Matt Hague could give the Pirates a hitter off the bench that crushes lefties. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Thoughts on Yesterday’s Pirates Roster Moves

The Pittsburgh Pirates made several roster moves yesterday, calling up Matt Hague, announcing plans to send Vance Worley to the bullpen, and designating Duke Welker for assignment. Here are some thoughts on each of those moves, and what they mean for the short and long-term for the Pirates.

Matt Hague Joins the Pirates

Hague has been having a strong year with Indianapolis. He originally broke in with the Pirates in 2012, after putting up some impressive power numbers during Spring Training. Those power numbers disappeared after Spring ended, and didn’t return through the 2013 season. They’re back in 2014, as Hague has put up 13 doubles and 13 homers in 285 at-bats in Triple-A. He is 28, and in his fourth year at the Triple-A level, so his power resurgence does come with a disclaimer. That said, one thing he continues to do well is hit left-handers.

Hague has a .906 OPS against lefties this year in 95 plate appearances. This is something he’s learned to do well. He had an .865 OPS in 153 plate appearances against lefties last year in Triple-A, and an .810 OPS in 178 plate appearances against lefties in 2011. His only down year in his time in Triple-A was a .726 OPS in 2012.

Hague was called up to replace Starling Marte for a few days, although the decision to call him up specifically was interesting. Hague wasn’t on the 40-man roster, and the Pirates could have just called up Jaff Decker for a few days if they needed a short-term replacement. Decker is an outfielder, which would have made more sense with Marte on leave. He has also been productive lately, and was on the 40-man roster. I don’t know if Hague’s call-up is just a short-term deal, or if he’s getting a look off the bench. If it’s the latter, then he could provide the Pirates with a bat versus left-handers at first or third base, and the potential to eventually take over for Gaby Sanchez in the first base platoon if all goes well.

Vance Worley to the Bullpen

I wrote about the tough decision the Pirates would have when Francisco Liriano returns, noting that they’d have to send either Vance Worley or Edinson Volquez to the bullpen. Both pitchers have had success in the rotation, and both deserve to be an MLB starter right now. The Pirates decided to keep Volquez in the rotation, and send Worley to the bullpen when Liriano returns on Sunday.

I’m guessing that Brandon Cumpton will be the guy who goes down at that point, which is something that could happen today if the Pirates want an extra reliever or bench bat for a few days.

When Gerrit Cole eventually returns, the Pirates will have to make a tougher decision in the bullpen. That might involve the end of the Ernesto Frieri experiment, or it could involve a tough decision on Stolmy Pimentel, Jeanmar Gomez (who has been more productive than Pirates fans give him credit for), or optioning a very productive Jared Hughes to preserve depth.

Duke Welker Designated For Assignment

This move was inevitable. Welker had Tommy John surgery, and will be out for the rest of the year, along with the first half of next season. He’s out of options, so the Pirates would have had to put him on the 60-day DL next year, then bring him up when he’s healthy. Basically this is the exact same situation as Kyle McPherson last off-season. The Pirates removed McPherson from the 40-man, then re-signed him to a minor league deal. I’d expect the same with Welker. If he clears waivers, they could keep him around, although he’d be eligible for minor league free agency this off-season. I’d expect them to sign him back, using him as bullpen depth out of Triple-A in the second half.

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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.

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  • piraddict

    Could the Pirates trade Gabby Sanchez for a strong relief pitcher, with additional lower level prospects to balance value, and replace Gabby with Hague and equivalent or better production? Which team needs a RH 1B man? I think if Gabby got consistent at bats he’d be performing better.

    • Ron Loreski

      The Blue Jays could use some help at 1B. They’re currently using Jose Bautista at first due to injuries to Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Lind. Not sure what the Jays have in terms of RP, but something could be in the works.

  • S Brooks

    With Gabby heading into Arb3, it makes sense to assess now whether Hague can provide similar production at the league minimum. Better to find out now than repeat the Matt Diaz and Casey McGehee experiments next year.

    As for Worley going to the pen, I think it’s likely the Bucs are shopping Stolmy. He’s still young, cheap and has good stuff, but he’s underutilized here and that isn’t likely to change. He had all of 10 appearances leading into last night, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him appear a lot more frequently over the next 2 weeks. He would slot right into about a dozen rotations right now (Texas, Arizona, White Sox, Miami, Minnesota…).

  • Jon Emeigh

    Um…Tim…how is Cumpton the one sent back down when Liriano returns if Worley is in the bullpen? The five starters right now are Locke, Morton, Cumpton, Volquez, and Worley? Who is the fifth starter when Liriano comes back?

    • Tim Williams

      The All-Star break is next week. The Pirates could send Cumpton down today, and they wouldn’t need a 5th starter until July 22nd. If Gerrit Cole is back by then, there’s your fifth starter. If he’s not, they can call Cumpton back up at that point, while giving him a start in Triple-A in the time between MLB starts.

      • deacs

        Cumpton looked lost and completely unsure of himself last night – completely void of any confidence. I know he’s still young but it was surprising given he looked solid in all but the Dodgers game. Hopefully he can clear that up in AAA because I would imagine they’ll need him to spot start again this year and there are open spots for 2015. It was painful to watch. The ESPN guys were ripping him but they were being objective I thought.

  • st1300b

    According John Heyman, Tulo has blessed the idea of a being traded.
    Of all the teams that need Tulo – the Pirates stand alone as far as need and prospects to get it done. The best part of the deal is that Tulo is already on a 7 year team friendly contract for a superstar. This is of all potential trades the one they should pursue with full force.

    Prospects to make deal: Bell, Hanson/Mercer, Kingham, and another pitching prospect… Not Glasnow/Taillon – one of anyone else really – Holmes, Borden, etc. The point 3 top 100 prospects and another young arm. This should get the deal done and would be worth it for years to come – not for just a year.

    • csnumber23

      Sorry but there is no way Colorado trades us Tulo without getting Glasnow or Taillon in the trade. If they would do the trade you proposed I would say the Bucs should do it in a second. They will want a higher ceiling pitching prospect than Kingham. At least I would.

      • leowalter

        I would bet that they will want Kingham AND Glasnow along with Hanson and Bell. Teams do not trade guys like him on your terms,they want a higher % deal than the one you mention.

        • lonleylibertarian

          FREE PEDRO!

          I am a pretty big fan of El Toro – but the constant bashing has gotten even me convinced he can never be happy with Hurdle or the Pirates….

          Imagine the damage he could do at Coors!

          So let’s bundle Pedro and Glasnow and Mercer and some one like Borden and make a run at Tulo

          • csnumber23

            That’s an interesting idea but they have Arenado at 3rd. A good young third baseman under control for many years.

            • lonleylibertarian

              I have never unPeoderstood why they have kept Pedro at third – he is a really good athlete and has great range – but the throws are awful… It seems to be a no brainer to try him at 1st – his skills would seem to be perfect to make him an above average fielding first baseman…

              Probably an above average LF too…

              • csnumber23

                I agree, First base is in his future for sure. I’ll never understand the whole “we have to wait until the off season to switch” these are major league players. I played every position on the baseball field and in my experience first base was the easiest. Why not move Pedro to First against RHP and play Harrison at 3B. This of course is when everyone is healthy. Make Davis a left handed bat off the bench or trade him. They could always still play Pedro at 3rd some. We will need a future 3B anyway because we know they can’t sign Pedro. I would make this move but I know they won’t until maybe the off season.

        • csnumber23

          I agree completely. It would basically cost the farm to get Tulo. I read where Colorado is looking for a good young control able pitcher just for De Lerosa. That is a mediocre pitcher only signed for this year. I’ll bet Colorado would start by asking for even more than we are saying for Tulo.

  • RAS TN

    The only way you get a Tulo, Kershaw, Price etc…is too draft them and develop them….The cost for any of these is outrageous…just gut your prospects for 1 player…No way….

    • leowalter

      ++++ cs and RAS. That is the only way to do it. And if you are that fortunate, you hope it is a player who will be on the field a little more than Tulowitzke has been during his career.

  • RAS TN

    The only way you get a Tulo, Kershaw, Price etc…is too draft them and develop them….The cost for any of these is outrageous…just gut your prospects for 1 player…No way….

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