First Pitch: The Reason Gerrit Cole Could Be Optioned When Starters Return

Gerrit Cole could go down to Triple-A when everyone in the rotation is healthy. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Gerrit Cole could go down to Triple-A when everyone in the rotation is healthy. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Two weeks ago we started talking about the upcoming decision involving Gerrit Cole. Eventually the Pirates could be in a situation where they have A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, Francisco Liriano, and Jeff Locke healthy. The key word there is “could”, because Pirates starting pitchers have been getting injured every other week it seems.

If this happens, the Pirates will have a tough decision to make. The likely outcome won’t be popular either. They will have to choose between Gerrit Cole and Charlie Morton for the fifth rotation spot, and I’m guessing the choice will be Morton.

The reason for that decision would have nothing to do with Super Two status. If Gerrit Cole stays up in the majors the rest of the year, he will have 111 days of service time. If he stays up full time in 2014 and 2015, he will end the 2015 season with two years and 111 days (expressed as 2.111). The projected cutoff for Super Two status this off-season is 2.119. That is the lowest it has been in the last five years, although that’s probably due to the new CBA making more players eligible for Super Two status.

The reason Cole is probably going to go down is because of depth. Charlie Morton doesn’t have options remaining. Jeanmar Gomez and James McDonald would be the other depth options for the rotation, and neither pitcher has options remaining. Gerrit Cole does have options remaining. That leaves two scenarios.

1. The Pirates option Cole, and he would be the first starter to come up if another injury occurred.

2. The Pirates keep Cole in the majors and send Morton to the bullpen (where Gomez and McDonald would already be).

The problem with scenario two is that you eliminate all of your starting pitching depth. In either scenario you would lose Gomez and McDonald to the bullpen, where neither would be stretched out. In scenario two you would lose Morton as well. You might point to Jeanmar Gomez earlier in the year as proof that someone can make the move from the bullpen to the rotation during the season. But Gomez was a special situation. Due to Jonathan Sanchez pitching so poorly, Gomez ended up pitching multiple innings each time Sanchez was on the mound. Here were his game logs before he entered the rotation.

April 14th: 2.1 IP, 39 pitches

April 21st: 2.1 IP, 46 pitches

April 26th: 4.1 IP, 67 pitches

May 1st: 4.0 IP, 79 pitches

May 1st was his first start taking over for Sanchez, and he was limited to four innings. Gomez didn’t go beyond five innings until his sixth start, despite some low pitch counts in the previous outings. That really taxed the bullpen, knowing they’d have to pitch at least four innings per start.

Fortunately the Pirates don’t have a guy like Sanchez in the rotation right now. That also means the Pirates won’t have a situation where a reliever will be going multiple innings every five days. So if a starter goes down, they will be calling on Brandon Cumpton as the only replacement, since none of the relievers will be stretched out.

A starter will go down. Anyone expecting the Pirates to finish the season with a rotation of Burnett/Wandy/Liriano/Locke and either Cole or Morton is ignoring the fact that we’re almost three months into the season and the Pirates have used 11 starters. The way things have been going, an injury could happen in the next week and there would be no either/or discussion about Cole and Morton because you’d need both of them.

The smart thing to do is to option Cole down and maintain your depth. With three months remaining in the season, depth is extremely important. The Pirates used 11 starters in the first three months. They’d only have Brandon Cumpton and a bunch of relievers backing up the rotation in the second three months of the season, unless they optioned Cole. I’m certain that Cole would return at some point this season, and if they didn’t need him that would be excellent, as it would mean they didn’t have any injuries, or any starters faltering.

This situation isn’t unique to the Pirates. The Arizona Diamondbacks are in first place in the NL West, and have the same situation going on with top prospect Tyler Skaggs. He came up earlier in the year for a spot start, then went down after pitching six shutout innings and striking out nine against the Texas Rangers. He came back up for two starts due to an injury, but was sent back down after giving up five runs in both starts he made. Even with good performance, the plan was to send him back down when Brandon McCarthy returned from the DL.

Talking about the rotation during the season is one thing. Talking about the rotation in the playoffs is another. The Pirates can send Cole down now, because their priority should be on depth, since they’ll need more than five starters the rest of the year. But on August 31st, Cole needs to be up, if he’s not already. Why August 31st? That’s the last day you can add a player to the 25-man roster and have him eligible for the post-season roster.

For the short-term, don’t be surprised if Cole goes down in a few weeks. It will have nothing to do with money or performance. It will have everything to do with maintaining depth. Anyone who says that’s not important is ignoring the fact that the Pirates are winning right now only because of their starting pitching depth during the first three months of the season.

Links and Notes

**Check out the latest episode of the Pirates Prospects Podcast: P3 Episode 10: More Stanton Talk and Should Polanco Be Called Up This Year?

**2013 Pittsburgh Pirates Draft Pick Signing Tracker.

**Pirates Prospects Has a New Mobile Theme.

**Prospect Watch: Heredia Throws Five Shutout in Debut; Hanson Homers.

**Minor League Schedule: Nine Games On Tap Today.

**DSL Prospect Watch: Pirates Lose Series Openers To Cardinals and Phillies.

**Pirates Beat Angels in 10-9 Thriller: What We Learned.

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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  • gwbicster

    Nonsense. The reason Cole should be kept up was on display this afternoon. Morton is a decent back end of the rotation pitcher. Cole, even at this point, is dominant. Morton requires perfect luck with his GBs to be successful, requires you to play Barmes at SS instead of Mercer, and taxes the pen with his short starts.

    They ought to be trying to TRADE Morton, especially if he fares well in this short tryout with Wandy and AJ on the shelf. McDonald will eventually be cut. Gomez and Morton are perfectly acceptable long relievers/swing men, and Cumpton can always be called up for a spot start.

    The Bucs have plenty of SP depth. They are in an intense race with the best two teams in baseball for a playoff spot. Best 5 guys get the jobs. This is not 2007.

    For the same reason, Fort needs to be sent down (he has an option left) and Sanchez needs to be the backup catcher. And Inge needs to be cut and a professional hitter like Schierholz needs to be acquired.

    This is the big time.

    • waitwhat

      Cool story bro. Glad you’re clearly a very rational human.

      • waitwhat

        But seriously this is a problem good teams will generally run into. I know it freaks some people out because they’re not used to it, but arguing about who should be the 25th man and backup catcher are small potatoes. Struggling to find a spot for a prospect is a good thing.

        Saying “this isn’t 2007″ doesn’t mean anything. Of course it’s not ’07, the team is actually winning and has actual talent in the minors to call in for depth. Thus, “this isn’t 2007″ is a nonsensical argument that means nothing more than an opportunity to make LOUD NOISES and make no sense in the process.

        Beyond that, it’s not a bad thing to have options rather than being so gung-ho about every single game in June. Yes, they all matter, but it’s a long season. If Sanchez can get reps in AAA, he should go there because Martin is going to catch 5-6 times a week. If Cole can work on stuff while Morton holds down the 5th spot until an injury occurs or he struggles, this is a good thing. Cole only came up due to the injury in the first place.

        We’ve seen Mercer take over a role because a veteran wasn’t getting it done. If Martin went down, I’m sure Sanchez would get the majority of the starts when he’s called up. If somebody goes down or doesn’t perform in the rotation, I’m sure Cole would come right up and start.

        • http://@gwbicster gwbicster

          I’ll be enjoying your comments when they miss the playoffs (or for that matter .500) by a game or two. Sanchez benefits more by being mentored by Martin for a half season than starting every day at AAA. Besides if they’re smart they’ll start Sanchez twice a week- at his age Martin could use the rest. Cole needs to start in the big leagues as he is ready and benefits more by working with Searage.

          This is not 2007, the best man for the job gets the job, the big league team is not a farm team anymore. This is a lot more rational argument than you present.

    • https://profiles.google.com/115522615427589477970 Mike C.

      I have no problems with Cole being sent down for Super two / service time reasons.
      As many have already stated b4, 1 extra year of Cole is always a GOOD thing.

      Having backup pitchers like Cole is an exciting option.
      not sure how “being stretched out” effects pitchers personally, so i’ll take your word for it.

      I think Morton can make a comeback and could be a good #4 SP, but gotta see Morton for another start or two, but seems he’s gotta a have a short leash. especially in year like this.

      Unless McDonald goes to the bullpen, which i personally think he might be better suited for, seems like he’s a DFA option right now.
      I really do want to see how he does as a 1-2 inning option.

      also, bye bye Fort, Inge. maybe in ’11 or ’12, but just not good enough for ’13.
      and when’s our shiny new toy in RF coming???

      • http://@gwbicster gwbicster

        It has nothing to do with keeping him for an extra year. It has to do with an extra year of arbitration, and it is questionable that he hasn’t already passed the “Super Two” date- Tim says he has.

        With the SP market the way it is, I am certain we could get something decent for Morton, maybe even that decent hitting RF we so sorely need.

        • http://www.facebook.com/robert.s.myers Robert S. Myers

          It doesnt have as much to do with keeping his price down as it does keeping enough starters at the ready in case of injury. It is not hard to see.

          If Cole was performing heads and tails above Morton, then yeah, keep him up, but the truth is he isnt. 2.81 ERA to 3.44, .234 avg to .254, 5 ER to 7, and 12 k’s to 8. The only cat’s Cole is better in is Wins, 3-1, whip 1.04 to 1.24 and walks. If all is equal, then go with experience.

        • emjayinTN

          gw: Agree 100%. The idea of the game is to win and you use the best you have to do that. Of course, playing for having an insurance policy sitting at AAA and saving a few bucks a few years from now are just a few reasons why the Pirates have not won in 20 years. Our future is tied to names like Cole, Locke, Taillon, Kingham, Glasnow, Heredia and possibly more – not to Charlie Morton. Expendable.

          • Cato the Elder

            Read the article, guys. It has nothing to arbitration, service clocks or money, and everything to do with constructing the best roster possible. The whole point of the article is you are going to need more than 5 SP the rest of the season and while Cole > Morton – assuming injury, poor performance, etc -Morton, Cole, Cumpton > Cole, Cumpton, and player X.

    • skliesen

      How soon one forgets Morton shut out the Reds earlier in the week. Don’t get all out of sorts because of this decision, as it’s nearly inevitable a SP gets dinged up, and/or loses his effectiveness before AJ and Wandy are both back. But even if they don’t, sending Cole down is the correct decision for the good of the team.

      • BuccosFanStuckinMD

        I did not forget that, but it was 5-6 innings of shut out pitching – not 7-9 innings. Lets not overstate the accomplishment.

        Besides, he’s pitched even better games in the past – but would then follow with 2-3 bad starts. When he strings 3-4 good starts together, I will be convinced.

    • http://www.facebook.com/ej6687 Erik Johnson

      That makes sense. We’ve used 11 starters this year in the first 3 months of the season, but let’s trade one of them so that we can severely hamper our pitching depth for when we are really going to need it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/fred.langford.9 Fred Langford

      People live game by game instead of looking at the big picture. Yes Cole has been great. But he was stuggling immensely just a month ago at Indy. He has turned it around and put up 3 great games in the mlb and 3 in the minors before that. That doesn’t mean he can do it the rest of the year. We all know he has the tools to do it but he is only 22 and 3 games is a small sample. If he needs to be sent down for a week or so to buy time to make a deal so we don’t lose a decent arm then that is what we have to do. My hope is that he just continues to throw strikes and put up great numbers so they have no choice but to keep him in the rotation. They can always ship some bullpen guys back and forth to make room. It is possible we may have a few guys in new rolls coming up soon. Hopefully these guys can make a smooth transition from starter to bullpen if they have to.

      • http://www.facebook.com/david.donahue.100 whiteAngus

        just a tid-bit about Cole this season in AAA: he was hardly “struggling immensely”. Other than a few walks, he was holding hitters below .200 and had only given up 4 homers, with 3 being in one game.
        .
        depth is very important for the pitching staff. if its best to have Cole sent down and be the first one called up, then so be it. personally, i would rather watch Cole pitch than either Gomez/Morton/McDonald, but thats just my selfish side wanting to see the radar gun lit up.

    • TEH92

      Sorry but I think you’re completely wrong. Cole is struggling to get batters out the third time through the lineup. They are hitting him at better than .400. He needs to go back to the minors and learn how to pitch around that problem. If you keep him, you have a SP who most likely can’t get out of the 5th or 6th inning so now you’re taxing your bullpen with extra work. Trading Morton doesn’t solve anything as you’re not going to land an upper level player so now you have yet another platoon option in an already over-staffed position. What happens to Tabata, Jones, Snider, Presley, Pie? If you trade Morton for a RF, who gets sent down or released? Barmes, who is having a tremendous influence on developing Mercer? Inge, leaving us with one fewer infield bench players and a loss of veteran leadership?

      Sanchez has to force McHenry back to the minors. He has not performed well enough yet to get a gift ticket to the majors. And how to you lose McHenry? You can’t ask for a better guy to be your back-up catcher.

      I never understand this persistent need of “pirate fans” to trade guys away and to discount current veterans in favor of unproven rookies. This team has great chemistry and are coming together as a real baseball team. I have no idea why you would want to tinker with that.

      You are right that it is no longer 2007. The time for bringing kids up before they are ready is over. The time for renting players is over. The time for thinking about this year and this year alone is over. I don’t want to win one world series, I want to win six. That takes depth and development. Everything we’ve been doing (and suffering through) for the last 5 years is FINALLY starting to pay-off. Why change the plan now?

      • http://@gwbicster gwbicster

        The fact that Cole has trouble the third time through the lineup ignores the fact that he has been simply dominant the first two times through. Anyone who watches the games can see the difference between Cole and Morton. Charlie is not bad, but Cole is at another level.

        Fort has an option, they won’t lose him. Next year Sanchez will be the backup no matter what and they will trade Fort (unless Martin or Sanchez get injured.)

        Trading Morton won’t get a superstar in return but may well get a decent, professional hitter in RF who, say, can hit in the #2 spot (like Schierholz). Snider is not cutting it (although he is decent off the bench) and the jury is still out on Tabata, although he’s injured too much to make an assessment.

      • http://@gwbicster gwbicster

        You present the best argument out of all of these comments so far for Cole being sent down, regarding the issues he has the third time through the lineup. However, I would argue that he has a better chance working on that with Searage at the major league level than back in AAA. As a matter of fact, I speculate that this is why he is not pitching Wednesday on his normal turn- to give him a chance to work on his breaking ball(s).

      • http://@gwbicster gwbicster

        The other argument I’ve seen posed by Travis Sawchek is that there may be an innings limit for Cole. I hadn’t considered that. However, sending him down means that he’ll still be throwing those innings, only at AAA. If they want to send him down and shut him down, that’s another issue.

  • https://profiles.google.com/115522615427589477970 Mike C.

    I understand why MLB and other sports have this “option” thing, but it sure can get annoying and frustrating for the fans where “talent” isn’t always the only deciding factor when building their pro rosters.

    also, can some can someone explain to me why the Super Two status cutline was set this way?
    another annoying thing for fans imo

  • jamminjoe66

    With Mercer as starting SS the bugs are 14 – 4. 10 games over in only 18 total games. How can anyone still think Barmas belongs on the roster, let alone start. It’s insane.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      Barmes is a nice defensive replacement and utility IFer at this stage in his career.

  • brilemon

    Long time reader, second time poster:
    This won’t be a thought out post, but sending Cole down just feels wrong. Watching him touch 101.8, and seeing guys like welky throwing high 90’s heat, it’s hard to want these guys sent down… Cole is a big part of our hot June, he added crazy spark to this team.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      agree….JMac should be dealt or DFA’d. We’ll know by tomorrow.

      • http://www.facebook.com/jetillinghast Justin Tillinghast

        I agree with JMac being DFA’d. Cole’s Super 2 status or not he is the best option in the rotation.

      • IC Bob

        You nailed that. I think everything else will take care of itself if JMac is traded or DFAd. I never would have a problem sending Cole down but not to put a guy (JMac) on the roster that doesn’t deserve to be on the team with the 2nd best record in baseball

        • https://profiles.google.com/101510909979106143098 David Lewis

          Actually, it won’t. You still have five SP slots. AJ, Wandy, Liriano, Locke, and … ? If you keep Cole in the rotation, you’re moving Morton to the pen. If you keep Morton in the rotation, you’re optioning Cole to AAA.

  • kelso

    It seems like a lot of posters missed the line in the article about how whether cole goes back to Indy or not likely will have no impact on his super 2 status.

    Anyways, I definitely can see the sense in having cole available for a call up PROVIDED that Morton is giving them a similar chance to win the games he starts

  • BostonsCommon

    What do you think the guys in the clubhouse are going to say if they send Cole down to Indy to fight for another International league regular season title while the Big club is breathing down the Cardinals’ necks?

    I mean AJ and Martin ought to lose their freaking minds, not to mention Hurdle. It can’t happen, not when he’s pitching like this, gaining more confidence every game.

    • Kevin_Young

      Pitching like what? You mean pitching the same as Morton, and worse than the rest of our rotation? Listen I love Gerrit Cole, but it’s not like guys are sitting in the clubhouse hoping he beats Morton for our 5th spot…

    • https://profiles.google.com/101510909979106143098 David Lewis

      I think the guys in the clubhouse are going to say, “Hey, this is great that we’ve got enough pitching depth we can send our 22-year-old phenom back to AAA to be ready to slot in when we get the next pitching injury, instead of having to resort to the likes of Virgil Vasquez.”

    • Cato the Elder

      I would imagine the clubhouse would react like a bunch of professionals, i.e. not throw a temper tantrum. If they act otherwise, then we have a problem.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD

    If the Pirates send Cole down, in order to keep Morton and make room for MacDonald, then I gave them to much credit for being a smart organization. They do not need Morton or MacDonald, in any role.

    • Cato the Elder

      Oh good! The front office will take all that extra credit you gave them for being a smart organization and use it to preserve their assets, instead of giving them away for free. On behalf of Pirates’ fans everywhere, thank you for your contribution.

      • BuccosFanStuckinMD

        Preserve what assets? MacDonald and Morton?? These are two journeymen and inconsistent pitchers at best.

        And what trade value do you think James MacDonald currently has? Who’s spot on the MLB does he take?

        As for Morton, what great trade value does a pitcher with a career 4.98 ERA fetch these days? You want to keep him the starting rotation over Cole? No thanks. I see Kip Wells when I look at Charlie Morton.

        If not in the starting rotation, who’s spot in the bullpen does Morton take?

      • Kevin_Young

        Cato, I’m trying to figure out why you and i are so heavily in the minority here, but i can’t wrap my head around it.

  • u0007890

    If the Pirates lose 2 or 3 games that Morton starts while Cole is sitting in AAA, and if the Pirates miss the playoffs by a game or two, I’m guessing having everyone “stretched out” will be of small consolation. Morton’s pitched in bad luck, but at the same time, the Pirates have allowed 10 and 9 runs in 2 of his 3 starts, and his command has been shaky at best. Should a starter go down, having a guy like Morton or Gomez in the bullpen to spot start would be fine for a game or two while they get “stretched out…” Potentially losing games with inferior players just in case of an injury and just so a replacement starter could go 6 innings instead of 4 or 5 is overthinking things to a ridiculous extreme. This team is a contender…it’s time to start acting like one.

  • http://www.facebook.com/andrew.smalley.35 Andrew Smalley

    Good breakdown, Tim, as it gives us an idea of what the Pirates may be thinking going forward.

    My issue w/ this line of thinking is the following: It’s built on a lot of assumptions.

    First, it assumes that the Pirates are able to send down a pitcher that *clearly* gives them a better chance to win games than other options like Gomez, McDonald, and, in my opinion, Morton. Considering that the Cardinals seemingly never lose, the Reds only lose slightly more often….I don’t think that assumption is accurate. So, if you send Cole down to preserve Gomez and/or McDonald and/or Morton as an available option going forward, you are necessarily implying that those guys give you as good of a chance in winning actual games.

    Secondly, it assumes that Gomez and/or McDonald are worth preserving. Gomez got great results, I can’t argue w/ that. But, the guy is a long-reliever at his best, his peripherals are awful, and, again in my opinion, losing him (either to DFA or bullpen) is no great loss if the alternative is losing Cole every 5 days. I don’t believe you are saying that McDonald is worthy preserving at the expense of Cole, but, if you are, I obviously disagree. McDonald has had his chance and has blown it.

    Third, it assumes that placing Morton and Gomez in the bullpen somehow stops those two from being able to be ‘stretched out’ to start a game if necessary. Again, that assumption doesn’t hold. Gomez has already done it once this year. It will likely be more difficult for Morton, but I have to assume there are ways to have him ready should the need arise. Considering that we seemingly don’t use one of our relievers anyways for long stretches at times, I presume that Charlie could be set up to give minimal use until needed in a starting option.

    Fourth, it assumes that no one else is capable of providing the ‘depth’ that Gomez and/or Morton provides. As stated earlier, Gomez personifies ‘replacement level pitcher’ and therefore, whether it be Cumpton, Andy Oliver, etc, I’m of the opinion that – for a couple of starts/or spot start – Gomez’s production can be replaced by other ‘guys’.

    The real issue is Morton. If Searage and the Pirates believe that he can be an effective long-man and be stretched out enough to start if needed, then placing him in the pen and keeping Cole in the rotation is the solution. If Morton can be salvaged in that role, Cole needs to stay.

    In your last paragraph, you dismiss Pirate fans who hold another opinion to yours as not understanding depth and how valuable it is. But, in discussing Gomez and therefore stating your opinion that he needs to be preserved, you aren’t understanding that his performance thus far has been built on smoke-n-mirrors and you are overvaluing a small sample-size.

    Bottom-line: Cole pitching every 5 days – throughout the entire year – is more important than Gomez being ‘stretched out’. Cole’s production cannot be replaced by other alternatives; Gomez’s surely can, based on the complete review of his career, not 44 innings.

    In any event, these are difficult and good decisions to have. I hope the Pirates make such decisions based on the appropriate metrics, rather than some overreliance on 44 good innings from a replaceable guy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/andrew.smalley.35 Andrew Smalley

    One final thing: The comparison to the D-Backs isn’t comparable. The D-Backs aren’t throwing Jeanmar Gomez or even Charlie Morton every 5 days instead of Skaggs. They’re throwing pitchers that are better than Skaggs at the moment. Morton and/or Gomez are not better options than Cole going forward.

    Apples to oranges, in my eyes.

  • jaygray007

    Good explanation. Huntington even did a poor job at explaining this on the Neal Huntington Show on the radio yesterday. I think it was Greg Brown who didn’t seem to understand what he was saying.

    When they send him down, they reallllly need to effectively explain why he is being sent down so that the fans who will hear them understand why.

    Explain that when guys go to the bullpen, they become unstretched, and you need major league ready guys in AAA.

    It really is unfortunate that it has to be Cole, but heck. It has to be Cole.

  • https://profiles.google.com/107500598404660809214 Kerry Writtenhouse

    I think I read the same article everyone else did. But I still haven’t found the part where Cole will be replaced by Gomez or McDonald? I’ll admit, watching Cole is must see TV, but Morton has been just as effective without the fanfare. Once upon a time our depth consisted of Yoslan Herrera who now resides in independant ball. If the Pirates made decisions based on fickle fans, Cole would have been traded due to his slow start and Taillon would have been shipped out last year.

    How do you guys cope with waffling so much based on every single performance these players put forth? Have we already forgotten that Morton, when healthy is a red killer? He shut them out less than a week ago. He’s done quite well since he returned. This team is incredibly deep with quality arms and these things have a way of working themselves out. You can stash Gomez, Morton, and JMac in the bullpen, but you still have a numbers crunch there. Who do you cut from the bullpen? I say manage the assets and make the tough calls when necessary. Guys with options may have to be stashed at AAA while they sort themselves out and the cream rises to the top.

    When everyone returns, decisions will need to be made. But with that being said, I for one don’t want to see assets that are usable given away for nothing, and that includes JMac. There are teams out there looking for pitching, I’d give him a chance to come back in some role and hope he regains some value. Remember, this is a guy, that the the majority of posters on all the boards wanted to extend long term this time last year. If he can’t put it together in his first couple of outings, then they should move on.

    • Cato the Elder

      Finally, a voice of sanity in an insane world.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      “I’ll admit, watching Cole is must see TV, but Morton has been just as effective without the fanfare.”

      I think that a lot of people are rating Cole higher because of the “must see TV” factor. The truth is he hasn’t provided a huge upgrade over Morton.

      • Ecbucs

        I don’t agree with this because Cole has been able to go into the 6th inning without giving up runs and he looks like he has the stuff and approach to continue consistently providing quality starts.

        Morton is inconsistent, has had some control problems (even in his good year he walked more than he should have). I think both need to stay in for a couple more turns but it looks to me that so far Cole has been much more than a number 4 or 5 starter and has done nothing to warrant being sent down for more than a start or two. I think this will shake itself out with Bucs dealing a pitcher (probably Morton) and with JMac either in bullpen, dealt or released.

      • BuccosFanStuckinMD

        In comparing their starts against the Angels, I disagree. Cole is already much better than Morton – and if he wasn’t, the Pirates made a bad choice in drafting Cole.

        Everyone on here acts as if Morton is Roy Holliday….how quickly we forget his past history – recent past history. If he gets 4-6 more starts over the next month, lets check his results then. If I am wrong, I will be thrilled – as that means he has made significant progress and is helping the team win.

        • Kevin_Young

          “Cole is already much better than Morton – and if he wasn’t, the Pirates made a bad choice in drafting Cole.”….that’s really an outrageous statement.

          • BuccosFanStuckinMD

            Outrageous statement? I don’t think so…but maybe I could have worded it differently. When the Pirates drafted Cole #1, don’t you think they were expecting a pitcher who would be better than Charlie Morton?? All I said was, IMHO, he already is. He probably was when he was drafted. That isn’t saying a lot, given Morton’s career to date.

            Again, I don’t have the same high regard for Morton as Tim and others have for him. To me, he has never been more than erratic. Cole is already better than erratic.

        • http://www.facebook.com/david.donahue.100 whiteAngus

          nobody is saying that Morton is Halladay. no one said that when Morton started using Halladay’s delivery.
          .
          then again, with Halladay injured/struggling, maybe Morton really IS Halladay????

          • BuccosFanStuckinMD

            Morton will never be anywhere remotely as good as Roy Holliday.

            I would just settle for a sub 4.00 ERA, fewer walks, and more consistent results.

    • IC Bob

      Mcdonald has had 8 straight poor outings and 12 out of 13, How many games do you need to see him blow before you say its time to cut him. I doubt we can get much for him but quite frankly if someone took his contract it would be a bargain for the Bucs at this time. I really think he will be under the knife by this time next year anyways so lets cut bait and move on. he may actually pass though waivers. Not a big market for guys with above 5 ERA coming off the DL where they had an ERA above 9.

  • Y2JGQ2

    Tim- There are way more than two options here.

    3. Go to a 6 man rotation. I think McDonald will not be kept around period, bullpen or rotation which eliminates that issue. He’ll be traded or DFA’d We need Gomez to be Karstens-like and provide a long man so we aren’t taxing the BP on 5 inning starts. He, even when he was starting, wasn’t being allowed to throw more than 70 pitches, so you can’t keep Gomez in the rotation with that kind of limitation. With Gomez in the pen and McDonald gone, then you have 6 starters. You send Mazzaro down, Gomez takes his spot, even send Reid back down, which gives you Morris, Wilson, Melancon, Gomez, Watson, and Grilli along with a 6 man rotation for which you can have Morton available out of the pen if needed as well. This is a playoff year, you can’t send down Cole while he is pitching so well.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      Actually, that’s something we talked about on the podcast that I linked to in this article. Six man rotations. Piggybacking starters. James is currently working on an article exploring those possibilities.

      • emjayinTN

        Tim: That could be a way to delay the inevitable, which IMO, is the bundling of Morton & Tabata for a trade. JMAC is not making any headway and may go back on the DL.. Another thought – with Morton’s increased velocity, could he be the RH 7th inning possibility? BTW, great subject generating a lot of diverse opinions.

        • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

          I don’t see Tabata having any trade value. As for Morton, I’m not sure what kind of in-season value he would have.

          The teams that would value Morton during the season wouldn’t be looking to trade from their major league roster. The teams looking to trade from their major league roster wouldn’t be looking for a guy with one year of control after the season (considering their season is already toast if they’re trading away major leaguers).

  • http://www.facebook.com/faye.zbuksukcz Faye Zbuksukcz

    Tim, great explanation and I agree.
    I am amused that “fans” continue to think a backup catcher needs to have all-star stats. Doesn’t happen. Any upgrade to Fort would be small in terms of value – just look around MLB at other backups, very few are worth much of anything.
    As far as Morton goes, here’s a thought (or two). First, Martin should probably catch him as often as possible. Morton’s stretch move is slow, runners possibly less likely to run on Martin. Second, Barmes should be Morton’s personal SS. You know you’re going to get a lot of grounders and DP opportunities and Barmes is still better than Mercer in the field, especially on the DP turn.
    For the most part, Morton was Morton yesterday. He threw a lot of weak grounders (and untimely two-out walks to bottom of order). I wouldn’t say that was a “bad” outing – could’ve easily been a quality start with some help from the IF.
    That said, are you aware of any attempts to teach Morton a slide step?

  • http://www.facebook.com/andrew.smalley.35 Andrew Smalley

    Quick question: Is it intellectually consistent to argue – before the season – that when Cole is ready, he should be promoted? While, at the same time, now say that Cole should be demoted – because of roster options – when he has clearly shown he *is* ready?

    I don’t believe it is, but would like to hear an explanation from those that share that view.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      I think before the season people were assuming that guys like Kyle McPherson and Phil Irwin would be healthy. If they were, that would give you two starting pitchers in Triple-A, and you wouldn’t have to worry about preserving depth.

      Right now those two aren’t healthy. So your depth behind Cole is Cumpton and guys like Andy Oliver/Kris Johnson.

  • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

    A few things I’ve gathered from the comments:

    1. People missed the part about how Super Two is not an issue.
    2. This isn’t “Cole vs JMac” or “Cole vs Gomez”. The Pirates could have Gomez, JMac, and Morton in the bullpen with Cole in the rotation. This is “Cole vs Morton”.
    3. As someone mentioned, it’s not as simple as Cole vs Morton. It’s Cole with Brandon Cumpton as your 6th starter and someone you really don’t want as your 7th starter, or Morton with Cole as your 6th, Cumpton 7th, and someone you really don’t want 8th.

    • IC Bob

      I prefer Gomez in long relief. he pretty much has proven with his performance that he really can’t go beyond 80 pitches so chances of getting more then 5 innings is slim. He is perfect as a long relief option or an extra inning guy which seems to be a need as of late. I have no problem with the idea of Cole going down but not for JMac who can’t get AA hitters out for Morton right now who cannot go beyond 90 pitchers (with limited control).

      Just a thought here but shouldn’t we be monitoring the innings for Morton anyways since he is coming off a serious injury?

    • leadoff

      This is “Cole vs Morton”.
      Exactly, people don’t get it, the Pirates have to juggle players to keep Cole and in Morton’s case, give him away for nothing, when you can keep both. Cole still has to have his innings decreased just to keep him from pitching too many innings.
      This is not as simple of a solution as some think.

  • https://profiles.google.com/113824087346904673399 Dom DiDominic

    Another reason to send Cole down is limiting his innings. He only threw 132 innings last year. He is at 86 this year. How many will they let him throw? Maybe 170-180? No way CH can control his innings if he is pitching good. That will leave them with a Strasburg situation in September.
    Send him down now, limit his innings, have him set up to go full out in September and (nojinxnojinxnojinx) October.
    Much easier to pull him after 4-5 shut out innings v Pawtucket than St.Louis.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      I don’t think that’s really an issue. He would still be getting innings in Triple-A. And if you start pulling him after 4-5 innings, then he’s not going to be ready to come back up and pitch 6-7 in the majors.

      • steelpro

        You really think the Bucs would allow him to surpass 180 innings this year? I don’t think so. There are other ways to limit innings beside the quick hook. If demoted they can skip him a turn or push his starts a day or two. That isn’t an option if he is stays in Pittsburgh until the end of the season.

      • leadoff

        They can pitch him on a 6 day rotation and they can limit his pitches and innings at AAA, they do it all the time and still keep him stretched out.

  • moose7195

    Its definitely a difficult decision, Morton or Cole. Imagine asking that question in March, people would still be laughing. Gomez was always going to go to the pen, but McDonald has deserved no part of a major league bullpen. I don’t like it but I think Cole gets sent down. I would honestly DFA JMac, and move Morton into the bullpen spot you were going to hand to McDonald. The Pirates have shown many possible long relief options this year, so it wouldn’t be the most difficult thing to pull another Gomez and stretch out a long reliever, its only June.

  • http://www.facebook.com/johan.graybow Johan Graybow

    Pirates have 7 in the top 75 with my man GP ranking 12! http://bullpenbanter.com/bullpen-banter-midseason-top-75-prospect-list/

  • PirateTom

    Sounds like we need to dump some “depth” at the trade deadline

  • http://www.facebook.com/joshdziomba Josh Dziomba

    By the way, he does not have the be on the roster, by Aug 31,That is for players outside of the organization. He can be called up on the last day of the season and be added to the playoff roster..

    example… K Rod made his debut for the Angels on 9/18/02 and was on the post season roster

    • http://@gwbicster gwbicster

      That’s only true if there is an injury on the 25 man roster. Of course, that sort of thing is not difficult to fabricate.

  • PiratesFan1981

    Great reading Tim! But I see that the article ruffled feathers here. I agree 100% with the decision to send cole down to AAA once all starters are healthy. I seen some one say that cole was a spark to the clubs winning ways. I think that was misguided conclusion. Nothing against Cole, but every team gets hot at a certain time. Cole was fortunate to be involved with this awesome run the Pirates are on. They were doing this before Cole arrived and will continue to get better with or without cole for the next 3 months. This is not one guy leading the team or taking us the distance, it is the DEPTH and talent in this organization. From top to bottom, the Pirates have depth in almost every position.
    On another note, Cole is pitching alright now, but what happens when the hitters start catching on? I mean, let’s not jump the gun just yet with Cole. Let him mature more down in Indy and figure out his other pitches (besides his fast ball). All great pitchers need more then 1.5 pitches to win and control the game. Cole can control the game for a 5-6 innings and then hitters start to catch up to his fast ball. I love Cole and would like to see him stay, but he is not yet there to be the next ace for the Pirates. Give him a few weeks to a few months in Indy to get familiar with his other 2 pitches (besides the fast ball). From what I read and heard, he was just starting to throw the slider and curve ball in AAA more frequently this year. Allow the guy to grow before rushing him. Rushing players got us 20 losing seasons and bitterness to the FO and coaching of the pirates.