Pittsburgh Pirates Roundtable #26

This is the 26th edition of Pittsburgh Pirates Roundtable, a bi-weekly collaboration of Pirates writers and thinkers from around the Internet. If you’d like to submit a question to our panel, or if you’re interested in learning more about participating, e-mail the moderator here.
Question #1:
Based on what you’ve seen this spring (and considering their careers to date), take a guess at the timetables set for Brian Bixler, Neil Walker and Andrew McCutchen. When will they arrive as full-timers in Pittsburgh, if ever? No cop-outs: I want dates.

Steve from The Parrot:

Bixler: Never becomes a full-timer. He’ll be a reserve infielder for two or three years, starting in 2008. Jack Wilson will unfortunately be the starting shortstop until 2011. Bixler is the new Mike Edwards.
Walker: He’ll never see the majors in a Pirate uniform. He’ll struggle in the minors as he learns his new position and be traded for pitching or non-tendered in two or three years. The Bucs made a bad decision to change him from catcher to third baseman at his age.
McCutchen: He’ll have his cup of java this September, and start full time in 2008. Chris Duffy will be part of a package for an over-the-hill starter this December at the Winter Meetings. McCutchen becomes a superstar and escapes Pittsburgh’s clutches in 2014.
Matthew from Minor Details:
Brian Bixler: I think Bixler may end up seeing some time at the end of the 2008 season, but I really don’t see him as being much more than a bench player by the time his career pans out. The depth the Pirates have in the middle of their infield (or lack thereof) will determine how much playing time he really gets.
Neil Walker: I can see Walker up most likely end of 2008 or into the start of 2009, but this all depends on what position he plays. If they are in need of a catcher, then I can see him up sooner rather than later if they switch him back. However, if they are going to keep up with the third base experiment, then anything short of September call-ups will put him into 2009. His bat just isn’t big enough to really do any good at third base. So, if he plays out his career at third he will only be below average. If he catches, then he can possibly be an everyday player.
Andrew McCutchen: This guy will be the Pirates’ everyday center fielder by opening day 2008 (no matter what Duffy does this year). You will of course see him by the conclusion of this season, but realistically it won’t be until next season, as there really isn’t any rush. I am really big on this kid and can see him as a star in the league for years to come with his stellar glove and lashing bat. Hopefully he will be able to stick around in a Bucs uniform for quite a long time.
Mark from Pirates Journal:
Brian Bixler: Unfortunately Jack Wilson is signed through 2009, and he’ll probably stop Bixler from becoming a full-fledged starter. While he’s probably just as fit to play second, there’s just as much traffic (Freddy Sanchez, Jose Castillo) there. I see him being on the 25-man roster coming out of spring 2008 but as a utility infielder. He might see some spot time on the big-league club as early as this year though.
Neil Walker: Walker will probably become the starting third baseman at the beginning of 2008. He’ll need some work at third and that will be the excuse for keeping him down, despite a lackluster performance by Jose Bautista and company.
Andrew McCutchen: Chris Duffy will keep McCutchen in Triple A, and he’ll probably do just enough to keep the PIrates brass from starting McCutchen’s service-time clock. Like Walker, I see McCutchen becoming a full-fledged starter in center coming out of the 2008 spring season.
Dave from Bucs Trade Winds:
Of the three, McCutchen gets to Pittsburgh first and receives the biggest cup of coffee. He will be brought up before the trade deadline this season, a June to July time frame, to take over the center field job. Duffy will be traded as he performs well enough to earn some return for his services. This will be part of an attempt by management to make a run at .500 with the constant reminder of how young the team is and how it is getting younger. Unfortunately for McCutchen, he will amass enough service time in 2007 to lose his rookie status.
Bixler and Walker will be late-season call-ups for their cups of coffee. I really like Bixler and can see him as a bench player in 2008, possibly taking over at shortstop in 2009 to complete a refresh of the right side of the infield as Walker steps in at third base as a rookie in 2009.
Another key event in 2009 will be McCutchen’s being elected to his first All-Star game. Yes, I said elected.
Matt from Wait ‘Til Next Year:
Bixler and Walker should have opportunities to take over the left side of the infield in the spring of 2008. The jobs should not be handed to them, but they will have a legitimate shot at overtaking this year’s starters. Bautista/Castillo and Wilson will need to have career-type seasons in 2007 to secure a spot in the 2008 lineup.
McCutchen will be here sooner. He will likely move to AAA a few months into the season, and we will see him in Pittsburgh in September 2007. Assuming he continues to develop, McCutchen will be the favorite to start in center field in 2008. Unless something unexpected happens, Duffy’s future as a Pirate will be only as trade bait or as a fourth outfielder.
Question #2:
Looking back on the off-season, is there a move (or moves) that Dave Littlefield made (or didn’t make) that you think he’ll regret? Did he perform capably from October until April?

Steve from The Parrot:

Considering that Littlefield did next to nothing during the off-season, I think he should have been much more aggressive in finding an experienced, good starting pitcher and an experienced third baseman. Tony Armas, Jr. is not the answer, just a stopgap. Littlefield could have easily outbid Tampa Bay for third baseman Akinori Iwamura or traded relief pitching for Cleveland’s third baseman, Kevin Kouzmanoff, who went to the Padres. As for performing capably, I’ve yet to see it from Littlefield in any time frame.
Matthew from Minor Details:
I don’t know if there were really any moves out there that he didn’t make. He did make the one move that he needed to with landing LaRoche, however the subtraction of Mike Gonzalez could end up hurting them. Gonzalez is a solid closer but to land a bat like LaRoche, a young pitcher had to be sacrificed and he was not about to part with one of his young starters.
Hopefully they can stay in the race for the first part of the year and be buyers as the trade deadline nears instead of sellers. Help up the middle or at third would be big for this team and could go a long way in making them stronger for the future. Littlefield did show he’s not going to just make a move for the sake of it, but if this team is in contention this year or next, he will most likely have to part with a young pitcher sometime down the road.
Mark from Pirates Journal:
One thing I did like about the moves (or lack of moves) Dave Littlefield made was that he didn’t chase for another starting pitcher. Guys like Jeff Suppan and Jason Marquis got paid a ton and I really think Tony Armas will do just as well, if not better, for a lot less money. I also thought it was prudent not to give Freddy Sanchez a long-term deal. He’s already showing his nack for getting injured, and you’re never sure whether 2006 was a one-year thing or not.
Dave from Bucs Trade Winds:
For the first time since his taking the reigns of the Pirates, I have to say Dave Littlefield performed more than capably in the Hot Stove season. There isn’t a move that I have not liked this off-season.
LaRoche is huge for both the defense and the offense (like I am shining new light there).
The key signing, one that I liked when he made it and am loving since he is looking healthy, is Tony “Don’t Call Me Jr.” Armas. Armas could easily be the steal of the free-agent market.
The one move that could haunt is if Kolb makes the team. He has the potential to be the dynamite that rocks the bullpen but he could also be the glue that keeps it together. I am not sure which Kolb we have right now, as at times he has looked bad this spring.
Matt from Wait ‘Til Next Year:
Littlefield’s off-season was out of the ordinary. There is not a move that he can be ridiculed for on blogs and in the papers. DL avoided signing the Klesko’s and the Nixon’s, and the one trade he made was one of his best as a GM.
He also waited patiently before signing a starting pitcher. Tony Armas was a good signing, and will be an above average fifth starter in 2007. Sure, he could have acquired some offense for corner outfield and third base, two additional areas in which the Pirates need help. Yeah, he could have added some young offensive depth in the minor leagues. But after some of the things DL has done recently, I am definitely satisfied with this past off-season.

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Randy Linville

Randy is currently living and thriving in suburban Dayton, OH with his wife and two kids. He was raised in Cincinnati, OH and attended Anderson High School. He went to Miami University (Ohio) and received a degree in Paper Science Engineering from MU. He is a devout Christian and a pop culture buff. He coaches his son’s baseball and basketball teams and his daughters softball and basketball teams. Randy has been a Pirates fan since the late 1970s and has fond memories of the 1979 World Series team. He began blogging for Most Valuable Network in 5/2004 after stumbling across a help-wanted sign for a Pirates blogger. He wrote for Pittsburgh Lumber Co. until the site merged with Pirates Prospects in 2/2011.

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