super high, but I would much rather have a “lottery ticket” in hand than a bunch of nothing at the end of the season.
  • The Big Nogowski has homered.

  • Gregory Polanco also homered, because he he still has power. It is the making of regular contact that’s the problem. However, I can’t argue with keeping a guy in the lineup, for now, who can do that to a baseball 15 to 20 times a year.

  • I seriously can’t wait until the Trade Deadline has passed, so that we don’t have to see anymore ridiculous trade offers. Plus we can focus on more important stuff, like being mad about who we traded, who we didn’t and the list of Minor Leaguers we got in return; most of whom many Pirates Fans will know little to nothing about.
  • Also, can we please pump the brakes on ranking prospects before some of them are even signed. I get wanting to be out in front of a story, but at this point it is just getting ridiculous.

https://www.fangraphs.com/prospects/the-board/2021-in-season-prospect-list/summary?sort=-1,1&team=pit

The Pirates and Diamondbacks are back at it again in a few hours at 3:40 PM EST-Hooray for no night game-as Pittsburgh looks to avoid the sweep.

Max Kranick (1-1, 3.38 ERA) takes the mound against an old foe, Madison Bumgarner (4-6, 5.35 ERA).

Oh, and Happy 24th Birthday Max!

Player Evaluation at Some Point Reaches a Conclusion

7-20-21 – By Gary Morgan

The last two years have been all about evaluation.

Players who were already here, players they wanted to bring in and try, ways of using them, you know, seeing what they had and deciding where to go from here.

That’s going to bring about things like what we saw yesterday with Kyle Crick being DFAd. I mean, we’ve seen countless guys survive the DFA and wind up back in AAA, some have even come full circle like Wilmer Difo.

The conversation really needs to start with honesty. Not who you’re a fan of. Not someone you think hasn’t had enough of a chance. Just honest evaluation of your own. Not emotional outbursts, real evaluation.

Look at Kyle Crick, not just his performance this season, how his time in Pittsburgh has gone and I’m not going to bury you with numbers here. Kyle came to the Pirates by way of the Andrew McCutchen deal, one that brought Bryan Reynolds as well. He stepped right in and looked like he could have been a lock future closer on this club back in 2018.

2019 started much the same but something started to shift. He started struggling with command, his velocity dropped which exasperated his problem with command. Let me explain why a bit more here. Without the velocity sitting upper 90’s, hitters were able to spit on his slider. As electric as it is, as crazy as the spin rate is, if you can’t control it with pinpoint accuracy to hit corners, you need to at least get swings and misses.

So hitters started waiting him out, making him throw his now less than stellar fastball, and hitting it hard when he missed in the zone.

Then there was the locker room fight. This is the cover people like to provide Kyle. See he punched a guy who deserved to be punched and while we all should assume it had nothing to do with what Vazquez was doing off the field (at least you better hope so, or else everyone in that room was complaisant) he was seen in a way as a folk hero.

Thing is, those issues I pointed out were happening before he busted his hand on a pedo’s face. He had other off field happenings, none bigger than the loss of his fraternal twin Kevin.

So here’s where we are, ready to start 2020, the velocity is still missing, he’s still missing his spots. In the spirit of evaluation, the Pirates took him into 2020 and tried to use him as a back of the pen guy, but injury took over. He would only play 7 games last season and in those 7 games looked like he had at least figured out how to adjust to his change in stuff. It was a positive step, one that gave the Bucs hope he’d continue to evolve in 2021.

So they entered this season thinking the same way, after all he didn’t get a real shot in 2020 to be evaluated, he still had crazy talent, give him a shot right?

This season, things started out well. Again the velocity wasn’t there, but the adjustments were. He made it work for him and for a month, looked like a fixture. Again, it fell off the table, to the point Derek Shelton could no longer find a justifiable reason to use him.

He’s out of options, he’s out of chances, and that’s the whole story.

This isn’t because he gave up one homerun. It’s not because they hate the guy. It’s because they evaluated him, hopefully in much more detail than I just did.

When you don’t have a good baseball team, you can’t hold on dearly to the fringes of that roster praying every bit of unrealized talent is suddenly going to emerge, sometimes you just have to realize the juice isn’t worth the squeeze.

Kyle is a guy who was going to be up for a decision next season anyway. Entering arbitration the Pirates needed to make a call here, and they did. If somehow he squeaks through the waiver wire and winds up back in AAA and they want to try to figure out how to help him manage what he has to work with, great. If he get’s picked up because someone else thinks they can help him unlock his talent, great. Point is you can’t keep trotting him out to your MLB mound hoping for different results when you have the stack of evidence I just laid out.

Is Kyle the only guy like this on the roster? Oh hell no. They have any number of guys the evaluation could end for very soon, maybe a few who have to change roles, but to have the rebuild pay off, at some point you have to start clearing away rubble and build on a flat surface.

I’m actually encouraged by this move. There were easier things to be done, instead what they showed us is there comes a point when the evaluation is over. There comes a point where how long he Pirates control a player, how cheap they are, how brilliant one or two of their skill sets look, at the end of the day, if you don’t perform, you don’t have a place on the roster.

Oh yes, there are absolutely others and their day will come too, but you needn’t rush it and more importantly, now we needn’t question it. It’s happening before our very eyes.

Pirates (36-58) Fall to Diamondbacks 4-2

7-20-21 – By Gary Morgan

This has been the unfortunate recipe for so many games this season. Bucs have chances to score but don’t manage to even scratch one across while the opposing squad seemingly feasts on the high fastball philosophy from Pirates pitching.

It’s pretty clear that Chase De Jong isn’t an answer. I’m not shocked by this outcome but he was worth a shot. At 27 years old and not eligible for free agency until 2027 the Pirates have taken a situation of not having nailed on rotation components to see if they could find themselves a free pitcher.

There’s a difference between kicking the tires on a 27 year old with a ton of control and no options and evaluating the performance of someone you actually think has room to develop.

That said, I can’t question the want to. More than once this season Chase has seemingly walked off an injury, or recovered from a terrible start to provide length. He’s had outings where he started well and then seemingly hit a wall in an inning, gives up some really hard contact, looks like he can’t hit the zone then gets back on track in the next.

If Chase was a 23 year old with 2 options left, you might call this potential. At 27 years old you might call him a future long man or someone else’s project.

The offense sputtered. Hayes and Reynolds came through but when resting Adam Frazier those two just didn’t have enough opportunities.

The Diamondbacks are the worst team in the league record wise, but teams like the Pirates will often play better baseball against better competition. I said this on Twitter last night and someone called it the Tomlin effect. Slightly different. The Pirates aren’t good either unlike the Steelers who play down to their competition.

No, I think this is more about a team that gets their bristle up a bit when playing someone they ‘shouldn’t’ beat. Doesn’t mean they win most of them, clearly, but it does mean they’ll play good teams tough more often than not.

I’m not saying they walk in expecting to beat teams like Arizona, but lets just say it looks like they aren’t expecting a dog fight either. Problem is, this is a team that is only going to win most nights when dog fight is part of their mentality.

Pirates 2, Arizona 4.

Back at it tonight at 9:40 Tyler Anderson vs Taylor Widener

News & Notes

  • Ke’Bryan Hayes had a couple hits last night and while that’s encouraging, his most positive step back to being the young start we saw debut with the Bucs was an out. He drove a ball to the right-center gap with authority and in general had an opposite field approach all night. That’s what will get Ke’ back to being Ke’.
  • Jared Oliva is probably one healthy player away from finding himself back in AAA. The Pirates haven’t given him many opportunities and it’s very hard as a rookie to sit on the bench and keep your timing. Last night as a later inning replacement he was able to go 2 for 2. It’s not going to keep him up here most likely, but success is never a bad thing.
  • Kyle Crick was DFAd before the game tonight. I guess to some it was a shock but the Coach was clearly not comfortable using him, and if you tell me you looked forward to watching him pitch I’d have to make sure you watched. He’s a name, but ever since he lost his velocity he’s been largely a liability, and if you want to be nice, he’s at least been dicey. You can’t rail on about how bad this team is, then turn around and get upset when they move on from one of the reasons. Of course there are others, maybe even others that should have gone first, but Crick was clearly worthy.
  • Watching John Nogowski play, you’d never think he’s a rookie. He plays the game like none of this impresses him. Everything down to the nonchalant way he receives the ball at first screams been there done that. It’s easy to heap praise on a guy hitting like .400 since joining the team, but the way he plays the game just looks different.
  • Chasen Shreve should be someone other teams want at this deadline. Lefty relievers are already a premium commodity but he has a 0.7 WAR, 2.16 ERA and a WHIP at 1.240. He’s a classic rental, and at this point I’d be shocked if he wasn’t snapped up.

Five Pirates Thoughts at Five

7-19-21 – By Gary Morgan

The draft is over and the Pirates have done a lot of the work already to sign and get these guys a taste of pro ball this year. The goalposts keep moving on what success looks like, first it was the wrong pick, then Baseball America slapped that down. Then it was they won’t sign all those other 1st round talents they picked, now it looks like they’ll get them all, even Bishop is in play. Maybe just sit back and let the process play out, some folks are straight looking silly at this point.

Fun weekend of baseball over at PNC, and as usual I’ve got some thoughts to share about our Buccos.

1. Visiting Fan Takeover

I mean, this has been going on for as long as I’ve been going to baseball games. And since I’m old, that’s a long time. Visiting fans flock to PNC and sometimes like this weekend they are easily 50% of the populous.

I always find them to be polite, and knowledgeable fans who just die hard support their club. No ill will coming from me, in fact, I respect the hell out of it.

It makes you cringe hearing louder cheers for the visitors than the home team, and to the Pirates fans’ credit they tried like hell to rise above it and out cheer them and when Jacob hit that Grand Slam to win the game in walk off fashion Saturday night, they absolutely did.

Pittsburgh has been, and can be a baseball town again. They just need something to root for. For some of us, a team that tries and outkicks their coverage on occasion is enough to get amped. For others, the amps aren’t gonna kick up until such as time as they expect to win on a nightly basis.

But I’ve seen a lot of complaints that PNC was overrun with Mets fans this weekend, and while it is true, most of you weren’t buying tickets right? I mean there were entire sections with ALL Mets fans, doing soccer style chants complete with Fat Heads of their favorite players, and the local economy sure enjoyed the takeover.

We can’t get mad that other people are buying things we didn’t want. I’ll admit, it’s not the scene I want to see when I go to a ballgame, but Lord knows Steeler fans have done it to Cincinnati and Cleveland over the years, man we even did it to LA.

2. Why Would Henry Davis Accept Less Than Slot?

By now you all know the Bucs got their guy for about 2 million under slot. So I’m getting asked, WHY? Why would he take less?

Couple things play in here. First and probably most important, he’s not spoiled for choice. He either has to sign or go back to college, and that’s not as simple as go back to college and try again next year, the likelihood he is again the top pick is slim to none.

Next up is the competition for the first overall pick. With 6 or 7 depending on who you trust competing for the top slot, and only one being hell bent on getting full slot (Leiter) it stands to reason Davis would be up for bargaining. If he wasn’t the first pick chances are he’d have dropped as low as 5th which would have been less than the amount he signed for anyhow.

Imagine you apply for a job and are one of 5 very qualified candidates. The job is posted for 60K and when they call you they offer you 50K instead. You’d buck at that and at least ask or protest that you thought it was higher than that. They’d probably counter with telling you they have other candidates and the conversation would either end with you taking less or potentially not getting the job.

This shouldn’t be seen as a reflection on how good he is, or his deservedness to be the pick, it’s simply fact, and fairness isn’t a thing in baseball, at least not the money aspect.

3. Hug Watch

The West Coast trip right before the deadline is at least in old guy like my eyes a traditional opportune time to make deals. The team is far from home, late games, less fans watching the day to day. This has changed some over the years as the internet has made news cycles 24 hours but this could still be something to look for with the timing.

There hasn’t been much movement league wide as of yet, but some shoes have to start falling soon.

If you’re a Pirates fan, and I’ll go ahead and assume by reading this you are, this really needs to be about getting a worthy return, not just a return. Asking for too much is a relative term, if you aren’t going to get what you consider enough value, consider the value of just keeping the player.

This is exactly what happened with Josh Bell and Joe Musgrove. The Bucs didn’t like the offers at the deadline and instead held their cards. No matter how many times you’ve heard Frazier is getting moved. Hell no matter how many times I’ve told you he’s probably getting moved. If the return isn’t there, they won’t do it.

One thing Cherington has shown us so far, he has zero willingness to move assets for less than he’s looking for.

4. Things We’re Afraid to Expect

When a group of people are beaten down over time they find ways to protect themselves. Pirates fans are no different. We know the system is rigged so we stop expecting certain things that make winning possible. We know the owner has been cheap so we stop expecting them to ever do something to show they’re willing to spend.

It’s not just that we stop expecting it, we stop demanding it, I mean some of us stop even asking for it. We certainly don’t predict it.

For real change, there needs to be a clear expectation from this fan base and no it’s not to reach some arbitrary number on the payroll ranking.

Look, nothing any of us say is going to honestly affect change from the team’s perspective anyhow, but if you ever want to start seeing the negativity surrounding the team to change, those who have hope must stop acting like they don’t.

Oh you’ll be called hopeless, or even a shill. Deal with it.

When there are things that need done to make sure this time is different, yell about it. You’ve been patient as the Pirates started this journey, so don’t be afraid to make sure everyone knows that didn’t come for free.

For me, this is getting something done to keep Reynolds in black and gold. I’m done tempering that expectation, and I’m all done acting like they can’t, or might not, be able to do so. Get this done.

This isn’t to be confused with constantly reminding everyone of the team’s failures, we’re all aware of what has been. It has no bearing on what we should expect, if not demand. Don’t be afraid to expect better, I doubt Ben Cherington and Travis Williams did when they took the gig.

To me, we spend too much time being afraid to be wrong. If you are, just admit it, learn from it and move on. When the error is believing in something and being let down, you aren’t the one who made a mistake anyway.

5. Promotion, Demotion, and Unexpected Contributions

Some of this stuff doesn’t make much sense.

I mean, when you sit there an just see transactions come across the ticker and all you have to go on is the stat line you can just feel lost with confusion.

For a few weeks now Mitch Keller has done well in AAA, leading some to believe he had turned a corner. I’ve told you though, nothing has changed from what he did in MLB. The pitch types were the same, even the misses were the same. This was nothing more than the club letting him see, and experience that at his core he still is a good pitcher.

Then came his last outing yesterday, and man he got shelled. If you’ve been watching him, and I again don’t mean the box scores. This week showed some subtle changes being introduced. His fastball had a tail, subtle movement that he conspicuously missed in MLB. This takes time and practice to master.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you it was a positive step, but it is however a step. In order to get back to MLB and be the impact player the club wants him to be these are things they can’t just skip.

On another side of the spectrum, we all watched Rodolfo Castro have what we felt was a coming out party against the Mets before the break. He has 3 MLB hits, all homeruns, and watching him swing, it sure looks like that’s his goal.

The Pirates have a belief that he is primarily a 2B and 3B, obviously two positions currently on lock down but he has a history of playing corner outfield and SS as well but being as they have a plan for him that requires regular playing time, I get it. I don’t get going back to AA but if I’m honest, I’d have just kept him here so same difference I guess.

Then you have a guy like John Nogowski. I think I wrote in one of these not too long ago I saw no reason for this acquisition. They already had a AAAA scrub named Will Craig for this job, something to that effect.

Look, I’m not willing to claim Nogo has a roster spot all locked up but it’s impossible to argue the Pirates saw something and did the right thing here.

Hey, at the end of the day, I’m an opinion jerk like anyone else, with the possible exception of admitting I was wrong.

Two Guys Talkin’ Trades – Updated Rumors

7-19-21 – By Joe Boyd & Justin Verno

Justin Verno – OK, we’re back and have some rumors to talk about! But before we do, there are two things I want to throw out here first:

1-Congratulations to Ben Cherington and his staff on a tremendous draft.  In a way this directly relates to what you and I do here, Joe. The idea of trades is to fill the system with high end talent, and same goes with the draft. BC and his scouts did a fabulous job in giving their development team the high end talent that will hopefully get this organization a World Series. To work with  A team’s  Minor League system is and always will be the lifeline of any baseball organization. There’s a ton of work left to do, I get that. But this is as exciting a draft as we  will see in a lifetime and has a chance to be special, hats off!

2-In the last article we mentioned the Mets as having a confirmed interest in Adam Frazier, but we decided to not build a package and I’ve been asked by a few people–friends, Twitter accounts, Facebook and more–why not and what it could look like. I won’t get too winded here, Joe, but I figure what the heck? That’s what we’ve been doing, so I put this together real quick, and with the Mets taking Rocker in the MLB Draft, it helps.-

JT Ginn–SP–ETA: 2024– 45 FV ($4M)

Khalil Lee–RF–ETA: in MLB-45 FV ($6M)

Alex Ramirez–CF–ETA: 2025– 40+ FV ($4M)

A quick look at their MiLB system shows this would not be an easy pill to swallow.  So much so that we didn’t delve into it.  I almost wonder if the Mets would be better off using Matt Allan 50 FV or even, dare I say Kumar Rocker, also a 50 FV player and sending less prospects? It’s possible, I suppose, but still unlikely and problematic to their system. 

Joe Boyd – Really enjoyed how Cherington handled the draft.  We don’t know yet, but can assume that Davis was underslot and the team was able to spend those savings along with the largest bonus pool to select highly valuable prospects that have signability issues.  Instead of getting the absolute top talent, they were able to add 4 potential first rounders.  It was really impressive and exciting.  I did a piece for ITBB a few weeks back as a 1:1 primer utilizing Sim Scores. If you don’t want to re-read that primer, just know a sim score in the 2.00-5.00 range is solid, and lower the better. I just wanted to quickly touch on those top 4 selections to see who would be the closest comps for them:

Anthony Solometo: Casey Mize – 2021 (9.61 Sim Score) –

Bear with me on this one, because Solometo is a unicorn. There are exactly 0 prospect reports that fall below the 5.00 threshold for Solometo.  I think there is some talk about his unique delivery, but it’s also difficult to find a 60-grade slider amongst the prospects available. In this comparison, Mize has a better fastball potential (55-grade vs 50 grade) and better command (60-grade vs. 55-grade) but they both have that 60-grade slider. Oh, and this is the 2021 version of Mize, so he is 6 years older than Solometo. I’m not saying this is the trajectory, of course. I just wanted to point out a relatively noteworthy comp for Solometo.

Lonnie White, Jr.: Kyler Murray – 2018 (3.11 Sim Score) – This one feels like it fits, no? Both are two sport athletes that just ooze that natural ability. They both have average to below average hit tools, but we could hope/expect that to develop once they focus entirely on baseball. I love the idea of adding athletes to the system and especially ones that could roam centerfield. However, if he shows up in Happy Valley next season, this Penn State Alum won’t be that upset!

Bubba Chandler: Tahnaj Thomas – 2018 (2.62) /Simeon Woods-Richardson – 2019 (2.97) – I’m going to end with two here because they are both exciting prospects. Chandler comps to Thomas and SWR prior to their breakouts, Thomas as a 40-FV and SWR as a 45+. However, both have developed into top 100 prospects and 50-FVs ($21.0M) on Fangraphs and based on the evaluation, Chandler looks to have the tools and potential to make a similar jump.

All in all, Cherington took this draft to the next level by adding all of these high upside guys. It must be said, player development is obviously essential, but adding the talent to the farm is the necessary first step. 

JV – The work for the Pirates organization has literally just begun here, but I for one am enjoying the hell out of this moment and I hope the fan base is as well. Now to the job at hand… rumors!

JB – Justin, I wanted to take a second to look at what Pittsburgh may leave on the table if they do not make trades.  Let’s say nothing else changes in our projected values for these players, but the Pirates decide, for whatever reason, to hold on to the likely trade candidates.  There is some sentiment around Pirates Twitter that there might be a better market in the offseason for the controllable assets.  That may be true in terms of suitors, the Pirates trade chips hold significant value to those playoff contenders.  For simplicity, I’m going to just discuss the top three: Anderson, Frazier, and RichRod.

Let’s start with the easy one, the rental.  If the Pirates did not receive a single call for Anderson, we’re looking at a loss of $4.7M in value that could be added to the system.  That’s simply his current Surplus Value because, well he doesn’t have any value next year due to free agency.
Adam Frazier becomes a rental.  So for Surplus Value, we’ll utilize the same projection of WAR for 2022 from our previous article and we will subtract just his estimated arb from next year. So that would look like this:

That’s a drop in value of nearly $12M.  One could likely argue that his ZiPS estimate should rise based on his performance this season, but I am trying to illustrate things here where only one factor (control) is changed.  
Rodriguez is the last piece and he is most controllable.  I am going to utilize the “updated” estimates for his future projections so we are on the same page.  RichRod’s requires a bit more estimation, but his ‘22 and ‘23 salaries would simply be the $12.4M estimate from our article but with the 2021 $1.70M removed from that amount.  So the offseason estimate for Rodriguez looks as follows:

That’s a drop in value of $8.2M in value that could be added to the Pirates system.  An argument could be made that Rich Rod could simply be dealt next season after showing a bit of a track record, but he will be 32 at that time.  

This is just for illustrative purposes, but holding on to these trade pieces may increase the pool of potential suitors, but also limits the value of the players.  If Pittsburgh were to hold on to all three players, they would forfeit the opportunity to add roughly $24.8M in value to the farm system.  That’s just too much potential future return to leave on the table for Cherington. 

JV – Kenny Rogers said it best when he said, “you gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em.” Are there players that a team can be better served to wait until the Winter Meetings? Sure, typically the long term control players that could be true, and I’m referring to three years of control guys. But, a good GM has to know the opportune time to make the move. And unless Cherington gets low-balled here, I don’t think he lets this trade deadline expire without making a few moves. 

With so many fans now emerging thinking they should extend Frazier, it makes sense to talk about the surplus they lose in not moving him now. I just don’t see him as being part of the future here. He’d be 31 at the start of the extension and likely would be moving to a utility role. This is the part where the team needs to operate as a small market model, stick to the plan, and get the desired return. The Bucs should put all their eggs in the Reynolds and Hayes extensions and keep to the plan in moving an Adam Frazier. 

All in all, it’s been a slower week for trade rumors for the Bucs. The All Star break is a big part of that, as it’s usually pretty hush during the break. I did, however, expect to hear some rumor coming out of the break, but it looks like Cherigton has put the lock on the doors at 115 Federal Street because we just haven’t heard many.                                         

That said, we finally have a rumor surrounding a Pirate that is not Adam Frazier or RichRod. Andy Martino is reporting that the Mets have interest in Tyler Anderson.

(A shout out to @KG_55VFTG for bringing this to my attention)  As of writing this on Saturday the 17th, this was the only rumor out there and that may be a good thing as there’s a lot to unpack. 

First, I’d like to refer to our article on “The Rentals”  from a few weeks back. It’s not the surplus value I want to point out there, it’s the Mike Minor deal from last year. LH starters are one of the better commodities to have at any trade deadline and Mike Minor is a terrific example of that. And since writing that, Anderson has raised his ERA+ from 87 to 95. Lowered his ERA from 4.67 to 4.35 and his WAR went from .8 to 1. He’s been pretty solid. I expect Anderson to get a little more than his surplus suggests and I’d be happy to replicate that Mike Minor deal with two prospects that have a 40+ FV. 

Mr. Martino goes on to add that Mets may have to get rid of a contract and indicates that JD Davis could be that guy. While I’m a Davis fan, he doesn’t make much sense for the Bucs. Control is up in 25 and frankly, the Mets could do well moving him in a separate deal. So I am putting that aside and concentrating on just Tyler Anderson, the HR King!

The package-

Alex Ramirez–CF–ETA: 2025–40+ FV ($4M)

AN international signing, he’s raw. The hit tool needs work with a 20 grade, currently, but an FV of 50. He’s as high ceiling, low floor as it comes. He has some power, can run, and has a solid enough glove. The power he has is really interesting if that hit tool can develop.

Junior Santos–SP–ETA: 2023– 40 FV ($1M)

Junior has three pitch offerings, FB FV 60, Slider FV 50 and a changeup FV 50.  The velo sits in the low 90’s tops out at 95. Standing at 6’8” and just under 20, there’s room for the velo to tick up. 

So far, Joe and I have only built packages the Bucs could get, but this is a spot where I can see the Bucs sending a package to get a package. With interest in Adam Frazier and Tyler Anderson, it’s a natural jump to make. I won’t spend too much time on this other than to say it’s something to watch for. Could the Bucs convince the Mets to give a PTBNL? A certain someone that was drafted in the 2021 class? Dare I say, Kumar Rocker? Well, a Bucco fan can dream, right?

Pirates Drop Game 3 as Mets Get Payback

7-18-21 – By Gary Morgan

Last night the Pirates pulled off an improbable comeback. Today the Mets tried to return the favor.

They never would have been in that situation if they’d spent less time being petulant.

And I guess they could also spend less time brooding about John Nogowski and try to get him out instead.

That’s how things work sometimes.

See when you’re a team like the Pirates, 20 games under .500, even teams that didn’t do anything more than happen to be in a crap division to lead one like the Mets roll into town feeling like you should just roll over for them. Bow to their superior lineup. Swing at their pitches that don’t cross the zone. Most of all, don’t take advantage of their miscues or overt idiocy.

That, however is rarely how baseball works.

The Mets did get back into this one as JT Brubaker continued to slip from the steadiness he displayed early in the season. They tagged him for 4 runs and tacked on another later.

Brubaker is being managed differently. The Pirates are being ultra conservative with his pitch and inning counts. Aware that he’s handled quite a workload, they’re trying to mitigate it by deliberately shortening his outings.

With a 6-5 lead in the 9th the Pirates called on Richard Rodriguez who gave up a two run shot to Michael Conforto to flip the script on the Buccos 7-6.

Gamel walked to start the 9th but the Bucs couldn’t make it happen again.

The Pirates head to the West Coast, starting in Arizona. Chase De Jong vs that TBD guy again, he’s pretty good. 9:40 EST.

News & Notes

  • Gregory Polanco stole second in the game, he is now 9 for 9 on the season and easily leads the team in swipes.
  • Adam Frazier had a hit in the first inning yesterday and went hitless until the 8th of this one. You know you’re having a hell of a season when that raises eyebrows.
  • Kevin Newman’s bases clearing swinging bunt in the first had an exit velocity of 107 and a launch angle of -57. Again, you almost have to try to do something like that.
  • Adam Frazier moved out to Left Field today as part of a Spring Training style wholesale merry go round the diamond to insert Hayes and remove Polanco in the 8th. This wasn’t a “showcase his skills” type thing. Although it probably doesn’t hurt.
  • As good as Richard Rodriguez has been, this would have been his 14th save on the season. He instead blew the save with the two run blast by Conforto.
  • Ben Gamel was on base 4 times tonight.
  • This is the first time in National League history that a team has come back from a 6 run deficit one night and allowed the opponent to do the same the next.
  • The Pirates Catchers (54) have combined for more RBIs than any other team in the NL.

Some Nights Just Have It All

Prior to the start of Saturday’s contest with the Mets members of the Pittsburgh Pirates 1971 World Series Championship Team were honored, life-long Pirate player/announcer Steve Blass threw out the ceremonial first pitch and Jacob Stallings capped off a 6-0 come from behind 9-7 victory with a walk-off grand slam; only the third of its kind in PNC Park history, with Rob Mackowiak and Brian Giles bringing Pirates Fans the other two.

Sure, there may have been other story lines mixed in, but the night belong to your Battlin’ Bucs; who put up 9 runs in their final two at bats, silenced the naysayers-those who believe the team is tanking or doesn’t have the fight in them- for a moment and brought a raucous fanbase that was somewhat overrun by the loyal Mets Army to their feet.

News and Notes

  • Wilmer Difo put a charge in the Pirates offense with his 3-run homer in the bottom of the 8th. Since being to the Pirates on July 2nd, which ultimately followed his June 8th DFA, Difo is slashing .423/.516/.731 with two home runs.

  • The Legend of John Nogowski continues to grow. Not only did he grab national Headlines for his verbal spat with Marcus Stroman on Friday Night, but he also started the rally last night with an RBI double in this game. Since joining the Pirates Nogowski is batting a ridiculous .486 in 9 games.
  • Ke’Bryan Hayes went 2 for 4 on the night, as he tries to break out of his “rookie” campaign funk. The league has continued to push against the Pirates young third baseman, and we can only that he remains on the attack; the hits will come.
  • Clutch is not really a quantifiable stat; although Baseball Reference makes a valiant effort. But, if it were Jacob Stallings would be at the top of the leaderboard. In Late & Close Games Stallings is hitting .343 with two homers, seven total extra base hits and 12 RBIs in 39 plate appearances. And for those of you who have only watched last nights heroics about 100 times like myself, here it is again.

  • Not everything from such a fun night can be positive; as evidenced by Wil Crowe lasting 5+, but giving up 4 earned runs and striking out as many batters as he walked (3); as well as Kevin Newman having an 0 for 4 night, which brought an end to his 5 game hitting streak.

After quick turnaround the Pirates are back at it again from PNC Park, with a game time start of 1:05 PM EST.

JT Brubaker (4-9, 4.47 ERA) is on the bump as Pittsburgh looks to start off the second half of the season with a sweep of Tijuan Walker (7-3, 2.50 ERA) and the Mets.

It should be noted that Walker is starting in place of New York Mets Ace Jacob deGrom, who is not afraid to face the Pirates, but is in fact dealing with forearm tightness; which isn’t nearly as interesting of a tag line.

To Make This Work, the Pirates Must Ensure They Secure a Foot Hold

7-17-21 – By Gary Morgan

I love to cook, its literally something I’ve done all my life and when you enjoy it as a pastime as I do you tend to start believing you’re smart enough to make changes to recipes. A pinch of that, a dash of this because you know, you’ve been doing this for a while and you know better right?

My mom gave me the family recipe for the sauce I grew up eating, I was delighted and got right to work. Followed the recipe, well, mostly followed the recipe. My wife who had become addicted to it as well since our marriage began ate it with me and smiled politely, but later admitted what I already knew, it just wasn’t the same.

See I replaced an ingredient, just one, and it wasn’t even a large quantity, it didn’t make it inedible, but it certainly didn’t scratch that itch. It was good, just not a winner, ya dig?

The Pirates have one ingredient of their own, and if they try to replace him with anything less, man, it might be ok, might even be good, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

Bryan Reynolds has been a very good player in his time as a Pirate, I mean if you look back through his documented career he’s always been a good player. What he’s doing this season, yeah, he’s a bit more than that.

He’s played 88 ballgames this year and last night eclipsed his personal best for home runs at 17. A power surge like that tends to come with a drop off in average, but he’s just keeping that where he’s comfortable, over .300.

Reynolds isn’t going to be a free agent until 2026 and most of you know, I’m pretty patient when it comes to this system rebuilding stuff, but it’s time to open the checkbook and lock this guy up.

I’m all done downplaying him, or acting like he’s just an on base guy, he’s doing things that very few ever achieve, and if the goal here is to build a team that competes for the World Series, I want the 26 year old leading the charge.

Can they be successful if they don’t get this done? Sure. I can make that sauce the way I tried as well, but if I want to ‘win’ replacing integral ingredients isn’t smart.

I’ve seen this rebuild pragmatically, it’s not that I’m excited to see players I value leave, but I’ve understood it. The system needed talent, and waiting for the draft alone to provide it would mean an even longer process. In fact if they didn’t make the moves they did, and probably will make, I’m not even having this conversation.

No matter what the Pirates do on this front Bryan Reynolds and Ke’Bryan Hayes will be part of it’s culmination, but if you want it to last, and give yourself the best shot at reaching the goal I suggest Reynolds be your foot down.

Don’t worry, I know nobody is going to do anything because some blogger wrote about it and I certainly don’t think I’m writing something any of you will find controversial.

That said, calling for something like this, with purpose is an outcome we as a fan base need to stop being afraid to broach. We’ve bought into the rebuild. We’ve understood moving on from some guys that weren’t going to factor in to anything meaningful.

The time has come to start making the case for what we expect in return. So, I’ll start with locking up a superstar who directly said he wants to be here.

I can already hear your comments, why not both? Hayes is important too!!! (you know you love those multiple exclamation points)

I can get behind that, but to start this journey of deciding what the core of this team is, I’m starting with the best of the best. I want my switch hitting, power and average threat, heart of the order hitting, quiet leading, star outfielder first.

I don’t want the waters muddied here, I want Reynolds locked up, first things first.

I won’t put some timeline on this or else they’ve failed. But I will say he gets more expensive every single day. Do it.

Open. The. Checkbook.

Pirates Open Second Half With Win 4-1 Over New York Mets

7-16-21 – By Gary Morgan

Electric feel to tonight’s contest.

Something felt chippy from the beginning in this one. Perhaps carry over from the four game set in New York that preceded the All Star Break to this quick three game home stand with what I’d project as at least 40% Mets fans.

Regardless of why, something was up.

In the bottom of the first, Adam Frazier lined one second and Lindor made a hell of a catch on an all out dive complete with a snow cone.

Now, after this great play Lindor was a bit animated with pointing at Frazier. I guess it could have been over the top, but Frazier seemed to laugh it off. I thought, meh, maybe I’m just feeling more emotion cause it’s been a little while since I’ve watched a competitive ball game.

Chad Kuhl had it going for a bit, having his way through two innings.

In the bottom of the second the Bucs would load the bases with one out the ground crew scrambled.

A quick delay later and we were back in the same spot, Pitcher up, 1 out, bases loaded. Kuhl struck out looking after making Stroman throw some pitches and Adam Frazier came through with a two run single.

Chad Kuhl came back from the quick rain delay and struggled to find his velocity or location. Walked a couple guys and Bryan Reynolds #OpenTheCheckbook made a fantastic diving catch in center field to help Kuhl escape the inning.

In the fourth inning, Chad was still struggling to find it but fighting through, when Kevin Newman committed his first error of the season. The Bucs couldn’t escape this one unscathed but Chad minimized the damage and finished with a scoreless 5th.

Really an encouraging outing for Kuhl. This looked much more like the Chad Kuhl we were hoping to see, something to build on.

After that, the Bucs just stacked on and Pitched.

First Difo.

Then Reynolds #OpenTheCheckbook

OK, so I glazed over something.

In between all this good stuff, Stroman gave up a sharp line drive to John Nogowski. Seemed harmless, good play. But something happened. Stroman got animated about it. John got mad. Stroman got more mad. and then…

Silly really. I certainly wouldn’t call it a brawl, but it was, well as I said, something.

Whatever it was, for some reason I think I understand what that energy I was feeling stemmed from. It was the chemistry on this club right now. It may wind up being nothing more than a flash in the pan, but John Nogowski, Ben Gamel and to a lesser degree Wilmer Difo have all brought a bit of loudness and attitude. This is a group of nice and relatively quiet guys, and personalities or spark plugs if you will like that can help a team like this start to learn some nights they need to strut back at the opponents. Some nights it’s ok to be as animated as your opposition.

Every once in a while that kind of stuff is needed in a clubhouse because it brings it out of the guys who aren’t usually the first to speak up or puff out the chest. They know where they are in the standings and what the organization is at least trying to do. Sometimes when you get in that spot it can be difficult to remember you’ve got talent too, strut.

Beautifully played ballgame tonight. Emotional, but well played.

Fun Stuff really.

Mets 1, Pirates 4, nice win.

Tomorrow the Bucs will go with Will Crowe and as of right now the Mets could go with Jacob deGrom or TBA. I guess we’ll see tomorrow.

News & Notes

  • Tonight ended Kevin Newman’s incredible season long errorless streak, heck of a run. He is to be commended for the fielder he’s become. Say what you will about the bat, but he is about as solid as it gets over there. Couple real nice gems to follow that up too.
  • This game had a charged feel from the jump, maybe it was all the lightning in the area. It almost wasn’t
  • Bryan Reynolds hit his 17th homerun tonight. Ladies and Gentlemen, Bryan Reynolds is more than we thought he could be. This isn’t a return to 2019, this is a man emerging into his full potential. This is a cornerstone. Open. The. Checkbook.