Q&A: The Off-Season Roster Decisions

In the last few weeks I’ve talked about the positional recaps for the Pittsburgh Pirates from the 2010 season, leading to my evaluation of the off-season needs heading in to the 2011 season.  That also brought on the 2011 40-man roster and payroll, which at this stage includes some predictions on how the Pirates will handle some of the off-season moves.  The 2010 recaps, the off-season needs, and the 40-man roster decisions have brought up a few questions.  I figured the best way to address those would be through a Q&A.

First, we have Stefan, with this portion of his response to the off-season needs article:

Second get rid of Andy LaRoche by DFA’ing him like Moss last year and let him rebound in AAA and at least prove himself deserving of another shot….i doubt anyone will claim him. Which means i think Moss should get another shot at the major after having a bounce back season so he doesnt become a Jose Batista.

I think the difference between Moss and LaRoche really comes down to the position.  A corner outfielder like Moss is really a dime a dozen, at least with the performance Moss has put up so far.  The Pirates currently have Lastings Milledge, Delwyn Young, John Bowker, Steve Pearce, and Alex Presley capable of playing the outfield, not to mention Moss.  Moss did show strides in the second half with Indianapolis, but he went 4-for-26 in his September call-up.  That’s a small sample size, but considering his history in the majors, and his history of success at AAA, I think that small sample ends up being his other shot at the majors.

I think Moss cleared waivers and was able to go to AAA simply because it’s easy to find backup outfielders.  It’s harder to find third basemen like LaRoche, even if LaRoche is coming off of a horrible year.  The Pirates only have one player on the 40-man roster to back up third base, and that’s LaRoche.  We’ve seen how they’ve done in the past with infielders, signing guys like Ramon Vazquez, Chris Gomez, and Bobby Crosby.  I would rather have LaRoche around than adding a one year veteran for the same price, simply because if LaRoche has a surprising breakout season, he’s under control for two more years.  If another Vazquez is signed, and has a huge year, he’s gone the next season.  LaRoche is more likely to be lost if he goes on waivers than a guy like Moss would be, and in reality we’re talking about giving him a bench role where any negative impact would be extremely minimal if he repeats his 2010 season.

Next question is from pirateswillwinin2011, on the 40-man roster/payroll article:

Do you really think that Clement and Pearce will both be non-tendered? i see one being tendered and the other being apart of a off-season trade. And i can’t see them non-tendering Argenis Diaz either, other than that i would agree with you on Duke and DY and the rest getting non tendered.

I could see one of Clement or Pearce being retained, although I don’t see one of them retained along with John Bowker, and that was the key to my prediction.  Clement and Pearce are both coming off injuries, neither have had success in the majors, and both players are turning 28 years old next season.  They are also both out of options, along with Bowker.  I could see one of them being kept around, along with Bowker, which assumes that Alex Presley would either be non-tendered, or optioned to the minors.

As for Diaz, I don’t see the Pirates keeping him and Pedro Ciriaco.  I think one of those two will serve as the backup shortstop in the majors.  As for the other one, there won’t be any room for him in AAA, with Chase d’Arnaud and Jordy Mercer expected to make the jump from AA.  Brian Friday should also still be around, and Josh Harrison will be there to play at second or third, leaving a pretty crowded infield.  Diaz or Ciriaco would be the fifth infielder at the level, not counting whoever plays first base.

Overall the non-tender predictions are meant to stretch the gap from now, when the roster has more than 40 guys on it, to a few weeks from now, when all of those decisions will be made.  The thing I focused on the most was trying to get the payroll estimate as accurate as possible.

Next question is from hemmist on Twitter:

@pirateprospects RF – bowker or does lambo have a shot?

Lambo could eventually have a shot, but not next season, at least not right away.  Lambo had a down year this year in AA, although he improved after the Octavio Dotel trade brought him to the Pirates.  Lambo started off strong in Altoona, then hurt his shoulder, impacting his numbers.  He regained his hot hitting around the time of the playoffs, even showing some power production.  That has carried over to the Arizona Fall League, where he has been one of the top hitters, currently with a .314/.375/.510 line in 51 at-bats.

Lambo could open the 2011 season in AAA, although it’s more likely that he returns to AA, at least to start the season.  At this point the first step for him needs to be getting his career back on track.  He seems to be doing that with his performance in the AA playoffs, and in the AFL so far.  I could see him making the majors by the 2012 season, and possibly by mid-season next year, although that would take an aggressive approach, and a really strong performance by Lambo.  As far as playing right field, his range is a little weak, but that wouldn’t be a big issue at PNC Park.  He does have a strong arm, so right field would be the best position for him if he did eventually make the Pirates.

I’m not a big fan of Bowker, and don’t see him as more than a bench player or a platoon guy.  That’s because of his struggles against left handed pitching, with a career .309 OPS against lefties, compared to a .722 OPS against right handers.

Final question comes from mfortuna45 on Twitter:

@pirateprospects Given what Resop did as a SP in AAA after Japan, the strength of Bucs RPs, and Colby Lewis’ success, should Resop start?

Could Resop be an option for the 2011 rotation?

I already gave the short version of this answer here, but felt like expanding on this topic, mostly because I could see it being brought up by others for three reasons:

1. The Pirates had horrible starting pitching last year, and need to look for at least one external starter this off-season.

2. Resop had a great stat line out of the bullpen with the Pirates.

3. Resop worked as a starter in AAA with the Braves in 2010, with a 2.09 ERA in 82 innings, along with a 10.0 K/9, a 3.5 BB/9 and a 0.4 HR/9.

I think the Pirates need two starters heading in to the 2011 season, with Paul Maholm holding down one spot with his contract, and James McDonald and Ross Ohlendorf each taking a spot due to their performances.  Resop is certainly an interesting option, with his success as a starter in AAA this year, his success out of the bullpen in the majors, and the lack of strong internal options that will be ready at the start of the 2011 season.

There are a few problems I see with this.  The biggest problem is a control issue.  Resop has a career 5.4 BB/9 ratio in the majors, including a 4.7 with the Pirates in 2010.  His strikeouts help reduce the impact of his control issues as a reliever, but will those strikeouts be there as a starter?  Also, will Resop’s velocity be in the 94-95 MPH range as a starter, or will it drop down a bit?  I can’t really point to the AAA numbers as evidence of anything, since Resop had 61 innings of Major League experience coming in to the 2010 season, not to mention parts of three seasons at the AAA level.  How much of a factor did that experience play in his numbers this season?

I’m not saying Resop as a starter is a horrible idea, and I’m not saying it wouldn’t work.  Some of my favorite pitchers are starters-turned relievers-turned back to starters after they had success in relief.  Colby Lewis is one example from this year, but he’s not the only one.  Adam Wainwright put up a 3.12 ERA in 75 innings in relief in 2006, then was moved to the rotation full time in 2007.  Justin Duchscherer combined for a 2.94 ERA in 254 innings as a reliever between 2004 and 2007 with Oakland before putting up a 2.54 ERA in 22 starts with the A’s in 2008 (and eventually going down with injuries that would limit him to just five starts since the 2008 season).

This is something that is talked about anytime you have the combination of a power reliever with success in the majors and the arsenal to be a starter, on a team with starting pitching issues.  Royals fans have asked this same question about Joakim Soria.  Pirates fans were asking this question about Evan Meek earlier in the season.  There’s no guarantee that a guy like Resop would end up like Lewis, Wainwright, or Duchscherer, but it wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world.  Honestly, if the alternative is giving another shot to Charlie Morton after his disastrous 2010 season, then how much of a risk would the Pirates be taking by giving Resop a chance to start?

I’m always skeptical about a reliever turned back to a starter, mostly because that’s not the natural career progression.  It would be worth a shot with Resop, although I will point out that Lewis, Wainwright, and Duchscherer all had good control, which could be a downside for Resop’s chances.  I don’t see the Pirates adding two external options for the rotation this off-season, and there’s no guarantee that they add just one.  The 2011 rotation options to start the season are limited, which means all available possibilities should be considered.  I wouldn’t bank any hopes on it happening, but Resop should definitely be one of the options that is considered, even if he’s only given a shot with a guaranteed bullpen spot to fall back on.

Tim Williams

Author: 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 AccuScore.com, 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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  • Anonymous

    #1 – LaRoche is a complete bust regardless of whether he has 2 years of control or 52 years of control.
    #2- Neither Clement or Pierce are major league ball players and they never will be.
    #3-Lambo is nothing more than another suspect whose only purpose is for this FO to put off accountability for their own miserable work until some distant undefined date in the future.
    #4-Resop should stay as a reliever and these selfish greedy cheapskates should go out and get a FA pitcher instead of worrying about next year’s interest payment.