First Pitch: The Pirates Have Plenty of Closing Depth to Spare For Offense

I’ve talked about the value that relief pitching can bring in trades so many times that I don’t think I need to go through the details again. To sum it up, teams pay a ton for relievers, probably more than what they’re worth, and the Pirates should take advantage of that. Consider that Oakland landed Josh Reddick — currently hitting for a .272/.337/.527 line in 169 at-bats — plus other players, all for closer Andrew Bailey and outfielder Ryan Sweeney. Then think about what the Pirates could get for Joel Hanrahan.

David Todd had a good article about the Pirates and the Trade Market, noting that the three players (outside of Jameson Taillon and Gerrit Cole) who could bring impact talent to the team via trade are Andrew McCutchen, James McDonald, and Joel Hanrahan. One of those players is much more replaceable than the others, and I don’t think I need to say who. OK, it’s Hanrahan.

In the majors, the Pirates have Jason Grilli and Juan Cruz holding down the late innings. Cruz has a 1.08 ERA in 16.2 innings, with an 8.1 K/9 and a 4.3 BB/9 ratio. Grilli has a 2.12 ERA in 17 innings, with a staggering 15.9 K/9 and a 4.8 BB/9 ratio. Then there’s Brad Lincoln, who has a 1.17 ERA in 23 innings, with a 9.4 K/9 and a 2.7 BB/9. All three could conceivably close.

In Triple-A, you’ve got Bryan Morris, who has a 3.42 ERA in 26.1 innings, but a 25:7 K/BB ratio. Morris usually sits in the mid-90s with his fastball, an has added a sharp cutter this year which has been very effective as a strikeout pitch. He’s got the upside as a late inning reliever, and is another closing candidate.

The Altoona Curve featured three guys today with late inning stuff. Duke Welker made his final appearance with the Curve, throwing a shutout inning before being promoted to Triple-A. Welker had a 2.31 ERA in 23.1 innings, with a 19:7 K/BB ratio this year. He throws a 96-98 MPH fastball which touched 100 this year, and an upper 80s slider, both of which are plus pitches.

Jeff Inman made his debut with Altoona after being called up today, giving up one run on one hit in one inning. Inman throws 91-96 MPH, and touched 98 MPH last off-season. He’s got a good curveball, and could move quickly through the upper levels once he gets going in Double-A.

Victor Black pitched a shutout inning, and now has a 1.80 ERA in 20 innings this year in Altoona, with a 25:9 K/BB ratio. Like Inman, Black also touched 98 MPH during the Fall Instructional leagues. Both pitchers have been injury prone in the past, which has stalled their careers.

All three of these pitchers have late inning stuff, and the potential to close. Add in Morris to the mix, and the Pirates have plenty of depth. They also need to start using that depth. Morris will be out of options after the 2012 season, and needs to be in the majors full time in 2013. Welker is currently on the 40-man roster. Black and Inman are eligible for the Rule 5 draft this off-season, and would need to be added to the 40-man to be protected.

If the Pirates eventually dealt Joel Hanrahan to try and address their offense, they’d have plenty of replacement options. The immediate options would be Grilli and Cruz, with Lincoln as a possible long-term guy. Morris, Welker, Black, and Inman give them four more guys who could contend for that long-term spot. The closer role is a position of strength for the Pirates, which is fortunate, because it’s also a position that fetches strong trade returns.

Links and Notes

**The Pirates were off today.

**Prospect Watch: Mel Rojas just missed a cycle, and Nick Kingham has been on a roll lately.

**Keith Law released his updated top 25 prospects, and had Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon in the top ten.

**Jason Grilli has been a huge asset to the bullpen.

**Duke Welker promoted to Indianapolis. Jeff Inman promoted to Altoona.

**The weekend draft prospects preview, which includes the average top 15 prospects.

**Jonathan Mayo had a new mock draft, and this one didn’t have Deven Marrero as the eighth pick.


  • and you didn’t even need to mention Evan Meek.

  • Red Sox hitting depth has been decimated with injuries and Acevedes has been getting the job done – sort of. They are a good partner for June/July once they get their OFs back off the DL and if Bailey/Acevedes can’t get the job done. Too early for the Sox to make a move.

  • Buccobrother
    May 25, 2012 8:00 am

    The Red Sox seem to be our logical trading patner filled with hitting depth and no pitching….go get em Neal !

  • You also have Stetson Allie who many believe will become a closer or relief pitcher, although he seems to be much farther down the road