The 2012 Winter Meetings are coming to a close, with the 2012 Rule 5 draft marking the end of the week. The meetings have been very slow, not just for the Pirates, but for all teams. There have been some big deals handed out, but top free agents like Zack Greinke and Josh Hamilton are still on the market. That’s part of why the market has been so slow across the league. For the Pirates, the reason for the slow meetings is mostly due to the trade deadline.
At the deadline the Pirates acquired guys who had years of control. They traded three prospects for Wandy Rodriguez, who they’ll have in the rotation in 2013, and maybe in 2014. They traded Brad Lincoln for Travis Snider, who will have the inside track for a starting corner outfield spot. They traded Gorkys Hernandez and a compensation pick for Gaby Sanchez, who is currently projected to platoon at first base with Garrett Jones.
Looking at the roster, there weren’t a lot of available spots coming into the off-season. Running through the positions one at a time:
Catcher - The Pirates filled their catching need by signing Russell Martin last week.
First Base - Currently projected for a Jones/Sanchez platoon. If Jones is traded, he could be replaced in the platoon with Clint Robinson.
Second Base - Neil Walker
Shortstop - Some people might not like it, but the Pirates have Clint Barmes. The offense was bad last year, but the defense was good, leading to a 1.7 WAR.
Third Base - Pedro Alvarez
Center Field - Andrew McCutchen
Corner Outfield - Starling Marte and Travis Snider are expected to get the first cracks, with Alex Presley and Jose Tabata in the wings.
Starting Pitching - A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, and James McDonald have spots. After non-tendering Jeff Karstens the Pirates could use an extra arm. For the final two spots they currently have Jeff Locke, Kyle McPherson, Vin Mazzaro, Zach Stewart, and the newly acquired Andy Oliver competing for jobs.
Relief Pitching - The Pirates have several options, and a lot of upside arms, but the bullpen isn’t set in stone. I’d expect them to add some relievers later in the off-season, and they’re currently going after Jason Grilli. Building a bullpen hasn’t been an issue for the Pirates.
Closer - Joel Hanrahan is in right now, but the Pirates are shopping him. I wouldn’t be surprised if they go with a free agent if Hanrahan is dealt.
The Pirates need starting pitching and bullpen arms. They’re going with upside guys at the corner outfield spots. Gaby Sanchez isn’t the most reliable option at first base. The options for the final two spots in the rotation are question marks, although all are ready for the majors or have previous experience. There are some question marks on the team, but that doesn’t mean there are holes to fill in those spots.
Most of the starting pitching market seems to be held up by Zack Greinke. Once he signs, I’d imagine we’ll see more pitchers signing. The Pirates don’t seem to be looking at any top options, although they could add a number four or five starter to help complete the rotation. With so many teams after Jason Grilli, I’d be surprised if the Pirates could land him. That’s especially the case with Sean Burnett getting two years and $8 M today. If Burnett could get that, I wouldn’t be surprised if Grilli gets $5 M a year.
The interesting thing the rest of the off-season will be the potential trades. Based on the rumors we’ve heard, the Pirates could deal Hanrahan and/or Jones. In return they might fill one of the above needs, such as getting back a starting pitcher. They’re probably going to have a hard time getting value for Jones right now with Adam LaRoche and Nick Swisher on the open market. There have been some mixed views on the value of Hanrahan, but they shouldn’t have a hard time finding a team willing to pay for him, since he’s been a very good closer the last two years. The best outcome from all of this would have the Pirates dealing Jones for a starting pitcher, dealing Hanrahan for a replacement for Jones, and signing Grilli to replace Hanrahan.
Overall, these have probably been some of the most boring winter meetings in the last few years. The trade-off is that in previous years, most of the off-season transactions were done either during the meetings, or in the days to follow. The meetings were slow, but we’ll have something to track throughout the next month or two as we wait for Spring Training to come around.
Links and Notes
**Pre-order your copy of the 2013 Prospect Guide, which is expected to be released next week. Pre-Order the 2013 Prospect Guide and Win PirateFest VIP Passes.
**The lawsuit targeting MLB’s blackout policy to proceed. I live in Virginia, about four hours from Washington DC and four and a half hours from Baltimore. Yet I’m considered in their market. Sometimes the games aren’t even on TV where I live, yet they’re blacked out on the MLB Extra Innings package that I pay for specifically to watch baseball. Many of you are probably in a similar situation, or have been in a similar situation due to MLB’s ridiculous blackout policy. So join me in celebrating the possibility that the blackout rules could be gone. I did find the following part funny.
Were MLB to avoid settling and lose, the consequences could change the league’s TV structure – for worse, it contends. The league fears a TV policy without restrictions would harm smaller-market teams, which would face competition from the Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox and other high-profile, big-money teams looking to expand their reach beyond local markets.
So let me get this straight. The Dodgers just signed a local TV deal that will pay them billions of dollars over a 25-year period. The Pirates meanwhile are making $19 M per year on their local TV deal. And MLB is saying that the harm to smaller-market teams is my ability to watch the Pirates on MLB.tv when they play the Nationals?