Why the 2015 Pirates Could Be a 100-Win Team

This is your chance. Neal Huntington heard it from multiple teams leading up to the 2013 Trade Deadline. More than one competing front office told the Pirates general manager to “act properly,” as this was his chance to end 20 years of losing.

“Reminding us how important it was to the city for us to win and how long it had been,” Huntington said. “We understand it. You know it’s part of the gamesmanship. It had no impact whatsoever, if not turning us against them a little bit.”

Huntington did act properly. No other NL Central rival budged and overpaid to improve their current roster, so neither did he. It sets up for a very competitive next three pennant races. The Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds are all built to jockey for the 2013, 2014 and 2015 pennants until the rebuilding Chicago Cubs have a strong MLB roster to match their big-market revenue streams.

A.J. Burnett

Unless the Pirates sign him to a two year deal this off-season, A.J. Burnett would be gone by 2015. Photo credit: David Hague

A New-Look Pirates

The 2015 edition of the Bucs is potentially the most interesting roster in years, especially for you types that like to follow Pirates prospects (hey, you). This year’s team, projected to win 94 games, is largely built around impact free agents and Major League trade returns.

But in 2015, the following players will be lost to free agency if they do not sign an extension. Maybe Martin (who will be 32) or Liriano (31) re-signs, but let’s err on the cautious side and say they will not:

  • SS Clint Barmes
  • RHP A.J. Burnett
  • C Russell Martin
  • RHP Jason Grilli
  • LHP Francisco Liriano
  • RHP Charlie Morton
  • LHP Wandy Rodriguez

And this list of players will both be potential non-tenders in their second or third arbitration year:

  • 1B Garrett Jones
  • RHP James McDonald
  • 1B Gaby Sanchez
  • RF Travis Snider

That’s five of the nine starters from 2013 Opening Day, four other starting pitchers from this season and an All-Star closer — gone.

Happy trails. Many of these guys will play important roles in the Pirates’ current postseason quest, but time can be cruel to baseball players entering their 30’s. Two years from now, Huntington will have a youth movement as his disposal to keep the win times rolling. Since no one left at the trade deadline, the GM says his front office is making “tentative plans” for future rosters though not “concrete plans.”

Projected 2015 Pirates 40-Man Roster

Let’s cut right to the chase. This is my 40-man roster projection for the 2015 season at $82 million:

Screen Shot 2013-08-07 at 1.44.10 PM

(click to embiggen)

Before we get down to the minute details (which I really enjoy), here are five important points to note:

  1. A total of 16 players would be in their “prime years” on the 25-man roster. For pitchers, that means age 24 to 28. For hitters, it’s age 26 to age 31. Projecting aging curves is, of course, an inexact science. You can learn more about the topic from Baseball Prospectus’ J.C. Bradbury. I went aggressive with Alen Hanson thinking he will be up in May 2015. He might not.
  2. The three outside additions to the organization are first baseman Billy Butler, utility player Alberto Callaspo and starting pitcher Johan Santana. More on why those were my selections in a moment.
  3. We are projecting $525,000 as the 2015 MLB minimum. The collective bargaining agreement does not set out what the exact number will be, only that it will be above $500,000 and see a “cost of living” increase from 2014.
  4. All of the players on the right side would start the season on the 40-man roster and not the active roster. All would have to be added to the 40-man before the 2015 season to avoid minor league free agency or the Rule 5 Draft. There are a few exceptions for prospects who project to be added by mid-season. If this season has proven anything, it’s that you need a lot of pitchers to get through a season.
  5. This whole exercise is nothing more than a projection. Players get hurt. Players become sucky. Players become awesome. Players we might not expect to become Pirates become Pirates. Making actual baseball decisions is far above my pay grade; I just play a GM on the internet.

Let’s get into this:

Who the Pirates Lose

This all started by looking at the Future Payroll Projection Chart and figuring out who would still be around in 2015. At first glance, Huntington has a blank slate to work from. Only $14 million is committed to the 2015 payroll right now: $10 million to Andrew McCutchen and $4 million to Jose Tabata.

Then add in the guys already on the active roster who would still be playing for the minimum in 2015: Gerrit Cole, Jeff Locke, Starling Marte, Jordy Mercer, Bryan Morris, Tony Sanchez and Justin Wilson. Each one seems like he will be around two more years, so that takes the Pirates to a minimum $17.675 million for nine players. For our purposes, I bumped up their salaries on the chart, which teams often do for players who have Major League experience.

While you could technically field an MLB team with just nine guys, it’s not recommended. Let’s keep going and add in 20 players who are all in the minor leagues. You can probably recognize most of the names on the chart. They bump up the payroll projection to about $20 million, and it leaves us with only 11 spots to fill. Being a GM isn’t all that hard!

Pedro Alvarez could be making $10 M in 2015. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Pedro Alvarez could be making $10 M in 2015. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Who Stays Through Arbitration

Now it gets more difficult. Many players on the current 40-man roster will be arbitration-eligible in 2015. We will roll through their names quickly in alphabetical order and make the call:

  • Pedro Alvarez (2nd year) – Absolutely. $10 million
  • Jeanmar Gomez (1st year) – Sure. The rub is he has to stay on the MLB roster, as he is out of options. $1.5 million
  • Josh Harrison (1st year) – No. Strong possibility he stays, but I don’t have a spot for him.
  • Jared Hughes (1st year) – No. Same as Harrison, with the rub that he will be 29 years old.
  • Garrett Jones (3rd year) – No. He is already declining, and 2015 would be his age-34 season.
  • Vin Mazzaro (2nd year) – Maybe, but probably not. There will be other less expensive options.
  • James McDonald (3rd year) – No. He would really have to show a turnaround next season.
  • Michael McKenry (1st year) – He’s a capable backup catcher for the price of $1 million.
  • Mark Melancon (2nd year) – Yes. You don’t pay for saves. You do pay for dominant relief when you are a winner. $7 million
  • Alex Presley (1st year) – No, unless he breaks out. He will be 30 that year and has no options left.
  • Gaby Sanchez (3rd year) – No. Maybe if it were his second year, but third year will be too costly for a platoon guy.
  • Travis Snider (2nd year) – No. Like James McDonald, next year will be a “show-me” season.
  • Neil Walker (2nd year) – Absolutely, even at age 29. $8 million
  • Tony Watson (1st year) – Let’s do it. He has done something right to have a career 3.50 ERA. $1 million

The unsigned players would be non-tendered. All of the salary figures are estimates based on performance and year of arbitration, plus a scientific process called “I guessed.” The six arbitration-eligible signings add $28.4 million to the payroll.

Who Comes In From Outside

When I looked at three roster spots needed to fill, I concurrently noticed three potential weaknesses of the roster:

  1. Alex Dickerson as starting first baseman – This is not a shot at Dickerson, who has a very loud bat and a fantastic July to raise his Double-A numbers to .295/.339/.511 this season. But his is one of the easier positions to fill in free agency (anyone can play the position unless he is 300 pounds), and I found a deal that might work to have a strong MLB first baseman.
  2. Pedro Alvarez still can’t hit lefties – Maybe this fact changes, but you can’t ignore Alvarez’s career .632 OPS or his All-Star season’s .627 OPS against left-handed pitchers. He is prime for a platoon partner at some point. It’s perfectly fine to have a $10-million player who only mashes righties.
  3. That sure would be a young starting rotation – Even though pitchers peak young, something is off about a rotation of Cole-Taillon-Kingham-Locke-Pimentel which averages 24.4 years old. And only one lefty? At PNC Park? This will not do!

Let’s go shopping!

First baseman Billy Butler would be entering his final season of Kansas City Royals’ control in 2015, a $12.5-million team option with a $1-million buyout. For that price as a 29-year-old pending free agent, Butler has to be a trade candidate this winter and next. Royals GM Dayton Moore pushed his eggs into the 2013 basket by trading Wil Myers+ for James Shields, and whether it works out with a playoff spot or not, he should be looking to re-stock prospects.

Butler is a career designated hitter who plays a mediocre-but-capable first base (356 career games). He also hits righties well and creams lefties, crafting a career 120 wRC+ that gives him a thumbs-up to hit in the middle of the lineup. “Country Breakfast” is an easy .300/.360/.460 hitter in Pittsburgh, and his trade cost depends almost entirely on much of his $12.5 million the Royals are willing to take on to get prospects back.

West coast enthusiast Alberto Callaspo hits left-handed pitching very well, posting a career 106 wRC+ against lefties despite the fact that he is about as tall as your child. He plays mostly a strong third base and mediocre second base, though he has dabbled enough at shortstop and outfield to be considered a utility belt. Callaspo is a free agent after next year, so signing him to a two-year, $8 million contract to platoon with Alvarez and bounce around the field (figuratively) would be a good choice.

One more free agent, and even I am not 100 percent about it: Johan Santana. Here’s the good: he is a two-time Cy Young winner who could be available for 40 cents on the dollar and says his career is not over, his strikeout-flyball style as a left-hander is perfectly suited to playing at PNC Park in front of a Marte-Polanco-McCutchen outfield and he would be a veteran presence.

Now the bad. Shoulder injuries are bad, so bad that almost any guaranteed money seems too risky. He has not pitched for 12 months and may not pitch too often next year. But you know what? If Huntington can cut a deal similar to that of Liriano’s, a small guarantee that balloons if Santana is even moderately healthy, the lefty is a huge late-career revival candidate in the vein of A.J. Burnett. Go out and see what two years and $18 million would get you.

Having a top of the rotation of league minimum guys like Gerrit Cole will give the Pirates plenty to spend. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Having a top of the rotation of league minimum guys like Gerrit Cole will give the Pirates plenty to spend. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Money to Burn

Even if the Royals took on no money for Butler, the Pirates would be fielding what looks to be a winning Major League team for a mere $82 million.

Here’s the beauty part: they can go higher than that. Pittsburgh is projected to spend about $70.5 million on its MLB payroll this year, one of the lowest in the game. The team could earn a few million from a deep playoff run, but even making the postseason will cause 2014 ticket revenue to spike. The Pirates can finally substantially raise ticket prices (sorry fans, but they are the third-cheapest in baseball and will likely stay low) and Pittsburghers will line up to pay those prices for season tickets. The Penguins now have a long waiting list a decade after a season in which they averaged 11,877 fans per game.

So it’s easy to see next year’s payroll going to $80 million even if they don’t “make a splash” for Robinson Cano or Matt Garza. Keep in mind: the national TV revenues for every team will double starting next season under the new television contract. The price for top free agents may even skyrocket. Clayton Kershaw will be very happy.

I think the team I have assembled can win 100 games, though they would need as much luck as any 100-win team not named the Yankees or Red Sox. The Pirates’ run production stands to increase the next two seasons as the current lineup hitters (plus Butler) reach their prime and Gregory Polanco enters his sophomore season. The run prevention could remain one of the best in the game, provided by strong defensive play, aggressive shifting and the influx of young talent on the mound.

Even if you are less optimistic and see the roster as an 88- or 90-win team, the payroll space and opportunity would be there to ship some of “The New Cavalry” of prospects (who could start pouring in for the 2016 campaign) for the instant impact of Giancarlo Stanton, Johnny Cueto or Jeff Samardzija.

If you want to spend on a free agent, look at hitters Asdrubal Cabrera, Chase Headley, Pablo Sandoval, Nate Schierholtz and Adam Dunn or pitchers Homer Bailey, Justin Masterson, Jake Peavy and Max Scherzer.

There will be prospect attrition, sure. There will be injuries and unexpected downturns, sure. There is also a franchise with baseball’s best record, one of baseball’s best farm systems and the potential to add millions in revenue.

This is their chance.

James Santelli

Author: James Santelli

James covers the Pirates beat for Pirates Prospects. He is a Broadcast Journalism student at USC and has written for such outlets as NBCOlympics.com, Pittsburgh Magazine and the official websites of the Los Angeles Clippers and Pittsburgh Penguins. James previously covered the Pirates for Pittsburgh Sports Report. He also broadcasts play-by-play for the USC Trojans baseball team and was awarded the 2013 Chick Hearn Memorial Scholarship and Allan Malamud Scholarship. James dispenses puns at his Twitter account (@JamesSantelli) where he promises to write in first-person. Google

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  • http://www.ashevilleroadbowling.com hunter

    I think that’s totally logical and obviously it’s difficult to predict the exact number of wins that far out I think you could predict multiple 90+ win seasons.

    The simpler way I view it is the team has three long-term, major holes.

    RF, 1st, SS

    And you could add a minor hole at starting pitcher depth. Heck, even SS doesn’t look too bad at the moment.

    Your closest impact players in the minors are Polanco, Taillon, Kingham and Dickerson (I guess Lambo… maybe?) and of course you have Hanson relatively close.

    So your biggest question marks all have real legit options within the next year. They all won’t work out but like the current team you keep plugging a hole here and there and you have more resources to fill the major gaps like with Martin and Liriano this year.

    Long story short… I definitely agree with the overall concept. This team should have the talent in place and the resources to fill the few holes to be able to make an extended run as one of the better teams in baseball.

    • James Santelli

      Other than RF (Polanco is going to be gooooooood-looking), I agree. First base and shortstop, and maybe the catcher position, are the weakness until Alen Hanson becomes a regular MLB starter. Those would be the best areas to address over the next two Winter Meetings.

  • jaygray007

    I giggled a little bit at “Let’s go shopping!”

    Fun article! Well done.

  • https://profiles.google.com/103930544156489901215 Douglas Byrd

    Where is Glasnow?

    • jaygray007

      In the “the new cavalry” section of the spreadsheet printscreen.

      • https://profiles.google.com/103930544156489901215 Douglas Byrd

        Shouldn’t he be starting?

        • James Santelli

          I don’t see him ready at Age 21. Maybe he starts knocking on the door in 2015, but I see him as more of a 2016 entrance.

  • leadoff

    Can’t disagree with anything here, but, let me take another look at it. Over the winter I would assume that they will dump some players, like Jones, Snider, possibly Barmes, McDonald, Karstens. Burnett and possibly Mazzaro over money. That would make the 2014 team very similar to the 2015 team with a couple of obvious changes the way I see it.
    LF,CF,Rf,3Rd,SS,2Nd,First,C,Cole,Locke,Morton,Taillon,Watson,Morris,Melancon,Wilson.
    So that means 3 or 4 changes in the pitching, I believe the position changes from now to 2015 will be Dickerson 1st, Polanco in RF and that may be it. They are not likey to spend 12mil for a 1st basemen when they have Dickerson and one must not forget that the book is not closed on Lambo. I don’t believe they will trade for any players that can’t play defense since defense is the cornerstone of their winning games and the cheapest way to build a winner and vital to good pitching.

  • https://profiles.google.com/100212786463678215436 Nathan Swartz

    Saw Trevor Bauer made KLaws list of regressing prospects. Was wondering if he would be an available buy low candidate? I understand him to be a stubborn bullheaded cocky prick. BUT, I’m wondering if Cole would be able to have any positive influence on him? Kinda like “look, we’ve got a good thing going here. This team knows what’s going on. You should listen to them. The fact they traded for you shows they believe in you, but the fact that you are now on your 3rd team already suggests that maybe YOUR way is not working out. Time to let Searage help you out bro.”

    *assumes: Cole remotely gives a crap about him and that Cole uses the word ‘bro’.

    • Happydude1

      In addition to the makeup problems, Bauer’s velocity is also reportedly way down this year. If he’s sitting 89-90 right now in AAA like Law says he is, I’m not sure I’d touch him.

    • James Santelli

      I don’t think a Cole/Bauer reunion is a very good idea if the goal is positive vibes both ways. I could see Searage helping, but you could say that about many live arms that come with less baggage.

  • smurph

    This is basically what the Rays have been doing the last few years.
    Obviously these are surmisals, and none of us will be very accurate for the reasons you mentioned above – injuries, over-achievers, under-achievers. I would like to think one or two of the free agents lost will actually stay with the Pirates. I believe there is a 50-50 chance Burnett will be a Pirate in 2015, and better than 50-50 he will be a Pirate in 2014. I would love to see them keep Martin, but he and Liriano might go for the big money and leave. Wouldn’t it be great to have Martin in 2015? Then by 2016, one of their talented young catchers should be ready to be an ML starter. The real problem I have with your roster is too many young guys, especailly as you mentioned, in the rotation. Add Wandy or AJ to the starting rotation. I agree with your list of non-tenders, though acouple of those will be gone by 2014

  • Kevin_Young

    Taking out Sanchez and Polanco against lefties?? I scoff at your 2015 lineup against LHP!!!!

    But on a serious note i really don’t see either of those 2 sitting against lefties ever.

    • Kevin_Young

      Also, looking at it I’d have to assume we buy out at least 2 of the young guys’ free agent years. I wonder who it’ll be…?

      • James Santelli

        My guess would be Marte or Polanco. They are far from bonus babies and may want some guarantee money.

    • James Santelli

      Those obviously aren’t carved in stone, just really expressing getting opportunities for guys. Tony Sanchez rakes lefties.

  • csnumber23

    I like a lot of what you said but I don’t agree with all.

    1st, no way McCutchen is moved from CF by 2015
    2nd, no way McCutchen is not batting 3rd by 2015
    3rd, no way J. Tabata is in platoon with Polonco. Polonco will play every day and Tabata if still here will be strict backup.
    4th, No interest in Santana now let alone 2015. If we want a veteran lefty why not just resign Liriano.
    5th, I like the Billy Butler pickup. But I think between Dickerson and Lambo one might be our First baseman.
    6th, I think the money FA could be a SS, depending on Hanson’s progress.

    My 2015 projections

    S. Marte – LF
    G. Polonco – RF
    A. McCutchen – CF
    P. Alvarez – 3B
    A. Dickerson, A. Lambo or FA – 1B
    N. Walker – 2B
    A. Cabrera – SS
    T. Sanchez – C

    SP – J. Taillon
    SP – G. Cole
    SP – F. Liriano
    SP – N. Kingham
    SP – J. Locke with T. Glasnow on the way

    RP – M. Melancon – closer
    RP – J. Wilson – setup
    RP – B. Morris
    RP – V. Black
    RP – T. Watson
    RP – D. Welker
    RP – S. Pimintiel long relief- spot starter

    Bench

    A. Lambo or A. Dickerson – 1B
    M. McHenry – C
    A. Presley – OF
    J. Mercer – SS-2B
    J. Harrison – Utility

    • moose7195

      Is that Asdrubal Cabrera from Cleveland? That might cost more than a pretty penny to pry from the Indians

      • James Santelli

        Cabrera would be a free agent just before the 2015 season if he is not extended.

        • moose7195

          I know, I think he’ll be an expensive signing at 29

          • csnumber23

            Yeah it is Asdrubel Cabrera. I know he will cost some money but like James said, we will have some money to spend. I think that will be the best spot to spend it unless Hanson looks ready by then.

            I also expect they will buy out S. Marte’s arbitration years and in to his FA years.

            • moose7195

              Cabrera will probably want something long-term which either blocks Hanson or bumps Walker. I like Neil, and Cabrera isn’t hitting like he did 2 years ago. But at this point they seem like very similar players in terms of production. Walker would be cheaper, and that money saved could go to a better 1B.

  • https://profiles.google.com/116255365477483987850 jalcorn

    Johan Santana will be lucky to be in MLB at all in 2015 let alone making $8 million. His arm/shoulder is done. Billy Butler cannot play 1B now, I highly doubt his fat, immobile body will fit there any better in 2015. He has 37 games at 1B in the last 3 years and I would want no part of him at age 30.

    Other than that your internal projections look OK, sans Hanson at SS which seems highly unlikely.

    • SteveW

      Agree on both Santana and Butler. There is a high probability that Santana will never again be an effective MLB pitcher. I could live with an incentive-laden one year deal with maybe a couple of million guaranteed. Anything more would be dumb – and it’s unlikely any team will offer more.

      As for Butler, KC has basically said that he cannot handle 1B defensively, even in a limited role. He certainly couldn’t do it in the NL. Great hitter though. Born to be a DH – and that is what he’ll be in 2015.

    • moose7195

      The thing about Butler is that he isn’t really needed for defense. If anything Dickerson, while not a defensive guru, could handle 1B well enough as a defensive sub. If not him, Lambo might be good enough defensively in the cold corner as defensive sub if he develops into a decent enough bat to oust Dickerson.

  • Andrew

    Obliviously it is very easy to criticize predictions about a hard to predict subject. Overall impressive, two quibbles, Santana’s injury is not an elbow, it’s a re-torn anterior capsule, (I would consider shoulder injuries worse than elbow) which means the probability of him pitching again let alone pitching well, is very low. This would mean, as mentioned above, the rotation would be different.

    Also the macro-level trajectory of sports revenue is not sustainable, how this would impact the Pirates different from other teams I do not know, but I would not just assume dramatic increases in payroll as a given, but again impressive.

    • James Santelli

      Thank you, fixed. I knew I would mess that up.

  • moose7195

    I can dig a lot of those projections. Maybe look to signing Pedro if arbitration gets him 10M. However, I want nothing to do with Santana. Bring back Liriano with a 3-4 year extension when his contracts up.

  • jg941

    That’s an awesome exercise – nice work! A couple areas of disagreement:

    For starters, I don’t think you can presume that folks like Lambo, DeJesus, Cumpton, Welker and maybe Irwin are still putzing around in AAA in 2015, for a couple of reasons.

    First, based on their natural progression from August, 2013, they will have moved up to the MLB or been traded to a club where they can move up before 2015.

    Second, based on the progression of a number of folks coming up behind them, they will have had to move on by then (or be traded for something else).

    Also, I agree there will likely be no 2014, let alone 2015, for Jones, Snider and JMac, but for some reason I think Gaby will still be here in his final arb year, platooning with Dickerson, which still probably makes some sense vs. a $12 mil, no-field Butler (in your example).(although I could live with Butler, too).

    Plus, I was secretly hoping Josh Bell would be the 1B from 2016 forward, so I wouldn’t want to invest anything significant in a FA 1B in 2015 if it could be avoided.

    Minor tweaks/thoughts on some of the other 40-man guys – I think Justin Howard might snag that backup 1B role from Curry given their performances to date – we’ll see. And I see thatyou’ve let McPherson and Heredia fly away – oh well, can’t have/keep everything, I guess.

    I also think there’s a chance that folks like AJ, Liriano and Martin could want to re-up with a winner, if there were room, but maybe there just won’t be :-)

    Also, not sure I plan to spend any meaningful money on a utility guy like Callaspo if I think DeJesus is actually still around, or Jose Tabata if someone like Alex Dickerson or Willy Garcia is due up in 2015, too (and may need to be protected on the 40-man by then as well – don’t know). But no biggie either way, just need someone who can actually hit (imagine that!).

    And on Santana in particular….pass. It’s one thing to go out and spend $8 mil a year on a buy-lower, change-of-scenery candidate like AJ or Wandy, but it’s a completely different animal if it also comes with that kind of injury history.

    But, again, great, great job, a fun way to look at a near-term strategic plan and help visualize how rosy the future actually could (should) be.

  • MaineBucs

    In your projection you view Mercer as a utility player. Why not use Mercer at 3rd to platoon with Alvarez against some lefties. Mercer kills lefties and he is already a Pirate. No need for an outside utility guy.

    Although Walker’s D is usually good, he does need to regain his hitting stroke and remain healthy. I know that he is a Pittsburgh guy, but if Walker is really a .240 – .250 hitter at second with marginal power, the Pirates will need to try and do better.

    I agree with the earlier commenter about Butler’s defense. The Pirates current approach to baseball values defense too highly to accept a player who is way below average like Butler.

    Lastly, I don’t know if Liriano is the real deal over the longer term or simply a one year wonder, but if he continues to pitch well into next year, I would explore bringing him back, even if it costs real money. At present, Liriano is pitching like a number 1 starter and he is a lefty.

    That said, always enjoy reading articles like this and speculating.

    • James Santelli

      I think Mercer is a possibility for that role, as he has hit lefties quite well. But ultimately his bat and his glove play better up the middle. If there is an opportunity for someone like Callaspo, who provides lefty-mashing ability along with the ability to defend multiple positions well, it’s good to have both.

  • https://www.facebook.com/roriness tbwto99

    I don’t know James, these are some fairly cromulent assumptions.

  • https://profiles.google.com/110709561392331201235 Vicente Barletta

    Good article James. I fully agree with the players coming up through the Pirates minors right now and but not with the free agents, except Callaspo, who I thought the Pirates should have traded for him this season.
    To get to 2015, you have to play the 2014 season first, so for next year the team will need to fill positions at 1B, SS and RF (at least until Polanco comes up).
    So I think that impacts your 2015 projections at those positions.
    My take is that the Pirates should trade this offseason for Justin Smoak. It was rumored they wanted him this last winter. He looks like he is turning the corner with his bat, that means it will cost more to get him.
    SS is another position. I don’t think Mercer can play there for a full season, so I would sign Stephen Drew to a 2 year deal to give time to Hanson to develop and leave Mercer as a LH platoon with Walker and Drew.
    As for RF they can keep Jones for one more season (unless he goes to Seattle in the Smoak deal with Alex Dickerson and Cumpton) or sign a rebound candidate to 1 year deal. An ideal fit would be Corey Hart, but I doubt he wants to leave Milwaukee, or they can try to snag Carlos Beltran on 1 year deal with an option for a second year.
    I think they should make a splash in FA for a SP, but Garza hasn’t convinced me. Maybe Jason Vargas or trade for Samardzja.
    Thats my two cents to the discussion.

  • rburgh

    How about this plan?

    1. Sign Choo as a FA this winter (hurts the Reds, gives us a leadoff man) and move him to 1B when Polanco comes up.
    2. Call Liriano’s agent and offer him an extra $4 million this year if he extends 2 more years at $10 million per.
    3. Get Callaspo from the Angels as you suggest.

    2015 25-man roster

    C – Sanchez, Fort
    1B – Choo, Dickerson
    2B – NW
    SS – Hanson, Mercer
    3B – Pedro, Callaspo
    LF – Marte
    CF – Cutch
    RF – Polanco, Tabata

    SP – Liriano, Cole, Locke, Taillon, Kingham
    RP – Melancon, Wilson, Black, Gomez, Morris, Watson, Stolmy (swing guy)

    Rest of 40-man
    P – Glasnow, Holmes, Hafner, Welker, Cumpton, McPherson, Irwin, Sadler
    C – Mathisen
    IF – Allie, Herrera
    OF – Bell, Barnes, Lambo, Rojas

    Trade chips – Morton, J-Mac, Harrison, Mazzaro, Presley, Snider – we are neglecting the fact that, while we are down on these guys, they are better than some guys currently getting regular playing time.

    Market for Morton, J-Mac, Mazzaro – pretty much every team will listen on any of them if NH asks for reasonable value – J-Mac would bring a Low-A SP in the C+ range, Morton a High A or AA prospect in the B- or B range, Mazzaro about the same to a team that wanted to stretch him out as a starter.

    Snider and Presley would be attractive to teams like the Giants, Royals and Phillies who are one corner OF short – heck, even the Yankees would be interested. These guys are probably worth a C+ prospect on their own merit, maybe they could be packaged with one of the P’s to increase the quality of prospect coming back. Lambo is also in this category if they find another 1B option.

    Another possibility would be to package several of these guys and Dickerson and get Eric Hosmer from the Royals – they are several SP short of being a good club and can also use a RF.

    NH has so many options this off-season, if he makes one or two good decisions, the Bucs could win 100 next year.

  • timdwyer8

    Would love to get a guy like Pablo Sandoval in free agency. Would slot right into the 2-hole for the Bucs, and either the Bull or the Panda could move across the diamond to first.

    Obviously it’s all speculation, but fun article. Nice work.

    • turfmonster12

      Sandoval is costly because you have the double the clubhouse food budget to accommodate his obesity. Not a good “fit.”

  • buster09

    Lambo’s defense at 1st base will never play on this team,and his OF defense is questionable at best. Particularly when you see what prospects are immediately behind or at the same level as him. Obviously it his bat that keeps him in consideration. In all fairness,try not to consider Alex Dickerson as a regular in the OF either. He is going to be a 1st baseman or he won’t be in Pittsburgh. There is way too much emphasis on defense in the orginization for those players to be considered regulars given the competition they will have in 2 years.