First Pitch: Will the Pirates Make Any More Moves?

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

**The 2013 Prospect Guide is now available. The 2013 Annual is also available for pre-sales. Go to the products page of the site and order your 2013 books today!

**Pittsburgh Pirates 2013 Top Prospects: #2 – Jameson Taillon.

**Luis Heredia Falls Just Outside of’s Top 100 List.

**Pirates Agree to Terms With Walker and McDonald.

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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, 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.

First Pitch: MLB Has Two Major Problems, Only Cares About One

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First Pitch: Looking at the Grades From Huntington’s Drafts

  • battlingbucs

    Pretty much agree with all that. I think we will see a RP brugh in on an NRI similar to Veras/Cruz of the last couple years. Maybe Jon Rauch makes some sense as that type although he doesn’t really get the Ks the Pirates seem to look for.

    I would also like to see them look at Adam Kennedy. If we assume the Pirates bench will be McKenry, Sanchez, Tabata and two MI that means there are no lefties on the bench on days Jones and Snider both start which should be pretty much against every RH pitcher. Adding Kennedy would give the Pirates a decent LH bat on the bench and still allow them to keep the 2 IF model they seem to prefer for the bench.

    • jg941

      They possibly could have “tweaked’ a few things (a lefty platoon catcher like Jaso or Kottaras or Corporan, a sell-high on Jones, etc.), but those may not have been worth the disruption, who knows.

      I’m also going to assume/hope that Presley is on the bench, not Tabata – solves the added lefty bench bat and, frankly, most folks think Presley is in for a better year than Tabata anyway. Not sure what to do about the Tabata problem – not sure I can bear to watch him trot out another year like last year – so frustrating – too bad that he doesn’t really have any trade value.

      Now that I’ve said that, it creates another problem, though – no righty platoon with Snider in RF, which I was hoping to see Sands slide into. If you keep Presley & Sands, it leaves you with 5 OFs and only 1 middle IF sub – probably not practical.

      If you wanted to go with only 4 OF – I’m hoping for Sands, not Tabata – then BattlingBucs is right, one LH IF utility guy (not necessarily a LH, but someone who hits RHPs very well) would be ideal, and Kennedy’s a nice choice if he comes cheap.

      Interesting – if you look on, say, Fangraphs for the middle IFs with the best splits against RHP last year, you’ll see Kennedy in the Top 25 (most of those guys are not available, obviously). The next two names immediately after his? Brock Holt and Ivan DeJesus (in smaller samples, of course).

      Wouldn’t mind seeing a ST ‘wild-card’ surprise, like Ivan DeJesus pushing/bumping Harrison for that utility spot. Could be an added twist/tie-breaker if his splits against righties are perceived to be significantly better.

      Otherwise, good assessment, Tim – starting to get excited now.

      • meatygettingsaucy

        Reports indicate Tabata is fully healthy and in much better shape, both of which were contributing factors to his lack of production last year.

  • Lee Young

    At this point, it looks like Tim has it nailed down.

    I’m ready for some BASEBALL!!

  • WTM

    Still waiting for the Jose Veras/Juan Cruz signing. Waldrop doesn’t qualify.

    • jg941

      I like the Jon Rauch suggestion earlier. Some others might work, like Manny Parra (assuming Hurdle can use LOOGYs the way they’re supposed to be used). On righties, maybe Brandon Lyon, Ramon Ramirez, Todd Coffey, Jose Contreras (day games only – has to be in bed by 9 :-), Joey Devine (take a chance?). And Kip Wells is still available (hah! – just wanted to make sure you were still reading).

      Sounds like some bigger names, like Jose Valverde and K-Rod will stillbe able to grab some bigger money – not worth it for the Bucs.

      • jg941

        OK, one down – Reds just signed lefty Parra for $1 mil.

  • duckwoes

    I would like to see Brian Wilson signed to a a low base-salary, incentive laden one year deal. Don’t know that there would be any mutual interest, but I think it would be an intriguing prospect. I would agree with Rauch as a decent option as well

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