In estimating the 2013 payroll, I had to make some guesses on which players would return. Some of the guesses I didn’t like making. There are some players who I feel could be candidates to be removed from the 40-man roster, but I left them on the 40-man. I explained that this was done because it really doesn’t impact the payroll. But which guys were candidates?
First, I’d have to say that the future doesn’t look good for the guys who were left in Triple-A at the end of the year. The Pirates called up almost anyone who could help them down the stretch. They didn’t call up Yamaico Navarro, Matt Hague, or Daniel McCutchen. The only other player who didn’t come up on the 40-man roster was Duke Welker, although he was coming off an injury. It’s only speculation based on their assignments at the end of the year, but it doesn’t look good that these three guys weren’t called on when the team needed help and could call up anyone on the 40-man roster.
Next I’d look at guys who didn’t see much playing time. Chase d’Arnaud and Eric Fryer would top the list of the guys who were called up to the majors. I don’t see the Pirates keeping Fryer on the 40-man. As for d’Arnaud, he seems to have fallen behind Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer, and Brock Holt for the middle infield battle, and it looks like there’s only room for two of those guys on the 25-man roster next year. Fryer would become a free agent if he was designated for assignment, but the Pirates could keep d’Arnaud if he cleared waivers. The same is true for Hague and Navarro, although Daniel McCutchen could elect free agency.
This did leave a few questions about the positions that could be addressed during the off-season. The catching position would be a big one. The Pirates have said that Barajas won’t be a starter next year, so I doubt they bring him back for his $3.5 M option figure. Michael McKenry could be a starter, but he probably needs to split time with someone. Would that someone be a guy like Tony Sanchez? Or maybe a trade or a free agent? Will the Pirates look for a backup to McKenry, or look for an upgrade that would make McKenry a strong backup? That will be one of the bigger storylines in the off-season.
At the other positions, the Pirates are set with options, but they’re not really set. They’ve got Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez at first base. Jones did well this year, but those numbers don’t match the previous years in the majors. There could be some regression. Sanchez is hoping to bounce back to his 2010/2011 numbers, rather than his poor year in 2012.
In the outfield the Pirates have Starling Marte, Travis Snider, Jose Tabata, and Alex Presley, but no one has stepped up as a long-term option.
At shortstop the Pirates have a strong defensive wizard in Clint Barmes, and prospects like Jordy Mercer who haven’t established themselves in the majors. Barmes will get the starts because of his salary, but which middle infielder will step up if he struggles again in 2013?
The Pirates have similar questions in the rotation. Which James McDonald will they get? Can Jeff Karstens stay healthy? Can Kyle McPherson and/or Jeff Locke become successful starters?
In all of these situations the Pirates have options. Another way of looking at this is they have a lot of question marks. They could help the team by filling one of those spots, and removing one question. I mentioned in the payroll article that I think trading Joel Hanrahan could bring in a potential filler for one of those areas. They could also try for another A.J. Burnett type deal where they try and pick up salary. Their payroll is projected to start at a higher level than last year’s payroll ended, but that shouldn’t be a problem. I’ve always pointed out that most small market teams see three things happen in order: improved record, increased attendance, and higher payroll. We’ve seen the first two from the Pirates. Now is the time for the third part of that plan.
Links and Notes
**The site was down for a long period of time today. I apologize for that. One of the servers went down, which needed a quick reboot. For some reason I never got the e-mail alert about the server, and I was out most of the day, so I wasn’t around a computer to check and see if the site was up and running. All of that and the solution was clicking the reset button when I got home.
**Pittsburgh Pirates 2012 Season Recap: Center Field. Also in this: my thoughts on why Starling Marte should be the starting center fielder.
**I haven’t really looked at the available free agents yet, so I couldn’t say who would be a fit for the team. However, following up on my thoughts a few weeks ago about how free agency wasn’t worth it, I don’t think I’d personally be interested in the free agent crop. That’s not saying the Pirates shouldn’t try to go that route. I just don’t think they’ll be able to land the guys in the middle tier, I think the guys at the top make too much for their production, and I think the guys in the lower tier — who the Pirates usually sign — won’t make much of an impact. For the positions I mentioned above, the Pirates would be better off going internal, rather than adding a lower tier guy. The one exception is the catching position, since they wouldn’t need a top guy to be the backup to McKenry.