Making Room For the Returning Players

Alvarez is set to return after the All-Star break.

Earlier today I posted a rundown of the injured players on the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 40-man roster, noting the estimated returns.  Several players are expected to return shortly after the All-Star break, such as Pedro Alvarez, Joe Beimel, Ronny Cedeno, and Jose Tabata.  While typing up the article, I was thinking about the tough decisions that the Pirates will face to make room for these four players.  David Todd of Extra Innings beat me to it, with his excellent look at the July roster crunch.  David takes a good approach, and all of his moves make sense.  However, these moves really come down to preference, so allow me to take a stab at it.

Joe Beimel

The best place to start is the bullpen, since there’s only one immediate move to make.  Beimel will return, which will likely force one of Daniel Moskos, Tony Watson, or Chris Leroux off the 25-man roster.  The Pirates could opt for three left handers in the bullpen, which would make Leroux the odd-man out.  If they stick with Leroux, then my guess is Moskos will go down, based on how the playing time and situations seem to favor Watson so far.

Pedro Alvarez and Ronny Cedeno

Alvarez will return and take over third base, which has been held down by a combination of Brandon Wood, Josh Harrison and Chase d’Arnaud.  D’Arnaud has been playing shortstop while Ronny Cedeno has been out, with Pedro Ciriaco serving as the backup.  Once Cedeno and Alvarez return, the Pirates will only need two of these options.  The easy choice is to send Pedro Ciriaco down, although that creates a tough decision between Wood, Harrison, and d’Arnaud.

The argument for Wood is that he hasn’t been bad since the month of June started.  He’s got a .250/.301/.441 line, showing some nice power off the bench with four homers in 68 at-bats.  He is also out of options, so the Pirates would have to waive him.

D’Arnaud isn’t having the best results at the plate, with a .231/.259/.327 line before tonight’s 1-for-3 performance.  He has been a weapon on the base paths with his speed, going 5-for-5 in stolen base attempts, and his defense hasn’t been bad, outside of a wild throw tonight.

Harrison has a .274/.284/.315 line in 73 at-bats.  He’s hitting for a decent average in his limited at-bats, but not drawing any walks (1 in 75 plate appearances) and not hitting for much power.  He can’t play shortstop like d’Arnaud and Wood, and falls behind both defensively at third base.

Offensively speaking, the best combination would be Wood and Harrison, based on Wood’s recent success, and Harrison edging out d’Arnaud (although none of the options stand out right now, with Harrison and d’Arnaud having limited at-bats).  Defensively, the best combination is d’Arnaud backing up second base and shortstop, with Wood backing up third base.  Looking long term, the best combination is d’Arnaud and Harrison.  It looks like it will be d’Arnaud and Wood, based on how the playing time has gone with Alvarez and Cedeno out.

Jose Tabata

The big question here is, what happens with Alex Presley.  This could be one of the most interesting situations, as Presley had a .324/.381/.541 line heading in to tonight’s game, while going 1-for-3 with a walk tonight.  You could leave Presley in as a starter, but what happens with the Matt Diaz/Garrett Jones platoon?

Diaz has actually been good lately.  In fact, since the beginning of May, he is hitting for a .314/.339/.390 line in 105 at-bats.  That’s a nice bat to have off the bench, although not someone I want starting.  Jones has also been good, with a .255/.339/.444 line on the season.  He’s been great in June and July, with a .309/.352/.519 line in 81 at-bats.  Jones is mostly beating up on right handers, with a .278/.370/.483 line in 180 at-bats.  Like Diaz, he’s not a strong starting option, but is a good bench option.

The Pirates also have Xavier Paul in the outfield.  Paul has a .267/.294/.358 line this year, but has strong defensive and base running skills.  He’s basically a fifth outfielder, and would be the most expendable player on the roster.

The Pirates could move Jones to first base, although Lyle Overbay is on a bit of a hot streak, with a .302/.348/.419 line in 43 at-bats in the last two weeks.  That would allow for Diaz and Paul to serve as backups in the outfield.

The playing time preference should go to Alex Presley.  From there, the Pirates need to make room by removing one of the Jones/Diaz/Paul/Overbay group.  The easy option would be to designate Paul for assignment.  However, you run in to the problem where you have both Jones and Diaz on the bench, which is mostly an issue for Jones, as he’s had the best bat out of himself, Diaz, and Overbay.  The tough decision here might be cutting one of Diaz or Overbay.  The best decision for the team would be to keep Diaz, Jones, and Overbay, letting Paul go.  Paul is talented, but he’s easily replaceable.  Finding a defense/speed guy isn’t hard to do.  The Pirates were able to do that with Paul off of the waiver wires.  The only issue here would be finding playing time for Jones, as he’s performing the best out of the three remaining options.

Later Moves

The Pirates have some tough initial decisions in the short term, although they’re mostly making decisions on the last guys on the bench, and the last guys in the bullpen.  In the long term, those decisions only get more difficult.  Ross Ohlendorf should return in August, which raises some big questions about what happens with the rotation.  Chris Snyder and Ryan Doumit could be back by late August, which would put Eric Fryer and Michael McKenry in the minors.  Evan Meek returning around August will present another decision for the makeup of the bullpen.

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

    Im going to say Presley gets sent back down for the time being, when Jose Tabata returns.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OGCKUSO5MA5VUCJHW2YSJ2K3TM Bob

      I hope not, he is doing well, you have to reward guys that perform, not send them down a level.  

    • Anonymous

      Diaz may have the BA but his hits are meaningless. On the team he is 7th in number of AT BATs. But he is 10th in RBIs, 11th in walks, 11th in runs, has NO homeruns, AND he is 4th in grounding into double plays! PLUS he has no arm, is an average fielder and has average speed at best. Watch him at bat. NO energy. Leans back before every pitch and swings with his arms. Results: pop ups and ground balls. His only triple was a pop fly that bounced over the Toronto fielder on the hard turf. He is a waste, no threat whatsoever at the plate. He cannot compare to Paul or Jones for what they bring to the table, at bat and in the field.

    • Anonymous

      Diaz may have the BA but his hits are meaningless. On the team he is 7th in number of AT BATs. But he is 10th in RBIs, 11th in walks, 11th in runs, has NO homeruns, AND he is 4th in grounding into double plays! PLUS he has no arm, is an average fielder and has average speed at best. Watch him at bat. NO energy. Leans back before every pitch and swings with his arms. Results: pop ups and ground balls. His only triple was a pop fly that bounced over the Toronto fielder on the hard turf. He is a waste, no threat whatsoever at the plate. He cannot compare to Paul or Jones for what they bring to the table, at bat and in the field.

  • Anonymous

    Last night as the game entered the late innings, the Pirates had five guys in reserve who had a total of 1 home run. I believe the Bucs need to do more than just drop a few guys to Indy. A trade has to be made to acquire some bench strength. Our pinch hitters have been terrible this year. As for Diaz’s batting average, he tries to hit every thing to right field. Now I’m a proponent for using the whole field, but he’s going to be the only right handed hitter that a team shifts three fielders on the right side of the defense against. He has 13 and 7 HR’s the last two years, and now the only way he sees hits near the warning tracts is when he is chasing balls he missed that sail over his head when he is playing RF. 

    • Anonymous

      I agree. See my note above. Diaz should be traded or cut to make room for a person who can hit. He cannot field, run or throw. He is a liability. Glad to see someone who sees what I see.

      • Anonymous

        Neither can Overbay and we are also short on RH hitting.

        • Anonymous

          OK but Overbay has some production. He is third in AT BATS. He is 4th in HRs, 3rd in hits, 3rd in RBIs, 4th in walks, tied for 2nd in doubles, and he has hit left handers. He has contributed. Diaz has NOT.  It would be great to trade Overbay and Diaz for one really good player but that is not going to happen. Plus, I fear that the management has too much invested in the two of them to do anything that needs to be done.

        • Anonymous

          OK but Overbay has some production. He is third in AT BATS. He is 4th in HRs, 3rd in hits, 3rd in RBIs, 4th in walks, tied for 2nd in doubles, and he has hit left handers. He has contributed. Diaz has NOT.  It would be great to trade Overbay and Diaz for one really good player but that is not going to happen. Plus, I fear that the management has too much invested in the two of them to do anything that needs to be done.

  • Lee Young

    release overpaid and move G Jones to 1b.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_AGRPLJJRC5GNBYXDY6LHF2U6DU white angus

      then prepare for even more poor play from 1B if you choose this route.  it would make more sense if Pearce were ready to platoon w/Jones at 1B.  handing that position over to Jones full time didnt work last season, and it wont work in 2011 either.

      • Anonymous

        Thats why we need to bring up Matt Hague!!!!!!!

        • Lee Young

          I’d love to have Hague with the club.

          Angus….I agree that Overbay’s defense is better than G Jones, but Lyle’s defensive ratinsg are in the minus numbers so far. He has been as big a disappointment there as has his hitting.

  • Anonymous

    matt diaz ,no power and no range = see ya. Also I think the pirates winning %,and runs per game are up without pedro in the line-up and team k’s are down without pedro in the line-up ,maybe he should earn his way back to the big leagues.

  • tom from st pete florida

    not a big fan of El Burro either? I agree , they are going to bring him back up to the big club next week. Maybe he will break a nail this weekend, and be out another 2 months.
    I told anyone who would listen, Jeter and Pujols would return before him, and they were hurt way after him.
    He is a bum, and hopefully is included in a blockbuster trade in the offseason. He is not going to amount to anything besides another Matt Stairs in a few years. Watch and learn. El Burro is a bust!!!!!!!!!!!!.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6KEYHS3XWH74U3LRIHGWL7XPBA Nate

    I would dangle Presley as trade bait, part of a larger package for a major league upgrade to 1B or RF.  Remember, he’s Littlefield material, although it’s been three years so I’m not sure if that plays a factor anymore.  He’s at the peak of his value, performing well in the majors and has all things a last place/second to last place rebuilding team would need. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=47507100 Dehn Unterzuber

    Diaz is a good veteran presence but not strong enough off the bench to or in the platoon role to keep. Give him the boot.

    While I like Paul a lot, there is nothing about him that stands out. Send him packing.

    Keep Wood and d’Arnaud and send Harrison down. I say this because I think Harrison has a better upside than d’Arnaud and could cement some fundamentals both offensively and defensively in the minors. d’Arnaud will makes a fine SS and I think his hitting will get better but long term I’m not sold.

    Keep Presley or use him to pick up a 1B/3B/SS. He is talented and has a good upside, though it is too early to tell if he is as talented as Tabata. Signs point to yes, maybe more so. But he is older than Tabata so this could be a plateau. Only trade him (in a package of course) for something really good.

    My favorite idea though, despite many naysayers perhaps, is a package of Alvarez/Presley and maybe a low prospect or something for either 1B/3B/SS that is younger and will be signed for at least 2-3 years. I just don’t see Pedro turning it around with our organization. Maybe somewhere else he will be a star, another Jose Bautista. But I doubt he will here. 

  • http://twitter.com/foxsharky Luke

    Presley has been the teams best hitter ever since he came up hands down. I know its only been two weeks but anyone who thinks he shouldn’t be in the lineup everyday needs to lay off the crack pipe.