The 2011 Roster Crunch

When I started working on this yesterday, I was going to do a simple look at the projected 40-man roster and payroll for the 2011 season following the 2010 trade deadline. However, I found that, unlike last year, this was far from a simple task.  I found this out right away when I tried to do a simple projection of the 25-man roster, based off of the current roster we have now in Pittsburgh.

There are 16 players on the current roster who I feel are locks for a 25-man spot going in to the 2011 season, either due to salary, performance, or in some cases, potential combined with a lack of options at the position.  There are a few players from this list that I’d like to see the Pirates cut ties with, but I’ll save that for later.  Overall, this sounds simple enough, right?  16 players are a lock for the roster, leaving 9 spots open.  The problem is that 13 other players will be out of options heading in to the 2011 season, which means the Pirates will have some decisions to make.  Here are the positional breakdowns:


The acquisition of Chris Snyder pretty much locks up the catcher position going in to next year.  Do I think the Pirates could do better than Snyder?  Yes.  Do I think they need to focus on other areas rather than upgrading over their new league-average starting catcher?  Absolutely.  That’s pretty much going to be the case with every position for this part of the article, so when I say “lock”, realize that it’s only looking at the current system, and not factoring in potential outside help.

Ryan Doumit, Erik Kratz, and Jason Jaramillo are the other catchers on the 40-man roster.  The Pirates seem set on making Doumit a utility player, playing in right field and first base.  That’s why I think they will carry one of Kratz or Jaramillo on the 25-man roster as the backup catcher, just like they are doing this year.

Roster Spots: Snyder (starter), Doumit, Kratz


Garrett Jones hasn’t been nearly as good as his 2009 numbers, but at the same time he hasn’t been bad.  He’s been about a league average first baseman this year, with some trouble hitting left handers.  For now, Jones is the only established option at first base, and he will be making league minimum pay for one more season, making him a good choice for the Pirates.  The Pirates have a bit of a jam here though.  They also have Jeff Clement and Steve Pearce who are out of options.

Clement, in my opinion, shouldn’t be retained.  While he’s only had 349 at-bats, he’s done nothing in those at-bats to show that he belongs in the majors.  He also wouldn’t work in a platoon situation, since Jones and Clement are both left handed.  Pearce also hasn’t done much, and is coming off an injury, which puts his 2011 season in question.  I like Pearce a bit more because he’s right handed, and he showed a brief flash of production this year before his injury.

There’s no use keeping all three, but I’m not really making cuts here.  I’m just showing who needs to be on the roster, and since Pearce and Clement are out of options, they both need to be on the roster (even though the Pirates only really need one of them, maybe even neither).

Roster Spots: Jones (starter), Pearce, Clement


The middle infield is starting to shape up, although the Pirates could improve at shortstop over the defensive-only Ronny Cedeno.  However, the only options available on the 40-man roster are also defensive options: Argenis Diaz and Pedro Ciriaco.  Ciriaco has an option remaining, but Diaz is out of options, meaning Diaz will have to start the season in the majors as the backup.  I prefer this option to the route the Pirates have taken the last few years, signing a veteran player and spending $1-2 M for a roster spot that could be filled by a guy like Diaz with no major hit to the season record.

Neil Walker has been a big surprise in 2010 in his move to second base, although I’m not completely sold, as he’s only had 210 at-bats in the majors this year.  For now, he’s the only option, and is looking like he could be above-average offensively at second.

Roster Spots: Walker, Cedeno (starters), Diaz


This position is simple.  Pedro Alvarez is the starter, with no analysis needed.  There is Andy LaRoche, who is out of options and arbitration eligible for the first time.  LaRoche has apparently been working at second base this year, and I wouldn’t mind keeping him around as a utility player off the bench.  That’s mostly because I can envision a scenario where the Pirates cut ties with LaRoche, only to watch him become another Jose Bautista in a year or two.

Roster Spots: Alvarez (starter), LaRoche


This is where we run in to problems.  Andrew McCutchen and Jose Tabata have the center field and left field jobs locked down, respectively.  However, you’ve got a huge log-jam in right field, something Pat at WHYGAVS took a look at earlier today.  Lastings Milledge would be my starter of choice, but as I mentioned last week, Milledge is bad against right handers, and might be more of a platoon option.

The Pirates have Delwyn Young and John Bowker both out of options after the season, with Delwyn eligible for arbitration.  Steve Pearce could also enter in to the mix at this position, which could further justify giving him a roster spot, assuming he is healthy.  The only other outfielder on the 40-man roster is Gorkys Hernandez, although Hernandez won’t be in any consideration for the active roster.

Roster Spots: McCutchen, Tabata, Milledge (starters), Bowker, Young


The biggest problem during the 2010 season has been the rotation.  Most of that rotation will probably return next year, and this is one of the areas I feel needs to be upgraded.  For now, I’ll just list Paul Maholm, Zach Duke, Ross Ohlendorf, and Brad Lincoln as locks (and Lincoln is who I was referring to earlier when talking about locks due to potential and a lack of other options).

James McDonald, Charlie Morton, and Kevin Hart are all out of options, although Hart will likely start the 2011 season on the 60-day disabled list.  Still, that leaves six starters for five spots, which likely means that one of these options will go to the bullpen.

Other starting options include Jeff Karstens, Daniel McCutchen, and Joe Martinez, although I view all of these guys as relief candidates going forward.  The prospects on the 40-man include Donald Veal, who will start the season injured, and Bryan Morris, who won’t arrive until June 2011 at the earliest.

Roster Spots: Maholm, Duke, Ohlendorf, Lincoln (starters), McDonald, Morton, Hart (60-day DL)


I looked at this situation yesterday in my preview of the 2011 bullpen.  The only locks are Joel Hanrahan and Evan Meek.  There are four guys who are out of options: Sean Gallagher, Jose Ascanio, Wilfredo Ledezma, and Brian Burres.  That only leaves one bullpen spot open for the remaining options, which include all of the starting pitching options who won’t make the rotation, plus Steven Jackson, Justin Thomas, Chris Jakubauskas, and Ramon Aguero, who I don’t think will arrive until mid-season.

Roster Spots: Hanrahan, Meek, Gallagher, Ascanio, Ledezma, Burres.

Overall, we get the following payroll from this 40-man roster, with the above players getting roster spots on the 25-man roster:

Notice a problem in all of this?  As I mentioned before, you’ve got 29 spots taken up for the 25-man roster.  You need to clear up three spots just to get down to 25-men (Kevin Hart to the 60-day DL clears a fourth spot), and even then, you’re not leaving room for upgrades in the off-season.

Complicating matters further, you’ve got the Rule 5 roster crunch this off-season.  The following players will be eligible for the 2011 Rule 5 draft, with several of them being candidates for protection:

Michael Crotta
Michael Dubee
Alex Presley
Jim Negrych
Nathan Adcock
Brian Friday
Jeff Locke
Starling Marte
Diego Moreno
Danny Moskos
Eliecer Navarro
Rudy Owens

There’s some players on that list who you could easily risk losing, and I’m sure most of them wouldn’t get selected (or wouldn’t get protected).  At the same time, there’s plenty of players on that list who are guaranteed to receive a roster spot, which means you need to clear a lot of spots off the 40-man roster (and that’s before adding any free agents or making and trades).

The Pirates will have a lot of moves to make this off-season, not only to get their active roster down to 25-men, but also to clear space on their 40-man roster for the Rule 5 additions, as well as any potential upgrades they want to make.  Tomorrow I’ll take a look at what I would do to handle this roster crunch, including leaving spots open for potential upgrades to the 25-man roster.

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Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • pirateswillwinin2011

    Tim i like everything with you do on this site and agree with your opinion almost all the time . But i dont agree with you on Jeff Clement and Steve Pearce situation to me Clement has a lot more value than Pearce and probably possesses the most power on the team beside Pedro…I think with the lack of Power this team has you need a Jeff Clement type…He has done very well in Triple A the past 2 years and i still believe he can be an everyday player in the bigs with his stick and has more talent and potential than a Steve Pearce…he prob will start the season on the 60 Day DL anyways because of knee surgery

  • FlapJacks

    This is why I wasn't a big fan of the Javier Lopez trade. We just added more bodies that we have to find room for with little time to evaluate them or the existing marginal guys.

    Of course I bet this will be part of the excuse not to chase FAs since you never know if the marginal guy you let go will be the next Garrett Jones or Jose Batista. It won't be hard to let some guys go since they have consistently underperformed.

  • Pittsburgh Pirates


    This is great information. Excellent analysis of rosters, options, payroll.

    Even with several players out of options, I'm not sure the Pirates will have any roster problems.

    Bowker, Diaz, Ciriaco, Martinez, all the relievers except Meek and Hanrahan, are fringe prospects and shouldn't block any of those needing protecting (Locke, Owens, Marte, Presley, Moskos) or any free agents they bring on board.

    Morton will stick because of his stuff, I think you'll see Clement put on his catching gear and become a utility guy because the Bucs don't want to admit they made a mistake. I'd like to see Steve Pearce get extended at-bats.

    They'd like Milledge to win right field job, but he's not the answer. I'd put Jones back there. I think they'll try to dump Doumit's salary, but maybe platoon him and Pearce at first.

    Also, if Alvarez can't stick at third, that opens another ball of wax.

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