Today the Pittsburgh Pirates agreed to deals with Neil Walker and James McDonald, avoiding arbitration with each player. Outside of the pending Francisco Liriano deal, that should wrap up the key moves for the Pirates. With pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training in ten days, there’s not much time to add any remaining pieces to the roster. Looking at each position below, it looks like the Pirates have filled all of their roster spots — either with guaranteed starters, or plenty of options competing for a starting job.
Catcher - The Pirates signed Russell Martin to a two-year, $17 M deal this off-season. Michael McKenry is expected to be the backup catcher.
First Base - Currently the Pirates are slated to go with a platoon of Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez. There have been some trade rumors surrounding Jones this off-season, but we really haven’t heard much on that front since the middle of December. Most of the teams who were looking at him have filled their need. We also heard that the Pirates had a high value on him which other teams weren’t meeting. I’m not expecting a trade at this point in the off-season.
Second Base - Neil Walker.
Shortstop - Clint Barmes will return to be the starting shortstop. The bat was weak last year, but the defense was some of the best in the league at the position.
Third Base - Pedro Alvarez.
Left Field - I’m guessing Starling Marte has this spot locked down.
Center Field - Andrew McCutchen.
Right Field - I’d say Travis Snider has the inside track here. The Pirates will also have Jose Tabata, Jerry Sands, and Alex Presley competing for corner outfield spots. They don’t have sure things at either corner outfield spots, but they do have plenty of candidates who could fill the job long-term.
Bench - Between McKenry, Gaby Sanchez, the remaining outfielders, and all of the backup middle infield options, the Pirates will have no shortage of options for the bench.
Starting Rotation - A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, and James McDonald will have spots. Francisco Liriano will have a spot when he’s healthy. That may or may not be by Opening Day. The Pirates also have Jeff Locke, Kyle McPherson, and Jeff Karstens, so they’ve got options even if Liriano isn’t ready to start the season.
Bullpen – The Pirates have plenty of options here, and a lot of strong arms. They don’t have much comfort. Jason Grilli isn’t a “Proven Closer”, Mark Melancon is coming off a down year, Bryan Morris and Chris Leroux have good stuff, but aren’t established in the majors, and Jared Hughes and Tony Watson have had success, but look more like middle relievers. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Pirates added one more bullpen arm, only because they’ve done that around this time of the year in each of the last few off-seasons. Their current bullpen doesn’t have the comfort factor, but it does have a lot of talented arms competing for spots, going beyond the names I mentioned above.
I could see a few more minor league deals coming. The Pirates made one of those yesterday when they signed right-handed pitcher Kyle Waldrop.
We still need to see the Liriano deal finalized. I don’t think we’ll see a Garrett Jones trade, for reasons already mentioned. As I said above, I could see a bullpen arm being added if one was available at a discount. Based on the look of the team, I think the Pirates have their roster pretty much set.
The current payroll is projected to be $68.9 M, which includes Francisco Liriano’s expected salary and the assumption that he plays the entire season. The Pirates have added at least $8 M per season in each of the last two years, so I’d expect the end of the year number to be in the $75-80 M range.
Links and Notes
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